How to cross stitch (with pictures)

How to cross stitch (with pictures)
How to cross stitch (with pictures)

Are you getting into embroidery? If so, one of the basic stitches you will need to master is cross stitch. This ancient technique, practiced in many cultures, is also called "counted stitches". The images below will show you the method of working with a plastic plate and thread, to help you quickly understand the embroidery technique.


Part 1 of 4: select your supplies

Cross Stitch Step 1

Step 1. Choose your fabric

Even though cross stitch refers to an embroidery technique and not to a particular fabric, it is most often done on a fabric called “Aida canvas”. This fabric is loosely woven, in a grid pattern that allows you to easily line up your stitches. The Aida canvas is sold in different sizes which refer to the number of tiles present on a 10 cm. You could, for example, find the following values: 44, 55 or 72 tiles for 10 cm.

  • The easiest way is to start on an Aida fabric which has between 4 and 5.5 stitches per cm, because this type of fabric offers more space to make the stitches. The more stitches per cm on your canvas, the finer your embroidery stitches will be.
  • If you don't want to use Aida canvas for your embroidery, another option is to embroider on cheesecloth fabrics, of which linen is one. But these two types of fabric do not allow to have the same spaces that the Aida fabric offers to the beginner embroiderer.
Cross Stitch Step 2

Step 2. Select your thread

The cross stitch has the advantage of offering a great freedom to the embroiderer, particularly in terms of the choice of the colors of the thread. We generally use the embroidery thread in cotton mouliné (the DMC brand is the best known), which can be found on the market in hundreds of colors.

  • Each skein of embroidery floss comes in six threads, but you will only need to use 1 to 3 at a time. In most cases, we embroider with 2 strands at a time or double strand.
  • The embroidery thread is presented in matt colors or in iridescent and metallic colors. The last two are a bit more complicated to work with and cost a lot more than the first.
  • If you have difficulty making the cross stitches with your thread, you can use waxed thread or prepare your threads by passing a little beeswax through them before starting your stitches. This will make it easier for the embroidery floss to thread, attach and take a regular shape.
Cross Stitch Step 3

Step 3. Choose a pattern

To do cross stitch, all you need to do is match a pattern and a grid that are suitable for the type of fabric you are using. Choose a design from the internet or from an embroidery booklet and collect the assortment of threads needed for the job.

  • As a beginner, perhaps the easiest is to start with a simple cross stitch. Choose a design that is small, doesn't include a lot of detail, and involves using only 3-7 colors.
  • You can easily create your own pattern (also called a "grid" in embroidery) if you cannot find one to your liking, using pictures you have and a computer program or a sheet of graphic paper.
Cross Stitch Step 4

Step 4. Obtain an embroidery hoop

This is a double ring, made of plastic, metal or wood, which holds your work together while you embroider. Although you can do cross stitch very well without this tool, embroidery hoops are a great help and are very inexpensive. Smaller drums are easier to hold, but you have to move its fabric often, while large drums are harder to hold, but require less movement around your work.

Part 2 of 4: making your own embroidery chart

Cross Stitch Step 5

Step 1. Choose an image

Any image can be made into an embroidery grid, but simple images with well-defined outlines are most practical. Choose an image or design that has only a few colors and very few details.

Cross Stitch Step 6

Step 2. Adjust your image

You will likely need to crop or widen your image in order to focus on just one part of the original. If you have a photo editing program, use the posterize function to transform your image into simple, easily identifiable outlines. Convert your image to grayscale before printing, so it will be easier to choose the matching color values.

Cross Stitch Step 7

Step 3. Draw your image

Print out a physical copy of your image and get yourself a sheet of graphics paper. Place the sheet on your image and draw the main outlines of it. Try to limit the amount of detail you copy.

Cross Stitch Step 8

Step 4. Choose your colors

With your image and the shapes drawn, choose 3 to 7 colors that you will use for your work. Use colored pencils corresponding to the ones you have chosen, to give nuances to the shapes of your grid. Keep in mind that you are on a square pattern and avoid curved lines.

Cross Stitch Step 9

Step 5. Use a computer program

If you don't mind drawing your own pattern, try using a computer program to turn your favorite picture into a cross stitch pattern. Programs like "Pic 2 Pat" allow you to choose the size of your grid, the number of colors and the amount of detail you want to include in your final design.

Part 3 of 4: making a basic cross stitch

Cross Stitch Step 10

Step 1. Cut out your fabric and yarn

The size of your fabric will depend on the size of the grid you will be using. Each small square on the grid represents a single point (or an x-shaped cross) and you can count them to get an idea of ​​the exact size of your work. You will cut your embroidery thread to a length of about 80cm to start.

