Cross Stitch Questions Answered

I’ve gotten tons of questions for blog readers about cross stitch.  Seriously, I think cross stitch is the new and upcoming craft that people are getting into.  So many of you cross stitched in the past and since have given it up for quilting.  If you’re like me, you still love quilting, but have enough quilts on hand to cover a small tribe so at some point you wonder if you really want to keep making so many of them.  So, maybe spending some time on cross stitch might give you a little break from quilting and keep both hobbies alive.

So I thought I would give you a little overview on where I was in cross stitch back in the early 90s to where I am today…how I made the transition and what I recommend.

I started counted cross stitch when I was in highschool.  I did a lot of embroidery and candlewicking…I made a piece like this…

Vintage White Candlewick Embroidery God Bless Our Home Framed ...I loved doing it and it was actually my project for the county fair.

After college and kids…I had three kids under three, I moved on to cross stitching.  The kids would play in the living and I would stitch.  It was portable, didn’t take a lot of room and was easy to quickly put away.  I worked for a long time on making the long Sunbonnet Sue piece that is in the middle this pamphlet.

Cross Stitch Patterns, Leisure Arts Leaflet #867, Sunbonnet Babies ...
I don’t think I ever finished it but know I was more than halfway done.  It’s long gone now.

I was also in love with Paula Vaughan.  All of her cross stitch had quilts in it.  They were beautiful.  I stitched this one….

Pink ribbon paula Vaughan's counted cross stitch kit | Etsy
Again, it is long gone.

Cross stitch of the 90s had lots of backstitching.  That’s the stitches that border the actual things.  For example, see the hat in the photo above?  Look at the ribbon coming off the hat.  You can see that it is outlined.  All of that is backstitching.  Many cross stitchers aren’t fond of back stitching.  Also classic 90s cross stitch had half and quarter stitches.  Back stitching and the half stitches aren’t popular in current cross stitch.  Phew…that’s a relief, right?

The other thing cross stitch of the 90s was known for…
DMC floss
Aida cloth for stitching

What got me back into cross stitching???  This…
B51 Gratitude Turns What We Have into Enough Inspiration Boxer
I was in love.  I wanted to make it.  I was ready to give cross stitch another shot.  The problem for me.  Where to find it.

Back in my day, I got my cross stitch stuff at the Ben Franklin in Waseca Minnesota….or a similar store in Owatonna.  To my knowledge, I never knew about a cross stitch shop.  Let me tell you, things have changed.

After some hunting I found out that there was a shop in Osage, Iowa called  The Stitchery Nook.  Kelli and I made the trip.

Happily they had the kit and I almost didn’t buy it.  There wasn’t Aida cloth in the kit, there was linen.  I was at a big cross road.  I wanted the exact look and to get that, I had to do linen.  I decided to take the plunge and give it a try.  For those of you that don’t know, here is the difference between linen, evenweave and aida.

Aida has hole that are really easy to see.  Your needle come up one hole and goes in the hole kitty-corner…..That’s it on the left.  On the right is how to stitch on linen or evenweave.  There, you go over two threads….seen on the right.

Aida, linen or evenweave? Differences and count / CloudsFactory
Aida is MUCH easier.  It’s straightforward….but I like the look of linen and for me, it was worth giving it a try.

Now there is something else out there called evenweave.  That means that he threads are “even in thickness”.  It is the next level up from aida on easy of stitching.

Cross stitching on linen fabric
Now, there is also straight up linen.  That is in the picture on the far right.  The thread of the weft and warp are not uniform.  Often there will be a fat thread in there making it harder to uniformly work as you stitch.

Embroidery fabric - which one do you need for different techniques?

Back in the 90s, all I knew about was Aida so making the jump was going to be a challenge…but it was a challenge I wanted to take.

The ladies at The Stitchery Nook were super helpful and talked to me about lights and magnifiers.  I felt hopeful.  I didn’t know how much money I wanted to put into this one project as at the time, I didn’t know that I was diving back into cross stitch but I wanted to give it a real try and in order to that, I thought I would need a light.  So still feeling hopeful, Kelli and I ended up deciding on this light for me.   Here is the LINK.


I went home and struggled for a bit but by the time I was done with the Gratitude project, I as confident I could cross stitch.  I wasn’t fast, but I was doing it.  I think the light and magnifier really helped.

Then I learned how expensive framing was.  OH MY WORD!!  That’s about the time that a blog reader suggested I buy thrift store frames and have Kramer cut them down.  We did that!!

