How to cross stitch for beginners
In this article, we’ll run through a simple step by step guide to working on your first cross stitch design.
Cross stitch is a form of thread embroidery that has been popular for many centuries. A cross stitch is formed by making a diagonal stitch and then crossing back over that stitch to create an ‘X shape’. Cross stitching is a very simple craft and after some practice, you will be able to get underway with your first project!
Step 1 – Find the right cross stitch kit
There are many different styles of cross stitch, from the traditional to the modern. We’d recommend that you choose a simple and small design as your first project, perhaps one with a handful of colours and not too much shading.
It is also advisable to purchase the design in kit form and this will contain everything you need to get started including the fabric, thread, needle and chart.
We have some gorgeous designs for beginners, we often point out the ‘All Things Grow’ design as a great starting project. The design is separated into little boxes and we suggest stitching the outline of the boxes first. This bit is nice and straightforward!
After this, you can add the images inside the boxes. You can treat each of these smaller boxes as little individual projects. They are quick and simple to stitch and will help you build confidence as you finish each part!
Step 2 – Get to know your kit
Inside your kit, you will receive a blank piece of Aida, a needle, thread and your chart. Spend some time looking through this and reading the instructions included.
Your instructions will include the thread colours used in the design and will assign each colour with a symbol. This symbol corresponds to the symbols shown on the chart.
The grid on your cross stitch chart corresponds to the grid created by the weave of the Aida fabric, for example, each square on the chart represents a square on the fabric. Where you see a symbol on the chart represents where you will place your stitches. The symbol will also tell you which colour thread is required.
Step 3 – Set up your stitching space
We would advise working on your cross stitch design in a well-lit space to avoid straining your eyes. A helpful accessory to use is a daylight lamp which you can buy in many different shapes and sizes.
You should also ensure that your stitching space is comfortable and we’d always recommend a stitching snack or a cup of tea!
Step 4 – Find the centre
To begin stitching, you must find the centre of your fabric. You can do this by folding the fabric in half and then in half again. If you find it helpful, you can mark the centre with a small stitch which can be removed when you start stitching the design.
Next, find the centre of the design, this will be marked on the chart with small arrows at the edge of the chart. We recommend starting your stitches at the centre point of the fabric. This ensures that your design sits centrally on the fabric and doesn’t get too close to each edge.
Step 5 – Thread your needle
In our cross stitch kits, we cut our thread to 1 metre in length and advise using one strand of thread at a time. Take the one strand and fold it in half, then thread the needle with both ends of the thread, and stitch it as two strands. This method means that the thread will be a good length to work with.
If you use too long a piece of thread, it can become tangled very quickly. If your thread does tangle or knot, pull the thread gently to remove the problem.
To separate a strand, hold the thread with one hand at the end of all the strands. Select just one strand with the other hand and gently pull the strand up and out until it is separated from the remaining strands.
Step 6 – Begin making stitches
Bring your threaded needle from the back of the fabric, through a hole toward the front, leaving a small tail of thread at the back. You can work this tail into your stitching to secure it.
Next, pass your needle through a hole diagonally across from where you started to make a slanted half cross stitch – / -.
Then, bring your needle back up through the hole that is directly below the one you last used and cross over the stitch you have already made. This will look like an X.
You have now created your first cross stitch *yay*! If this is your first attempt, you may find it helpful to practice a small row of stitches to get yourself accustomed.
Step 7 – Use a hoop frame
We prefer to use a hoop frame for our stitching, but it is a personal choice. Many people stitch successfully without a frame! There are many different frames and hoops available, but to start, a simple wooded hoop would be sufficient.
To use a hoop, separate the two hoops and place the smaller, inner hoop on a work surface. Then, lay the Aida fabric over the hoop making sure the centre of the fabric is near the middle of the hoop. Place the larger, outer hoop over the fabric and press down so the fabric is sandwiched between the two hoops. Gently pull the fabric taut and tighten the screw on the hoop.
If you’re an avid cross stitcher, you can invest in a different frame. My favourite is a seat frame that allows you to use both hands to stitch!
Step 8 – Highlight your chart
Lots of our stitchers find it helpful to highlight the completed portions of the design on your paper chart. This can be done with a highlighter pen and can be very useful when you need to put your work down and come back to it later.
Step 9 – Enjoy & have fun!
Our main piece of advice is to enjoy your stitching! It doesn’t have to be the most perfect, neat piece of work, this comes with time and practice. Just relax and take your time. If you make a mistake, it just makes your work unique and if you don’t tell, nor will we!