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Cross stitch, a form of counted-thread embroidery that uses X-shaped stitches to form a picture, is one of the easiest types of hand embroidery to learn. Similar to paint-by-number, but with needle and thread, you can follow patterns or make your own! This beginner’s guide will show you the essential steps to getting started with cross stitch, whether you’re brand new or looking to refresh your skills.
Before you start your cross stitch project, you’ll need to gather the following materials. Or if you’re looking for a kit that has everything you need included, try out our Zollie Beginner Cross Stitch Kit!
Materials Needed For Cross Stitch
- Aida Fabric: Aida is the most common type of cross stitch fabric. It has visible grid lines, making it easy to create even X’s throughout your design. It’s available in various counts. The higher the count, the smaller the squares, which means you can do finer details (and that it will take longer to complete your project).
- Yarn: Cross stitch projects are typically made with cotton, silk, or wool yarn. Our favorite way to cross stitch is with Array! Array is our wool yarn grown and spun in the USA, and dyed in small batches in 114 colors and shades. Array works well with 11 ct. Aida fabric.
- Embroidery Hoop (optional): Some people like to use an embroidery hoop to keep the aida fabric taut and easier to work with. The Aida fabric in our beginner kit is stiff enough that embroidery hoops are not needed for stitching.
- Cross Stitch or Tapestry Needle: You will need a blunt-tipped needle like a cross stitch or tapestry needle. You don't need a sharp needle for cross stitch since you're passing through existing holes in the Aida fabric rather than piercing the cloth.
- Scissors: You always need a pair of scissors for a cross stitch project!
- Pattern: You can choose a cross stitch pattern that suits your skill level and interests. You can find patterns online or at craft stores, or make your own patterns on FlossCross.
Preparing Your Cross Stitch Fabric and Yarn
Begin by cutting your Aida fabric to the desired size for your pattern, leaving at least a 2" border around your intended design. Select the first color of yarn you plan to use and thread your needle. Tie a knot at one end, and prepare to make your first stitch.
Find the center of your fabric by folding it in half vertically so the sides are touching. Press along the fold to a crease in the fabric, marking the center line. Unfold your fabric. You’ll begin working the pattern from the center top, at the center line of your fabric.
How To Stitch
Forward leaning dash
Start your needle in the bottom left corner of the square from below the fabric to above. Reinsert your needle down in the top right corner and pull the yarn through to the back. You will see that the yarn forms a forward leaning dash. This is a half stitch!
Backwards Leaning Dash
To complete the stitch, make a second, backward leaning dash crossing over your first dash bringing the needle up from the bottom right corner, and inserting it in the top left.
Making Rows of Stitches
To make a row of stitches, first make a row of forward dashes, and then complete it with the backward dashes.
How To Read A Cross Stitch Pattern
A cross stitch pattern consists of a grid representing the stitches used to make a specific cross stitch design. In cross stitch patterns, each square of the pattern grid corresponds to a square of the fabric.
The grid is numbered, with darker grid-lines every 10th square to help you count. At the center top, bottom, and side edges of the grid are arrows that help you quickly find the middle of the design to get started.
A Key shows thread colors indicated by different symbols. The colors used in a cross stitch pattern grid are represented by color, but also by symbol, which helps if the colors are hard to see. The symbols are related to the thread color in the key—a list that helps you tell which symbols relate to which yarn colors.
Blank spaces appear as white squares on the pattern that have no symbol or color and are left un-stitched while working.
Learning More About Cross Stitch
We hope our guide helped get you started with cross stitch! The simple meditative practice of stitching with your hands can be a fun and grounding everyday ritual, even if you only have time for a few rows.
If you’re ready to learn more or dive in, our Zollie Beginner Cross Stitch Kit has all of the materials and instructions you'll need to complete 3 projects illustrated by The Far Woods. It’s the perfect kit if you’re brand new to cross stitch, or rusty with your skills and looking for some support. Come join us!
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