8 Things You Need to Know About Cross-Stitching - "What", "How to" and Tips for Beginners


Cross-Stitching has been around for many years and many people toy with the idea of embarking on this crafting journey but are at a loss as to how to start. What tools do you need? Is there special thread to be used? Isn’t it technically embroidering? What does 11 CT mean? Here, we have listed 8 things you need to know about cross stitching before getting started to ensure success.


  1. Cross-Stitch vs Needle Point vs Embroidering


Many people mix up these three practices. While cross stitch, needle point and embroidery are all related, they each possess some distinct differences. 


Embroidery can be done in two forms, by hand or machine. Machine embroidery is used more professionally to create designs on fabric generated by a computer and requires less time and effort. Embroidery machines are an efficient option for working on items such as tote bags, quilts, t-shirts and jackets if they are made of thick enough fabric. Hand embroidery, on the other hand, is a more detailed process. Hand embroidery is more of an art form that allows you to use a needle and thread to create designs on fabric by hand.




Needle Point is a type of surface embroidery that blankets the top of a fabric. Needle Point consists of a square-by-square design. The most commonly used stitch in needlepoint is known as the tent stitch. A tent stitch is a diagonal stitch that expands at a 45-degree angle. Needlepoint is best for sturdy objects such as pillows, chairs, rugs, and purses.


Cross-Stitch is a type of hand embroidery and a very popular form of counted thread embroidery. The art of cross-stitching has been around for ages, and it is said to be the oldest form of embroidery. It uses specifically X-shaped stitches within a tiled pattern to create an image and can appear less smooth and a little more jagged and boxier. These X shaped stitches are done on fabrics with an even and open weave, fabrics such as linen and Aida, and the fabric could be stretched across a hoop. If using counted cross-stitch, the stitches are counted from the center of the fabric to ensure an even final image. For stamped cross stitch, a pattern is printed on the fabric of choice and the crafter uses this print as a stencil.




  1. What basic tools are needed to cross stitch?


Now you may be wondering what you need to get the ball rolling on your first cross-stitch journey. First, pick your fabric. The best cross-stitching fabric is known as Aida which is 100% cotton. Aida cloth is a great choice for a beginner because it has wide and open weaves that make the holes easy to see.


Now, what thread do you choose? Embroidery thread is commonly referred to as floss in the U.S. and is made from 100% Egyptian cotton. There is also a very wide selection of colors. DMC is one of the most popular brands of embroidery thread. They are very silky and aesthetically appealing. Open the link below for a free downloadable DMC chart:





A hoop for cross-stitching has been mentioned before. There are mainly plastic hoops and wood / bamboo hoops. There is no real difference between these two, it boils down to what is personally preferred. They range in sizes from 4” all the way up to 18”. 7” is a nice flexible size to utilize for beginners.


You can also purchase a complete cross stitch kit, so that you have everything you need – from fabric and thread to needles – to start a wonderful project. This hassle-free choice often turns out more financially advantageous too, for both beginners and experienced stitchers.


  1. What is the difference between counted and stamped cross stitch?


We mentioned these two above. Counted cross stitch is a form of cross stitching in which the stitcher counts the thread on the fabric in each direction such that the stitches have a uniform size and appearance.


Cross stitching can also be done on designs printed on the fabric: known as stamped or pre-printed cross-stitching. In stamped cross stitching, the stitches are simply done over the printed pattern, which could be a much easier choice for beginners or even for advanced stitchers who just want a break from counting the stitches. If you have to put down and pick up your cross-stitch project repeatedly throughout the day because of household tasks for example, have the patterns printed on the fabric could save you a lot of time. If it's your first time using stamped cross stitch kits, this tutorial video might help you get started. 


  1. What does 11 CT and 14 CT mean in Cross-Stitch?


CT stands for Count Fabric which indicates how many stitches you can, more or less, stuff into your piece. Fabric Counts are also noted by adding up the number of squares per inch or threads. This would mean that 11 CT is referencing to fabric with 11 squares-per-inch and 14 CT is referring to fabric with 14 squares-per-inch.


