This FAQ was created with input from members of the /r/CrossStitch
community on Reddit.com. It is maintained by the following and if you
see something wrong or missing, please message one of us on Reddit!
Please remember cross stitch is a hobby and can be done in different ways!
The ways we’ve listed below are the most commonly taught, but if you do
things different that’s totally okay!
Last Edit: 08/02/2016 4:32 Mountain Time.
Ariadne89, DamnImLost, Douglust, EmmaRs86, Homoinabag,
Merfione, Rumelylady, Sieberella
To use the table of contents, just click on the relevant section and it will bring you there.
Table of Contents
+How do I clean my project if I’ve spilt something on it?
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m a complete newbie don’t know what to buy, where to buy it or how to get started. Can you help me?
Welcome to /r/crossstitch! In our links section below, there are a number of links to tutorials that will explain the basic techniques involved in cross-stitching. You may also want to refer to our materials list (way to link to this within text), and pay particular attention to the items listed as essentials. Additionally, we have a number of shopping recommendations and sources where you can find patterns, also listed below.
The most common advice given to beginners is that you should start out with a small and simple kit, until you have had some practice stitching and learned the basic techniques. Kits are great for beginners because they usually include all the necessary fabric, floss, needles, as well as easy to follow instructions.
If you can’t find a kit that you like, look for a simple pattern (ie. just a few colours and not too big), and purchase some fabric, floss and needles. 14-count aida is generally the best fabric for beginners, as it has a clear grid and large holes which are are easy to see. Linen and evenweaves are NOT ideal for beginners. You will want to purchase good-quality floss that is specifically designed for cross stitch, such as DMC. Cheap floss from the dollar store or floss that is meant for friendship bracelets (such as Prism) is not intended for cross-stitch and will not hold up well. Most embroidery floss is 6-stranded, which means that there are 6 individual threads wrapped around each other, easily divisible and separate when necessary. Typically you will only be stitching with 1-3 strands, and will need to separate out the appropriate number of strands from the central skein of floss. See the materials list for advice on needles, and further questions below for more detailed answers on techniques, supplies and problems.
The edges of my fabric are fraying! How do I stop it?!
There are a couple ways:
Tape the edges with long strips of painter’s tape, masking tape, or medical paper tape.
if left on for a long time, the glue from painter’s and masking tape can be very stubborn and the entire edge may need to be cut off. Paper tape is remains fairly easy to remove even after an extended amount of time
Sew the edges up with the z-stitch on a sewing machine
you need a sewing machine
Sew the edges using a whip stitch method
don’t need any new materials
takes longer than the sewing machine or taping
4) Use glue (e.g. Fray Stoppa, Fray Check, Fray Stop)
How do I read a chart? What are these weird symbols?
Most cross-stitch charts assign each colour of floss it’s own unique symbol, which is then listed in the colour key. So a symbol such as “@,” for example, might stand for light peacock blue (DMC 3766). Then when you look at the chart, any little square where you see an @ filled in will represent a single cross-stitch done in light peacock blue. Always refer to the colour key to see which colour of floss you should be using, as well as number of strands and type of stitch. Some charts (usually basic ones), simply use blocks of colour rather than symbols. So if you see a red square, you would stitch red.
Where do I start on the fabric?
With cross stitch you want to start in the middle of the fabric. If you look at your chart you will see an arrow on the outside of each side of the pattern. Follow these and you’ll find the middle of your pattern. This will be the first place you want to stitch. To find the middle of your fabric you’ll want to fold it in half. Now, fold it in half again. Look at where the crease is, that is the middle of your fabric. You can mark this with a pencil, or stick a needle in the hole and slowly unfold it so you can easily find it.
How many strands of floss do I need to use?
On 14-count aida, a lot of people use 2 strands of floss. For a fuller look you can also use 3 strands. Here is a good visual guide that shows the coverage of different numbers of strands on a variety of aida sizes.
How do I start and finish a new colour of floss?
There are two ways to start a colour, the first only works if you are using one thread folded in half:
Fold the thread and put the two loose ends through the eye of the needle. The loop will end up on the long side. Once you do your first half-stitch, put your needle through the loop (this will be on the back of your cross-stitch). This will secure your first half stitch
If you are using two or more threads and there is no loop at the end, do a half stitch as per usual, but on the backside trap the loose ends underneath your working thread as you bring the needle to the front again.
To finish with your floss, run it under 3 or more stitches on the back of your cross-stitch. This should be good enough to secure it.
Do I have to use a hoop/scroll/Q-Snaps?
This is entirely up to you, but smaller projects often either don’t fit in a hoop, or are easier to do without a hoop. Larger projects tend to be easier to work with when the cloth is held taut. There are advantages and disadvantages to all of them:
quick to take on and off
better to take on the road
easy to hold
not necessarily good for larger project as moving the hoop around can flatten stitches
good for larger projects
keeps all the unneeded fabric rolled up, clean and out of the way
fabric needs to be sewn on unless you buy one with clips
easily adjustable for wider/not so wide projects, you can just buy dowels and exchange them. This can also be used to do more than one project at once. Just remove the dowels with the first project. Roll the fabric up and set them aside.
good for larger projects
gives you a large amount of space to work with.
can sometimes make your fabric dirty if Q-Snap is not cleaned.
My stitching never seems to look as neat and tidy as everyone else’s. How can I make my stitching look neater?
Front: Making sure that all the stitches on the bottom run the same direction will help with making the front look neat and tidy.
Back: The easiest way to make the back look tidy is to try not to skip too many squares when moving from one section to another that is further away. For some people, this can mean that if the area is more than 4 stitches away, they will finish off the thread by running it under 3 or more stitches (on the back of the project), cut the thread, then start again in the new section. Obviously this cut off is a personal choice, but the fewer squares that you skip over, the flatter your project will be at the end since you won’t have 3 layers of thread overlapping on the back.
If you find that your floss is twisting a lot and causing your stitches to look too lumpy or messy, pull the needle all the way through to the front of your fabric, and then turn your fabric upside down and hold it up horizontally, allowing the needle to dangle naturally and untwist. Dangle your needle in this manner periodically while stitching to ensure that your floss does not get too twisted up. Additionally, if you want your stitches to look really neat and uniform, and lay flat and even against the fabric, you’ll want to learn a technique called railroading. See here or here for great tutorials on tutorials on railroading.
Working with metallics
As most stitchers will discover, metallic floss can be difficult to work with! Because metallic floss tends to tangle, snag and split very easily, the number one tip to working with metallic floss is that you should work with a much shorter length of floss than you normally would. If you would normally work with 8-10 inches of floss threaded through your needle at any time, with metallic floss working with no more than 4-5 inches is ideal. Having less excess floss hanging around means less opportunity for the tricky metallic floss to snag or tangle.
