How to: Cross-Stitch Basics
Cross-stitch is a super-simple craft to pick up, and that means you can dive right in and enjoy it! This tutorial will show you how to get started.
Aside from the pattern (a few of which you can find in my shop), you’ll need these materials:
Fabric: You should get aida fabric, which has a grid-like weave perfect for filling up with Xs. There are different counts of weave available; I usually prefer to use 14-count, which has 14 squares per inch. This kind of fabric is stiff enough that you don’t have to use an embroidery hoop to stitch.
Floss: There are many different kinds of floss available, but I prefer to use DMC cotton floss, which comes in a huge array of colors. The number you see on the label of the blue floss identifies the color, which is usually specified in a pattern.
Bobbins: Bobbins are a must for organizing the floss and keeping it neat. Just take the paper sleeves off the floss and wind it around the bobbin.
Needle: A perfect needle for cross-stitch isn’t as sharp as a regular embroidery needle, and it’s also not too long. I like these ones made by DMC.
Scissors: Grab some small scissors, and you’re ready to begin!
After winding the floss onto a bobbin, cut a piece that’s about 12″ long. Many types of floss are 6-stranded. Gently pull off 2 strands; you will always stitch with 2 strands at a time.
The easiest way to make sure your design is centered on your fabric is to start stitching from the center and work your way outward.
Cross-stitch designs are made up of many tiny Xs. It’s simple, and the one hard-and-fast rule is that all of the Xs should cross the same way. The two stitches that I use to make my Xs are top left to bottom right, then top right to bottom left.
For the first stitch, bring your threaded needle up from the backside of the fabric…
Then to complete the stitch, insert it down through the hole diagonally down and to the right from where you came up.
Pull the slack of the floss—being careful not to pull it all the way through—and you will have finished one stitch, or 1/2 of an X.
Now that you have done one stitch, you will secure the tail of the floss on the backside of the fabric when you begin the next stitch.
Bring your needle up immediately above the hole you just went down through…
And before pulling all the slack of the floss, flip the fabric over, and on the backside, tuck the tail end through the loop you are forming with this stitch.
Then pull the loop closed.
To complete the second half of the X, insert the needle through the hole that is diagonally down and to the left of the hole you came up through.
You have completed one X.
Congrats! But you have a lot of Xs to make…
Stitching a row
Most cross-stitch designs have filled-in areas, where you will make dense sections of one color. Instead of stitching each X one at a time, you can save some time and effort by streamlining your Xs, making them row by row.
Remember that each X needs to cross the same way, so that means first going top left to bottom right for each stitch in one row. Start with the leftmost stitch and work your way to the right.
If there are one or two Xs of a different color in the same row, just skip over those squares—you will fill them in later.
When you get to the end of the row, bring your needle up through the hole immediately above the one you last went down through, then continue going top right to bottom left in the other direction, from right to left.
A finished row of Xs.
When you have multiple rows to stitch, it’s easiest to stitch them from bottom to top. So, now that you just finished one row, you will bring your needle up through the top left hole of the square above the leftmost square, and insert it down through the bottom right hole.
Then continue stitching the row as you did the row below.
When you are finished stitching a section, or when you’re about to run out of floss, secure the tail end by weaving it under a few stitches on the backside of the fabric.
And that’s about as complex as cross-stitching gets! I hope this helps you get started with this fun craft.
Feel free to share your own cross-stitch tips and advice in the comments!
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