Learn the Basics of Counted Cross Stitch

cross stitch pattern

Dee.lite / Wiki Commons

Counted cross stitch is a fun craft and there are many great patterns that you can stitch up to decorate your home and give as gifts. If you're brand new to cross stitch, it's best, to begin with, the basics.

Let's explore the essential tools and supplies you need, learn how to make your first stitch, and discover an easy pattern to start off with. It's fun, it's easy, and you'll be stitching like a pro in no time.

  • 01 of 07

    Choosing Your Cross Stitch Supplies

    Whenever you take on a new craft, you can quickly become overwhelmed with all the supplies. Just browsing the cross stitch aisle at the local craft store can leave you with a lot of questions. Most importantly: "Where do I begin?"

    For your first project, start with the basics: light-colored Aida fabric, the floss needed for the pattern, a pack of needles, an embroidery hoop, and a pair of scissors.  These will form the foundation for your cross stitch endeavors and you can always add more supplies as needed.

  • 02 of 07

    Your First Stich

    Cross stitch is based on the use of a single stitch. The 'cross stitch' simply makes an 'X' on the fabric with floss and completing the first stitch requires two steps.

    It's easy to learn, though there are some key tips that you will want to know right from the beginning. For instance, it's important to know how to secure the floss so your stitches don't loosen up.

    Use this introductory tutorial to guide you through the first stages of cross stitch so you develop good habits right away. It will make your cross stitch projects much more enjoyable. 

  • 03 of 07

    Understanding Fabric Count

    Aida is the most common fabric used in cross stitch and it is woven to include those tiny holes that we stitch into. Linen is another popular option and with this, your first stitch is the most important. You can also use plastic canvas or waste canvas, though it's recommended that you get used to Aida first because it is the easiest.

    When you're looking at fabric for cross stitch the color is important because it is the backdrop for you stitching. You also need to pay close attention to the 'fabric count.' This will determine how accurately sized your final project is. 

    You can play around with fabric count to adjust the size, but at first, it's a good idea to go with the recommendation given in your pattern.

  • 04 of 07

    Needles, Needles, Needles

    In the essential supplies list, you should have noticed the two specialty tools required for cross stitch: the embroidery hoop and the needles. While the hoop is required to keep your work flat while you stitch, the needle is what does the stitching.

    Many beginners do not realize just how many needle options are available for cross stitch. For this craft, you will need a tapestry needle, but even that name comes with a whole host of options.

    The cross stitch tapestry needle has a smaller eye than others, just large enough for a few strands of floss. Purchasing a pack of needles is important because as you stitch, you will choose needles to match your fabric count.

    If you thought choosing needles would be the easiest part of counted cross stitch, think again. With a little knowledge, you won't have any problems.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Make Sure You Understand Floss

    'Floss' is the name stitchers use for the thread used for cross stitch and embroidery. It is sold by the skein and is typically eight yards long and made up of six strands.

    The color options for floss are endless. Your pattern will often recommend a very specific color whose code corresponds to the DMC standard. Follow these suggestions to ensure your project turns out as expected because quite often the subtle variances are there to add dimension to the finished design.

    Also, you will often only use two or three of those strands from a floss skein at a time while stitching. Due to this, it's important that you learn how to remove the necessary strands without creating a big tangle.

  • 06 of 07

    Reading Cross Stitch Patterns

    Cross stitch patterns are a map to your finished project and it's very important that you learn how to read them. Unlike knit or crochet patterns, cross stitch does not use a lot of words for instructions. Instead, you get to read a picture on a grid.

    The good news is that cross stitch patterns are relatively standard, so once you learn how to read a pattern you will be able to read any design you like. The patterns include a key that decodes the pattern and it uses colors and symbols to represent the specific color of floss to use.

    Don't worry if this sounds too complicated because after your first pattern you'll know exactly what you're doing.

  • 07 of 07

    Your First Cross Stitch Pattern

    Before you take on that elaborate cross-stitch pattern that peaked your interest in this craft in the first place, do some practice stitching. Choose simple and small projects that allow you to get the hang of working with the tools.

    This geometric sampler is a perfect first project. It uses a series of squares that each has a different design and it's all stitched in straight rows using a single color. You will even find that it includes a few letters, which are very common in cross stitch.

    By the time you complete the sampler, you should have made all your major mistakes. You'll then be ready to take on a pattern with a little more detail.

Watch Now: What Do You Need to Get Started Crocheting?