How to Cross Stitch

Cross stitch is a fun, creative, and
relaxing hobby that is easy to learn!
Not sure where to start?
Try out our guide below:

What is Cross Stitch?

Cross stitch is a type of embroidery that uses X-shaped thread stitches to create designs on fabric, ranging in style from traditional samplers to modern messages to anywhere in between!
Stitches are done in neat rows and columns on an open- and even- weave fabric, such as aida or linen. "Open-" and "even-" weave means that the fabric looks like a grid, letting you stitch X's on fabric like pixels on a computer screen.
image of fabric showing grid and stitches in a simple design
Stitched X's on fabric make a heart!
Cross stitch patterns contain the instructions that tell you where to stitch and what color of thread to use. "Stamped" cross stitch patterns stamp the pattern directly onto the fabric, so you can see exactly where to place each stitch. This is easiest, and a great place to start if you're new. "Counted" cross stitch patterns have a separate instructions chart, with a grid corresponding to the fabric.
image of fabric showing grid and stitches in a simple design
Example counted cross stitch pattern.

Get Ready...

Step 1: Stitching Supplies. Before you can start stitching, you'll need fabric, a needle, some thread (called floss), and a pattern (the "instructions" for how to stitch your design). You might also want a hoop/frame to help hold your fabric while you stitch.
Beginner cross stitch kits come with everything you need, and are great if you're just getting started!
fabric, needle, thread, pattern, hoop
Fabric, needles, thread, pattern, and hoop.

Step 2: Thread Your Needle. Cut a piece of thread around 1 or 2 feet long. This will be long enough to make plenty of stitches, but short enough that it won't get tangled or knotted.
Most embroidery floss is made of 6 strands of the same color, all twisted together. Usually, you'll only stitch with 2 of the 6 strands (your pattern should say). Separate out 2 of the strands, and twist them so they'll stay together while you stitch.
Now, slip your 2 strands of thread through the eye of your needle (our needle calculator can help you pick a good one). Don't knot it, just let your thread hang loose.
separating thread strands and threading a needle
Separating 2 floss strands.

Step 3: Prepare Your Fabric. Cross stitch fabric will often fray at the edges. To avoid this, it helps to serge the edges. We automatically serge all linen and evenweave fabrics at no charge if you order through us. If you would like us to serge Aida, just ask when ordering!
It's helpful to start stitching from the middle of your pattern, in the center of the fabric. To find the center, fold your fabric in half both ways and make a crease to mark it.

Step 4: (optional) Use a Hoop or Frame. Hoops and frames come in many different styles, but they all help hold your fabric and keep it tight. This makes stitching easier!
You'll want to adjust your hoop/frame to keep your fabric tight enough that it doesn't wrinkle or fold, but not so tight that the stitches become stretched. It's also recommended that you remove your hoop when you're done stitching for the day so your fabric doesn't crease.
using a hoop
Using an embroidery hoop.

Start Stitching!

You can begin stitching anywhere on your pattern, though many people start in the middle so that they don't run out of space.

Stitching in rows: Cross stitch is usually done in rows. First, pull your needle through a hole in the fabric (#1) from the back side to the front side. Leave around an inch of thread in the back. As you stitch, tuck this tail under stitched thread to secure it.
Next, push your needle down through the upper-right diagonal hole (#2), and pull your needle up through hole #3. Don't forget to tuck the old tail under the new stitched thread! Continue stitching to the right (#4, #5, #6, #7, #8), making a row of half-stitches.
Row of Half-stitches
Making a row of half-stitches.
Then, stitch back across, making an overlapping row of more half-stitches (#9-#16). This makes a row of full cross stitches!
Row of Finished stitches
Finishing the row.

Fastening thread ends: when you are runing out of thread or need to change colors, it's time to fasten this thread and start a new one.
On the back side of your fabric, slide your needle under a few loops of thread to secure it. This is just like when you tucked the other end of your thread as you stitched.
Cut off and discard any extra thread, and continue stitching with a new piece.
Tucking thread tail
Tucking the thread tail (back of fabric).

Single stitches: making a single stitch is just like making a row of stitches, but only 1 stitch long. The diagram below shows how to move your needle.
Single Stitch
How to make an individual stitch.

Ready to get started? Try out our collection of beginner cross stitch kits, or pick out a pattern, some fabric, needles, and floss.

Helpful Links

Learn about needles: our Needle Calculator includes an introduction to the different types.

Not sure what size fabric to use for your latest project? Find both fabric size and stitched area with our Aida Fabric Calculator and Linen/Evenweave Calculator

Our Count Converter can convert a pattern's fabric size from one count to another.

This Thread Conversion Tool can help you find equivalent thread colors across a variety of brands.