I went on to love the designer of the first “Gratitude” piece I stitched.  That designer is Lizzie Kate.  That designer retired and I bought several of her patterns as shops cleared them up on deep discounts.  Her patterns are a little cheesy and folksy but nice.  Many are seasonal and can be changed out from season to season or month to month.

From there I started liking Little House Needleworks.  I stitched these…still haven’t fully finished them…

FULL BUNDLE 2013 Sheep Virtues cross stitch and 50 similar items

These were my therapy while Kramer was sick and after he passed.

I like a lot of her designs.  She does a lot of series.  I laugh hilariously at how much trouble I had when I stitched the first one, to how little trouble I had finishing the last one.  Each of them has a border and getting them at matchup is a real issue.  It took me LOTS of ripped out stitches to do the first one.

My goal isn’t to have the house plastered with cross stitch pieces.  My goal is to make projects that are meaningful to me regardless of how long they take or even the size.

Before long, I plan on starting a sampler.  I bought stuff for two and think I’ll stitch this one first….

TERESA KOGUT Newcastle Bouquet Creative Whims image 0
That doesn’t mean I won’t keep stitching on some small projects too…I just want to do a masterpiece project and I think this one qualifies.  It will be slow going.  It’s on 40 count linen.

For those of you who don’t know about cross stitch, linen comes in different “thread counts”.  That means how many threads are woven in an inch.  28 count is common.  That means for every inch there are 28 threads.  30 and 32 count are popular too.  40 count is a more challenging.  That means there are 40 threads woven across every inch of fabric.  When a person makes a stitch, they go over 2 of those threads.  That means at 28 count, there are 14 stitches in an inch.  At 40 count, there are 20 stitches in one inch.  That is a big difference.

If you are starting out, I recommend aida or 28 count linen.  They are the same. sized.

As I’ve stitched, I’ve learned what I like and what I don’t like.  If any of you are jumping into cross stitch you will likely do the same.  My preference has gotten to be Picture This Plus as far as linen goes.  I like it soft…some people don’t like it because it’s soft.

If you’re a cross stitcher from the 90s you likely stitched in a hoop.  Hoops have changed for the better.  There are great non-slip hoops that are so much nicer.  They have them at Hobby Lobby and aren’t expensive.

Some people don’t use a hoop -that is called “stitching in hand”.   Some have a setup like this…

There are models that stand on the floor too.

Some people use a Q-Snap.


I prefer a hoop.  I have cheap no-slip ones from Hobby Lobby.  The point I’m trying to make in telling you all of this is that if one thing doesn’t work for you, try something else if you are really determined to try cross stitching.

I’ve used these needles from Amazon….I’ve since went on to using these Sullivan’s Ball-Tip Needle.


They are more expensive but I don’t care…I like them much better.  Make sure that you use some type of needle that is labeled “cross stitch”.  The points and blunt and don’t catch in the fabric.

Thread has changed too…Before it was mostly DMC and Anchor.  Now there are LOTS of floss companies.  Some of the biggest are Weeks Dye Works, Classic Colorworks and Gentle Arts.  These are all hand dyed flosses.  They are expensive.  A pack of DMC can be bought for 50 cents…the hand dyed are $2.50 a pack.  That’s a big difference.

Charts typically come with the option to use either DMC or the hand dyed sometimes known as “fancy floss”.  Personally, I like fancy floss for large areas.  For example if you were stitching a big barn, the fancy floss variegates the color from darker red to lighter- looking like an actual barn.  I think it makes the stitching softer looking and more realistic.  So if I’m doing a piece I often use a mixture of each…I’ll use cheaper DMC in small areas and the expensive fancy floss in larger areas.

As far as stitching goes….I’ve learned to “do the sewing method”.  You can watch this video to learn more about that.

When I first started I did this method where the stitcher does the first slant of the “x” all the way across and then comes back and does the second slant.

DIY | cross-stitch table numbers - Something Turquoise
I do the sewing method now like the video shows and like my stitches MUCH better.  Try both and see what you think.

Here are some shops online that I recommend
Needlecase Goodies on Etsy
Nancy owns this shop.  She is local to me and has fast reasonable shipping.

Fat Quarter Shop
Yep the same Fat Quarter Shop you buy fabric at, now has cross stitch.

123 Stitch
I don’t like them as well as other places but they sometimes have stuff if I can’t find it at the the other two places.

