My oldest friend, Michelle, just had her first baby. (We’ve known each other since nursery school!) When my sister’s kids were born I cross stitched Teresa Wentzler’s Castle Sampler and Noah’s Ark Sampler, which I loved doing, but I always feel a little presumptuous giving someone a big framed piece with the expectation that they’ll want to hang it on the wall.
In late July I saw a package of Anne Cloth (cross stitch afghan fabric) at a thrift store and it gave me the idea to stitch a baby afghan, which I’ve never done before. I bought the fabric and went online to look for patterns.
To my surprise I found very few standalone afghan patterns (what’s the point of Anne Cloth without patterns to stitch on it?), but I fell in love with Dimensions’ Animal ABC Afghan kit. Most of the baby afghans I saw were super cutesy and pastel, but this one has a cartoony Dr. Seuss look with bright colors. And I like that it incorporates the alphabet with animal pictures *and* names, so as the baby grows she’ll get different uses out of it — learning letters, then the animals’ names, and then even how to read/spell them.
I’ve been cross stitching for twenty years (yikes!) but these days I hardly ever stitch from kits. I like being able to choose my own fabric and replenish the floss if I run out. (I’m out of wall space for cross stitch, so lately I mostly do petit point for my dollhouses.) Before ordering, I looked around online for pictures and impressions of the Dimensions Animal ABC Afghan kit and wasn’t able to find any, so I’m posting my own experience for anyone else who might be considering this kit.
First of all, the materials are everything I’d hoped for — the fabric is soft, the colors vibrant, and the animals adorable. The floss is proprietary to Dimensions and comes pre-sorted on cards so you don’t have to pick through a huge knot of colors and figure out which symbols they correspond to (another thing I hate about kits).
From the model picture I’d expected the afghan to be pre-fringed. It isn’t. I’m not great with the sewing machine so this made me nervous at first. The instructions say to machine stitch around the outside edge of the panels before starting to stitch. I stubbornly didn’t, and it was fine. Some of the threads around the edges did pull out as I was working on the afghan but those need to be pulled out eventually anyway for the fringe.
(Note: It is necessary to machine stitch around the edge eventually, so the afghan won’t unravel too far when you add the fringe. It just doesn’t have to be the first thing you do.)
One reason I don’t like kits is because they often don’t come with enough thread. Even if you’re super careful you could run out, and god forbid you make a mistake and have to do a bunch of frogging. The fabric is 14-count and it’s stitched over two, which makes for very loose stitches (especially since I’m used to doing petit point over one on 40-count…) The instructions say to stitch with two strands of floss — I wanted to use three, for better coverage on the large fabric, but I didn’t want to run out of floss so I didn’t chance it.
This kit actually had plenty of floss until I got to the backstitching. All of the backstitching and the animal names are done with Dark Gray, and as I started on the vulture I realized I wouldn’t have enough. I found a DMC conversion chart online but the closest DMC shade was noticeably different. The friend I made this for is freakishly good at distinguishing colors, and I knew if I could tell the difference, she’d definitely be able to!
Here’s where my experience with Dimensions’ Animal ABC kit goes off the rails. Up until this point I’d been stitching like crazy to get it done before the baby was born (her due date was September 2). I started on August 1. On September 3 I emailed Dimensions through their online form to ask for more Dark Gray. I didn’t get a response so I called on September 7 (now out of floss). The woman I spoke to said they’d send me more but it would take up to 15 business days. To stick some floss in the mail? Really?
On September 9 I got an email saying my “order had been processed” and the floss was on the way.
On September 12 the baby was born, 10 days late… but no floss, so no gift. :( During the wait, I whipped up some Super Mario bibs using free patterns I found online.
I waited until September 30 — 15 business days after I’d received the email confirmation, and 17 after the phone call — and then I called them again. This time I spoke to a man, who checked the computer and… “Oh, that floss is out of stock.” What? Then why did I get an email on September 9 saying it was on the way? He said the “out of stock” note was dated September 12.
At that point I lost it. Not his fault, but what horrible customer service! Clearly they had my email address, they couldn’t have notified me? I asked if he could open another kit and send me the floss out of that one, and he said no because they don’t keep the kits in their office. Then he said he could look around the office and see if they had any of that color. Uh, yeah, that’d be nice. He put me on hold, then came back and said, “Sorry, we only have five strands.” Five? Five would be a windfall! With only six panels left I probably only needed one!
