How to cross stitch, an introduction

Weave your way through this post for tips on how to cross stitch.

Doe Ray Me Pin Cushion
Doe Ray Me Pin Cushion

Idea: Cross stitched pin cushion with deer and mushroom design.

Starter Kit:

1. Embroidery fabric: aida, evenweave or linen
2. Embroidery hoop
3. Tapestry needle
4. Embroidery thread
5. A pattern
6. Small, sharp scissors
8. Good lighting
9. A bundle of patience

Choosing your Fabric

Aida is made up of squares with large holes at each corner. Crosses can easily be inserted here, making it ideal for the absolute beginner. 14 count aida is where I took my very first steps. This is because their aren’t many  gaps between each stitch which means it didn’t take too long to complete my first project.16 and 18 count are also commonly used.

Eveboxnweave and linen are a bit more complicated, but produce nicer results. These two fabrics are worked over two fabric threads, instead of one. I think of it as a box of three holes and the corners of it makes 1 cross stitch. The second cross stitch uses the corners of the last box plus the next corners etc.

It is important to note here that these two fabrics have a higher count of stitches which means that the same pattern here may appear smaller than they do on aida. Therefore a larger pattern may need to be drawn.

Useful Hoops

Embroidery hoops come in various sizes. They keep your material steady and your stitches neat. Although it is not necessary to use one of these, it does make stitching easier and they are fairly cheap to buy.

Note: If your project is 18 inches, an 18 inch ring will not fit your project in so a bigger hoop will be required.

Choose your Weapon: blunt tapestry needle

These are great little things. The blunt tip easily slides into the gaps in the material instead of in between the threads, which could otherwise cause confusion.

Selecting your Thread

Embroidery thread or stranded cotton thread is most commonly used for cross stitching. It comes in a wide range of colours, including shiny metallic. These can be purchased at pound shops and local craft stores. They are made up of 6 threads, but only 2-3 are used at a time. So it’s best to set aside the rest for later.

Finding a pattern

Choose a pattern from a book, online, or make your own on graph paper.

The website I use is Here you can upload a picture you want to cross stitch, or if you want to make one from scratch is a good one . If you’re a beginner, it’s best to find a pattern that is small and doesn’t involve too many details to start off with.

I found Books by Sophie Simpson, aka What Delilah Did are particularly good. They are very informative and have some pretty ideas.

Starting Off

Linen sometimes has stubborn creases in it, mine does anyway. If the same applies to you then iron the fabric out before beginning. If you’re using an embroidery hoop (which I hope you are) this might not be needed.

When making your first stitch, find the centre. the easiest way to do this is to fold the fabric in 4. You can either knot the end, or leave a tail which can be sewed into your completed stitches later. (I usually just knot them.)

Begin by cutting the thread as long as your arm. To separate thread you can either pull out each strand separately by pulling upwards and pulling the rest downward, then gathering the amount of thread you want, or if you’re lazy like me or can’t wait to get started hold your thread up, pinch half of the thread between you index finger and thumb, (2 or 3 strands), and pinch half of the thread with your other index finger and thumb, then separate slowly. Let the threads untwist and straighten once separated. 2 strands might be easier to begin with.

When stitching, keep the tension of your thread and stitches loose or it may distort the gaps in your fabric and it will become difficult to run threads under your work when you are finished.

Also, after you have completed several stitches let your needle dangle and untwist to avoid the thread knotting.


Cross Stitch- the frontCross StitchCross Stitch- the back

A cross stitch is made of two parts, the forward and the backward stitch. You can either stitch a full cross stitch at a time ‘xxx’ or half stitch ‘\\\’ and then complete the stitches on the way back ‘xxx’ which is what I recommend.  Doing it this way will enable your work to remain neat at the back. If done correctly, the back will be in straight lines ‘|||’. Although I have to admit that the back of mine did not look this neat to begin with, so do not worry if you end up with a cloud of coloured thread at the back. Practice makes perfect, just take your time. At the end, tie off your thread.

Finishing off

Again, your piece might need ironing. This should be done on the reverse side of your pattern to avoid any damage.

You may also want to wash your cross stitch as hands are naturally oily. This can be done by gently washing your piece with soap and water and air drying it out afterwards.

Make into a Project.

Now you have your cross stitched pattern you can make it into anything you like, from a pin cushion, a button to a purse.

Happy stitching and good Luck!

Bashful Badger Pin Cushion
Bashful Badger Pin Cushion

Cross stitched pin cushion with badger and floral design.


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