There are others but this is who I have the most experience with.  Of course, always type “cross stitch shop” into google and see if you can find one close to you.

If you are looking for a cross stitch blog, check out Priscilla.

If you are looking for someone to inspire you on Youtube check out these:
Priscilla and Chelsea
Java Girl Stitches
Teresa Kogut
Beth Twist

There are TONS of other ones…just type “flosstube” into the search bar on youtube.  I’ve just listed my favorites.

Here are some of the reasons why I think cross stitch is become so popular:
-It’s a cheap craft to try.  I think for $25 you could buy a hoop, needle, cloth, thread and a chart….
-It’s portable.  I did a lot of stitching in the hospital with Kramer.
-There are so many options.  There are things like I stitch, to primitive to even this chart on Etsy.

Wash Your Hands Cross Stitch Pattern  Microbe Cross Stitch image 0
You can stitch things to hand, to Christmas stockings, to pincushions….there are many options.

-It’s something you can do while you watch television.  I’ve even cross stitched while the kids are home while we visit.

-It doesn’t take up a lot of space.  You don’t need “an area” to keep your supplies.  You might want a ziplock bag but that’s about all you need.  Of course that’s only if you can control the urge not to buy everything.

There’s a lot more about cross stitch but I think this is enough to give you a starting point to jump in at.  If I were to start, I’d buy a little project like this…

Bee in My Bonnet Stitch Cards Set B<BR>Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet with It's Sew Emma SKU# ISE-409
These are Lori Holt’s Stitch cards.  Each is an individual design.  They aren’t big…so you don’t need much cloth.  It’s something that you’ll finish fairly quickly.  There isn’t a lot of color changing or thread buying.   The Fat Quarter Shop has them HERE.

Let me know if I enabled any of you or if you have more questions….Sorry, but I’ve so enjoyed cross stitching and think some of you might too.

One last thing…If something doesn’t work for you, try a different way.  If you don’t like the needles, try a different brand.  If you can see, get a magnifier or better light.  If there’s a will, seriously, there really is a way.

26 thoughts on “Cross Stitch Questions Answered

  1. JACKIE GOOSEN

    I was watching Fibertalk and Vonna suggested Piecemakers needles. I used one for the first time yesterday and LOVE them and they are inexpensive. I have never considered the needle before when stitching, I was surprised how these needles just glided through the fabric and were nice to hold. My daughter and I sat for a couple of hours yesterday, stitched and watched a movie. Great way to spend the day!

  2. Roxanne

    So much I didn’t know. I loved hearing that partial stitches and back stitching are not the thing that they were back in the day! I’m still not so sure about the expensive fancy flosses. My cousin, a careful stitcher, somehow accidentally got water on a project she was working on and it was ruined because the dyes weren’t color fast. That’s a scary thought.

  3. Roxanne

    Jo, I love that you chose Newcastle Bouquet. Such gorgeous design and color. Look forward to seeing your progress.

  4. Donna

    I’ve been cross stitching for nearly 35 years, with some quilting on the side.
    I really do like the fact that’s it’s so portable too. I have my little metal lunch box that I take with me that holds my latest small project. I like the metal because the needle minders stick right to it on the inside.
    Living in an RV, I don’t have much room but I do have a little corner for monthly smalls and I’m working on those now.
    Love and prayers

  5. Carla B..

    Perfect timing for me. We just finished, like last night, giving our bathroom a face lift including mush needed new flooring. New paint job with nice soothing colors. I have a great old fashioned image that I have saved for decades with the 50’s feeling. A cute little girl bending over a wash tub with the word Soap on the side. I want to use this for my piece as I have my washer and dryer in there. It has been decades since I did cross stitch and this will be a perfect refresher for me. I saved the link to this page in my notes for reference. Last night I started a cute 4 patch quilt to use to line a basket that I keep on the folding counter next to the washer/dryer for which ever cat gets there first. It now has an old quilt but this will go so nice with the new fresh look in the room. Almost finished piecing and then on to quilting. It is a good newborn baby size as I want some of it to ‘peak’ over the sides of the basket.

    Big gigantic thanks for all of the work to put this information together!!!

  6. Karen Stewart

    When I saw your Gratitude cross stitch, maybe a year ago, I knew I had to do it. Like you, I hadn’t cross stitched since the 90’s. I had never stitched on linen. I stitched it this past winter and loved the process! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Deborah Stokes

    Thanks for all the info. You got me very interested when you showed all the finishing technics other than plain framing. Now I’ll have to check out needles and fancy floss!

