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How To Cross Stitch

Learning how to cross-stitch is a great hobby for someone looking for a relaxing, creative, and enjoyable pastime. The projects you complete, whether from a kit or your own designs, will make great decorative items for the home and wonderful presents for friends and family. Chances are that someone in your family already cross-stitches as a hobby. If this is the case, then you have the advantage of going to them for help in getting started.

Cross-stitch makes for a relaxing pastime and holds unlimited potential for growth as your skills in the hobby grow. It is also something that can be done in groups, making the hobby a great way to interact with others and to meet people with similar interests in learning how to cross stitch.

Cross Stitch Hobby History

Cross-stitch has been found in needlework pieces as early as the 6th or 7th century. It has been used as a basic decorative stitch all over the world, and especially in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Different folk cultures would develop their own pattern and color traditions and pass these on from mother to child. Cross-stitch has been used for tapestries and wall hangings, decorative window coverings and upholstery, and for folk costumes.

Some of the most beautiful cross-stitching examples come from Hungary and the Ukraine. Many were done in red and black cotton floss on linen. With the advent of the printing press it became easier to pass on patterns, but this also had the unfortunate result of changing regional styles.

Samplers often featured cross-stitch designs and were most often done by young girls who were learning how to cross-stitch. Many times the first sampler done by a young girl was worked entirely in cross-stitch, with later samplers adding other embroidery stitches to the pattern. Traditional motifs, mottos, Bible verses, and forms from nature were usually incorporated into the design.

Did You Know?

  • Waste canvas, when soaked in water, will loosen so that you can pull it out of the design string-by-string. All you are then left with is the design on the shirt.
  • Stretching is the process of pulling the cloth tight over a wooden frame. Incidentally, professionals say non-glare glass should not be used for cross stitch. It blurs the individual stitches together, taking away the uniqueness of cross stitch.
  • Cross stitching as we recognize it today was re-discovered in the sixties and has gained popularity ever since.
  • The earliest known cross stitch sampler was completed by Loara Standish, the daughter of Miles Standish, in 1653.

Getting Started – Learning How to Cross Stitch

Put simply, a cross stitch consists of two stitches that form an X. When creating a row of cross stitches, the needle worker will most often create all the stitches in one direction (/) then go back in the other direction to complete all the cross stitches (\). This results in the top stitch of the X always going the same direction throughout the piece.

How To Cross StitchMost often, cross-stitch embroidery is done on a backing of linen or Aida cloth. The finer the cloth, the finer the cross-stitch used on that cloth, so most beginners will start with a coarser cloth. Beginners and children can get started on a kit with a plastic backing, which requires no hoop, uses bigger stitches, and is easier for little fingers. Kits usually have within them everything you need to get started and learn how to cross stitch, but it’s best to read the package and see what’s included, and what else might be needed.

When stitching on a cloth backing an embroidery hoop is used to keep a small section of the cloth taut, which makes it easier to count the warp and woof threads of your backing cloth and to create even stitches. Floss, also known as embroidery thread, is used for the stitching, and is most often made of mercerized cotton, though silk or rayon are sometimes also used. Embroidery floss comes as six strands that are only loosely twisted together, so that the needle worker can choose how many strands to use in any given section of the project. This gives the ability to add texture to the piece by having some sections use a thicker stitch than others.

Embroidery needles have a longer notch hole to allow you to thread them with multiple strands. Most needle workers find a thimble to be helpful, but not all use one. The only other equipment needed is a pair of scissors and possibly a needle threader. If you will be purchasing a starter kit be sure to find one that has the embroidery needles included, if possible.

Learning how to cross stitch is an inexpensive hobby for beginners. Many of the beginner kits cost under ten dollars. Hoops can be purchased for less than five dollars. The only other things you need are a comfortable chair with good lighting, and a pair of scissors. You might find a small box or bag will come in handy for storing your project and supplies

How to Cross Stitch

Step One

When learning how to cross stitch, most beginners will start with a kit that has basic instructions and also includes the backing fabric with its pattern pre-printed on it in water-soluble inks. The kit will also have all the embroidery floss needed to complete the project. With a kit you can start your new project within just a few minutes, simply by following the pattern instructions.

Choose a kit with a simple design on coarser backing for your first project. If you choose a kit with a cloth backing, purchase a small embroidery hoop as well, if the kit doesn’t include one. Also check to see if the kit has embroidery needles included, and if not, purchase them separately.

Step Two

Decide on a stitching technique. There are two different stitching techniques commonly used in cross-stitching. The first, called the “stab” method, is used by most beginning stitchers. This method involves moving your hand back and forth from the front of the fabric to the back of the fabric. The needle is “stabbed” into the front of the fabric, left there, and then pulled through from the other side. The second, the “Sewing” method, is a favorite stitch for people who prefer to hold the fabric in their hand instead of with a hoop.

Step Three

Follow the provided instructions, when choosing your color and cutting your floss to length. Once you have done that, you will need to separate the floss into the number of strands you need. Thread your needle, and then get stitching! Be sure to keep the back looking just as neat as the front by stitching over the thread ends. If you will be changing colors, take your time so that the visual thread transition is as seamless as possible.

Step Four

When you have finished, be sure to clean up the craft area thoroughly. Never leave scissors lying around. It is best to store projects flat whenever possible to prevent the fabric from wrinkling and the design from bending. If you have any floss remnants that could be useful for small stitch segments later on, be sure to set them aside for future use.

Tips and Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you when you’re learning how to cross stitch…

  • Take your time at first. It is better to go slowly and have a good finished project than to rush and mess up many times and have to backtrack to fix things.
  • Follow the pattern printed on the cloth carefully. Work into a rhythm and stop as much as you need to re-check your work against the pattern given.
  • Don’t stitch too tightly, as it will pull the fabric out of shape.
  • Not all kits come with the needles, so be sure to check that before starting a project.

Ways to Grow with Cross Stitching

Once you’ve got a kit or two under your belt you’ll be ready for more complex projects, and maybe even become ready to design your own pattern. As you learn how to cross stitch and gain skill with the needle, you will most likely want to work with finer cloth and smaller stitching. This will allow you to create more complex designs. Incorporating cross-stitched panels into other craft projects can be fun and really spark your creativity!

Here are a couple of other fun ideas for expanding your hobby…

  • Sell your creations at local farmer’s markets
  • Take a class (or teach a class, if your skills have really advanced)
  • Make Christmas or Birthday presents for loved ones
  • Design your own templates and patterns

Related Cross Stitch Resources

Check out the following online resources for more information about how to cross stitch…

The Cross Stitch Forum – this site offers free patterns, as well as a place for cross-stitchers to chat and ask questions about the hobby.

123-Stitch.com – a great site offering cross stitch products for sale as well as pattern ideas.

Cross Stitch Meetup Groups – a site that lists area cross-stitch groups that you can join.

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.