Because metallic floss can be very difficult to thread into your needle (as the floss tends to split into tiny little strands), it is advisable to either use a needle threader (a tool which helps you easily thread a needle) OR to fold the metallic floss in half (which means that you cut one longer strand, which will become two strands once folded in half). If you fold the floss in half, instead of trying to slip all the frayed little ends into the needle, you can push and pinch the floss into the needle at the fold point where it is not yet fraying. Once it’s through the needle you’ll have two strands of floss. At that point you want to pull the loop/fold through the eye of the needle a bit, and then put the point of the needle through the loop that has been formed, which creates a slip knot tying the floss to the base of the needle, and you have two strands of metallic floss ready to stitch with. The slip knot keeps the metallic floss from sliding around the eye of the needle a ton, which would cause further unravelling. Think of this as the opposite of the loop-start method, and see this tutorial for pictures if it’s not making any sense to you yet.
Another extremely useful tool for working with metallic floss is a thread conditioner. The most popular thread conditioner is a product called Thread Heaven. Thread heaven is a little square of a waxy like substance which helps to smooth, strengthen and coat your floss, making it less prone to snagging on fabric and to twisting, unravelling or knotting. You use thread heaven by gently using your thumb to run your length of floss along the little square of wax. Thread Heaven really does work like a dream, especially for metallics! There are also beeswax products which similarly work as a thread conditioner, by coating and strengthening your floss. Thread Heaven is widely available online or in needlework shops, as well as at some craft stores. But if you can not find Thread Heaven or need an emergency fix, another good option can be to take a plain, unscented dryer sheet (important that it’s unscented/plain). Fold the dryer sheet in half, and very, very gently run your floss through the fold of the dryer sheet. The friction helps to reduce static and rub away any little frizzies/fuzzies that may be clinging to the floss, which can again make the floss less prone to tangling and causing problems.
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands of metallic floss to find the one that you like best. Although DMC light effects is probably the most affordable metallic floss (and the most widely available), it is not always the easiest to work with. Krienik has a variety of nice products, including metallic braids in several different sizes/thicknesses (ie. you stitch with the whole braid and don’t need to separate out two strands), as well as metallic blending filament (one strand is designed to be blended with regular embroidery floss). If you’re willing to splurge on something a bit pricier, Cosmo sparkle floss and Rainbow Gallery petite treasure braid are both lovely metallic flosses that are quite easy to work with.
Working with overdyeds
Overdyed floss is a type of speciality embroidery floss which has been dyed one solid colour along the entire length of the floss. Then, the floss is dipped in additional colours of dye over top of the original colour (hence the name overdyed) in order to create colours of floss with greater depth and a more variegated, three-dimensional appearance. So you might have floss that was red along the base, but was overdyed with several shades of orange and yellow, giving a fire-like appearance to the embroidery floss. Overdyeds are great for stitching things from nature like skies, water, trees, grass etc since you can just use one type of floss, but get some variation along the length of the floss from different shades of greens and browns (if you were stitching grass), or different shades of blues and greys (water). Overdyeds are also popular in projects with an antique feel to them, since their variegated appearance adds more of a heritage/aged, hand-dyed/hand-made look. Popular brands of overdyed floss include Week’s Dye Works, Gentle Arts Sampler Thread and Dinky Dyes, amongst numerous others. The DMC “Colour Variations” line is also overdyed.
Before discussing working with overdyeds, we need to discuss two different methods of stitching: The Dutch method and the English method. Neither method is better than the other, they’re just two different techniques that can be used. The English method refers to completing an entire cross-stitch at a time (ie. both the “under” arm and the “over” arm of the X), before moving on to another stitch. So the English method looks like X X X X and so on. In the Dutch method, the stitcher works across their piece in long horizontal rows, completing only one arm of an individual cross-stitch at a time. So say there was a row of 6 red stitches. In the Dutch method, the stitcher would do six half arms moving right, which would look like this / / / / / / and then at the far right, come back leftwards with \ \ \ \ \ \ and thereby completing the cross-stitches into full X’s.
The Dutch method tends to be most common, and generally for many stitchers is the preferable method when stitching with solid-coloured floss as it can be faster. With overdyed floss, however, the English method is generally preferable because it allows the slow variation and changes in the colours to appear subtly and not get hidden underneath the top arm of the cross-stitch. If you use the Dutch method with overdyed floss, it tends to give a very stripey appearance. This stripey appearance can look great for certain things such as tree trunks (vertical stripes look like bark) or a field (horizontal stripes can look like rows of crops). But a stripey appearance is often not desirable and hides the more subtle and slow colour changes that one would like to see from overdyed floss. So generally the English method, or in other words, completing one whole cross-stitch (one X) at a time is advisable, to fully take advantage of the variegated appearance of overdyed floss.
It is also usually best not to use the loop-start method when stitching with overdyed, since folding the floss in half (as done in the loop-start) again will cause you to lose the slow and subtle progression of changes in colour and shades along the length of the floss.
All of that said, there are in fact a number of other stitching techniques that can be used with overdyed floss, all which tend to give different sorts of looks. See this link for ideas on other techniques: http://www.funkandweber.com/?s=stitching+with+overdyed
Help me! I spilled something on/stained my fabric and stitching project, is there anything I can do to clean it?
First off, don’t panic. You’ll want to have clear dish soap, a clean toothbrush and some elbow grease to help you out of this jam. First lightly wet down the piece. I usually put the toothbrush underwater and drip the water over the spot. Water will naturally spread on fabric so less is more. Once your piece is wet, put a small bit of the clear soap onto the stain. Use the toothbrush to softly and carefully scrub out the stain (especially if it’s on a stitched part). Clean the toothbrush, and use it to rinse the fabric. You can let it air dry, or put it between some towels. Be sure to iron when finished.
So I finished my project. Now what?
Now it’s time to clean! Get some gentle dish soap (or special non-rinse soap), and fill your clean sink with warm water and some soap. Let your project sit in the soapy water for a little while and gently rinse it (if required) until all the soap is out. Get a fluffy towel and lay your project on the towel. Roll up the towel to squeeze the water out. Leave it to dry. Once it’s dry, iron it flat by using a cloth of some sort on top so that you don’t flatten the stitches (if that’s something that you care about).
/u/Drsryan has so some wonderful hints from her grandmother.
How should I go about framing my completed project?
For framing there are two options: Custom Framing or DIY framing.
Custom framing is when you take your stitching to a professional framer, pick out the colour/style of frame and/or matting that you want, and then the framer does all the work for you. You’ll want to make sure that your stitching is clean and complete before you take it in to be framed, but typically the framer will handle everything else including ironing the piece. Custom framing tends to be VERY pricey, but if you can fit it into your budget and want your piece to last for many years, it can be a good option. Most framers have museum-grade glass which is UV-blocking (ie. ensures that your stitching will not fade and still look great in twenty years). Don’t be afraid to ask your framer questions about how they will frame your project and the techniques they use! And ask to see examples of needlework that they have framed in the past. A good framer who knows what they are doing with needlework and fabrics will typically use pins or the lacing method rather than glue or tape. Generally the quality of framing tends to be better at a local framing small business with experienced framers than it is at chain stores like Michael’s or JoAnns, but your mileage may vary on this and some Michael’s do have good framers, it just depends on the location. Some needlework shops also offer framing services, if you happen to have one in your area.