  • The embroidery thread comes in strands of six threads, but only one is needed for cross stitch. Gently separate the strands starting from the middle of the thick strand and use a single strand for each section of your grid.
  • Some grids may require the use of multiple threads at a time, so you will need to make sure yours is not before using a single thread. It is also quite common to use 2 threads for works on Aida canvas, especially for beginners.
  • If you run out of thread while making your design, don't worry! One of the big advantages of cross stitch is that you cannot see the start or stop point in a line from the face side. Simply cut extra thread and start from where you left off.
Cross Stitch Step 11

Step 2. Thread your needle

Take an embroidery thread and make a loop at the end. Moisten the middle of this loop (by licking it or with a drop of water) to make it easier to put on. Then push the loop through the cat, leaving the two ends (one of which should be very short) on the two opposite sides of the needle.

Cross Stitch Step 12

Step 3. Start your cross stitch

Count on your chart the number of spaces from the first stitch (usually this is the center point of the work) and insert your needle from the underside of the fabric. Pull the thread all the way, leaving a piece of the loop behind the fabric. Then cross diagonally, up or down, passing the needle over the loop at the back, to create a solid anchor point to start your embroidery.

  • It doesn't matter if you start your line like this //// or like this \, as long as you keep the same stitch pattern throughout your work.
  • At each stitch you do, pull your thread over the loose end at the back to secure your thread to your fabric. This will also prevent your embroidery from coming undone if someone pulls on it or spreads it.
Cross Stitch Step 13

Step 4. Continue your points

Keeping the same pattern in x, work your way out from the middle of your work until you have completely finished your pattern. If at some point you have run out of thread, block the thread by tying a knot at the back or, for a more regular result, by passing it under a few stitches made previously.

Cross Stitch Step 14

Step 5. Finish your work

When you have finished the pattern and added, if desired, the border in the back stitch, tie your thread by passing under the cross stitches already made. Tie an overhand knot at the back of your pattern and cut off any excess threads.

Cross Stitch Step 15

Step 6. Wash your item

Hands are naturally greasy and dirty and as such they also make your embroidery fabric dirty. It is possible to avoid accumulating too much dirt on your work by washing your hands frequently, but it is almost inevitable at the end of the job to have a ring of dirt the same shape as your drum. Gently hand wash your project with soap and water and allow it to air dry when finished.

Part 4 of 4: Some more technical possibilities of cross stitch embroidery

Cross Stitch Step 16

Step 1. The quarter point

Quarter stitches are formed, as their name suggests, by 1/4 x of the cross stitch. They can be used to add subtly curved lines as well as lots of detail. To create a quarter stitch, bring your needle from the corner of a canvas square to the center of one of those same squares. You should thus obtain the shape of a single leg of the x.

Cross Stitch Step 17

Step 2. Three-quarters of a cross stitch

This stitch is a variant frequently used to make the details of a pattern. It is achieved by making a half point (a full diagonal point) then a quarter point. You will get the shape of an x ​​with only three legs instead of four.

Cross Stitch Step 18

Step 3. The back stitch

To make a solid border around your design, use a single embroidery thread (black is most often used) and backstitch the entire outer border of your design. To backstitch, work vertically and horizontally (instead of making / or \ shapes, stitching | or _.)

Cross Stitch Step 19

Step 4. The knot point

Even though it is not a traditional cross stitch, this stitch is often used to make small dot or polka dot details in your embroidery (it is often used to make eyes, for example). To tie a knot, pull your thread from the back of the fabric. Wrap your needle around the thread 2 or 3 times, near the base of the thread. Thread your needle through the back of the fabric as close as possible to its exit, keeping the thread taut as you did for the other stitches. Push the needle all the way to finish your knot (so that everything is tight).


  • When there are several points of the same color on a line, make it the first half along the entire length of the line (///), then retrace your steps and finish the crosses (XXX). It will save you time, save thread and you will get a smoother final result.
  • To make stitches look regular, always make the bottom of the stitch point in the same direction. For example: always start your cross stitch at the top left by bringing it down to the right.
  • Be sure to keep track of where you are on your pattern to avoid mistakes. If you're having trouble keeping the account, make a photocopy or working copy and color it as you go with highlighters or colored pencils.
  • You can easily get free patterns from many websites. You can also find software to make your own patterns, like PCStitch or EasyCross.
  • You can store your thread by putting it on plastic or cardboard “spools” sold in stores, you can also use thread rings, thread bags or even sort them by color and store them in Ziploc bags. small size. Pick a method that works for the project you are pursuing and if you persevere in cross stitch, shop around and get a storage system that works for you.

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