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Embroidery Fundamentals: How to Do Cross Stitch

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

New to embroidery? Learn how to cross stitch with this easy step-by-step tutorial.


  • Aida cross stitch fabric
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery thread (floss)
  • Embroidery hoop

1. Prepare Your Fabric for Stitching

Step 1

Secure your fabric into your embroidery hoop. Aida fabric is made specifically for cross stitching, and has a grid pattern that is easy to see and use for counting stitches. It also has some stabilizer or starchiness to it, so it's quite stiff compared to a standard cotton fabric. Make sure you secure the fabric into the hoop tightly so it doesn't shift while stitching, which can warp your final project.

Step 2

Thread your needle with embroidery thread (also called floss). If you are using an Aida cloth that has a very small tight grid pattern, you may decide to split the floss into fewer than six strands to give your individual stitches definition.

2. Begin Your Stitch

Step 1

Cross stitch is named because each stitch is a tiny 'x' or cross. The patterns are laid out on a grid (usually color coded) and you don't typically need to do any kind of pattern transfer. Choose your first color and a good starting point in your pattern (some people like to work from the center outward; others choose to work from top to bottom and left to right, as if reading a book). 

Start your stitch by coming up through the fabric from back to front in one corner of your 'x'. Pull the floss through, leaving a small tail on the back side of your work, which you can later weave into the final project to keep it neat.

Step 2

Complete the first half of your stitch by taking the needle back through your fabric from front to back in the opposite corner (I started my stitch on the bottom left corner, so I will pass my needle back through in the top right corner). To keep your work neat, always start each individual stitch in the same corner and complete in the same corner (I tend to start all my crosses on the bottom left, but any corner will work as long as you are consistent).

Step 3

Complete a single cross stitch by coming back up from back to front in the bottom right corner of your square, then passing back through front to back in the top left corner.

3. Stitch a Row of Crosses

Step 1

Most patterns will have areas where the same color spans several blocks in a row. To complete a full row of cross stitch, do the first half of each cross or 'x' before crossing the stitches (each of my stitches started at the bottom left corner of an 'x). By doing this, you will start and end your row on the same side.

Step 2

Complete the row by crossing over each stitch until you are back at the beginning of the row. In the row I stitched, each stitch started at the bottom right of an 'x' and was worked from right to left.

Step 3

When you turn your work over to look at the back, you will notice it is a neat row of lines, which you can easily weave any excess floss into.

Practice Your Cross Stitch

With a bit of practice, you will be a pro at cross stitch in no time. It's easy to master in a short amount of time, and you can create your own patterns with grid lined-paper and crayons!  

Why not practice your new skills with a gorgeous embroidery or cross-stitch project

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