For tutorials on DIY framing, please see the links section. DIY framing is generally a much more affordable option, and some stitchers even find frames at second-hand stores for very cheap! Generally, you’ll want to make sure that your stitching is clean, and you’ll need to iron or block it to remove any creases or wrinkles in the fabric. Although many stitches have their own preferences when it comes to framing, in general the best technique in terms of preservation is the lacing and pinning method. In this method, your fabric is pinned to a piece of pre-measured foam board/foam core/mat board, and then the back is “laced” in order to draw the fabric tight. The laced piece can then be inserted into a frame. Some stitchers use glue, double-sided tape or sticky board for framing. While those options might be fine and budget friendly for certain projects/situations, they are not recommended for important pieces or heritage-level projects (ie. something that you want to have around for 20 years). The glues and proteins found in tapes and sticky boards can stain or eat away at fabrics over time, especially if they’re not labelled as “acid-free, ”and can even attract insects that can damage fabrics! If you plan to do a lot of your own framing, which is kind to your wallet, it’s a good to invest in some basic materials such as a good straight edge cutter like this (for cutting mats, backing board, etc) as well as some acid-free foam board/foam core (found at most craft stores and goes by both names or sometimes by the name mat board) and some straight pins.
How do I store and/or organize my cross-stitch supplies?
Different stitchers have different storage systems. The most common system is probably to wind skeins of floss onto bobbins. The bobbins are then labelled either by hand or using stickers with the appropriate colour code (ie. DMC 310 = black), and the bobbins are typically stored in plastic cases like this. Some stitchers organized their cases numerically, while others prefer to organize by colour. Bobbins can be plastic or cardboard, plain or fancy. Some bobbins have holes punched through them which allows you to put a grouping of bobbins together on a large metal ring (ie. to have all the floss for a project held together). Pros: One of the most compact and affordable storage methods. Cons: Can make your floss kinky.
Another popular storage method is to put each colour of floss in its own individual baggie, such as the Floss-A-Way bags. The bags are labelled with their colour/brand/code and can be organized in boxes, drawers or binders (since they usually have a hole punched through them). Although it is completely a matter of personal preference, some stitchers dislike bobbins for long-term floss storage because bobbins can put a lot of kinks into the floss. Using baggies does not put any kinks into the floss since the floss is not wound. The baggies are also great for holding small little pieces and scraps of floss without them getting lost or misplaced, since you can just throw a small piece into the appropriate colour bag. Baggies are great for metallic floss. Cons: Generally takes up more space. Pros: less kinks in floss, less time spent winding, helps you to be frugal with odds and ends of floss.
DMC has its own unique storage system, called “StitchBow.” This system is a bit more pricey than bobbins, but is really fast and easy to use once you have the pieces. You don’t have to spend your time winding but rather you put the whole skein of floss as is (just remove the label) onto a long narrow holder. The holders can then be put into binders or cases.
Fabric that will be stored for a long time should be stored out of any direct sunlight (and ideally other sources of light) and away from dust and grime. Storing fabric rolled or flat is better, but if it must be folded it is best to keep the number of folds to a minimum. Another option is to hang fabric in a closet as you would your clothes. Try to make sure that any stored fabric is kept in its original packaging or labelled in some manner as to what colour/count/brand/type it is. Trying to figure out if a piece of linen is 36 or 32 count because you didn’t label it appropriately is not fun (although they do sell cross stitch fabric gauges that are like a ruler which shows fabric counts).
Completed projects that will not be framed for a while should be stored away from any sources of light, and away from dust and grime. Ideally completed projects should NEVER be stored folded. A good option is to invest in some acid-free tissue paper (this is what museums and art galleries use), and then either store completed projects loosely rolled up with a layer of tissue on the outside and inside (tubes that are designed for drawings are good for this or just the slim tubes/boxes that fabric is sold in) or flat covered with tissue or scrap fabric, etc.
Works in progress should be kept away from direct sunlight as much as possible (ie. don’t leave it next to a window for a week). If you will be not working on it for a few days or more, put it in a case, a project roll or at least cover it with acid-free tissue or a clean piece of cotton, scrap fabric etc. This is to protect from dust, lint, pet fur, etc. It is also advisable to remove your project from its hoop or frame if you will not be working on it for a while, to prevent rust-like stains (from metal hoops), or excessive creasing and distortion of the fabric.
For organizing and storing odds and ends such as needles, scissors, beads, etc check out a craft store such as Michael’s for craft storage solutions. Storage boxes designed for scrapbooking and/or beading can work great for cross-stitching too, with all the little compartments being used for beads, different needles, etc.
How do you use different colored cloth?
When working with a darker coloured cloth it can be difficult to see where exactly you have to pull the needle through the cloth. It really helps to have either a light from beneath or above shining through the cloth. This highlights the holes in the aida, and makes it really easy to use dark cloth.
What’s the difference between Aida and Evenweave?
“Evenweave” refers to a fabric that has evenly spaced holes. On an evenweave fabric, all stitches will be a uniform size. Aida is a type of evenweave, though most stitchers think of Aida as a category by itself; when using the term “evenweave” by itself, stitchers are generally referring to evenweave linen. Evenweave linens are typically higher thread counts (28, 32, etc.), and are often stitched over multiple holes (otherwise your pattern will be tiny!). Not all linens are evenweaves.
How big should my fabric be?
If you are going to frame your work then generally you should leave about 3 inches all around the design (so add 6 inches to the design size when considering what fabric to use).
What is gridding, how do I do it and do I need to?
Here is some information with pictures about gridding and how to do it. It is recommended to make a grid for larger projects since it’s easier to track where you are and cuts down on counting your stitches.
To add to what the linked page says, I would first fold my fabric in half to find the center. Then look where the center of the pattern is and how the patterns grid corresponds to that. Start there with the grid. This way your finished piece will be centered on the fabric.
How-To’s: Tips, Tricks and Tutorials
First thing is to organize your project. If you’re doing a kit, you’ll want to start sorting your floss. If you’re doing a pattern, you’ll want to buy your floss, wind it on a bobbin, and then cut it into stitchable sizes. For beginner’s sake we’ll walk through preparing a kit.
Organizing your Floss:
Unpackage your kit and set your needle, fabric and any other embellishments to the side. You’ll only need your chart and floss for this part.
Looking at the above picture we can see two rolls of floss and our chart. Directly next to our floss you’ll see the “Color Key” This will look different depending on what kind of kit/pattern you’re using, Most of the time there will be floss numbers (usually DMC) listed next to the color, so in case you run out, you know what to buy more of. Paying attention to the left side mostly, we can see we’re going to be dealing with a lot of peaches, greens and blues.
