How to cross stitch: A beginners guide

Published on 30 June 2019 5 min read

Calling all wannabe cross stitchers! Whether you’re a keen crafter or a newbie to needlecraft, cross stitching is a brilliantly rewarding and therapeutic craft to add to your repertoire. If you’re keen to learn how to cross stitch but don’t have a clue where to start – we’ve got your back!

From how to do your first counted cross stitch to learning all about the tools you need and getting started with easy charts – we’ve got heaps of helpful info to get you through your first project. But first of all, let’s start with the basics…

What is cross stitch?

Cross stitch is simply making cross-shaped stitches in an open weave fabric. You can create beautiful designs in cross stitch – perfect for interiors, embellishments on garments and more. You can use cross stitch kits to get started, or buy the equipment you need and learn how to read charts (the patterns you’ll use to create stunning designs!).

How to cross stitch

There are a few ways to achieve a cross-shaped stitch, and the one you choose depends on the intricacy of the design. If you’re working in block colors or on rows, you might find it easier to use the row method of stitching. If you’re working on more detailed or intricate areas, the individual cross stitch method will be the best for you.

What do I need to get started?

Fabric

Cross stitch is usually stitched on Aida (also called Java canvas or evenweave), a fabric woven with an evenly-spaced grid of holes. These are the tiny holes you’ll use to cross stitch. These fabrics come in different ‘counts’. The count refers to the number of holes per inch. 14-count Aida is the most popular fabric to stitch with. It has 14 holes to the inch and is usually stitched with two strands of embroidery thread.

Cross stitch needles

Blunt tapestry needles are best for cross stitch. You can buy these in sets with a few different sizes to get started with. When you start your design, you’re looking for a needle size that will comfortably pass back and forth through the holes in the fabric without stretching. Needle sizes start at 13 and go up to 26. A size 24 needle would work well for 14 count Aida.

Threads

The majority of cross stitch designs are stitched with stranded embroidery thread. These threads are made up of six strands and can be separated according to the design you’re working on. For example, if you’re stitching a design on 14-count Aida, you would usually use two strands. To split the strands, cut a length of the thread, hold one end taut while you carefully pull as many strands as you need away. It’s easy to get in a tangle when you first start, but we promise practice will make perfect!

Embroidery hoop

Use an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut while you stitch. Hoops come in a huge variety of sizes, and can even be used to mount work afterwards. Many cross stitchers find an embroidery hoop essential to maintain a good tension and to make it easier to count the stitches.

Tapestry scissors

A good pair of scissors are invaluable for any crafter. Keep them sharp and use them to cut the ends of threads when you’re finished stitching.

Before you start, make sure you've mastered how to read a cross stitch pattern.

Learn How to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern

    Getting started and securing your thread

    1

    Find the center of the fabric you’re working with by folding it in half, then in half again. Pinch the middle of the fabric to make a crease, then add a small stitch as a marker. Work from the middle of the chart outwards, if it makes sense to.

    2

    Thread a tapestry needle and insert it into the back of the fabric to make your first stitch.

    Cross stitch beginners how to

    3

    Cross stitch beginners how to

    Secure your thread by holding an inch tail of the thread at the back of your fabric. As you make your first stitches, be sure to catch the thread at the back within it to secure it in place.

    Make an individual cross stitch

    1

    Cross stitch beginners how to

    Choose the spot where you wish to make your first stitch and identify the four holes you’ll use to make the stitch.

    2

    Bring your needle up from the bottom left hole and make a diagonal stitch, taking the needle back down through the top right hole.

    3

    Bring the needle back through the top left hole, and down through the bottom right hole, crossing the other diagonal stitch as you go.

    Cross stitch beginners how to

    Pro Tip

    It’s easy to get your thread in a tangle as you stitch, causing nasty knots that can be hard to resolve. To avoid this, every so often, drop your needle and let it hang from the cross stitch so that the thread unravels itself.

    Make a row of cross stitches

    1

    Choose the spot where you wish to make your first stitch and identify the four holes you’ll use to make the stitch.

    2

    Bring your needle up from the bottom left hole and make a diagonal stitch, taking the needle back down through the top right hole.

    3

    Bring the needle back through the bottom right hole (directly beneath the hole you’ve just gone through) and insert it into the top right hole of the next stitch.

    Cross stitch beginners how to

    4

    Repeat the same stitch until you have as many as you need in the row.

    5

    Start to go back along the row you’ve just stitched, doing the same diagonal stitch in reverse, making cross stitches as you go. Yasssss! You’ve stitched your first row.

    Cross stitch how to beginners first row

    How to end a thread

    1

    When you need to use a new thread or if you’ve come to the end of your design, make the last stitch as you usually would, with the needle at the back of the fabric.

    2

    Run the needle through the back of the last few stitches.

    Cross stitch beginners how to beginners

    3

    Snip the end of the thread with embroidery scissors. If you’re starting with a new thread or color, simple thread the needle through the back of the same stitches you tied off and carry on stitching!

    Get started with our easy free patterns

    Free Beginner Cross Stitch Patterns

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