This was a Friday. He stuck it an envelope and I had it by Monday.
During the imposed waiting period, I had braved the sewing machine and stitched around the edge, in preparation for fringing. Within two days I’d finished the rest of the backstitching and entered the home stretch. My online searches didn’t yield definitive instructions for how to finish a cross-stitch afghan, so I hope this info will be helpful to some future stitcher!
The first step was to wash the afghan. At the same time I’d emailed about the floss, I asked for washing instructions since the kit didn’t come any. Dimensions’ response was: “Hand wash in lukewarm water with mild dishwashing liquid — not a cleaner intended for fine washables or woolens. Do not bleach or dry clean. Air dry.” Hand-washing in dishwashing liquid seemed wholly impractical for a baby blanket, so I took my chances with the washing machine.
I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought the largest lingerie bag I could find, and put the afghan inside of it. I washed on gentle with cold water and detergent, and didn’t wash anything else with it in case the colors ran. (Thankfully they didn’t!) Then I removed it from the bag and dried it on ultra-low for about 15 minutes. It was still very damp so I switched to low, for another 10 minutes. It was still a little damp and I let it air dry the rest of the way.
Next came the fringe. This was unexpectedly fun. I’d previously machine sewn around the edge, as close to the outer edge of the panels as I could get. To fringe it, just pull out all the loose threads. I didn’t trim the fabric at all before starting, so this fringe uses the full allowance of excess fabric. If you wanted a shorter fringe you could trim off a few rows before starting to pull threads. (I had wanted to do a knotted fringe, but the fringe wasn’t long enough.)
The next step was to finish the back, to protect the stitches. I stitched this using the loop method, which anchors the thread so it can’t be pulled out, and at the end of each length of floss I ran the tail under a long area of stitches to firmly anchor it. So, most of the stitching was pretty secure, but the backstitches are a single strand (so I couldn’t do the loop method), and the animal names didn’t have stitches nearby to anchor the tails under. I was also concerned about the French knots, which kept pulling through the loose 14-count fabric.
For these reasons, and also to make it look neater, I used iron-on fusible interfacing. In the past I’ve used the light weight version of this stuff for petit point. Since the afghan is heavier and needs to withstand wear, I got medium weight. In hindsight that may have been a mistake, because it made the blanket stiff.
I bought two of the 1-yard packages, and before applying I machine washed and dried them at the same time as the blanket (but not in the lingerie bag). Then I cut the interfacing into 28 squares to fit on the backs of the panels, set up the ironing board, and got to work.
Before doing each panel I checked to make sure there wasn’t any missing backstitching and that the French knots were still there. It’s a good thing I did — the cow lost her eyes in the wash!
I wish I’d waited to do the fringe until after the interfacing, because some of it ended up under the iron and got ironed into a messy position. After all the interfacing was applied, I turned the iron to a lower setting (with no steam) and ironed the whole blanket, which seemed to soften it up. Still, it is stiffer now than it was before the interfacing went on, and you can see white behind the panels that you don’t see behind the borders around the panels.
I’d considered adding a fabric backing instead, but that wouldn’t have protected the French knots. If anyone has a better method for dealing with the back of an afghan I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Overall, this afghan was fun to stitch and I’d like to do another one some day. I might even stitch this design again, but I’d convert the colors to DMC first.
October 19, 2016 at 5:23 am
This is such a gorgeous project! You have so many gifts and talents, and it’s kind of you to share your stories, successes, failures, and rescues with us. This is truly a beautiful keepsake and will be treasured by the recipient!
December 17, 2016 at 3:32 am
June 17, 2017 at 5:05 pm
I made the Dimensions Baby Hugs ABC afghan for my grandson and it turned out beautifully! I, however, decided it needed a back., because I didn’t like the idea of the stitching on the back showing. I bought another piece of Anne cloth and after finishing all the cross stitch, before fringing, but AFTER washing each piece carefully, I machine stitched the front to the back. I then fringed both pieces. As this was a baby boy, I used light blue floss and tied it into each of the tiny squares, knotted it, and cut it short like you might see on a quilt, to hold the front and back together. It looked great and I was so pleased! I forgot to add that before I sewed the back to the front, in one of the squares on the back I stitched “Made with love by Nana”. My daughter was thrilled with this gift! I wish I could post pictures to show you how it turned out!