Most floss will come in one large loosely knotted bundle when packaged in a kit, although sometimes you’ll see the above separated color rolls. Some kits will even have Pre-Sorted floss, which means you don’t have to do the previous or next step! But if you’re not so lucky, you’ll have to sort the floss yourself! Which brings me to…
Our next step is to sort our floss out into colors. The best way to do this is with a lot of room and a lot of light. Some colors will look almost identical (for example on this project, I had a hard time telling the difference between the light peach and dark peach colors). So, give yourself some time, have some patience and separate your colors. Some patterns will even tell you how many skeins (long strands of thread) to expect for certain colors, although this one didn’t do that for us.
Once you have all of your thread correctly separated into colors you can begin to organize it. There are many methods of organizing thread. Personally, I like the ziplock bag method above. You can use regular ol’ ziplocks or at any craft store you can buy ones just like this with the rings. They come in handy and if you use a Vis-A-Vis marker they are reuseable for every project, just take some water and wipe off the mark!
I always start from the top of the chart to the bottom. So for this kit, I would locate my Lt Peach color thread, mark one of my baggies with the icon of that thread, in this case a circle, and put that color thread into that baggy. Then, I’ll continue down the list, marking the icon on a baggie and filling it with the correct floss.
Finding the center:
For Cross stitch you want to begin your piece in the middle of the fabric/pattern. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the middle but with these tips I think it should help!
Looking at this pattern you’ll see that on the top and right sides are two black arrows. These are showing you the way to the center of the project. The majority of charts/patterns will have some sort of identification on how to get you to the center of the pattern, although I have worked on some where I had to count all the way across and all the way from top to bottom and find the middle. It’s rare, but it does happen.
Especially with a large pattern, it’s easier to just line up piece of paper with the arrows and follow them to the center. I only did that with this pattern to show you how to do it. With smaller patterns you can easily just trail your finger down one arrow and when you feel like you’re in the center, use your other finger to trail the opposite direction to see where they’ll meet up.
I find it easiest to then mark the center square once you’ve found it. You can color it, highlight it or outline it, however you would like. You’ll notice that our middle square is blank, that means we’ll have to do some counting before we begin our project!
We found the center of our pattern, but now we have to find the center of our fabric!
When buying a kit your fabric will more than likely come folded, unless it’s a very small project. So, go ahead and unfold your fabric, we’re going to need to re-fold it a certain
way so we can find the center of the fabric.
Fold your fabric in half. Now when you do this you want to make sure that edges of the fabric line up, especially if it was pre-folded in the packaging as a majority of the time it won’t be folded directly in half when packaged.
Now, fold your fabric in half again, making sure your edges line up. So, when folding fabric you’ll always once to fold once lengthwise and once width-ways. This will help you get the perfect center of your fabric.
Now that your fabric is folded and ready, look at the folded corner. This is the corner that will not be easily opened and looked into, it should be the corner you just folded last, where you would need to unfold the whole thing to get into it. The hole closest to that point is your center of the fabric.
Mark your center. You can do this with a pencil or a yellow highlighter (as they don’t really show up once stitching has been started). Since we already know that our middle square won’t be stitched on because we did our pattern first, we know not to use any ink to mark. So instead, we’re just going to put a needle into that hole, and slowly work it in as we unfold it to label that center square for us.
And upon fully unfolding the fabric, you should be able to angle the needle into it so you can easily see the center square. Go ahead and leave this needle in until we start stitching. Remember to look and see which way your project goes! If it’s a tall project, make sure you have the fabric going the right way. If it’s a wide project, make sure you have your fabric going the right way!
Threading the Needle:
The next part is threading the needle. Some people have a difficult time with threading needles, and if that’s the case for you I strongly suggest investing in a needle threader. Below I will show you how to thread a needle using two different types of threaders, as well as just by using your eyes.
The wire needle threaders are the most common ones you’ll find and are simple to use. They’re commonly sold in multiple sets as they can be flimsy and break easily after a lot of use. They’re cheap and easily replaceable and get the job done. There are also slightly more robust needle threaders like the one on the far right. In any case, they are great for beginners and advance stitchers alike.
The first thing we’re going to do is grab a skein of the color we’re going to be working with. Looking at our chart we can see that our closest color is Light Grey. So we’ll take our light grey strand and begin to work with it.
The first thing I want you to notice is that if you look at the end of the thread, it frays. The floss we use for cross stitch is called six-strand embroidery floss, because you can separate the skein into strands and use them for stitching. Commonly, you’ll take two strands for a cross stitch, and one strand for a backstitch or french knot.
Go ahead and grab two strands and begin to separate them from the skein. If you notice that you’re beginning to knot, or there’s a lot of tension, you can bite the end of the skein between your teeth and use it as a third hand to pull and separate the floss. This trick really comes in handy when using long pieces of floss.
Now that we have it separate we are going to thread our needle, like I said above I’ll show you three ways to do it, using two different needle threaders and hand-eye.
The Wire Threader: Below I’ll list the steps as well as a photo to direct you through.
Put the wire of the needle threader through the eye of the needle.
Now, you have a much bigger eye to thread your floss through. Go ahead and put and end of your floss through the wire of the threader. If you’re having a hard time you can lick the tip of the floss to help make it a little more pliable.
Once you have some floss through, go ahead and pull the needle threader out.
While pulling the needle threader out, make sure you pinch a spot on the thread and needle so
they stay together and threaded, it’ll make it easier to pull the threader out.
Now you will have a threaded needle and can get started!
Straight Threader: Same idea, I’ll post pictures as well as instructions.
Place the threader into the needle.
Hook your floss onto the hook that is through the needle.
Start to remove the threader from the needle. Make sure you pinch the floss to the needle.
And again, you’ve threaded a needle! If you require a needle threader, I strongly suggest one like
this model, I find them easier to use and more durable.
In one hand have your needle, in the other have your floss. If you’re having trouble getting the floss stiff enough to thread the needle, give the end a quick lick and you should be good to go.
If you’re having a hard time, you can lick the floss and pinch it between your thumb and index finger. Align the eye of the needle so it can slide over the floss, and slide the needle down your pinched fingers. It should hook onto the floss.
Pull your thread through a bit and your needle is threaded and honey, you’re ready to stitch!
Starting the Project:
Now that your needle is threaded we can begin to stitch. With cross stitch you don’t tie a knot at the end of your floss (but if you’re more comfortable that way, then I say do it – I personally still tie a knot at the end and I’ve been stitching for years!).
You’ll want to pull your thread so the ends aren’t even, you’ll want one about ? of the way down the longer thread.
Next, we grab our fabric, our needle is still in the middle of the fabric, and we look at our pattern. Our closest place to stitch is right below our middle square, so we’ll place our needle there and come up from the bottom.
If you opted to not tie a knot in the bottom of your thread, make sure you leave about an inch of thread in the back, we’ll come back to this later. If you did tie a knot in your thread, go ahead and pull the thread until taut- the knot will prevent you from pulling the thread out of the hole.
Our next step is to put the needle back down into the fabric. Picture each hole in the fabric as a corner to a square. We brought the thread up in the lower right hand hole, so we’re going to put it back down in the upper left hand hole, as shown above. You’ll want to follow your pattern and continue this, with the stitches going the same way, until you run out of that color to do on the pattern. Remember: With cross stitching you want all of your stitches to go the same way!
