Sew Guide » Beginner’s guide to {CROSS STITCH}

Beginner’s guide to {CROSS STITCH}

How to do cross stitch

how to do cross stitch

Cross stitch embroidery is a passion with some people – the idea of transferring a design and turning it into an abstract art on fabric with colourful thread is something which triggers their creativity big time – as it is for me. You can experiment with colour and colour combinations extensively with this embroidery.

The normal way to do cross stitch embroidery is to transfer the pattern on the fabric, then count the number of stitches on the pattern and work it on the fabric. This is why it is called the counted cross stitch. This simply sounds complicated . Cross stitch is not at all complicated. You can do the work free hand and it will still be a beauty.

Stamped cross stitch – this is how you can do cross stitch in a simpler way – ie if you have a design which is printed on the fabric. You donot have to count the stitches in this case. Just do the work where the coloured design is printed. Easy.

Which fabric is best suited for doing cross stitch?

Most beginners who are passionate about cross stitch must be familiar with cross stitch kits and pre-stitched fabrics ; They have cross stitch charts printed on it with even the colours printed so that the starting cross stitch enthusists have a clear guildeline on how to make the stitches.

For doing the real cross stitch without this guideline already printed, you need a suitable fabric for cross stitch

Aida – Most beginners start their cross stitch projects on Aida fabric. This is a somehwhat loosly woven fabric meant for cross stitch with prominent threads; looks like a fabric made of threads grouped together. It is also very inexpensive but not suitable for functional things because of the holes in the fabric. I  personally donot like working on aida but for beginner’s this is the best fabric for cross stitch

Fabric for cross stitch are referenced with the number of stitches possible in an inch. 10- 14 are the best for beginners ; it will be very difficult for a starter to do crossstitch on  fabric with 20 or more stitches per inch. 

Once you have got a hang of the techniques of cross stitch you can use other fabric to do cross stitch designs like a woven fabric with an even weave . Even weave means the number of threads will be the same per inch horizontally as well as vertically, making perfect squares to do your cross stitch.You get cotton even weave fabric specifically suited for cross stitch in the stores.

Linen – The best fabric for cross stitch other than even weave fabric and aida is Linen. Linen has a beauty unparalleled as well as the weave is very apparent which makes it best for this embroidery.

Aida is worked with one cross stitch per square, while linen and other evenweaves are generally worked over two threads.  

Hardanger fabric – Some people use this fabric for cross stitching projects – this has more threads per inch than Aida .

Cross stitching on Waste Canvas / soluble canvas

This is a method of doing cross stitch on a particular type of fabric which will tear off after the work is done- this way you can cross stitch on any type of fabric, regardless of the fact that the eave is not prominent on the fabric. The way you do it is to keep the waste canvas  on the garment and work the design. After the work is done, the waste canvas is pulled away thread by tread, after slightly wetting it.The work will remain on the garment.Soluble canvas will wash away when soaked in warm water

Plastic / fabric canvas – This is another medium on which cross stitching is done.This is used for doing beautiful cross stitch designs on homedecor and accessories. The canvas used  here  is an open mesh. Fabric canvas is more finer than the plastic canvas. You may need to apply interfacing to the back of fabric  canvas to use it for anything functional


What needle to use to do cross stitch

You should only be using tapestry needles to do cross stitch. The large eye and blunt tip of the needle is ideal for this embroiery. Tapestry needles of number 22 to 26 are usually used to do cross stitch

Aida ( 8 threads per inch) use 20/22 size needle
Aida ( 11 threads per inch) use 22 /24 size needle
Aida (14 threads per inch ) use 22/24/26 size needle
Aid ( 18 threads per inch ) use 24 or 26 size needle

Which thread  to use for cross stitching projects ?

The regular embroidery floss is  used to do the cross stitch also.Just ensure that the thread would not bleed if you intend to wash the item. 

If you are using a cross stitch kit you may get floss with it. Check that the thread is good quality. Some of them that come with the kits are not.

How many strands are used will depend on the fabric you have chosen.

Aida ( 8 threads per inch) use 3 strands of embroidery thread
Aida ( 11 threads per inch) use 2 strands of embroidery thread
Aida (14 threads per inch ) use 2  strands of embroidery thread
Aid ( 18 threads per inch ) use 1 strands of embroidery thread

How to get designs for cross stitch work

You can buy design charts for cross stitch at the stores. These are designs drawn on graph paper with a set number of  squares per inch – each square representing a cross stitch. This can be transferred to an evenweave fabric by counting the squares

You can create your own designs – checkout this site for turning your photos into cross stitch patterns  .

Prepare your fabric for the cross stitch work

You should finish the edges of the fabric you are working with prior to embroidering. This is especially important if you are working a very fraying cloth like aida. Checkout the different fabric edge finishes you can do. I just do a machine zigzag after making sure I have some 4 inches extra fabric along the edges all around.

Basic  stitches used in cross stitch embroidery

The best way to do cross stitch is to do the first half of each stitch in a row done first then go back and finish the next half. This way you get all the stitches slanting in the same direction. It is very important that the slant is in the same direction for the top thread and the bottom thread of the cross stitch for all the stitches.

But there are expert cross stitchers who do individual cross stitches ( titching the full cross stitch as you go) and do a very good job of it. So each to his/ her own. 

This way you are making stitches  vertically on the back of the fabric.

Stand alone cross stitch

If you are using varigated thread you cannot make cross stitches in a row. You will have to make single cross stitches or the colours would not come right. Here you will get horizontal stitches in the back. The needle will be inserted horizontally

Partial cross stitch

This refers to 1/4 and 3/4 cross stitches; They are  mostly used in making rounded corners, outlines etc

1/4 stitch is when you make 1 of the 4 arms of the cross stitch ie. you come up at one corner and go down at the center. You need this stitch mostly to complete some corners of designs where the full crosstitch would not do

3/4 cross stitch – To work this stitch make the 1/4 stitch first , then do the slanting stitch.

Small Cross stitches

These stitches are used to brings some specific details of a design into prominence. You can also use lesser strands of embroidery thread on the needle for the same effect


Backstitches are commonly used in cross stitch patterns to make outline of a design

Half cross stitch

This is a stitch with just the one way diagonal stitch  done in a row.

Extended cross stitch

This is cross stitch done over more than one square. You can make this an asymmetrical cross stitch by extending only one stitch, leaving the other diagonal stitch the regular cross sttch length

Using Blended threads and Variegated thread

You can use different coloured thread strands at the same time for a different look. Variegated thread will give a beautiful gradation and depth to the cross stitch design. 

Other embroidery stitches used in cross stitch

You usually see frenchknots and back stitches in counted cross stitch patterns.Bead embroidery is also done to embellish the work.