Cross Stitch How To

This is the pattern, design, or picture that you want to recreate on the fabric.

Evenweave fabric
The fabric for cross stitch is woven in an even manner so that the threads cross exactly where the needle should be placed to insert the threads. Care must be taken to keep the edges of the fabric from raveling by either sewing the edges on a sewing machine, or using a fray check product.

A tapestry needle should be used, usually a size 24 or 26 (size decreases as the needle number increases). This type of needle has a blunt point and a large eye.

Embroidery floss is a cotton thread used for stitching.  The floss has 6 strands, but usually only 2 strands are used at a time for cross stitching and 1 strand for backstitching.  When using higher-count fabric (22 count or higher), usually only 1 strand is used.

Embroidery hoop or scroll bars
A wooden embroidery hoop or scroll bars can be helpful to hold the fabric while you stitch. Remove the fabric from the hoop when you are not stitching to keep from getting 'hoop marks.' When scroll bars are used, the fabric does not have to be removed when not stitching.

Any type of scissors can be used, but most stitchers use a pair of small embroidery scissors with sharp points.

Fabric Choice
There are dozens of fabrics that can be used for cross stitching.  White or ivory Aida 14 is the most common, and is an easy fabric for beginners. The number of stitches per inch will determine the finished size of the design. A design that is stitched on Aida 14  will be 2" wide, while the same design will be 2 1/2" wide on Aida 11, and 1 1/4" stitched on hardanger (22 stitches per inch). Most design charts show design sizes for different counts of fabrics. Be sure to allow extra fabric for finishing (at least 4" extra on length and width).

To begin stitching
Find the center of the design on the graph.  On most charts this will be indicated with arrows or a bold line. Next, find the center of your fabric by folding the fabric in half first vertically, then horizontally, and creasing the fabric. The creases will mark the center of the fabric, which will coincide with the center mark on the chart. Many stitchers start stitching close to the center of the design.

Any knots made on the back of the fabric will show through, so do not use any knots to start or end the thread.  To begin stitching, bring the threaded needle up from the back of the fabric leaving about a 1" tail of thread.  Stitch the next 5 or 6 stitches over the tail, and then clip off any extra thread. To end stitching of a thread, weave your needle back through the last 5 or 6 stitches on the back side of the fabric and clip the thread short.

There are two methods. The first is to work a row of half stitches, then work back over the row to complete the X's. The second is to complete each X as you go. It is important that all the X's are crossed in the same way, meaning that the top thread of the X should always slant in the same direction. It does not matter which way they slant, as long as it is consistent. If the slant of the stitches are mixed, the finished piece will look uneven. Be careful not to pull the thread too hard as you stitch, so that the stitches lay flat on the fabric and do not distort the holes in the fabric.

Backstitching is a running stitch used to outline an area or to form lettering in a cross stitch design.  Generally one less strand of floss is used for backstitching.

Carrying Thread
Sometimes a color of thread will have only a few stitches and then needs to move over to another area.  Most of the time the thread should be ended off and restarted, other times you can carry the thread along the back of the fabric. Just moving from area to area is easier than starting and stopping, but in some cases, this will result in the thread showing through.  This is particularly a problem if you carry a dark thread over an unstitched area of light fabric. If the space is short and the floss color does not show through your fabric, you can carry the thread to another area.

When your stitching is complete, wash it in cool water using a mild liquid detergent.  Rinse well, but do not wring, and roll the fabric in a clean towel to absorb most of the water. While it is still damp, place the fabric face down on a towel, and place another cloth on top of the needlework.  Press lightly with a warm iron to remove any wrinkles, then let air dry. Once the needlework is completely dry, it may be framed or finished as desired.

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Last site update:  Tuesday, May 31, 2005
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