If you didn’t tie off the end: Again, be careful when you put your needle down into the fabric to go back through, if you pull it taut you could still pull the thread all the way out. After your first initial stitch you should be good to go to pull it taut as you go to complete the design.
Here we see that I have followed the pattern (look at the highlighted part) with four cross stitches and two above it. You’ll notice that there is also a stitch meant to be next to the two rows I’ve done as well as at the top, those are called quarter stitches and we’ll get to those eventually. This purpose is to show you how to cross stitch.
Before we start to go over look at your piece, are all the stitches going the same way as shown above? Make sure all of your stitches either go left to right, or right to left. If you they aren’t pointing the same way, now is the time to go back, take them out and try again!
Now we’re ready to cross over. Bring your needle up from under your fabric into a hole that would be going against your current stitching pattern. See how we started with going from the lower right corner to the upper left corner? Now we’re going to start with upper right corner to lower left corner.
Here I’m going into the lower left corner to complete my first actual cross stitch. Remember, cross stitches look like Xs.
When complete, your cross stitches should look like this (though nicer, it’s hard to keep
the thread taut and take your own pictures lol). Congratulations, you have officially cross stitched! Continue with your pattern and you’ll be finished in no time!
Every person cross stitches differently. Every person sorts their thread differently, threads their needle differently, and follows their pattern differently. It’s up to you what is easiest and most enjoyable. Some people when reading a pattern, like to start in the middle and then stitch all of that color before moving onto something different. Others, will start in the middle, do all of that color that is close enough by, and then will switch colors (looking at the pattern above, they may switch and begin working on the O symbol that is near the middle where they just worked).
Ending your Thread/Switching Colors:
Sometimes you run out of thread in the middle of a color section. Other times, you’re done with that color and need to move on. However it happens, you’ll need to learn how to tie off your thread to secure your stitches.
In this case, I have completed all the grey for the section on my pattern and I need to switch colors. First take a look at your piece. Are all the stitches going the correct way? The biggest part, is your needle underneath/at the back of your fabric? If your needle is on top where the cross stitches are, something is amiss, take a look at it. Take a quick count on your pattern. When you’re sure that you’re good to go, it’s time to tie off.
Flip your fabric over. Now, if you didn’t tie off your thread you should notice that the end of the floss got kind of “eaten up” by your other stitches, this has secured your thread and if some of the ends seems a little long you can trim them a bit – not too much!
To secure/tie off your floss you’re going to want to run the needle underneath two-three stitches in the back of the fabric, as shown in the picture. Make sure you’re getting your needle under the thread only, you can snag the fabric. Double check by flipping it over once you have the needle in place – if you see the needle at all through the fabric or cross stitches, you went too deep. Take your needle out and try again.
Once everything looks set, go ahead and pull your needle through the fabric. This will secure your ending stitch and tie off your fabric. Additionally for added security you can pass the needle through the floss as it begins to round, adding a small knot to the secured end. But that’s totally up to you.
Once complete, it should look like this. Hold your thread taut, and give it a snip towards the base of the secure point. Now, sometimes when you do this you will have a lot of remaining floss – keep it! You’ll need it.
If you need to switch colors, go ahead and thread your needle with the next color you need according to the pattern and start stitching.
If you’re new to cross stitch I hope that this text and photo guide helped answer any questions that you had! Please feel free to re-visit this FAQ with any and all questions you may have. The instructions I gave above will get you started, be sure to look below for other how-tos!
Types of Stitches:
In cross stitch you will use a few common stitches, which are pictured below.
Cross Stitch: The most common stitch while cross stitching is the cross stitch, this stitch looks like an X when is completed. To make accurate and good looking stitches, make sure all of your stitches go the same way as shown above; notice all bottom stitches go from bottom left to top right, and all top stitches go from top left to bottom right.
Half Stitches: Sometimes you’ll get a ‘half stitch’ that is when you make the beginning of a cross stitch, but you don’t cross over it. Make sure when doing half stitches that you make them go the same direction as your finished cross stitches!
Quarter Stitches: Now these look weird, and can sometimes be difficult to do. A ? is used for artistic effect and fine definition. Sometimes a cross stitch or a half stitch may be too big, that’s when you’d use this. If you notice you only go halfway in your square. Think of each block of aida as a square;
In that square is where you’ll work. Your cross stitch will fit in that square, your half stitch will fit in that square, and for a ? you don’t really need the whole square, so you’re going to stick your needle into the center of it.
Back Stitch: Back stitch is commonly referred to as the outline of your pattern. Usually when looking at a pattern it’ll be a thicker line so you can easily differentiate where to backstitch. Back stitching is commonly done with one thread.
Needles: Needles used for cross-stitch have blunt tips. The blunt tips help to slightly widen the holes in your needlework fabric, thereby allowing the floss to pass through the holes more easily. It is not advisable to use standard sewing needles for cross-stitch, as they are sharp-tipped rather than blunt-tipped. Look for needles specifically designed for cross stitch. Common brands include DMC, Clover, Bohin and John James. Although it depends somewhat on personal preference and the count of fabric you choose, the most common needle sizes used for cross stitch are 24, 26 and 28 (28 being the smallest size available).
Fabric: You will need some fabric that is appropriate for cross-stitching. As a beginner, the most advisable type of fabric is 14-count aida, which is widely available and affordable. The two other primary types of fabric are linen and evenweave, but they are not usually recommended for beginners. See the glossary for more detailed definitions of the various fabric types.
Floss: There are three “big brands” of floss for cross stitching; DMC, Anchor and J&P Coats. Most projects will give you listings for DMC floss. You’ll want to use one of the big three companies for your floss as there is less color discrepancy from skein to skein, more color selection, and they’re better quality and won’t split or fray as often.
Pattern/Chart or Kit: You’ll need something to cross stitch!
Masking tape or glue: Prevent fraying of the edges of your fabric.
Cleaning Kit: An unused toothbrush and clear dish soap. Trust us. You’ll need it.
Thread Organizer: Something to keep your floss in and organized while stitching. You can use ziplock baggies, or buy a fancy one!
Needle-Minder: An item used to house your needle while your project is out and you’re switching colors. You can also use a pin cushion.
Thread Conditioner/Thread Heaven: Protects your thread from fraying, tangling and UV light damage.
Highlighter – Can come in handy keeping track of what’s been stitched and what hasn’t. Bonus: If you’re using a yellow highlighter, you can copy the pattern and the highlighter won’t show up.
Star De-Tailer – This product is used to help end and tidy floss on the back of your fabric.
Places to Buy Patterns
– Sprite Stitch forums – Free video game and other patterns *FREE*
– Daily Cross Stitch – One free pattern, every day!
– Cyber Stitchers – Huge directory of patterns, including 1,000+ free ones.
