There are a few easy steps to learning how to do cross stitch, and starting out with a small sampler will make all the difference. Cross stitch is a great simple stitch, useful for many different projects, and always looks good. When you have your fabric and a design, practice a few stitches to get into the rhythm of cross stitch embroidery.
Cross Stitch Tutorial
Continue reading and learn cross stitching & cross stitch embroidery with this step by step tutorial that shows 2 methods for how to cross stitch easily as well as to find out where to get your cross stitch patterns.
What is Cross Stitch?
Cross stitch is a popular form of thread embroidery. It involves creating X-shaped stitches in a tiled pattern to create a design. Aida cloth is often used as it has evenly spaced holes giving greater precision for the placement of the stitches. Tiny cross stitches can be used to create intricate designs, including landscapes and beautiful artwork.
The greatest attraction of cross stitch is its repetitive nature making it the ideal embroidery stitch for beginners.
History of Cross Stitch
Cross stitch is the oldest form of embroidery and has traveled across countries and over many centuries to become a versatile stitch used today. It is more than just an embroidery stitch. It is a craft that has been integrated into all sorts of needle and thread art forms.
Because it is a simple stitch, different fabrics, and thread textures add variety to the outcome of the item you are making.
Initially, cross stitch was used to decorate bed linen and tableware, but nowadays, cross stitch can be used to decorate many things.
Over the years, cross stitch has had new techniques added to its definition. There are now reversed cross stitch patterns and a double cross stitch known as the Leviathan cross stitch. It is worked with a normal cross stitch combined with an upright cross stitch and is very effective.
What is Cross Stitch Used For?
Cross stitch is used for decorative purposes and doesn't serve a function.
Cross stitch is used in crewel embroidery, needlepoint, tapestry, and even wall art and rug-making. It looks stunning on peasant blouses and creates an interesting border for a skirt with a country look.
Cross Stitch Tools
Here are the main tools you will need to learn how to do cross stitch:
- Fabric: Aida cloth is most commonly used because of its evenly spaced holes which make counting stitches easy. The fabric comes in different numbers of holes per inch. A higher count means a more detailed design but smaller stitches.
- Embroidery Floss: It usually comes in skeins and can be separated into smaller strands. The color and number of strands you use will depend on your pattern.
- Cross Stitch Needle: These needles have a blunt end and a large eye for threading. They're specifically designed for cross stitch and come in different sizes to match different fabric counts.
- Embroidery Hoop
- Cross Stitch Pattern
- Fabric Marker or Water Soluble Pen
- Needle Threader:
Best Cross Stitch Fabric
When learning how to cross stitch, beginners should try Aida fabric with a thread count of 14. Aida fabric is simply an open-weave fabric commonly used for embroidery and cross stitch.
The higher the thread count, the smaller the weave, and so the smaller your stitches will end up. The numbers represent the number of stitches in one square inch (2.5cm).
Unlike many embroidery fabrics, it is quite stiff and therefore can sometimes be sewn without an embroidery hoop. Personally, I prefer the stability of an embroidery hoop for all projects. The advantage of using Aida is that you can count the threads, enabling you to get more symmetrical stitches.
See in the photo below how the open weave of the fabric works like a grid. You can count across accurately reproducing designs without drawing them on the fabric.
There are other fabrics and different counts available, and you may want to use a more practical fabric if you are embellishing clothing. For my samples, I used an unbleached calico which is a cheap and easily available fabric. If you are looking to sew perfectly symmetrical designs on calico, just mark lines in lead pencil or chalk that you can follow.
Best Thread for Cross Stitch Embroidery
You will need some embroidery thread (floss) for your cross-stitch project. Most brands have 6 strands of thread twisted together to form one. You can choose how thick your threads will be. Most cross stitch patterns will specify the number of threads.
DMC is one of the major embroidery floss brands, but there are many cheaper alternatives to consider, particularly if your final product doesn't need to be washed.
You will usually use a tapestry needle with an eye size to match the thickness of the threads you are using. A needle threader can help you thread more easily if you find the strands are separating and making it more difficult.
For larger projects, try to purchase the embroidery floss all from the same dyelot.
How to Cross Stitch, Step by Step
If you are completely new to embroidery, read my article on how to embroider before you start. This will go through threads and tools and give you a good basis to build upon.
This will show you the basic cross stitch, which is used where you need small sections. See the fast method below for larger cross stitch areas.
Preparation for Cross Stitch
Aida and many very open-weave fabrics fray easily, so you may want to finish the edges before you start larger and more time-consuming projects. Edges can be finished with a simple zig-zag stitch or serged edge.
If you don't have a sewing machine, then masking or painter's tape can be stuck along the edges. Just make sure you have large seam allowances so you can cut off the tape when you are finished.
Start by centering your fabric in the hoop.
Step 1 - Bring the Needle Up
When you have knotted your thread or let your first thread hang at the back to be included later, you are ready to start.
When you are learning, it may be easier to draw some little squares to practice in. The size of the stitches will be determined by the size of the square.
Push your needle from the back to the right side of the fabric at the top left of your imaginary square at(1).
Step 2 - Diagonal Stitches Across
Your first stitch is from the upper corner (1) diagonally across to the bottom right corner (2).
Push the needle down at (2) and in a straight line at the back of the fabric, come up at the bottom left (3), which is in line with your first stitch (1).
