So You Want to Try Cross-Stitch

I’ve gotten a couple of comments and emails from blog readers lately that have asked for thought or suggestions for trying cross-stitch.  They’ve asked how to get started.  I thought I’d do a post here as there are likely others of you wondering where to start if you also are interested.

So the first thing you need is a chart. If you’re new to cross-stitch and you don’t know if you are going to like cross-stitch, I suggest finding a free chart.  Here is one that is really cute.

It is a freebie from Lila’s Studios.  You can find it HERE.  She has many nice designs.

This is a cute free chart to make this drum from Whilst Iris Naps.  You can find the free chart on THIS PAGE.

All is Calm - Christmas 2020 Free Chart
While you’re there check out some of her other wonderful samplers.

Priscilla and Chelsea have a few free charts also.  This is their Chicken Joy.  You can find…
that free chart HERE.  They have tons of designs in their Etsy shop Stitching with the Housewives.

After you have a chart, you will need floss.  I suggest if you are new to start with DMC floss.  You can get this at Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, or even some Walmarts.

There are many companies that make floss.  DMC is considered to be a more “constant” floss.  There is one color through the whole skein.  The floss is colorfast.  Fancy floss from Classic Colorworks, Weeks Dye Works, and Gentle Arts are variegated.  Some have slight variegation.  Others have wider variegation.  These colors are always constant.  Dye lots on these changes…that’s why I suggest starting with DMC to prevent frustration.

You also need fabric.  If you have never cross-stitched, I suggest starting on Aida cloth.  You can pick up a piece when you buy your floss.

Aida has holes that are really easy to see.  Your needle comes 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 even weave.  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 I stitch on linen.  You’ll have to decide what you’d want to try for a first project.

Now there is something else out there called even weave.  That means that the threads are “even in thickness”.  It is the next level up from aida on ease 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 I stitched on Aida.  Now I stitch on linen.

If you really like the look of linen and prefer it, don’t be afraid to try it.  Just try it on a large count like 28 count.

Cross-stitch fabric is silly in that the bigger the number, the smaller it is.  Here is a cross-stitch gauge.  You can see that there are 28 threads in one inch of fabric for 28 count.  You can see that there are 40 threads in one inch of 40 count.  This all means if you use linen with a bigger number, the design will take up a smaller amount of space.  You can find the gauge HERE on Amazon.

Whatever you do, start on Aida or 28 count linen.  Aida is easiest with less counting so that’s why I suggest Aida for beginners.

Some people stitch with their fabric in a hoop similar to how you might if you doing embroidery.  My favorite is a Morgan no-slip hoop HERE.

Hobby Lobby and similar stores also have hoops.  They are fine if you’re starting out but this is much nicer and works better.

Some people stitch with no hoop and that’s called “stitching in hand”.  If you want to give that a try, I suggest watching a Youtube video.

The next thing you need to think about is needles.  There are special cross stitch needles that have a dull tip.  You don’t want a sharp point like you would for embroidery or sewing on a button.

Lots of cross stitchers have their own preferences.  I prefer Sullivan’s Ball Tips.  Amazon has them HERE.

Now you are ready to start…
I think you could give cross-stitch a try if you are willing to invest about $25 if you are okay with trying a free pattern.

When stitching, you don’t use all of the threads in a piece of floss.  A general rule of thumb is:
Two threads for Aida, 28, 30, and 32 count.
One thread for 36 and 40 count.

Everyone has their own preference on this too, but if you’re starting, that’s probably a good place to start.

As for the actual stitching, I’m going to suggest heading over to Youtube and finding a How to Cross stitch video.  There are tons of them there.  I like this one HERE.

Remember to give yourself some grace.  The first few projects you do will have errors…along the way, you will learn lots.  I suggest keeping watching videos.  I suggest watching floss tube videos on Youtube.  Cross-stitch is a great community of people.

Down the road, you might want to buy magnifiers.  There are many styles and types.  Lots of people use the reader glasses you can buy that aren’t prescription.  Lots of people buy a good lamp.  Lots of people but chart holders and floss holders and fancy scissors, but I suggest waiting on the majority of all of that until you try it and find out that you like cross-stitch.

So…I hope that helps for any of you who are thinking of trying cross-stitch.  I sure am glad I went back to it!!  On the nights that I don’t get to stitch for a bit, I’m sad.  It’s so therapeutic.

I do have another “Ask Jo” coming up on more cross-stitch questions.  It’s been a hot topic when it comes to questions.  So if you asked something and I didn’t answer, watch for the next edition of “Ask Jo”.

17 thoughts on “So You Want to Try Cross-Stitch”

  1. Honestly, for someone who wants to try it, I recommend buying a small kit. It will contain everything you need. If you buy a bunch of floss skeins and you don’t enjoy it, now you have paid for floss you won’t use.

    I too love linen but Aida is a great learning tool as it’s easy to see where you’re supposed to go for the X.

    Food for thought.

    1. Jackie Trembley

      Buying a kit is a great idea for a beginner. Everything you need is included. You can find small kits at Hobby Lobby for under $10.

  2. You did a great job summarizing cross stitch. Such a kind and encouraging thing for you to do. I need to get a project done as it is technically a DD project for this month….

  3. I agree with Elle. Purchase a small kit like at Hobby Lobby. Many thrift stores would likely have one too. I would also suggest looping for your hoop at a thrift store also. I only use Aida when I was doing cross stitch, but now working on linen (I think) which I purchased at a thrift store. I was doing okay until I got to lettering. My niece showed me how to do it, but finding it hard to count.

  4. I remember doing cross stitch on gingham fabric in Jr hi home ec. We made aprons. Many used iron on patterns for cross stitch. I was a home ec drop out.

  5. When I started cross stitch, I found a small needle arts shop. They had everything! I purchased a small kit. It included everything but a hoop, and the shop had a nice selection. I sewed many kits, while my husband was in the hospital. As my skill improved, I moved on to other projects. If you are interested, a small kit is an easy way to start. You will love cross stitch.

  6. Judith Fairchild

    It’s interesting but centering and counting threads I don’t think I can do it. Printed cross stitch yes I have a project that way I do admire the cross stitch work yo do. Of I was a whole lot younger then I would try it.

  7. Jo, Great summary. I agree with the others, a kit may be better route to go for a beginner. I did cross-stitching in the early 90’s, and after seeing all your really nice finishes , I may have to give it a go again.

  8. I have a cross stitch piece I have no interest in completing. It is the Lori Holt’s Quilter’s Cottage.
    If anyone would like to finish it I’d be glad to send it on. Minus the thread as I mixed it up into my stash.
    I have done 2/3 of it.

  9. I like to keep my piece on a scroll frame that way i don’t get the lumps from a hoop and can leave it mounted all of the time. I do not like the scroll frames that use compression to hold the scroll in place as they loosen up over time. The ones with screws directly in the dowels are the way to go.

    For years i did cross stitch on the train as i commuted to work, holding the scroll frame in front of me and the chart on my lap.

  10. I did a lot of cross stitch in the 80’s and would like to do it again, but it now makes my fingers hurt! Has anyone tried gloves or other things to address this problem? Has it helped?

  11. I haven’t done crossstitch for a long time, but I really enjoyed it. I used small magnetic board with a rectangular magnet to keep track of where I was.

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