– Etsy: Etsy is currently one of the most popular venues for pdf cross stitch patterns, especially ones with a more modern aesthetic. Most patterns sold on etsy are instal digital downloads, meaning that you get the pattern in pdf format and then can stitch from a tablet/computer, or choose to print out the pattern for yourself. Some of the most popular etsy shops in the subreddit include: Satsuma Street, Stitchrovia, Tiny Modernist, Steotch and weelittlestitches.
– Many designers sell pdfs on their own-stand alone sites, such as The Frosted Pumpkin, Clouds Factory, Modern Folk and Brooke’s Books. There are also websites such as Creative Poppy and European X-Stitch which sell a curated selection of pdf patterns by various designers all on one site.
– Then there are still many designers who only sell their charts in paper format, which usually have to be purchased from a LNS or a retailer like 123stitch. I’ve listed as many as I can loosely groups into genres below.
If you like patterns that look historical: Chatelaine, Victoria Sampler, With Thy Needle and Thread, Plum Street Samplers, Ink Circles, BlackBird Designs, Long Dog Samplers, Good Huswife, The Scarlet Letter, The Drawn Thread, La D Da, Northern Expressions Needlework, Rosewood Manor, Just Nan, amongst countless others.
And of course, some of our fellow redditors also sell patterns!
I know there must be lots more to add here!
Magazines: There are a number of magazines dedicated to cross-stitch patterns, as well as general discussion of stitching as a hobby (ie. such magazines will have advice on techniques, shop and pattern recommendations, etc). Most of the English-language magazines come from either the UK or the US. Many of these magazines now do digital subscriptions for ipads/android tablets, as well as traditional print subscriptions. Depending on location, some of the magazines may be available for purchase as individual issues at your local craft or book store. What magazine you like best will be a matter of preference and personal taste, as each of the various magazines have somewhat different niches and styles
Cross-Stitcher UK: Probably the cross-stitch magazine with the most modern aesthetic, for those who like very modern patterns. Lots of patterns with bright, bold colours, and unique finishing ideas (with instructions) apart from your standard framed picture.. things like aprons, bags, etc. Like most of the magazines they tend to do some seasonal patterns (ie. Christmas patterns at Christmas, and so on).
Cross Stitch Crazy: Tends to have an eclectic mix of different types of patterns.. some more modern and some more traditional, some geared towards children/cutesy and some more sophisticated, and lots of seasonal patterns. I would recommend checking out a few individual issues before subscribing to see if you like their patterns.
Cross Stitch Gold: Tends to have larger, more complex and detailed patterns that cover a wide variety of subject patterns from animals, to florals, to landscapes/buildings, asian motifs, magical motifs like fairies, etc. Overall their patterns tend to fall more on the traditional side of things than the modern, although they can have beautiful and detailed patterns.
The World of Cross Stitching: Great patterns for beginners and intermediate stitchers alike! Published in the UK.
Cross Stitch Card Shop: A magazine that is entirely devoted to patterns for cross-stitch greeting cards! Generally the patterns follow the seasons, so you’ll find Christmas designs, Mother’s/Father’s Day designs, Valentine’s designs etc all at the appropriate time of year. They also have designs for birthday cards, sympathy cards, wedding and baby cards, and just because type cards all-year round.
Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly: Beautiful designs for those who like patterns that have an antique or historical appearance, as well as information on the history of embroidery and textiles. This magazine is harder to find in regular craft and book stores, but they have digital and print subscriptions and can sometimes be purchased from needlework shops.
Just Cross Stitch: US-based magazine, more widely available in North America. Tends to have fairly traditional designs such as florals, home decor, seasonal patterns but it just depends on your personal taste. If you like stitching Christmas ornaments, their annual Christmas ornament issue is hugely popular and not to be missed. It’s an entire magazine of usually 100 or more cross stitch Christmas ornaments in every style imaginable, with full instructions. I believe they also do a Halloween ornament issue now too.
Cross Stitch and Needlework: US-based magazine, fairly traditional patterns but they are doing some more modern ones here and there.
– To my knowledge, the Michael’s chain of craft stores is the only brick-and-mortar store that exists Canada-wide. I’ve lived in three different provinces and numerous cities and found that the quality of Michael’s and how well it’s stocked can vary enormously depending on location and the management at any given store. But most Michael’s in Canada sells the full range of DMC floss for 0.48 cents a skein, as well as a lot of the specialty floss (metallic, color variations), as well as your basic notions like needles, scissors, etc. Most Michael’s in Canada also have some hoops, kits and a selection of basic fabrics (aida, evenweave) in at least a few colours/counts, although the selection of fabric and kits seems to vary a lot from location to location. Michael’s also does custom framing (although the reviews of this seem to be mixed and the service gets pricey fast), as well as sell individual frames and framing supplies like foam board, matting, etc if you want to try your hand at framing yourself. Michael’s has weekly coupons, so don’t ever pay full price for anything without checking to see if there is a coupon first!
– Herrschners.ca: Has a large website for online shopping and ships across Canada. Fairly good selection of charts, kits, fabrics,etc and reasonable pricing. Has good sales on a regular basis if you sign up for their email updates and/or check out their bargain corner clearance section. BUT shipping can be very slow and quite pricey.
– amazon.ca: Surprisingly amazon had a decent selection of kits for good prices, as well as some selection of fabrics (including aida in hard to find colours like black and navy blue!) and notions such as needles, bobbins and hoops. Not good for purchasing individual skeins of floss however.
– Mary Maxim: Again, good selection of kits, some fabrics, floss. etc.
– For online shopping from stores that are actually based in Canada (ie. no customs charges like when you order from the US), there are a plethora of Canadian LNSs (Local Needlework Shops) that do online shopping, or you can drop in any of them are local to you. There’s Gitta’s in Mississauga Ontario, The Needle Gnome in Acton Ontario, Stitch-It-Central in Ingersoll Ontario, Thread and Eye in London Ontario, The Workroom in Toronto Ontario, Stitchers Place in Cambridge Ontario, Buttoned Up in Victoria BC, The Stitching Corner in Alberta. Sorry this is rather Ontario-Centric, but I know there are at least a couple other shops out west and I thought one in Halifax, so please add more if you know any.
123stitch.com: Has almost everything under the sun that you could ever want for cross stitch, fabric in many counts and colours, charts and kits and accessories, and all the major brands of floss as well as specialty brands. Reliable service and shipping, and very reasonable prices.
Nordic Needle: Wonderful site with many hard to find needlework supplies and materials. Reasonable pricing and great customer service.
Everything Cross Stitch: Wide selection of products, reasonable pricing. Also decent prices for shipping to Canada.
Amazon.com: Amazon carries a wide selection of kits (mostly Dimensions), as well as quite a bit of fabric and a ton of notions and accessories such as hoops, q-snaps, needles, bobbins, etc. Not the best source of buying floss by the individual skein, however.
Hand-Dyed Fabric (from the US):
Note: Most of the hand-dyed fabric companies, including the ones I’ve listed below, can take several weeks minimum to dye your fabric and send out your order! So although the fabric can be amazing and well worth the higher-price, don’t be shocked if you have to wait at least a few weeks for your order to be shipped.
