Getting started with cross stitch

hands embroidering with title "getting started with cross stitch".

Cross stitch is a relaxing and enjoyable hobby. Once you have chosen your pattern and gathered all your supplies, you are ready to begin.

Find the centre point on your pattern and the centre point on your fabric. This is where you will begin stitching. Beginning in the centre will ensure that your embroidery is aligned properly and you don’t run too close to the edge.

Reading the pattern

Normally cross stitch patterns use a grid. Each of the squares on the grid is marked with a symbol or filled with a colour to indicate what colour that cross stitch will be. There is a legend to show what colours go with what symbols.

The squares of the grid represent the squares on the aida cloth, and the corners of the squares represent the holes on the corners.

It is helpful to have a copy of the pattern that you can write on to mark off stitches as you go, especially with complex designs. It is easy to get mixed up.

Beginning the thread

You cannot leave knots in the back of cross stitch. The holes in the Aida cloth are too big and they will pop out easily. The end of the thread needs to be secured by weaving it into the back of the stitches.

If there are no stitches available to weave the end through (such as when you begin stitching), use a waste knot.

All stitching directions are based on working from left to right. If you are more comfortable working in the other direction, that is also fine.

Just know that if you change directions, the other arm of the “x” will be on top. Avoid changing directions within a project, as it will change the look of the stitches and how the light hits the thread.

single cross stitches

A single cross stitch is made like an “x”.

Bring the thread up in the lower left corner of the square (1). Take it down in the upper right corner (2).

diagram for single cross stitch.

Bring it up in the lower right corner (3). Take it down in the upper left corner (4).

That’s it! The back of the piece will have vertical stitches.

rows of cross stitch

Often in patterns, there are long rows of the same colour stitch. It is not necessary to stitch them individually. It is more efficient to stitch them in rows.

Begin just like doing a single stitch, but when you bring the thread up in the lower right corer of the square, that becomes the lower left corner of the next square.

diagram for row of cross stitch part one.

Stitch as many diagonal stitches across as you need.

Then stitch the other diagonal, moving back along the row from right to left.

diagram for row of cross stitch part 2.

half cross stitch

To add the appearance of curves and smooth edges, sometimes only half of the cross stitch is made.

These are made by stitching part of the diagonal from the middle of the square (piercing the cloth) to a corner and making the other diagonal fully across the square.

diagrams for half cross stitches.

They are different variations, depending on which way the diagonal line needs to go.

embellishment stitches

Sometimes, cross stitch pieces are embellished with other embroidery stitches, most commonly back stitch and French knots. These are stitched in the same way as on surface embroidery, but the stitches are lined up with the holes in the aida cloth.

backstitch with pink thread on white fabric with title.
green french knots on white fabric with title.


Once the stitching is complete, it is ready to be used. The most popular way to finish cross stitch is to frame it.

You can frame it yourself or take it to a professional who specializes in framing stitchery.

Enjoy your piece for many years.

Be sure to #epidastudio when you share your projects on social media!


You might also like …

floss, needle and fabric with title "everything you need for cross stitch".
fabric in embroidery hoop with floss and title "stitch directory".

Elizabeth DeCroos - Epida Studio.

Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.

Scroll to Top