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The Basics of Cross Stitch

First, always read the pattern's instructions and key before you start any new project. All of the stitching direction will be listed. Such as where to start, how many floss strands to use and what type of fabric is recommended.


Most cross stitch patterns recommend starting in the center. To find the center of your pattern, there will be arrows at the top center and the side center on the chart. Follow them to the center of the pattern and choose one of the colors closest to the center point and that is where you will start and work out from there.

Find the center of your fabric by folding it in half from top to bottom and then side to side. Where the folds intersect, and mark this point with a pin.


In the pattern instructions the stitch count will be listed-- that is the design's dimensions. You will need this when getting your fabric. We recommend getting 3 inches extra on each side for border and framing.

How the key works, each square on a cross stitch chart contains a symbol, and each symbol corresponds with one stitch. The key that accompanies the chart tells you what thread color each symbol corresponds to.

Let's get started. Knots are not used to secure the floss on the backside of the fabric. The reason for this is because when you lay it flat, you would be able to see tiny bumps. The goal is to have a nice smooth piece so it lays flat when it is finished.

There are several ways to anchor your floss. You can leave a tail and catch it under your first few stitches, securing it.

A loop start can be used: take a single strand of floss and fold it in half. Thread the cut ends through the needle, make your first stitch / (come up through the fabric and go back down diagonally) keeping the loop about 1/4" long on the back. Then on the underside of the fabric, pass the needle through the loop and pull it tight. This will secure your thread.


A waste knot can be used by creating a knot at the end of your floss, then from the front of your fabric a few inches away from the center of the designs go down then come up at your first stitch. Once you have several stitches completed, you can cut the knot off and slide the remaining thread under the stitches to secure.


To end or start a new floss once you have started stitching, simply slide your needle under several stitches on the back side. I always like to keep the back side of my stitching nice and neat so I trim off any tails that might be hanging out.


The Stitches of Cross Stitch: first the cross stitch. This stitch consists of 2 diagonal stitches, which together form a x, or cross. There are various ways you can do this, but you must be consistent about the direction of the stitches. If you start with the bottom stitch going left to right (/) and cover it with a right to left (\), then all of your stitches should be completed that way.


You do not have to complete the x as you go, you can make all the bottom / stitches across the row first, and then work back making the top \ stitches. On the back, your stitching looks like this: |||||. (This is called Danish method.)

However you may prefer to complete each cross as you go. When you do that, the back looks like this: |/|/|/| (This is called English method.) The English method stitches are said to be sturdier — this might be a consideration if your stitching will be used as a pillow cover or something that doesn’t just hang on the wall. The English method does use slightly more floss then then Danish method. Note... If you are using a hand dyed floss you will need to complete the X as you go. You wouldn’t want your bottom stitch to be one color then cover it with another.

Fractional Stitches (¼, ½, ¾ stitches) are easy to do but can be a little confusing when you see them for the first time on a chart. Quarter, half and three quarter stitches are used to give extra details to a design. Fractional stitches are show on the graph by a small symbol filling just a corner of the box.

Quarter Stitch may slant in any direction, as shown on graph. When stitching on Aida, you will need to piece the fabric between the wholes to complete a quarter stitch. On linen, just go over one.


Half Cross-Stitch is simply the first part of a cross-stitch.


Three-Quarter Cross-Stitch is a Half Cross-stitch plus a Quarter Cross-stitch. Stitch may slant in any direction, as shown on graph.




The back-stitch is most often used as an outline stitch and usually uses only 1 strand of floss. However, check your pattern's institutions. Work the back-stitch from right to left, keeping distance between stitch beginnings equal and consistent.


French Knot: bring needle from fabric back to front; keeping floss taut, wrap twice around needle and insert needle back through fabric from front to back. Hold floss taut until needle is completely through fabric, pull gently to tighten. Be careful not to pull too hard, or knot may slip through fabric.


Most beginners start off using Aida. Aida is a excellent cotton fabric, woven in blocks, giving obvious holes for the needle to enter, so it is ideal for the beginner. Aida has a squarish and more modern look than and linen. Each cross stitch is worked over one square. The common counts in Aida are 11, 14, 16, and 18 threads or holes to the inch.


Experienced stitches prefer the look of linen or evenweave. They tend to be smoother than Aida. Linens are also woven in a grid but come in a much finer count. Cross stitching is usually sewn two floss strands over two strands of fabric. Linens have a higher thread counts - 24 to 40 threads per inch. This enables the stitcher to stitch in every hole (over one) for very fine detail stitching used for faces and hands.


I hope this gives you the basics of cross stitch to get you started. Remember every experienced stitcher out there was once a beginner just like you.

Happy Stitching!!!

Anne Marie H.

Your instructions in the different stitches did help me. I have done cross stitch before but the last time was 1999 so I needed refreshing.

I do wish I could do some pattern in the linen (the finished work is so beautiful)!! My sister-in-law did a pattern of Little Boy Blue and had

it framed in an oval frame. It was so beautiful!!! I just don't have the talent for working with so close threads. Thank you for your help.





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Donnett H.

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