5 Basic Stitches in Cross Stitch

Cross-stitch pattern being sowed with purple, blue and pink thread

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Have you always wanted to learn a new craft? Cross stitch is the perfect solution! The projects can be done anywhere; on a bus, binge-watching TV or laying by the pool. It really is the easiest to go needlework! You can do small projects or large, whimsical or more traditional. The patterns and tools out there are endless.

Learning to cross stitch doesn't have to be intimidating. If you know how to accomplish five basic stitches then you will be on your way to a bright and stitchy future. Once you have these stitches down you can build up and try more intermediate stitches. While these beginning stitches may seem like no-brainers, if you master them, you will have a beautiful end product.

  • 01 of 05

    Cross Stitch

    Cross stitch with x-shaped pattern being sewed into fabric weave

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    A cross stitch is an x-shaped embroidery stitch from which the name of Cross Stitch Embroidery is derived. It is easily accomplished by stitching two half stitches over each other. This stitch is the basis for all cross stitch. You will see it the most, and it is the most commonly used. This is the stitch with cross-stitch. You will base all other stitches on this first one. You will add and subtract to create other stitches and patterns. 

    You can use this stitch on any kind of fabric, but the most common is Aida cloth, which ranges in a variety of sizes. If you are just beginning, a larger weave of this fabric is the best. You can also use plastic canvas for practice. Don't limit yourself to just fabric with this stitch, branch out to nonconventional ideas such as wicker chairs, netting for screen doors or tennis rackets.

  • 02 of 05

    Half Stitch

    Half stitch pattern being sewed on fabric weave

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    The cross stitch is made up of two half stitches. Half stitches are also stitched individually in some cross stitch projects and they can be used at times to create a sense of depth in a pattern. ​A half stitch is used a lot in outlining designs and making specific shapes. It's also used a lot to make corners and circles.

    A half stitch, just one over can be used as a backstitch. A backstitch will go up and down instead of diagonal. Half stitches are used for more detail, such as eyes, rounded corners on flowers and creating spirals. A half stitch can create a nice flow to rounded patterns. They are used to create circles where just a normal stitch would create a box.

  • 03 of 05

    Quarter Stitch

    Quarter stitch pattern being sewed on fabric weave

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    The quarter stitch resembles a half stitch, but it is stitched into the center of an Aida fabric square. Quarter stitches are used to create the petite cross stitch. While this may seem like an easy stitch, it is a little difficult to get it spot on. It can be difficult to get it exactly even. Try this stitch a couple of times as practice. It is used quite a bit to give the project better curves. Quarter stitches can be frustrating to learn at first, but once you get the feel of where you need to place the needle, you can create more texture and more twists and turns with the floss.

  • 04 of 05

    Three-Quarter Stitch

    Three-quarter stitch pattern being sewed on fabric weave

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    The three-quarter stitch is composed of a half stitch and a quarter stitch. Three-quarter stitches are used to create more detail in Cross Stitch designs. This one can be a bit complicated to start out with. It takes some practice to get it just right. It is also used as an outline stitch to make curves.

    You will see this stitch a lot in patterns for faces and creating spirals for flowers and pumpkins. It will add depth to your project and ensure that the piece does not look blocked, but flows. Be careful when using this stitch on linen; it may pull the fabric out of shape and cause distortion. Practice on a bigger piece of Aida fabric before tackling this stitch on linen.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Back Stitch

    Back stitch pattern being sewed on fabric weave

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    A back stitch is used to make lines around the cross stitch and to stitch letters and wording. Some designs that are composed entirely of back stitch. Blackwork embroidery uses variations of the back stitch to create intricate designs, typically using black or a single color.

    Back stitches are the easiest of all stitches and used to add more definition to a design. It is used a lot to outline a piece of stitching to show what the pattern really is. Aside from lettering, it can also be used for facial expressions. It gives dimension and makes a pattern more defined.

    It is fun to add contrasting colors for projects that include clothing or flowers. While this is a simple stitch, learning black work is complicated. You can use a back stitch in just about any cross stitch project. This stitch is great for fabric that is specific to cross stitches, such as cotton apron fabric or denim. You can manipulate this stitch to make circles and flowing letters.

You Can Do it!

You have mastered the essentials of cross stitch. These five basic stitches will help you move on to move complicated stitches and elaborate patterns and designs. You have the bricks to build a cross stitch house!