  1. Do you have to use a hoop when cross-stitching?


As mentioned above, a hoop can be used to tighten the fabric, but a hoop is not necessarily required, although generally recommended for beginners. You can flatten and iron your fabric to aid in the hoop-less process.



  1. What are the different stitches used in cross-stitching?


The X shaped cross stitch (full stitch) can be executed partially as half stitch, three-quarter stitch, quarter stitch and backstitch.


The full stitch is made up of two half stitches. The half stitch can be done individually in some cross-stitching projects, and it can also be done to give the pattern a sense of depth. It is also commonly used when outlining designs and can be used in getting specific shapes. The half stitch is also commonly used for making corners and circles.


The quarter stitch is similar to the half stitch, but it is stitched to the Aida fabric square's center. Quarter stitch is useful in making petite cross stitch, and it also gives the design better curves.


The three-quarter stitch is made up of a half stitch and quarter stitch and is useful in creating details to a design. Back stitches are very useful as an outline for a piece of stitching, and it is also used in adding depth and definition to a design.


Railroading is a term used in the cross-stitch community to describe a specific stitch technique. This technique involves smoothing down the floss, or thread, with a laying tool and then laying the floss strands side-by-side like rails on a railroad.


Backstitching is a very popular stitch used specifically for seams to provide durability and strength. This stitch is even still used to this day by many high-end clothing designers when sewing their unique creations. Backstitching has a variety of different uses. For example, if you need to mend an item of clothing or a bag, the back stitch is a great and strong option.

  1. What are the most common/popular designs in cross-stitching?


Cross stitching designs can be modern or traditional. Traditionally cross-stitch was used to adorn household items like tablecloths, dish cloths and household linens. It was also used traditionally to identify household items’ owners by knitting the owners' initials on such items.


However, over time, its use has evolved from adorning household items to working on patterns on fabrics and hanging them on walls for home decoration purposes. This use of cross stitch is becoming very popular. Often, cross stitch is also used to make greeting cards, pillow tops, or be used as inserts for box tops, trivets, and coasters.  


Modern cross stitch patterns include various themes such as landscape and famous paintingsportraitanimalflowers and plantsstill lifeChristmas, and more.



  1. What can you do with your finished cross-stitch?


Once you’ve completed a cross-stitch, it can be a daunting task to figure out what you want to do with it. All that time and effort you put into the design should not go wasted or unnoticed.


One option is to frame your cross stitch. Yes, you can definitely frame it. You can either frame it yourself or take it somewhere to get it professionally framed. A professional will cost a bit more, but they will definitely do a great job. Framing it yourself simply costs you the price of a frame, so that one is purely up to you. This allows you to put your hard work on display in your home for all to see and appreciate. A framed cross stitch can not only serve as an ideal wall decoration for your own home, but would also be a unique gift that conveys love and affection to your loved ones.


Another option is to store your completed cross stitch patterns. This may seem counterproductive because the point is to display your creation to the world, right? However, when you store it, it stays in perfect condition as long as you’d like. Maybe you want it to become an heirloom or frame it at a later date.


You can also make your patterns into a quilt! Quilting can be a bit time consuming, but quilts are a great addition to a home and always add a ton of character. Quilts can be made out of almost anything you want to preserve like old baby clothes, t-shirts, and yes, your cross-stitch patterns.


Another option that involves more sewing is creating a tablecloth. Similar to the quilt, the only difference is that you don’t stuff it. A nice and designed tablecloth can be a great holiday or fancy occasion addition to your home.


One of the more fun options is turning your cross-stitch pattern into a fun and personalized pillowcase or cushion cover. This sewing job is very easy and can result in a show stopping couch cushion or decorative pillow. It is hard to find customizable cushions out there so why not make your own?


You can also turn your cross-stitch into a little sewing, pencil or make up case. A little pouch can become a versatile and very useful tool. Storing your sewing supplies to make it easier for you to create more cross-stitch patterns is one option. Maybe your pens and pencils need a home, or your make up is all over the place. Implementing a zipper onto these pouches may require some advanced sewing skills, but learning is all part of the fun.



Lastly, you can turn your cross-stitch patterns into cute little coasters. Another great aspect of the cross-stitch coaster is that your pattern is protected and preserved within the coaster, so you could eventually repurpose it if you desire.