  8. Kathie Castricano

    This is a great blog post!! I needed a handwork travel project in January and couldn’t find one that worked. So, I pulled out the tote box of abandoned cross stitch that I worked on from 1980 to 2000 and finished one. My eyesight has changed in the last 20 years so I picked up an Aida cloth project first. Now I’m working a Santa chart that I’ve always wanted to do and enjoying it immensely. And, I’m at the point of doing the outline back stitching. This will be my “vintage” piece. Going forward I’m going to try the Monaco cloth and some fancy floss!

  9. Tonia

    I’ve been stitching for a long time it’s therapy l have alot of patterns l have Paula Vaughn books if you are interested

  10. JustGail

    I became aware of cross stitch in the 80s when a co-worker got into it. The big thing I remember is so many sacharine sweet cutsie themes and that ghastly combination of country blue and country rose that was everywhere. I just could not get interested. Then I discovered samplers (not just cross stitch either) and …. let’s just say I have enough patterns for a couple lifetimes.
    Thanks for the recommendations for some good shops!

  11. Itala

    Thank you for bringing back beautiful memories. Like you, I have not stitched since the 90’s. Now my daughter’s pregnant & This’ll be a great opportunity to start stitching again! although my eyesight has changed In 20+ yrs, all the info in your article will help. Thank you, stay safe & blessings.

  12. Judith Fairchild

    Those ball point needles will be a blessing in any hand stitching. Thank you for recomending them. I have tried cross-stitching have never gotten finished with a project. The one I had gotten interested in and almost done was thrown out while I was away from home. I recomend taking things with you when you live with someone else.

  13. Mur

    I’ve crossstitched off and on for years and always had the same problem as JustGail, too many saccharine sweet cutsie themes. I went to nature patterns, wild animals, horses, etc. Nowadays though, for people a little crazy like me, there are a lot of new patterns on Etsy based on, for example my latest project, H.P. Lovecraft’s works. I’m doing a Cthulhu pattern that says, “May Cthulhu devour this house last’ Being a horror fan in general and a Lovecraft fan in particular, I’m loving the infusion of creepy cute that is available now! :) So if you’re looking for non-typical patterns, definitely check Etsy!

  14. Kimberly Bowman

    My mom loves following you and I’ve heard about you a lot! She forwarded me this because I just tried linen for the first time too! At first I was really slow bit now I’m getting the hang of it! The “rules” of cross-stitch have changed so much since I started stitching 20 years ago as a kid. I just bought my first q snap frame last month and I really like it! Constantly putting the frame back on and having to retighten my hoop frame was a pain. Now I want to try stitching in hand! I have a big project I’ve been working on for nine years as life permits. But even once I finish all the X’s I have to go back and do all the back stitch. So I am really glad that back stitch is more out of style these days. thank you for this comprehensive blog and tips and ideas! We love following you!

  15. Pam B

    I have noticed many quilters are now putting embroidery into their quilts which is very beautiful. I was wondering if the floss is colorfast or will it bleed when the Quilt is washed?

  16. Nancy Clark

    If you visit CarolynManningDesigns.com you can blend you love of quilting with your love of cross stitching using many of her incredible designs. She is a wonderful designer that I highly recommend. She does other designs as well. Please check her website.

  17. Beth Wall

    My sister (who is in heaven) got me started in the 80’s….I love Stoney Creek magazine’s and small projects…I enjoy doing projects for others….Crosstitch books are hard to find….There is a shop in Hendersonville NC called Sandy’s that is absolutely wonderful..She has about 4 or 5 rooms full of charts, kitsch and threads….

  18. Phyllis

    One true constant in my life is that I have cross stitched almost every day for the past 25 years. I find it calming, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I actually enjoy backstitching. I think it makes a design look so much better. I like elaborate designs with beads and embellishments. I really like 123stitch.com. Most of the time they have everything I want. If they don’t, I can usually search and find it elsewhere.