– Picture This Plus: Gorgeous fabric.They have over 100 colours of fabric, and each fabric can be ordered in whatever count/type of fabric you like (ie aida 14,16,18, linen 28-40, etc). You can also choose crystal fabric (ie. sparkly). Friendly customer service but in my experience orders take from 2-5 weeks to be sent out. But their fabrics are high-quality, hand-dyed and well worth the wait. They are known for having an annual Christmas in July sale.
– Steph’s Fabby: Small company run by a single woman, Stephanie. Good quality hand-dyed fabrics for very fair prices. Like PTP, you can get many colours of fabric in aida or linen or lugana, in various counts. She has an active facebook group in which members post projects stitched on her fabric and ask for stitching advice. She also fabric of the month clubs.
– Silkweaver – Although some customers say that the quality of Silkweaver’s dying has declined in recent years, it is still one of the major hand-dyed fabric companies and therefore worth mentioning. Like the other companies, they have lots of variety and selection in terms of colours, type and count of fabric. They also do fabric of the month clubs where you can sign up to receive a surprise fabric each month/
SewandsoUK: Massive selection of charts, fabrics, kits, etc. – usually next day delivery if ordered before 3pm
Hobbycraft: Online retailer and stores available across the country
Willow Fabrics: Stockists of Zweigart, Anchor, DMC, Kreinik
Minerva Crafts: Selection of fabric, thread, patterns, kits, frames etc.
Cross Stitch Heaven: Kits, charts, stitching accessories & cheap DMC. Website advises that there is currently a long wait for shipping due to high demand but might be worth looking at if you are not in urgent need of supplies.
Amazon.co.uk: Many kits, not sure how the pricing compares to other stores.
Nina’s threads is a well-known etsy store where a lady called Nina sells beautiful hand-dyed floss and fabric for fair prices. Shipping is cheaper/faster if you’re in Europe, as she is based in Hungary. No longer open
There are also Local Needlework Shops all over (US, Europe, Canada). Simply go to Google and type in “needleart supply store” to bring up some mom and pop shops near you!
– General/Basic Stitching Techniques:
The Cross-Stitch Guild is great for basics!
Threadneedle Street – Helpful hints, particularly “can I cross stitch in both horizontal and vertical rows in the same piece?”
Salt & Pepper – Helpful hints
Better Cross Stitch Patterns – Tutorials and patterns
‘How To’ by Subversive Cross Stitch – The basics, including little animations!
Cross Stitch wikihow – The basics, including making your own pattern.
Craftster video – The basics in video form 🙂
French Knots – Mary Corbet – Great How-To video for french knots!
Fool-proof french knots – seriously!
French Knots – With free practice pattern!
Separating Thread – Another method on how to separate floss.
SpruceXStitch Beginner Guide – A beginner’s guide on cross stitch.
– Finishing and Framing
The Twisted Stitcher is a great site for all sorts of unique ways to “finish” your stitching, including pillows, ornaments and bell pulls (ie. wall banners).
Focus on Finishing, is sort of a finishing hub that links to tutorials around the blogosphere for various finishing techniques. Turn your stitching into something awesome!
Mary Corbet has lots of great advice for framing embroidery (applicable to cross stitch) using the lacing method. The lacing method of framing is the most technical and correct method of framing needlework if you want to follow museum-level conservation/preservation standards. Avoid glues and “sticky boards” when framing as the proteins in the glue can eat away at the fabric over time, stain it, or attract insects years later.
Here is another good tutorial for framing, again using the lacing method.
Finishing with Felt – An /r/crossstitch user took a photographic series of how to finish a piece in a hoop with felt.
– Digital Cross Stitch Programs
Cstitch: Open source, generally best used for converting photos into patterns. I’ve had strange colour conversions, but in general works quite well.
Hobbyware: Software for either converting photos or for designing. Costs $60.00 for standard and $120.00 for professional. It’s also advertised for machine embroidery, but that’s a little beside the point.
Mac- and Win-stitch: Strangely, the company sends it as a physical disk or USB drive unless you order a downloadable copy. Be warned, they will charge you for upgrades and from what I’ve heard, can be pretty annoying. It costs between $60-80 for a regular hard copy disk, unknown at this time for buying the downloadable program. It’s also been heard that Macstitch can and sometimes will crash.
KG Chart: Used to have a lite version to download free, now they have upgraded to pay only. A small warning, they only carry DMC thread colours, and some colour samples aren’t what the true colour of the floss is. If you can still find backdated copies of the lite version, known as KG Chart LE, kicking around, I recommend it. The lite version can be found through google. It lets you save and print your progress but limits the size of the project you can create. There are workarounds for this, however.
PCStitch: Last but certainly not least, this is my favourite. They have almost every brand of floss and colours, including variegated and metallic threads. It is expensive ($49.95) and the UI is a little strange and takes a little while to work around, but it works so well. It will allow you to make a pattern into a PDF with floss legend, strand counts, special notes, etc. Has little features I’ve never encountered, including automatic messages prompting you to save every 30 minutes to 2 hours. The free version of PCStitch does not let you save or print your pattern.
KXStitch – Runs on Linux and is free!
StitchKetch – Pattern making software for iPad, iPod, and iPhone.
Stitchpics.net – offers the best way to turn any picture into a crossstitch pattern. No more tracing or drawing pictures by hand, in less than a minute you can have a picture ready for cross stitching.
– Helpful Tools
Fabric Calculators: These will magically help you calculate how much fabric you will need for your project. This tool is helpful if you want to use fabric of a different count then what the pattern recommends (say you want to stitch on 14-count aida rather than 32-count linen), and need to know how large your finished project will be if you swap out for a different fabric. See here or here.http://yarntree.com/java/xstitchcal.htm
Floss Inventory Apps: There are a number of apps that can be used for keeping track of what colours of floss you already have. These apps are helpful so that you don’t go out and buy floss that you already have somewhere in your stash, or they can notify you when you are running low on a certain colour. See Floss Checklist, Cross Stitch Thread Companion or Thread Tracker. Also Mouliner (free). There is also an Android app called Cross Stitch Thread Organizer created by u/pm_me_your_canines that works great!
Floss coverage: An explanation (and diagrams) showing thread strands vs fabric count – http://www.better-cross-stitch-patterns.com/floss-coverage.html
Skin Color Listings: This site is perfect for helping you figure out skin tone. http://www.carouselcharts.com/SkinTones.pdf
Aida: The most common name brand for cross stitch fabric, comes in 10 to 18 count in various colours. Aida can also just mean the fabric type of the square woven fabric with holes.
Anchor: One of the major brands of 6-stranded embroidery floss. Probably the second most popular after DMC. Reasonably priced and comparable in quality to DMC. Tends to be slightly more common in Britain but widely available online and in North America too. Like most brands of floss, has its own numbering system in which colours are assigned a numerical code.
Back-stitch: Typically done with one strand of floss, this is most commonly the “outline” of your pattern.