Look at the photo below. It is much easier than it sounds! See 1,2,3.
UP-DOWN-ACROSS & UP
Your needle should pop out the bottom left of the cross at a point parallel to where the thread entered the fabric at (1). The first part of the cross is complete!
Step 3 - Back to Top
Take your needle diagonally across from the bottom left corner (3) to the top right corner (4). Your thread will cross the thread from the first diagonal forming the cross stitch.
If you only plan on a single cross stitch, then stop there and turn to the back of your work to finish off.
If you plan on further stitches, then take your needle at the back of your work and bring it up at the top corner of your next stitch (5) and follow the same pattern you stitched for the first cross.
Step 5 - Repeat
Repeat until the end of the thread. Then secure the thread underneath and start again.
You can start to see a rhythm as you sew from left to right and side to side. Always have the symmetrical square in your mind’s eye or even draw a little diagram on paper to remind you while you are learning how to do cross stitch.
Fast Method for Cross Stitch Patterns
When doing larger block rows of stitches in the one thread color (like my red cross sampler), I find it easier to do this alternate method.
First, you do one direction and then reverse back to complete the cross.
One word of warning on using this method - Don't pull the stitches too tight, or it can result in your fabric puckering and not lying flat. It is best suited to really stiff fabrics that won't pull. If your fabric is thinner, put it in a hoop, making sure the fabric is very taut and rechecking it during stitching.
See how areas can quickly be covered using this faster method. Look at some of the green stitching which is half done. Once the needle is rethreaded with green, it will complete the crosses in those parts.
Double Cross Stitch Patterns
An attractive border design can be created by using a double cross stitch.
In addition to the diagonal crosses, it has a second layer of horizontal crosses. This can be done in a contrasting color or matching color. I have done my samples with a smaller horizontal cross, but you can get a star-like shape by making them the same height and width.
- Start by making your regular cross stitches. These may be touching or separated, like in my sample.
- To start the second cross, bring the needle up at point (1), which is midway on the side of the cross. If you want a smaller cross, then bring point (1) in a bit.
- Move the needle to the right and put it down at point (2), which is midway on the other side.
- Exit at (3) at the top.
- Put the needle back down at point (4), and you have a nice-looking double cross stitch.
Experiment with different-sized cross stitches.
How to Read a Cross Stitch Chart
Learning how to read a cross stitch chart is essential for successfully completing most crosss stitch projects. The chart is presented in a grid showing the different colors to be stitched. Each grid square represents a single stitch.
You will usually start in the center of the chart. This should be marked with an arrow or bold intersecting lines. Starting in the center of your fabric ensures your cross stitch design will fit.
There will be a color key or legend for each color of embroidery floss. Some patterns will tell you how many strands of floss to use for each section if this varies.
The key to reading a cross-stitch chart is to count accurately.
Cross Stitch Patterns
New cross stitch projects can be purchased online and from haberdashery stores. You will often receive a chart with a grid showing you the position of stitches and the color combinations. This is why using fabric with an open countable weave like Aida is best. You can just copy the chart and stitch positions onto your fabric by counting.
Many patterns and designs can be purchased in modern cross stitch kits, so you have the correct colors rather than purchasing them individually.
Free Cross Stitch Patterns
There are many free patterns on the internet to get you started with cross stitching. Here are a few to start with.
1. Landscape Cross Stitch
This beautiful landscape embroidery project is inspired by modern artworks. Discover more patterns by Cheryl McKinnon at LoveCrafts! Continue Reading...
2. Love Cross Stitch Pattern
Free downloadable PDF cross-stitch pattern by DMC, this heart would look beautiful as a wall hanging. Continue Reading...
3. Cross Stitch Rose Burlap Bag
Download this beautiful free cross stitch rose pattern for your next project! Use it to make a pretty cross stitch rose burlap bag. Tutorial included. Continue Reading...
4. Unicorn Free Cross Stitch Pattern
Make a colorful unicorn cross stitch to decorate a kids' room. Continue Reading...
Tips for Embroidery Cross Stitch
- Fabric: Start with an Aida cloth for beginners, as it has clear, evenly-spaced holes to guide your stitching.
- Needle: Use a blunt-tipped tapestry needle to avoid splitting the fabric threads.
- Floss Length: Cut your thread to a maximum length of 18 inches to prevent tangling and fraying.
- Thread Count: Follow your pattern's recommendation for the number of floss strands to use, which affects the thickness of your stitches.
- Starting Point: Start stitching from the center of your design to ensure it's centered on the fabric.
- Stitch Direction: Keep the direction of your stitches consistent throughout your project.
- Securing Thread: Rather than knotting your thread, secure it under the first few stitches to avoid knots that might cause bumps.
- Ending Stitch: Secure the end of your thread under your existing stitches at the back of your fabric.
- Pattern Reading: Make sure to understand your pattern fully before starting, and keep track of your progress.
- Care: Avoid eating or drinking around your project to prevent stains, and wash your hands before stitching to keep your work clean. After completing, gently wash, dry, and iron your project before framing.
How to Cross Stitch - In Conclusion
Learning how to cross stitch is a bit like learning to conduct an orchestra.
Say to yourself there are 4 beats to the bar and four stitches to the cross – one, two, three, and you have the cross done, then four leads you onto the next cross, and away you go to making a masterpiece with a needle and a thread.
More Embroidery Stitches
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Embroidery Tutorial
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch