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How to Cross Stitch for Beginners

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to cross stitch, but don’t know where to start, this post is for you. Cross stitching is really a very easy craft, and is the perfect thing to keep your hands busy while watching a show or waiting around at soccer practice. I’ve been cross stitching since I was a little girl and will walk you through every step to get you started.

Easter cross stitch pattern

Watch the Video Tutorial

I’ve recorded all of these instructions in a video tutorial as well as written them up. Watch the video below. (If you are using an ad blocker, you may need to disable it to see the video.)

How to Cross Stitch

Step 1: Gather Supplies for Cross Stitch

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Cross Stitch Supplies:

  • fabric – Use Aida cloth for beginners or another evenweave fabric if you are more advanced
  • embroidery floss – Color codes should be listed on your pattern. Usually DMC and/or Anchor brand are used. If you think you’ll need more than one of a single color, buy them all at the same time. That way you don’t have to deal with differences in color from different dye lots.
  • cross stitch needles – Get a couple in case you lose one.
  • embroidery scissors
  • embroidery hoop or frame
  • cross stitch pattern – I used this one made by Tiny Modernist.
cross stitch supplies

Step 2: Prepare the Fabric

What is the best fabric for cross stitch?

Cross stitch is best done on evenweave fabrics. Meaning any fabric that is evenly woven and has the same number of threads going in each direction. Aida cloth is the most popular fabric used for cross stitch since it has evenly spaced holes that make it easy to count out and make the X’s for the design. Zweigart and Wichelt brands make really fabric for cross stitch.

What count Aida cloth should you use for cross stitch?

The count on Aida cloth refers to the number of holes per inch in any one direction. The smaller the number, the bigger your design will be when finished. 14 count Aida is the most commonly used Aida cloth.

How do you prepare fabric for cross stitch?

Since evenweave fabric frays very easily, it’s best to stop it by sewing the edges with a serger or zig-zag stitch on a regular sewing machine. Alternately, you can use long pieces of masking tape and fold them over the edges.

Step 3: Find the Middle of the Fabric

It’s important that you start a cross stitch pattern by marking the middle of your fabric. That way you know where to start stitching, and you are sure to have enough fabric to make the entire design.

To find the middle, fold the fabric in half one way and then fold it in half the other way. Mark the spot in the middle, where both folds cross, by sticking a pin through it.

how to find the middle of your cross stitch fabric

Step 4: Put the Fabric in a Hoop

Use an embroidery hoop or frame to hold your fabric. Keep the needle you used to mark your center inserted while doing this part. Take the fabric out of the hoop when you are done stitching for the day so you don’t make permanent creases in the fabric.

How to put Aida Cloth in an Embroidery Hoop

  1. Loosen the screw and separate the two piece of the embroidery hoop.
  2. Put the inner circle of the embroidery hoop under the fabric, and the outer circle on top.
  3. Tighten the top screw so you can just barely push the top circle over the inner circle. Your fabric should be tight, but make sure the squares created by the holes are not distorted.
  4. Tighten the top screw by hand as much as you can.
how to use an embroidery hoop for cross stitch
how to cross stitch using an embroidery hoop

Step 5: Thread the Needle

Use a cross stitch or tapestry needle. The end is blunt so the needle goes easily through the holes in the fabric instead of stabbing through somewhere else. Also a plus if you are prone to stabbing yourself while stitching!

  1. Cut a piece of thread about the length from your finger tips to your elbow.
  2. Separate out the number of threads you will use for stitching. Embroidery floss is a large thread made up of six smaller threads. You pull out one or two of those strands to stitch with. Your pattern should tell you how many, but for cross stitch, the number is usually two.
  3. Push one end of the thread through the eye of a cross stitch or tapestry needle and pull it through about four inches. If you have difficulty threading the needle, it helps to wet the end of your thread or use a needle threader.
separate embroidery floss to use two strands for cross stitch
thread a needle for cross stitch

Step 6: Learn to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern

Cross stitch patterns are a grid made up of different-colored squares with symbols. Each square represents one cross stitch. Four holes in your Aida cloth are the four corners of each square.

  1. Find the center of your pattern, just like you found the center of your fabric. Start stitching around there and work your way out.
  2. Match the symbol with on the grid with the chart in the pattern instructions to find the color thread you need.
How to read a cross stitch pattern.

So you can see here, the blue arrow symbol uses a cross stitch, in DMC 807. We see below the chart that all cross stitches are done using two strands of embroidery floss.

How to read a cross-stitch chart.

Step 7: Learn to Cross Stitch

Making a Single Cross Stitch

Usually stitches will be done in groups or rows, but sometimes, you need to do a single stitch.

  1. Bring the needle up at the bottom left corner. Leave a tail an inch or two long on the back.
  2. Bring the needle down at the top right corner.
  3. Bring the needle up at the bottom right corner, white stitching over the tail on the back to secure the thread.
  4. Bring the needle down at the top left corner.
How to cross stitch

Making a Row of Cross Stitches

When you have rows of the same color, it is most efficient to stitch them in rows from left to right, top to bottom.

  1. Bring the needle up at the bottom left corner. Leave a tail an inch or two long on the back.
  2. Bring the needle down at the top right corner.
  3. Bring the needle up at the bottom right corner, while stitching over the tail on the back to secure the thread.
  4. Bring the needle down at the top right corner of the next X.
  5. Bring the needle up at the bottom right corner of that square, while stitching over the tail again.
  6. Continue making the first half of the X shapes until you reach the end of the row, stitching over the tail of the thread two or three times.
  7. When you get to the last X, bring the needle up at the bottom right corner and down at the top left corner. Continue until all X’s are finished in that row.
How to cross stitch in rows.

Starting a New Row

You can start a new row just like the one before. Work from left to right, when you can. Sometimes it won’t make sense to do that, so it’s not a hard rule. Just make sure that the part of the X that goes from bottom left to top right is always under the one that goes from bottom right to top left.

How to start a new row in cross stitch.

Starting in a New Section

Make sure you don’t skip around to different parts of the pattern, leaving a large trail of thread on the back. Doing so will waste thread, and you also risk being able to see the thread through the fabric on the front. It’s best to just finish off that thread and start another in the new spot.

Step 8: Finishing Thread for Cross Stitch

To finish off a piece of thread, secure it by running your needle under three stitches on the back of your work. Snip off the excess thread.

How to finish thread for a cross stitch.

Cross Stitch FAQ

Is cross stitch easy for beginners?

Yes, cross stitch is very easy for beginners to learn. Even children can learn how to cross stitch successfully.

What do I need to start cross stitching?

All you need to start cross stitching is a pattern, fabric, embroidery floss, a needle, and an embroidery hoop.

What is the best cross stitch fabric for beginners?

The best cross stitch fabric for beginners is Aida cloth. It has a grid of holes that make it easy to count out your stitches and stick a needle through.

Where is the easiest point to start a cross stitch?

The easiest point to start a cross stitch is in the middle. That way you don’t miscount and run out of fabric.

Do you cross stitch with one strand or two?

Cross stitch is generally done with two strands but can be done with more or less depending on the desired aesthetic. Most patterns will tell you how many strands to use.

You might also enjoy these 25+ Modern Cross-Stitch Kits! And when you’re done cross-stitching learn Hand Embroidery for Beginners.

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Sunday 7th of April 2024

Thank you so much for providing us with wonderful information about cross stitch.

Alex Laurens

Sunday 24th of March 2024

My mum was a great cross stitcher and she left me some gorgeous pieces. I would like to follow in her footsteps.


Wednesday 2nd of August 2023



Saturday 20th of May 2023

Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have been wanting to learn but couldn't seem to find an easy step by step directions :) I appreciate it ... thank you :)

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