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Learn Cross Stitch Instructions

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Learn Cross Stitch Instructions

Cross Stitch Cross stitch is not new. In fact it's been
around for hundreds of years in one
form or another. Today there is a
wonderful variety of both modern and
traditional cross stitch designs available
for stitchers.


If you would like to learn cross stitch and
play a part in this tradition we invite you
to take a look through our tutorial for
beginners, and try it for yourself.

Some Cross Stitch Guidelines

Cross stitch is fun and the range of kits available is now huge. It is best to follow the instructions in the kit, as the desiger will know best how to work it, to do justice to his or her original concept. It is helpful however to have some general guidelines on the basics, and that is what we are hoping to provide for you here.

With stamped cross stitch the design is printed on the fabric for you to follow. However the vast majority of cross stitch is "counted" cross stitch. Here the fabric is blank, and you work the design by following a chart which shows you where to put the stitches.

The chart is normally divided up into a grid of squares. Each colour is represented by a symbol, and there is a "colour key" which shows you which symbol represents each colour.

Let us assume that the symbol for black is 'x' and the symbol for green is 'o'. If you see a line of 7 squares on the chart containing the symbols 'xxxxooo', you should make 4 stitches in black and 3 stitches in green.

To Start

It is best to centre the cross stitch design by starting in the middle so that your stitching fits onto the piece of fabric without going off to one side. An easy way to do this is to lightly fold the fabric in four to find the centre point. This point should coincide with the centre of the chart, which is normally marked with arrows at the top, bottom and sides. The centre of the design is normally the best place to start stitching.

Most stranded cotton threads (floss) are made up of six strands. Separate these out into the correct number of strands (as indicated on the chart instructions) for stitching. The colour key shows which shade of cotton to use for each symbol on the chart.

Start Stitching

To begin the cross stitch, thread your needle and bring it up through the fabric, leaving a short end of cotton at the back, and work over this with your first few stitches to secure it. When there are enough stitches in place you can start off a new colour by first running it through the back of the existing stitches. To finish a colour, run your cotton under several stitches at the back to secure it.

Working a single cross stitch

Working a single cross stitch

The fabric shown in the diagram on the left is aida, and it is very popular for cross stitch. This is a block weave fabric, with a hole at the corners of each block, which is nice and easy to work. Imagine that each block is represented by one square on the chart. To make one cross stitch: bring the needle up through hole 1, down through hole 2, then up through hole 3, and finally down through hole 4.

Working a row of cross stitch

Working a row of cross stitch

To make a row of cross stitches: work across the fabric in the order shown on the top part of the diagram on the right, and then back to complete the crosses as shown on the bottom part. Always cross over in the same direction. It is quicker to work cross stitches in rows wherever possible.

Try not to join up separate areas of the same colour with long runs of thread at the back of the work. This is not only untidy and may show through the fabric at the front, but will probably mean you will run out of the thread supplied in the cross stitch kit. It is better to cut and fasten off your thread at the back of the needle work as normal, and start again at the new area of the design.

Working a Row of Half Cross Stitch

Working a Row of Half Cross Stitch

Many projects now have areas worked in half cross stitch, for example to give a "soft focus" background. This stitch is literally half of a cross stitch (up through 1 and down through 2 etc.), as shown on the left.


Work a row of Back Stitch

Work a row of Back Stitch

To make a row of back stitches: bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, and down at 4, and so on, as shown on the diagram on the left. Notice that 1 and 4 use the same hole.

Back stitch is used to great effect on many designs to delineate and bring out areas of stitching, adding drama and sharpness to the needle work. It is basically a row of stithes, maked on the chart by a row of lines. The back stitch is not normally worked until the cross stitch has been completed.

Back stitch is often worked with just a single strand of thread.

Working Part Stitches

Working Part Stitches

It is sometimes necessary to have more than one colour on a single block of fabric. Imagine a cross stitch design with a dark grey sloping roof and a blue sky above it. If the roof slopes from the right up to the left the designer will often make a part stitch of blue in the top right of the fabric block and a grey part stitch in the bottom left of the same block.

Where two colours share one square on the chart, work a 3/4 stitch in the more prominent shade, and complete the block with a 1/4 stitch of the other shade, as shown in the diagram on the left. Make your own hole with the needle in the centre of the block.

The combination of 1/4 stitch and 3/4 stitch often looks better than two 3/4 stitches, where you end up with a bulky four strands across the middle of a block of fabric.

Especially for Beginners

Click cross stitch for beginners to see our nice and easy starter kits.

Or free cross stitch charts to see some free cross stitch designs, to help get you started.

Evenweave Fabrics for Cross Stitch

Finer evenweave fabrics made up of "threads" instead of blocks, are often used in cross stitch kits. Normally these are worked "over two threads", so when you are following the chart you would miss one hole and go into the next.

So for example if you wanted to work a 14 count (14 holes per inch) project on finer fabric, you could work it on 28 count (28 holes per inch) fabric, over two threads. The cross stitches would be exactly the same size, and therefore the complete design would be the same size. This also has the advantage that part stitches are easier to do, as a hole already exists in the middle of each square.

The same applies in reverse. Say for example you have a design to be worked on 32 count evenweave fabric, but have difficulty seeing the holes on this finer fabric. Many stitchers use 16 count fabric instead, going into every hole instead of across two holes, and in this way the design will be the same size.

As you learn cross stitch and your confidence grows, you will feel more comfortable working with these finer fabrics.

Cross Stitch Needles and Threads

Good quality colour-fast stranded cottons such as Anchor or DMC are a great advantage. Most stitchers cut their threads into approximately 18" (1/2 metre) lengths, unless they are already supplied in pre-cut lengths. This is a convenient amount of thread on the needle and avoids tangling and other problems.

Different cross stitch effects can be obtained by using different numbers of strands. However, on many projects you will find 3 or 4 strands used or 11 count fabric, 2 or 3 strands on 14 count, and 2 strands on 16 and 18 count fabrics to give a good coverage.

Tapestry needles are ideal for cross stitch. This is because they have a rounded point which goes easily through the holes without splitting the fabric. Use size 22 for 11-count fabric, size 24 for 14-count fabric, size 26 for 16-count and 18-count fabric, and size 28 for finer fabrics.

When you have finished, be sure to trim any long loose ends carefully, so that they do not show through the fabric when your picture is framed.

Hoops and Frames

Most people use an embroidery hoop or small tapestry frame to hold their cross stitch fabric. This keeps the fabric taut and makes the project easier to handle while being worked. Also the hoop or frame can be held in a stand, which leaves both your hands free. This will allow you to work with one hand under the fabric and one over, which is generally more efficient, and saves the strain of having to hold the work while stitching it.

There are several advantages of a frame for cross stitch, as against an embroidery hoop. The top of the needle work is attached to the top bar, and the bottom to the bottom bar. This makes it easy with larger projects, to "roll up" the next section for stitching, rather than having to remove the fabric from the hoop to reposition it. It also avoids the circular marks on the finished cross stitch project, which often result from handling the hoop.

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