Bobbin: A small, flat card, usually plastic or cardboard, around which embroidery floss can be wound. Looks like this. Many stitchers store their floss by winding it on bobbins, labelling each bobbin with the appropriate numerical colour code, and then storing the bobbins in plastic boxes.
Chart: The Design Chart contains all the information needed to stitch a design. Each square on the chart symbolizes a cross stitch on your cloth. The color or symbol in the square 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.
Conversion Chart (for floss): Because there is a huge variety of brands available for floss, the most popular conversion charts are for Anchor to DMC and DMC to J&P Coates. The colours don’t match up perfectly, but they’re close enough that you should have no problem putting more than one brand into a project.
Count: The number of stitches that fit within an inch. For example, a 14 count cloth means that 14 stitches will fit in one inch, whereas a 32 count cloth means 32 stitches fit in an inch. Higher count cloths are typically designed to be stitched two holes over and two holes up, effectively halving the count (e.g. 32 count cloth is the same as 16 count cloth).
Cross-Stitch: 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.
Dimensions: A popular brand of cross-stitch kits. Although there is some debate in the cross stitch community as to the quality of the materials in these kits, Dimensions kits are a great place for beginners to start. The price varies depending on size but a smaller kit should be affordable, and contains the instructions and materials that a beginner would need.
DMC: The “Gold Standard” brand of 6-stranded embroidery floss, as well as other needlework materials and supplies. By far the most popular and widely-used brand of floss.Made in France, the brand has a long history. Very reasonably priced and of reliable good quality, widely sold online and in brick-and-mortar craft stores such as Michael’s, Joanns, etc. In addition to your basic solid-coloured embroidery floss, DMC sells a wide variety of specialty floss including metallics, variegated, and even glow-in-the-dark, as well as materials for other types of embroidery and needlework, such as perle cotton.
Evenweave: Threads are even in width, and often have very high counts (e.g. 32 count). They can be stitched by going two holes over and two holes up; using this method, a pattern stitched on 28 count fabric will be the same size as the same pattern stitched on 14 count Aida. Evenweaves can also be stitched without skipping holes, in order to create a smaller or more finely detailed finished piece.
Floss: Also known as embroidery floss or thread, it’s a bundle of 6 strands wound together into a length, not knotted or bound together. Generally projects will tell you how many threads of this bundle you need, most likely two or three strands.
FO: Finished object; fastened off; or finished off
Frogging: When you make a mistake, and have to rip out some of your completed stitches, you have to “rip it! rip it!” Since this sounds a lot like “ribbit,” the process of pulling out your stitches due to a mistake is called frogging.
HAED: Stands for Heaven and Earth Designs, a popular seller of large and complex patterns based on works by both modern artists and historical paintings. This acronym is often tossed around in the cross-stitch community but can remain mystifying to newbies!
Hoop: Can be used to frame a finished piece or to keep the piece taut while stitching. Comes in metal, wood and plastic and are usually round or oval in shape.
Joblean: A variety of evenweave fabric.
Kit: A prepackaged cross stitch project to complete. Usually includes pattern, floss, needle, instructions and color photo of what the finished project will look like. Small ones are great for beginners!
Lacing: A technique used to frame cross-stitch and other embroidery and needlework pieces. There are different methods but generally the fabric will be washed (if materials used were colour-fast), ironed and sometimes blocked. Then the framer will measure and cut a piece of acid-free foam board/foam core that fits inside the frame. Using pins, the fabric is stretched over and around the edges of the
Linen: Threads are uneven in width, but often have very high counts (e.g. 32 count). Similarly to evenweave, they are designed to be stitched by going two holes over and two holes up.
Loop start: The easiest way to secure threads without knots on the back, best to be used for a two-strand project. You cannot use a loop start to stitch with an odd number of threads. To use the loop start: Cut one strand double the length you wish to use, fold in half and thread the two ends into the needle. Go up into the fabric where you wish to start stitching, leaving a few inches of the loop end. Bring the needle back down and pass the needle through the loop end left on the back of the fabric. Pull to fully tighten and go about the rest of the regular stitching.
LNS: Local Needlework Shop (ie. small businesses). The cross-stitch equivalent of a mom and pop shop. Not a chain store. Most stitchers find it good to support their LNS and these shops tend to have excellent, personal customer service but typically their pricing will be a bit more expensive than a large chain store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.
Long-stitch: The long stitch is one of the most fundamental stitches in embroidery. It allows you to cover large areas, fill in spaces and shade your work. Commonly this will be used with a back-stitch when you need to cover a little bit more space, but the fabric doesn’t allow you to make a full backstitch.
Lugana: A variety of evenweave fabric. Most commonly comes in 28 and 32-count. Known for being soft and for taking dyes (if you are buying coloured fabric or dying your own) in beautiful mottled shades.
Needles: There are lots of different sizes and styles of needles. Tapestry needles are blunt and have a large eye, making it easier to thread them. These are typically used for cross-stitching. The higher the number, the smaller the needle. What size you need will depend on the count of your cloth. If you’re doing beading work, you’ll need a beading needle.
ORTs: “Old ragged threads”; the remnant pieces of floss that are either too short or damaged for future stitching use. Some stitchers save these colorful pieces in jars or other containers to repurpose in some way later or just to have them on display.
Q-Snap: A plastic frame used by stitchers to hold their fabric taut while they stitch, as an alternative to the traditional embroidery hoop. Q-Snaps are easy to assemble and unlike hoops, do not usually mark or crease the fabric. They are fairly affordable and come in a variety of sizes.
Railroading: A technique which keeps your stitches laying flat and threads from twisting as you stitch. This is a technique that is best explained with photos.
SAL: SAL Stands for “Stitch-A-Long”. Sometimes sewing circles will make the same project, and often times on the internet major stitching websites will host a stitch-a-long where they give you the floss colors and size fabric you need, and will release the pattern to be completed in chunks.
Sampler: A sampler is a piece of embroidery produced as a demonstration or test of skill in needlework. It often includes the alphabet, figures, motifs, decorative borders and sometimes the name of the person who embroidered it and the date.
Scroll-Frame: Used like a hoop or Q-Snap this keeps your fabric stretched, making holes easier to see and allows for a more even stitching.
Skein: Loosely coiled thread, commonly how you will buy your thread in the store. Looks like this.
Stamped Cross Stitch: A pattern that is stamped directly onto the fabric. Usually stamped onto cotton to make things such as bibs, blankets, quilts, towels, table runners etc. You stitch over the printed pattern and upon washing the printed pattern will fade away.
Stash: Many avid stitchers hoard/collect large supplies of floss, fabric, charts and other items over the years. Collectively these items are referred to as one’s “stash.”
UFO: UnFinished Object (i.e. a stitching project that is started but never finished).
Waste Canvas: A stiff type of cloth that you can use to stitch onto fabric (e.g. t-shirts), then remove afterwards. There are ones that dissolve in water, and those that you have to pull out manually (tweezers help).
WIP: Work-in-Progress (i.e. a stitching project that you are currently working on but that is not yet complete).