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How to cross stitch

Thinking of taking up cross stitching? Take a look at this quick guide on how to get to grips with your needle and thread. Then, learn how to make half, quarter and three-quarter stitches, back stitches and French stitches. 


Starting to cross stitch

Always start stitching at the centre of the fabric, this will enable you to correctly position the design. When following a cross stitch chart, the centre is normally marked by two heavy black lines. You can fold the fabric gently in half each way to find its corresponding centre.



Thread your needle with the number of strands listed in the key and count the squares from the centre on the chart and then on your fabric to find where to make the first stitch. Bring the needle up in the bottom left corner of a square on the fabric and down again in the top right corner, making the first half of the cross. Next, bring the needle up through the fabric at the bottom right corner and down again through the top left (Diagram A). This completes the first cross stitch. Carry on this way following the chart.



Half, quarter and three-quarter stitch

Half-stitches may be used on their own, usually for shading or background areas. Sometimes you will need to make a quarter stitch in one colour and a three-quarter stitch in another colour following the same method shown for cross stitch. These stitches are used to create shapes on a design.


French knots

French knots are used to add detail to a design such as eyes or small flowers. They are usually made using one or two strands, the size of the knot will depend on the number of strands used. Bring the needle up through the fabric, hold the thread where it comes out and put the needle behind it. Twist the needle around the thread and push it back into the fabric close to where it emerged. Pull the thread gently until it has all come through, leaving a knot on the surface.



Backstitch is used to outline and give definition to a cross stitch design. It is usually stitched with one strand of cotton and can be made horizontally, vertically or diagonally across a square. To start off, weave your needle through the back of several stitches to secure the end of the thread. Bring the needle up through the fabric (1) and down one hole back (2), up again (3) then down (see Diagram B). The back stitch should add the finishing touch to your work, once you have completed all the cross stitch.


Washing your work

Hand wash your work in warm water using a mild detergent. If you are worried about colours running, dissolve a little table salt into the rinsing water. Pad your ironing board with a thick towel to prevent the stitches from being flattened and place the work face down on the board. Place a thin, clean tea towel over the top and with a medium heat, iron until the stitching is dry.


Other stitching techniques

When you have mastered the art of cross stitch why not try one of the other forms of counted thread embroidery such as Blackwork or Hardanger. Blackwork is worked mainly using backstitch and is traditionally stitched using black thread on a pale background. Hardanger is a cut thread embroidery originating from Norway. It is usually stitched using perle thread on either evenweave or hardanger fabric.



Last updated: over 3 years ago