How to Cross Stitch

Hello Crafters!

I know I’ve been bombarding you with crochet for the past few weeks so let’s take a little break from that to learn a new and exciting craft: cross stitch!

My mum taught me how to cross stitch a LONG time ago and I’m glad she did because now it is one of my favourite crafts. Knowing how to cross stitch makes it really easy to think of homemade gift ideas since cross stitch is so versatile. You can make anything from birth announcements and birthday cards to whole paintings created out of thread!

I will have more cross stitch tutorials in the future but for this post I am just going to show you the very basics for beginners who have never cross-stitched before 🙂

Basic Cross Stitch Supplies

Aida cloth

Aida cloth is the most commonly used canvass for cross stitching. It comes in a variety of sizes with each size having more or less space between the holes. The size indicates how many stitches will fit in one inch of fabric.

For beginners I would recommend Aida count 10 or 14 because it will be easy to see what you are doing and once you understand how to make your stitches you can move on to a different size aida cloth, linen or specialty fabrics.


Thread or embroidery floss can be found at any store that carries art and crafts supplies. There is an endless selection of colours to choose from. Be creative with whatever colours you would like but as a beginner I would steer clear of metallic threads because they fray easily and can be quite frustrating if you are just starting out.

Embroidery floss typically has six strands of thread wrapped together. For cross stitch you will pull out one strand at a time. I will go into more detail about that below!


Now there isn’t too much to say about scissors. You just need something that will cut your thread so any old scissors will do the trick. But half of the excitement of starting a new hobby is shopping for cute supplies so you might as well invest in a tiny pair of sewing scissors to make your cross stitch experience more thrilling.

These are my scissors: I think they were about $14 and I love them 🙂

cross stitch


Typically when you buy embroidery needles they will come with a few different sizes to choose from. It isn’t going to make or break your project if you just use whatever sized needle you want but there is a bit of a guideline that can help you have the best effect. Needles are sized in a really annoying way because the bigger the size the smaller the needle. If you are using a smaller aida count cloth then you will want to use a smaller needle to prevent stretching the canvass.

A good guideline to go by is

  • Fabric size 8-12 : Needle size 22
  • Fabric size 14 : Needle size 24
  • Fabric size 16-18: Needle size 28

Now don’t worry if you don’t know what size your needle is or if you only have one needle. As long as your needle fits well through the holes in the canvass without stretching them your project will turn out fine!

Starting Your Cross Stitch


Looking at Your Pattern / Cross Stitch Chart

Here is a simple pattern that we can work with today for tutorial purposes!

cross stitch

Most cross stitch charts will have a colour key on the side, each symbol on the chart will match up with a specific colour to make reading the chart easier. I just quickly drew up this design for an example and since it is very small and only has two colours I have not included a colour key.

Centering Your Canvass

You almost always want to start your cross stitch project right in the center of your canvass so that you know you will end up with a centered image. To find the middle of your canvass simply fold it in half and then fold in half again. Try not to crease the fabric too much when you are folding.

The point in the middle where the two folds meet is where you will start your sewing. I usually mark it will a small dot of pencil that can be covered up with the first stitch. I use my dressmaker (sewing) pencil but any old pencil will do!

cross stitch

Attaching Your Thread

To attach your first strand of thread: pull one of the six strands out of your thread. We are starting with yellow because the center of the flower is yellow.

Fold the strand of thread in half and thread it through your needle so that the loop is at the other end and your needle has two ends poking through the eye.

cross stitch

Making Your First Stitch

Start with your needle behind your canvass and insert the needle through the bottom left hole of the square.

Pull the thread through the canvass so that about an inch of your loop is still behind the canvass.

Insert the needle into the top right hole of the square.

cross stitch

Then flip your work over so you can see the back. Insert the needle into the loop and pull the stitch tight.

cross stitch

From the back of your work push the needle through the bottom right hole and then into the top left to complete your first stitch 🙂

cross stitch

Tying Off and Starting a New Thread

Once you have finished with one colour or your thread is at its end you need to tie if off before starting a new thread. Simply flip your work over so you are looking at the back and thread the needle through at least two strands on the back like this:

cross stitch

Pull the thread tight and simply trim the excess off!

cross stitch

Continuing Along With Your Cross Stitch Pattern

Now that you have completed the first stitches you are basically a pro! Just remember these few helpful hints to keep your cross stitch looking it’s best.

  • Always work your stitches from bottom left to top right and then bottom right to top left.
  • If you want to work on a different part of the canvass with the same thread that is already on your needle that is fine but don’t carry it over more than an inch with the same thread or the back of your work will be very messy. If the two areas are more than an inch apart then tie off and start a new thread.
  • If the edges of your canvass are fraying you can either sew around the edge with a sewing machine to create a solid seam or just tape the edges off to prevent fraying.
  • When your work is complete it might look a little bit dirty, especially if you like to snack while you craft (guilty!) to wash your work simply get a container that will fit your piece and fill it with lukewarm water and dish soap. Wash your canvass and rinse to remove all the soap. Lay flat to dry.
  • Some threads may have a lot of ink in them and when you go to wash your project the darker colours could bleed into the canvass! Oh no! To prevent this most people recommend rinsing your thread in lukewarm water prior to use until no dye comes out when you squeeze the thread in paper towel.

I strongly recommend this step from personal experience! I once made a large piece that took me months to finish and I did rinse the thread but I wasn’t thorough enough because I was so excited to start. Once the project was complete I washed it like I said above and the dark purple thread left gray streaks over my canvass 🙁 It was devastating! Don’t let this happen to you!

And just like that you know how to cross stitch! Get creative and have fun because knowing how to cross stitch opens up so many more crafting doors!

As always I would love to hear your comments (or questions!) below. Or you can email me at and I’ll get back to you in a jif!

Happy crafting!



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