Cross Stitching Instructions

Cross Stitching Instructions

Many beginning crafters love cross stitching because it is easy to master. You do not have to have a lot of experience to complete a successful project. Know-how of the basic stitches, along with how to start and stop stitching, are all you need to make your first cross stitch project.

Basic Stitches

There are only three basic stitches that you need in order to begin. These are stitches that you will always use in both counted cross stitch patterns and stamped cross stitch patterns.

Cross Stitch

This stitch is used to fill in large areas of space in a design. It is the stitch you will use in the bulk of any cross-stitch project.

  1. Starting at the left, insert your needle from the back of the fabric and bring it through at 1, pulling towards you.
  2. You are going to make a diagonal line on the front of your piece by putting your needle back into the fabric at 2. Pull the needle away from you. Always pull tightly enough so that you have a stitch with no sags, but not so tightly that the fabric begins to pucker.
  3. Your needle should be on the back side of the project now; bring it up at 3 (directly underneath 2), and pull towards you.
  4. Make another diagonal stitch the same way you did the first one, inserting the needle at 4, away from you.
  5. Repeat until you have the row finished. You now need to finish the pattern by going back the other way and repeating the step in the opposite direction. (Up at 5, down at 6, up at 7, down at 8, etc.)

Note: If you do this stitch properly, the front of your project will show a row of 'x', but the back of your project will show a neat row of vertical lines.


Back Stitch

Use this stitch when you need to make a straight line in your pattern. The stitch is commonly used to outline shapes in the design and is indicated in a pattern by a heavy, bolded line.

  1. Come up with your needle from the back, pulling towards you at point 1. Start one stitch backwards from the end of your line.
  2. Insert your needle, pulling away from you, at 2, where your line ends.
  3. Stitch backwards, bringing your needle up towards you at point 3, one stitch behind where you started.
  4. Bring your needle back down away from you at (or very near) point 1.
  5. Continue the line in the same manner repeating the stitch as necessary.

Note: If you do this properly, your back and front will both follow a neat line.


French Knot

French knots are typically used for points in a design, such as a period at the end of a sentence. It does take practice to get your knot looking perfect, but it is so common that it is well worth the effort to learn.

  1. Come up, pulling a threaded needle towards you, at 1.
  2. Hold the needle away from the fabric in your right hand.
  3. Pull the thread taught and hold the thread away from the needle.
  4. Moving over the needle, wrap the thread around the needle two to three times depending on the size knot you want. (The less you wrap, the smaller your knot will be.)
  5. Move your needle back towards where you came up at 1 and insert the tip close to your original hole. If you get too close, the knot will disappear entirely, but if you go too far away, your knot won't look right.
  6. Insert the needle and pull slowly away from you with your right hand. Using your left hand, help slide the knot gently down the needle.

Starting and Stopping

In cross-stitching, you typically do not start or stop with a knot, especially if you're working with Aida cloth. Instead, you tuck your lose threads into your stitching on the back.

To Start Your First Stitch

  1. Pull your needle and thread towards you with your right hand.
  2. Keep your left hand on the end of your thread, making sure that you don't pull it all the way through the cloth. Typically, you'll want to leave between a 1/4 and 1/2-inch piece of string on the end. If it's too short, it'll be hard to secure.
  3. You will make your next stitch as normal, stitching back down, away from you.
  4. When you come back up, take a look at the underside of your project, and simply make sure that the end of the string is tucked into the stitch that you're making when you go back up. You should keep doing this until the entire length of the string is tucked into the stitching on the back.

To Secure Your Work

  1. When you're ready to switch colors, or your thread is getting too short to work with, flip over your project so that the back shows.
  2. Tuck your needle underneath several stitches so that the end piece is tucked under the back stitching.
  3. Trim neatly so that there are no long pieces hanging off the back.

Using a Hoop

An embroidery hoop is a tool that many cross-stitchers use to keep the fabric taut. For beginners a hoop is particularly helpful as it ensures that you have even tension in your stitches. It's much harder to pucker fabric when you have a hoop. However, you don't have to have an embroidery hoop. In fact, for larger projects a hoop can be cumbersome. If you choose to use a hoop make sure that you secure it well.

How to Secure a Hoop to Your Project

  1. Set the non-adjustable hoop down on your work surface.
  2. Place your project over the hoop, making sure that the area you want to work on will end up in the parameters of the hoop.
  3. Place the adjustable hoop over top the project, ensuring that you will encompass the non-adjustable piece underneath. You're going to want to pre-adjust the hoop a little, so that it will snugly fit over the bottom hoop.
  4. Gently push down - your cloth should be taut but not stretched. If the holes in the Aida cloth look misporportioned, or previous stitch work that you've done looks distorted, this is a hint that you have it too tight.
  5. If you don't get that perfect, snug fit try again. Sewing with a hoop that is too loose defeats the purpose of the hoop. Sewing with a hoop that is too tight can ruin your project.

Solving Common Problems

Just because cross-stitching is easy to master, doesn't mean that it always comes naturally on your first try. However, with a little practice, common problems can be easily avoided.

The Thread Keeps Tangling

embroidery project

You're stitching away and suddenly you pull and your thread seems much shorter. You look at your back and discover that the thread has tangled and knotted. First, you have to stop and undo the knot. It might be tempting to leave it - as it is on the back and no one will see it. However, if you leave a knot, it can wreak havoc with your stitching. Instead, take out the knot and try to prevent the tangling in the first place by going more slowly, and using a shorter thread.

The Back Is Messy

The mark of an expert embroiderer is the ability to keep the back almost as neat as the front. The reality is that, even though the back of your project might be messy, no one can see it. As long as you haven't left any big knots or undone stitches, it won't affect the final product. Note too that the more detailed your project, the messier the back is likely to be.

The Stitches Won't Hold

If you're having trouble getting your stitches to stay put, you probably didn't secure the beginning stitches or ending stitches correctly. To fix the problem and get some practice, try leaving more thread when you start and end. This will ensure that you are securing the end threads properly and will leave no wiggle room for your stitches.

Start Off Easy

Another key to success is to make sure that you start off with a pattern that's appropriate for your level of experience. When you choose a project to start, choose something that:

  • Uses 7-count or 10-count Aida cloth as opposed to linen or a higher count Aida
  • Is small, since you're more likely to finish faster and thus experience success sooner
  • Uses only basic stitches
  • Has large areas of the same color
  • Does not have a lot of tiny details

Following these tips, finishing your first project will be a breeze. Remember too, that practice makes perfect.

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Cross Stitching Instructions