Cross-stitching can be a very relaxing hobby, but how do you start? This beginners guide should get you started with some of the tools.

Before starting, its important to assess your own skill level. Are you a complete beginner? Have you completed one pattern?  Its also very important to choose a cross-stitch pattern that you really like or that it means something to you.  Do not be afraid to ask your local needleart store to show you how to get started and for any tips that you may need to complete your project. 

Choosing your Floss / Thread

Cross-stitching uses embroidery thread (floss), which comes with 6 threads together. Generally you will be using only two threads to do the cross stitch. Its important that your thread is colourfast, which will help prevent it from losing colour if it needs to be washed.

Choosing your Needle

Tapestry or cross stitch needles are blunt pointed needles used for cross stitch. It is important to use a blunt needle so that you will be less to split the threads of the fabric when you are stitching.
Choose needles that will easily accommodate 2 threads. Use a smaller size of needle, if you have a finer fabric, for ease of stitching.

Choosing Your Fabric

To start, a light coloured fabric is highly recommended. Darker coloured fabrics can be harder to use because the holes are harder to see. For beginners, we recommend 14 count Aida. The stitch count refers to the number of stitches needed per inch, if the count is higher, there will be more stitches in an inch which will make your project smaller - for example - 140 stitches will be 10" on 14 count and will be 7.75" on 18 count.

Tapestry Frame

A tapestry frame is highly recommended as it keeps your material taut and allows you the freedom of stitching with both hands.  The dominant hand below and the other on top of the fabric.  Work with the tapestry rolls toward you so that your stitching gets rolled up inside, keeping it clean.


Make sure to pay close attention to your cross stitch patterns instructions. There will be symbols that represent a colour. For example, circles may represent the colour green and ! may be red. 

How Do You Start?

Find the middle of the fabric. You can do this by folding your fabric in half from top to bottom, and then folding it from left to right. Mark the centre with a needle or a piece of thread.

Types of Stitches

The main stitches a beginner will use will be cross stitch, half cross stitch, and backstitch.

Half Stitch:
1. To stitch a half stitch, bring the needle and floss up from the back of the fabric at one in the diagram below.
2. Carry the floss diagonally over the square. 
3. Insert the needle in the upper right hand corner at two in the diagram below. 
Variation: Half stitches may also be stitched in the opposite direction.

Cross Stitch:
Cross-Stitching is the act of putting the other half of the half stitch to make an X.
Cross-stitching is just putting a second half to the half stitch by making an X. After finishing your half-stitch by coming up through the bottom left corner and back down through the top right corner, you finish the cross-stitch by coming up back through the bottom right corner and down in the top left corner.  It is very important to make sure that all your stitches go the same way - the first stitch may be / / / and the last stitch  \ \ \ to complete the X  DO NOT SWITCH in the middle of a project, it will be noticed.

Back Stitch:
Not all patterns require back stitching. However, if your pattern has backstitching as part of the design, the instructions will tell you how to complete the back stitching.

Changing Colours

As you go through your pattern, you will eventually come to a point where you need to switch to a different colour. Turn the fabric over to the back side and slide the needle under about 5 stitches, pull the thread through and cut off the end.

Think of your stitching as a jigsaw puzzle - stitch one colour as far as you can without jumping more than 5 threads - do not stitch in blocks of ten as it will show where you have stopped and started.

Back of the Cross Stitch

The back of your project should be very neat - the nicer the back the nicer the front - that is a very true statement.  Weave all your threads into the back about 6 stitches and cut off clean.  Here is a photo of the back of a cross stitch.  This was stitched on linen and stitched over two threads. 


D. Wright

Date 4/27/2013

Date 4/27/2013


Date 2/12/2015


Date 2/12/2015

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