  19. Toni Tortorici

    Hello Jo,so glad I found you,I’m hoping you could help me. I’ve been doing crossstitch over 40 years & love
    giving them to family & special friends. Recenty our daughter & her husband celebrated their 25th anniversary. I want to duplicate the bible verse that was on the back of their mass program. It was done in beautiful calligraphy with a single rose bud. Could you recommend someone who could make a custom crossstitch pattern for me if I send them a picture? It is 90% text with rose bud & leaves. I appreciate your help. Thank you,Toni

  20. Diane Cannon

    Oh my–we are twins in our stitching–
    that first one you showed of candlewicking–I did that one plus I sold for that company and we did home parties–that one I do not have anymore–But I have also cross stitched the Paula Vaughan piece and still have that one–believe I did it also in the 90’s–though I have been cross stitching much longer–I also have done the Little house series and twice I put them into a wall hanging–and once into the little pillows–but did not like them–so now they are just finished pieces in a baggie awaiting for me to decide just how to finish them!!! I also started with just the aida cloth–but now I only work on 28 count–uneven is my favorite–and I have some of the more expensive threads like the Gentle arts and some week’s dye worth—my embroidery threads are Cosmos threads from Japan–( 8-9 years ago I was able to purchase the whole 435 colors of the Cosmos thread at a really good price–and I love it so much better than DMC that I keep using it now)
    Somehow I missed that Sunbonnet sue chart or I am sure I would of done it back then–I have a couple charts out now–as I am between projects-need to get a new one going–I often cross stitch in the morning after breakfast and before I get into quilting–
    do take care–and thanks for sharing the info on cross stitching–
    I do have a kinda challenge over on my blogsite–for everyone to do a story about your hairdresser-
    whether now or past stories for April 30th
    luv, di

  21. Jo Post author

    I know there is a cross stitch app that allows you to create your own designs. I dont’ know the name of it.

  22. Jo Post author

    It is my understanding that DMC floss is colorfast. The others I don’t believe are.

  23. Mary in Orlando, FL

    I drafted a pattern of a logo decal of Mickey Mouse holding a lightening bolt. I enlarged it on my printer to the size I wanted. Then I printed it on graph paper and put in the x’s and half stitches. It hung in his office at Disney World until he retired in 1990 and many coworkers in the Central Energy Dept. wanted one. They changed their mind when he said it would cost $250.

  24. DebMac

    I also have been cross stitching for years but have waxed and waned depending on time and eyesight. A few things I would add are:
    DMC floss is supposed to be colorfast and usually is. Occasionally, one will run but I never have had it happen to me. I always wash a DMC project when I am finished with it.
    Many of the “fancy” (overdyed) flosses are now supposed to be colorfast. I still treat them as if they are not. I do not wash a finished project. Dye lots are terribly inconsistant.
    I enjoy backstitching. For me, that was when the piece came to life. However, I have seen vintage charts done without the backstitch and it can be successfully done. Not all charts but some.
    Facebook has a wonderful group; Stitching Road Trip. This site has reviews and pictures of shops. They also have a data base in the “Files” that lists cross stitch shops in the USA and world wide. Updated frequently. Wonderful for traveling. Highly recommend this page.
    There are cross stitch resale pages on Facebook. Beware!
    I spread my cross stitch $$$ around. 123 has good prices but I love brick and mortar shops for the service. And I get to pet the fabric.
    I use the “English” (stab) method vs the “Danish” (sewing) method. Takes longer but I feel that it gives much better control for my stitches. My threads don’t twist nearly as much. I love to stitch in hand but almost always use stretcher bars and floor or lap stand if I am using over dyed threads. While a committed member of the “Clean Hands, Clean Stitches Club”, I feel the floss and fabric stay cleaner, nicer and certainly less wrinkled. It is hard to get those wrinkles out of the over dyed fabrics.
    While cross stitch is cheap enough to get into if you use aida, DMC (or the like) floss, needles from the big box store, stitch in hand or with an inexpensive hoop; costs can mount quickly. Jo didn’t even mention stitching with silks. A quilting friend and I were discussion the mounting costs of quilt fabric and she freaked out when I told her the linen I was using was over $100 a yard.
    The older you get, the more important lighting is. And magnification just in case you want to work on 56 count. (Not me, I know my limitations.) I’ve heard if you can’t stitch on one fabric, then try another. Linen, aida, and the evenweaves come in all colors and are over dyed. I stitch on all 3 for a variety of reasons.
    The important thing is to enjoy what you are doing.

  25. Ellen Tully

    I learned to cross stitch as a youngster but took it up again later in life. I became a single parent and had very little money to spend on myself. This was a relatively inexpensive way to continue to be creative. I, too, love the Newcastle Bouquet. It’s on my wish list!

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