June 18, 2017 at 2:04 pm
I’d love to see pictures! I’ll send you an email.
July 24, 2017 at 10:54 am
I am working on this afghan at this time and have lost page 3. I am at a loss as to what to do. Can I buy that page from you?
July 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm
I’ll send you an email.
January 11, 2018 at 12:41 pm
Can you send any links or photos that are similar to what you did? I would like to use this process to finish a baby afghan for my sister’s new baby.
January 11, 2018 at 2:20 pm
I don’t think Dorothy will see this but I have her email address, I’ll drop her a note and let her know you’re interested.
January 21, 2022 at 9:30 pm
Dorothy: I just starting on an afghan and was worried about what the back would look like. Would you send me pictures and any hints or suggestions for my project?
April 17, 2023 at 2:59 pm
Apologies, this comment got flagged as spam and I only just saw it (over a year later!) You probably don’t need the picture anymore, but I will follow up by email just in case.
February 19, 2019 at 6:44 pm
I would also love to see a picture of Dorothy’s as I am about to start this project
February 20, 2019 at 7:29 am
I’ll send you an email.
April 25, 2019 at 10:14 am
Thank you. Project complete?. Do you know of anywhere where you can just purchase the fabric as I might want to do another one
April 25, 2019 at 10:19 am
I don’t know what fabric is included in this kit, but Anne Cloth is similar. If you Google it you’ll find places to buy it. A standard piece of Anne Cloth is twice the size of this afghan, so you’ll have cut it in half.
May 4, 2019 at 6:52 pm
Would you be willing to e-mail me a picture of Dorothy’s completed project, too? Thanks.
May 5, 2019 at 3:34 pm
Sure, I just emailed you.
August 4, 2019 at 4:48 am
Just wanted to query I am fairly new at cross stitching and I was wondering if you double the size compare to what is showed on the chart . I did the same number of stitches showed on the chart and it looks very small ….
August 4, 2019 at 8:15 am
This chart is supposed to be stitched “over two”. That means you do the X over a grid of two vertical and two horizontal threads. You might have stitched it over one thread instead? That would make the design half the size.
Here’s an explanation that should help: https://stitchedmodern.com/blogs/news/how-to-stitching-over-two-threads#
November 27, 2019 at 1:03 pm
Thanks Emily .., like you I have ran out of dark grey thread … can you kindly send me the address you used to get some additional thread .. thank you in advance
November 27, 2019 at 1:06 pm
I’ll send you an email!
September 7, 2019 at 11:09 pm
Is there any particular setting for the sewing machine or just a regular stitch.
September 8, 2019 at 9:27 am
I used a regular stitch, right up against the outer edge of the border.
October 6, 2019 at 9:17 am
I love this afghan and you did a beautiful job. I have been looking for this pattern but it is out of stock everywhere. Would you be willing to sell me the pattern? I bought it from one company and have been waiting for them to send it to me for about 2 months. I inquired about it after 3 weeks and they said they were waiting to get it so they could ship it to me. After several attempts to contact them since the first email, it has been radio silence. Looks like I lost my money and I still do not have the afghan!
October 6, 2019 at 10:22 am
Oh no, that’s awful! Can you dispute the charge with your credit card company or PayPal?
I might want to stitch it again someday so I’m holding on to the pattern, sorry. Maybe set up a saved search on eBay so you’ll get an alert if one turns up. Dimensions customer service might be able to tell you if it’s only backordered or if it’s been discontinued.
January 1, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Hi Emily, I know it is some time since you originally posted this but it is the only item coming up with any of my searches. I am cross stitching an afghan blanket ( Woodland Baby animals) for my sister who is due in March and while I have done lots of cross stitch samplers I have not done a blanket. Your post has been incredibly helpful re the backing and fringing and I have pinned it so that I can come back to it when I get to that stage. I was just wondering if you used a hoop? I have started to but I am now thinking I shouldn’t be as it won’t be framed and therefore won’t be stretched. What are your thoughts? Melanie
January 2, 2020 at 12:48 am
I never use a hoop, but I don’t see a problem with using one if you want to. If you’re concerned about the hoop leaving creases in the fabric, couldn’t you iron those out? And if you wash it before you finish it, that should help too.
