The Basics of Cross Stitch Since I have been cross stitching since I was a girl I sometimes assume that everyone already knows how to do it, it is pretty simple, afterall.  But, maybe not.  Maybe the world could use a few more cross stitching tips.  And, if that’s true well, you have come to the right place! If you are new to cross stitch, or want to give it a try for the first time, head over to my etsy shop (shameless plug), grab a pattern and then this post will lead you through everything else you will ever need to know about cross stitch.


The beautiful thing about cross stitching is that you need relatively few supplies.  What you do need is:

  • Aida Cloth–this is special cloth for cross stitching.  You can find this at any craft store, even Walmart.  It is made in a variety of sizes and colors.  I usually always use 14 ct.  Also, to tint your aida cloth to any color imaginable, check out THIS TUTORIAL.
  • Embroidery Thread–I generally use DMC thread which can also be found at any craft store, including Walmart.  Each pattern will come with a legend that assigns a symbol to each color of thread used.  Each thread also has a universal number assigned to it.  Purchase the numbered threads used in your pattern.  Also, while stitching refer to the legend to learn not only what color to use, but how many threads of that color.
  • Needles.  Since you are using aida cloth that already has holes, you don’t need super sharp needles.
  • Embroidery Hoops–I always cross stitch with an embroidery hoop.  The hoop holds the fabric tight and makes it easier to keep the stitches neat.  This isn’t a mandatory supply, however,
  • Masking Tape–Aida cloth, especially when handled a lot, tends to fray.  Therefore, whenever I start a new pattern I cut my aida cloth bigger than needed and then place a strip of masking tape along each side.  The edges will be cut away when you are done stitching.
  • Pattern.  Thanks for your purchase!


Getting Started:

Here are just a few things you should do to make sure your project gets off on the right foot!

  • Find the center of your pattern–find the center of your cloth and start there.  Make sure you aren’t going to run out of fabric and always start in the middle.  You can, I suppose find the center and count stitches out from there to find another place to start…but if I try and count too high I always make mistakes.
  • Pay careful attention to your legend.  Each thread color as a different symbol, but the legend might also tell you how many threads to use, to blend colors or to do different specialty stitches.
  • Make sure that you don’t work with too long of a piece of thread.  If the thread is too long you will end up spending most of your time wrestling with knots.
  • I usually tie a knot at the end of my thread when I am begin.  You can also just leave a tail of thread on the backside of the fabric when you start and not worry about the knot.  When you finish a thread tuck the tail into the back stitching and trim.

  tips for getting started cross stitching

The Stitches:

Cross Stitch is mathematical and precise, so take your time and make your stitches look perfect.  Here’s how:

  • Cross Stitches are just that–an X.  But, the X will look good if you stitch all your X’s in an orderly fashion, if you have a row of stitches all in the same color, start left and head right, stitching just the first ½ of the stitch, from lower left corner to upper right corner.  When you reach the end of the row, turn around and stitch the second ½ of the stitch.
  • Black Stitches are also involved in several patterns.  Generally a back stitch is used for wording or outlines.  Pay close attention to how many threads to use and don’t make your stitches too long.
  • Although no one will (likely) be seeing the back of your project, try to keep it neat back there!  If you finish off a section of color on one side of the project, tie off the string and start again, don’t stretch all the way across the back.  Doing this will make your back look junky and probably lead to a knot nightmare.

A few more tips

  • Washing cross stitch projects are a pain, so instead wash your hands before you begin stitching.
  • Make sure you have good light while stitch.
  • Always always double check your counting.  It is, after all, called counted cross stitch.  Being off by even one stitch in key areas can ruin a project, so take the time and check your counting before you start stitching.
  • As with all my patterns, feel free to make adjustments to thread color.  It’s your project after all.
  • Cross stitch is meant to be a leisurely activity. I almost always watch TV as I stitch.  If cross stitching is stressing you out, well, you are doing it wrong.

All the best and happy stitching!

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