Cross-Stitch Basics

Cross-Stitch Basics
Let's Cover the Basics
As you know, cross stitch is so easy and relaxing and the
design possibilities are endless.
The Thread
DMC 100% cotton Embroidery Floss. Each length is made up of six individual strands.
The Key on the Design Charts specifies the number of strands to work with.
Generally two strands are used for cross-stitches, and one strand for backstitches.
The Fabric
The best fabric for beginners to use is 100% cotton Aida Cloth, made by DMC/Charles Craft.
Aida has a precise, square-patterned weave with visible stitching holes. Aida Cloth is available
in many counts (the count is number of squares per inch), with 14 count being the most
The Needle
A size 24 tapestry needle is recommended for cross-stitch projects on
14 count Aida. It has an elongated eye for easy threading, and the blunt
point glides smoothly through the holes in the Aida Cloth.
The Design Chart
The Design Chart contains all the information needed to stitch a design. Each colored
square indicates a cross stitch. The color indicates which color of floss to use. The Key
includes all the colors used in the design and indicates how many strands of floss
should be used.
Getting Ready to Stitch
Working with the Thread
1. It is easier to work with shorter lengths of floss, so cut a piece of floss about 18 inches
2. Separate the six-strand length of floss by holding one end between two fingers and
pulling out one strand at a time. Pull out the required number of strands (indicated on
your Design Chart Key) and lay them together.
Working with the Fabric
1. Before starting, trim the edges of the fabric
slightly with zigzag scissors to prevent fraying.
2. If you choose to use an embroidery hoop to
keep the fabric stretched tight, be sure to
remove the hoop when you are not stitching to
prevent the fabric from getting "hoop marks".
Thread the Needle
To thread the needle, hold the two strands of
Floss and moisten the tip into a stiff, flat point.
Then glide the Floss through the eye of the
Using the Design Chart
Squares - The squares on the Design Chart correspond to the squares on the
fabric. Every square on the Design Chart that requires a stitch will contain a
symbol or block of color.
Floss Color & Symbol Key - The Key on your Design Chart contains symbols for
the stitches you will be using, and the color of floss you will use for each
stitch. Each type of stitch and color of floss is represented by a different
Reading the Design Chart - The most common stitch is the cross-stitch. When
the square on your Design Chart contains a large symbol taking up the full
square, a full cross-stitch is required. The second most common stitch is the
backstitch. Backstitches are generally used as outlining or lettering. When a
square contains a straight line or dotted lines that join two corners, a
backstitch is required. When there is a symbol over a square and the symbol is
the same on both sides of the backstitch symbol, make a cross-stitch in that
square, and then add the backstitch last.
How To Make A Cross-Stitch
1. The cross-stitch is one of the easiest and most popular embroidery stitches.
Each individual cross-stitch is made up of two diagonal stitches; a bottom stitch
and a top stitch that together form an X.
2. Working horizontally from left to right, stitch a row of bottom stitches. Form each
stitch by bringing the needle up at 1, then down at 2, up at 3, then down at 4, etc.
At the end of the row, complete the cross-stitch by crossing the bottom stitches
with a row of top stitches in the opposite direction up at 9, down at 10 (same hole
as 6), up at 11, down at 12 (same hole as 4), etc.
Starting and Stopping
The easiest way to start a cross-stitch piece is with the "waste knot" method. It
is a temporary knot that will be clipped later. To begin, tie a knot at the end of
the Floss on your needle. Pass the needle through the fabric from the front to
back, about one inch away from your starting point. Bring the needle up through
the fabric at your starting point and work the first series of cross-stitches over
the thread to secure it on the back of the fabric. Carefully clip off the waste knot.
To start a new thread once some stitches are complete, simply weave the
end of the thread under the existing stitches and come up at the desired
starting point.
If you are finished with a color or you only
have a few inches of thread left on your
needle, end the thread by weaving through the
stitches on the back of the fabric for nearly an
inch. Clip remaining thread to keep the back of
your work tidy.
Jumping - Moving from One Area to Another
Sometimes you'll stitch only a few stitches in an area, then need to
move or "jump" to another area with that same color. Jumping can be
easier and faster than stopping and starting, but it can affect the
appearance of your project if the thread shows through from the back.
Only carry thread to another area if the jump is short and the thread is
a light color. It is important that all the X's are crossed in the same
direction. The top thread of the X should always slant in the same
How to Make a Backstitch
Working in and out of the fabric holes, bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3,
and continue. Typically backstitch is done to outline an area of a design and to add
more fluid lines to the design. Only one strand of floss is used, unless indicated
Let's Begin To Stitch
1. It is important to center the design on your
fabric by finding the center of the design and
the center of the fabric.
2. To find the center of your fabric, fold the
fabric in half horizontally and pinch it to make
a light crease. Open, then fold the fabric in half
vertically and make another pinch. Where the
two creases cross is the center.
3. The center of the design chart is usually
indicated by an arrow on the center horizontal
row and an arrow on the center vertical row.
Trace your finger along those two rows to find
the center stitch.
4. Start stitching at the center, or count out the number of squares from the center of
the Design Chart to where you would prefer to start. Then count out the same number
of squares from the center of the fabric to determine where to starting. Counting is very
important at the beginning! Use a pin to mark the center point and count once more
before starting.
• Thread your needle with the required number of strands of the color of floss.
• Either use a waste knot or, pass the threaded needle through the fabric from the
front down an inch from where you want to start. Leave about an inch of floss off to
the side on the top of the fabric. Now, come up from the back in the exact square
you've selected as your starting point. Then, go down to complete your first crossstitch. Continue stitching about four or five full stitches then pull the short end that
has been resting on top of the fabric through from the back and snip it off close to the
• You can work by either doing a line of half crosses, then finishing the cross by going
back to stitch the top diagonals, or by completing each cross one at a time.
• The beauty of cross-stitch is that all the stitches are identical and present a smooth,
uniform surface. Make sure that all your top stitches are worked in the same direction
and that each stitch is pulled with the same amount of tension.
• If you make an error while stitching, it's simple to correct it by gently pulling out the
stitches with the end of the needle. Then just try it again.
General Care Instructions
You can wash your stitched design by hand in cool water using a mild liquid
detergent and rinsing it well. Dry it by rolling it in a towel to absorb the excess
water. Do not wring it dry. Dry it flat on a towel. You can iron your design by
pressing on the back while laying it on a towel to prevent the stitches from
being flattened. Dry Cleaning is not recommended.
Websites with free printable patterns
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