January 3, 2020 at 2:25 pm
thanks just what I needed to hear to give me the confidence, I have never used one before either and people have questioned me as to why. I have always been happy with the tension of things I have done before but was doubting myself. Thanks
January 3, 2020 at 3:41 pm
If you’re happy stitching without a hoop, I don’t think there’s any reason to use one on the afghan. I didn’t have any problems with tension. (Actually the only times I’ve used a hoop have been with very small petitpoint pieces.)
May 27, 2020 at 8:35 am
I have just finished a different Baby Afghan and I used a hoop throughout the work, except occasionally for the backstitching. It makes sure the tension remains constant and no marks were left by the hoop, even before I ironed it at the end.
April 14, 2020 at 9:11 am
Can you tell me where you purchased this afghan?
April 14, 2020 at 9:15 am
I bought it at an online needlework shop a few years ago, but it’s since been discontinued. Your best bet is probably eBay.
July 8, 2020 at 12:06 pm
A friend gave me a baby afghan to cross stitch but no pattern with it. Therefore, I went to Pinterest to see what I could find. Saw the Animal ABC afghan that you stitched and I love it. I have searched and searched and can’t find just the pattern for sale. Would you consider copying the pattern and I would pay you for copy and shipping?
July 8, 2020 at 10:43 pm
Sorry, I don’t feel right doing that since it’s protected under copyright. I’ve heard from a lot of people who are looking for this kit, I wish Dimensions would put it back in production! You could try setting up a saved search on eBay, maybe one will turn up there.
July 12, 2020 at 4:32 am
I have looked high, and I have looked low. This pattern is no where to be found and I just want to cry. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for and of course by the time I find it, it discontinued. Any help would greatly appreciated.
October 21, 2020 at 9:42 am
This is gorgeous! Im almost finished stitching a similar one. Just wondering if you would mind sending me pics of a close up for the machine stitching and the back you did? I have bought fleece for the back of mine but I’m not sure how to do the edging. I was thinking fringe too but again not sure where I should do the stitching.
Thanks in advance!
October 21, 2020 at 5:32 pm
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures besides the ones in the blog. For the stitching, I just did a straight stitch right up against the the outer border, and then pulled out the threads. So if you look at the picture that shows the fringe, the sewing machine stitching is right at the place where the fringe ends and the border starts. If you’re adding fleece, you could sew that on at the same time, and then make the fringe.
April 10, 2021 at 11:44 am
I am missing the instrucions for H to O, Hippo to Owl. Do you still have the instructions. Thanks
April 10, 2021 at 12:18 pm
I’ll email you.
May 27, 2021 at 3:54 pm
I just stumbled across your blog….and am I so thankful I did! What absolutely beautiful work you did on this afghan!!
I am looking to make this afghan for my first grandbabie due in July.(whoot!! ?) I have a box of afghan fabrics, the DMC floss, sewing machine, interfacing….well pretty much everything….BUT the chart. Gah! I’ve looked everywhere! Beause it’s an older kit it is not available anymore. Why? Babies are still being born….the alphabet hasn’t changed……and the animals haven’t changed! Again….why? Lol
Would you consider selling me the chart for this afghan?
Thanks so much for your help and consideration!
Take care of you and yours!!
(PS could you send me the information on Dorothy’s afghan also?)
May 27, 2021 at 3:57 pm
Sorry, I can’t sell you the chart, but you should email Dimensions with your feedback. Maybe if enough people write in they’ll reissue it? Also set up a saved search on eBay and maybe you’ll get lucky! I will send you Dorothy’s photos.
November 15, 2021 at 6:11 pm
It’s unfortunate that counted cross stitch has becomes an ancient hobby. Michael’s stores don’t even carry cross stitch kits or designs anymore and private shops are few and far between. I’ve been stitching for about 30 years but have found that most patterns are becoming scarce. Even some of the stitching magazines are being discontinued. Sad?