How to Cross Stitch Clothing

cross-stitched shirts

Making cross stitch clothing is a fun way to show the world that you love to cross stitch. While you can't make a whole shirt out of cross stitch, you can embellish clothing with cross stitch motifs rather easily. Cross stitch clothing can be adapted from any cross stitch pattern you like, so you can make gifts for all occasions or just something great for you to wear.

Cross Stitching Clothing

Create your own, unique clothing by cross stitching different motifs and patterns.


Selecting Materials and Patterns

While you can choose just about anything to make your cross stitch clothing out of, some designs will work better than others. Before you pick a motif, pick the item of clothing that you would like to work on. You can make clothing to cross stitch or choose a store-bought piece of clothing to stitch on. The best clothing materials to work on include:

  • Denim
  • Cotton
  • Linen

Once you have picked your canvas, decide where you would like your cross stitching to appear. Choices for shirts include:

  • Collars
  • Button area
  • Pockets
  • Back

For pants and skirts, choices include:

  • Pockets
  • Leg openings
  • Hems
  • Outside seams

Once you've determined how much cross stitching you want to do, it's time create your pattern. You can use a ready-made pattern or a portion of one, or create your own:

  1. Measure the area you plan on stitching.
  2. Mark off an area of equal size and shape on a piece of graph paper.
  3. Draw or print out the design on the graph paper, indicating with different colors how the design will go.

If you're confident in your free-hand stitching abilities, you can then go ahead and stitch your design onto the article of clothing you've chosen using the graph paper template as your guide. If you prefer to work with a traditional printed design, waste canvas and iron-on transfer paper are the perfect solutions.

Stitching Clothing Using Waste Canvas

Some people are intimidated by making cross stitch clothing because there are no squares on clothing to guide your way. But there is a product that makes this very easy for you called waste canvas. It's also sometimes sold as waste fabric.


  • Scanner
  • Printer
  • Iron-on transfer paper
  • Iron
  • Waste fabric in the count size of your choice
  • Fabric marker
  • Basting thread
  • Needle
  • Floss
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle of water


  1. Scan your graph paper design and print it out onto iron-on transfer paper.
  2. Cut a piece of waste canvas to the size you will need for your design, with an extra inch of material around the edges.
  3. Center your design on the waste canvas and press with an iron to transfer the pattern.
  4. Position the waste canvas on the clothing where you wish to make the stitches and baste it into place on the clothing so it gets held securely in one spot. Use a thread in a contrasting color so you can see your basting stitches easily when you are done with the project and need to remove the waste canvas.
  5. Begin cross stitching from the center or middle of the project and move out to the sides. Take care not to stitch through more than one layer of the garment's fabric; for example, if stitching a pocket take care not to stitch it closed.
  6. When you are done, all that will be left is the cross stitched pattern on top of the shirt or other article of clothing you were stitching on. This gives your cross stitch clothing a wonderfully professional look.
  7. Stitch loosely through the waste canvas; tight stitches may make it harder to get the canvas loose from your project at the end.
  8. Spray your finished product with water to dampen the waste canvas.
  9. Cut through your basting stitches with a seam ripper and pull the canvas off. The threads of the canvas should pull apart, leaving behind only the cross stitching on the clothing. If some of the canvas gets stuck, pull it out from underneath the stitching on the underside of the clothing.

Caring for Cross Stitch Clothing

If the product you have done your cross stitching on is machine washable, your finished product should be as well. If you don't wish to put it through the washing machine, follow these tips to help care for it:

  • Use hand-washing detergent, dish soap or products designed to wash needlework
  • Use a product that does not include dyes or bleach.
  • Never wash your cross stitch clothing, by hand or machine, in hot water, as the stitching and the garment may not shrink at the same rate, leaving you with a distorted design.
  • Do not dry clean stitched garments because the harsh chemicals may cause colored thread to run.

Get Creative

Once you've mastered the technique of cross stitching clothing, you'll find you have an enormous number of options available to you. Embellish your own clothing or create unique gifts; either way your work is sure to attract attention.

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How to Cross Stitch Clothing