Cross stitching is an easy craft suitable for beginners, yet keeps its appeal as skill levels advance, and it is gaining in popularity again. Beginning cross stitch patterns evolve into elaborate pieces of art over time and with practice. Learning how to cross stitch is easy, once you know a few basic steps.

What Is Cross Stitch?

cross stitch embroidery

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Cross stitching is an embroidery technique using a counted thread pattern. A finished cross stitch piece is created by a series of x-shaped stitches on fabric. The fabric used is one with an open weave, such as linen, that allows the cross stitcher to easily count their stitches. Many individuals are choosing to learn how to cross stitch due to its long history and ease for beginners.

The Basics Tools Of Cross Stitch

different colors of cross stitching threads

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Before we go to the steps, let’s cover a few basic terms and tools to get you started. Read through these topics before moving on to the next section, and you will better understand the steps and know how to cross stitch in no time.

Cross Stitch Charts

Charts will have all the information you need to create the final piece. It is a pattern printed on paper showing the weave of the fabric, stitch counts, colors, starting location, etc. Charts may be in color or black and white and may use symbols. Use the chart legend to read the chart and connect the symbols to your thread colors.

Fabric Types

Linen and Aida are the most common cross stitch fabrics although any woven fabric will work well. The idea is to have a fabric you can identify the weave for as you will use the weave pattern in the fabric to plan your cross stitches. Many of these fabrics will fray when cut, so seam or tape the edges so the fabric does not come open while you work.

Embroidery Floss

Embroidery floss is a thick thread type that comes in skeins with six or eight pieces of thread twisted together. It is usually made of cotton. You may use one, two or three pieces of thread at a time, depending on what the chart asks for. Embroidery floss dye lots vary, so try to buy all the thread you will need for a specific project at once when learning how to cross stitch.

Embroidery Hoops And Frames

Frames are great for beginners as they hold your work steady and taut while you place your stitches. There are many sizes and shapes of hoops and frames. The size you choose is not that important as long as it is comfortable for you to work with. Small hoops and frames can be moved across your fabric to work in different areas.

Needles

Cross stitch is usually done using a round-end tapestry needle. Tapestry needles have blunt, rounded tips and large eyes, are nickel or gold plated, and come in varying sizes. The size will vary depending on the fabric you are using. Ideally, your needle will be large enough to prevent the thread from wearing on the fabric as it passes through and small enough to avoid over separating the fabric weave.

How To Cross Stitch Step-By-Step

finished cross stitch work

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Learning how to cross stitch is easy. You can begin by purchasing a kit which includes all the tools needed including fabric, chart or pattern, thread, and needle, or you can purchase the items separately to create your own design.

Step One – Read The Chart

If you have purchased a kit, study the chart so you understand your starting position and what all the symbol/color patterns stand for. If you are creating your own chart, map it out so you can understand it later. Identify the center of the pattern and see what size fabric, thread, and needles you will need.

Step Two – Prepare Your Fabric

Cut the fabric to the size you need for your finished work, being sure to leave a significant margin for frying, handling, and framing. If you have purchased a kit, the fabric may already be cut to size for you. Seem the edge of the fabric with a zig-zag and use basting tape or masking tape to protect the cloth from excessive fraying.

Step Three – Choose Your Start

Decide where you would like to begin your cross stitch project. If the chart does not specify otherwise, start in the center so that your finished image is centered on the cloth. The edge of the chart should have small arrows to show where the center is on the chart. To find the center of your fabric, fold it in half one way and then fold it in half the other way. Mark the center with a pin, or pinch it firmly.

Step Four – Mount To A Hoop

To use an embroidery hoop, loosen the screw and take it apart. Put the piece without the screw on a flat work surface and lay the work over it with the center of the fabric in the hoop’s center. Put the piece of the hoop with the screw over top of the fabric and press it down. Pull the fabric carefully taught as you tighten the screw; use care not to over-tighten, or you will distort the weave of the fabric.

Step Five – Ready Your Floss

Choose the color of embroidery floss you want to start with and cut a moderately long piece, between about a foot and a half long and as long as your arm. Beginners may want to start with shorter pieces of thread. Any longer than two feet, your thread will get knotted as you go. Use one, two or three strands at a time, trying to match the thread width to the weave pattern so that your thread fills, but does not open the weave. Carefully pull apart the threads, one at a time, to avoid knotting them.

Step Six – Your Needle

If you purchased a kit, use the needle that came with it. Choose a needle size that works with the fabric you are using, big enough to prevent thread drag and small enough to fit through the fabric weave spaces without distorting the fabric. There are many charts and guides online if you would like more specific guidelines. Thread the needle as you would for hand sewing, using at once all the pieces of the thread you plan to use. Do not knot the ends as you will work over the ends of your fabric as you proceed. Having knots will create lumps.

Step Seven – Cross Stitch One Row

Starting on the row you decided was close to the center, work in one direction. Traditionally cross stitch is done left to right, although if you are following a picture pattern, you may go the other way. Work out in one direction from the center and then in the other direction from the center, so you have one complete row. Start at the back of the fabric, bring the needle through a hole in the weave to the front and leave an inch of thread at the back.

Hold the tail and pass the needle through the hole diagonally and above from where you made a slanted hash mark stitch. Start the second stitch by putting the needle through the hole below the one last used, be sure to trap the tail under this stitch. Pull tight.

Continue making slanted hash mark stitches across the row, changing thread color as you need to match the pattern. You will have a series of stitches that look like this (////////////). When you get to the end of the row, return across the row making half cross stitches in the opposite direction (\\\) to make a series of X’s, changing the thread color as you need to match the pattern. You have now created one complete row of stitches essential for knowing how to cross stitch.

Step Eight – Cross Stitch Individual Cross Stitches

Sometimes, with intricate patterns or quick color changes, it may be easier to work on individual stitches of the same color rather than complete entire rows. This is fine, just make one forward half cross stitch (/) and then cross it with a half stitch in the opposite direction (). Just remember, every time you have a tail, cover it with following stitches.

Step Nine – Ending The Thread

When you come to the end of your thread, or you run out of stitches in that color on your pattern, pass the need under three or more completed stitches to secure it. Try to avoid carrying the thread across large parts of the back of the work because it may show through. Better to cut and start again when you pick up the color again. Trim close, but not so close you risk losing the end.

Conclusion

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Learning how to cross stitch is that easy. If you are a beginner, consider using a kit that will provide you with the correct fabric, thread, and needle and a chart to follow. Following the above guide will have you cross stitching in no time.