By: Ian Williamson

What is this thing called cross stitch? a way, cross stitch is just like embroidery or needlepoint. But that one statement will often bring many handcrafters to the boiling point. Die hards from each type of craft think that their own craft is the best and they just don't like being compared to the others. simplify things lets say that cross stitch is mainly stitching with planned x's like this xxx or angles like this ///// or lines like this ----- with loops and controlled knots. Now you just put the stitches together and you can create some of the most beautiful gifts ever given to anyone.

Let's Look at Some Cross Stitch Basics

Cross-Stitch has become such a popular type of handcraft that you often find the crafters no longer use a kit for their projects, they create their own. But, before you can go out on your own and start creating your own art, you will need to know more about the fabrics, thread, needles and frames. That's why most Crafters start out with a kit.

Also, when you buy patterns or kits, you may decide to use different fabrics and threads than what is mentioned in the kit projects. The following will help you to understand and adapt the patterns and materials for your own needs.

Cross-Stitch Fabrics

What is called counted cross-stitch can be stitched on just about anything that will allow you to make consistently even sized stitches. I have even seen people use an iron on pattern and an iron on grid to insure the even stitches they wanted. (Like on T-shirts)

Aida Cloth

Aida cloth is the most common of all the cross-stitch fabrics. Look close at the fabric and you will see that the woven threads are grouped and separated by little tiny spaces. This makes a pattern of squares so that even a beginner will be able to see exactly where their cross-stitches need to be placed. Aida cloth comes in 6, 8,11,14,16 and 18 count threads but 14 counts is the most often used thread count for the beginner. Aida cloth comes in a variety of colors and threads counts and for the beginner they even have (in the white cloth only) a removable grid of pre-basted threads. Now how about that for being helpful?


Over all, because of the price, linen is considered to be an excellent fabric to work with by the more experienced cross-stitchers. The threads that they use to weave the linen cause a slightly irregular thickness to work on. And when you buy linen you need to remember that most designs are stitched over two threads so, 28-count linen will work out a 14 stitches per square inch. Linen is made in counts of 14 to 40 count so at 14 you would have 7 stitches per square inch and at 40 you would have 20 stitches per square inch.


Sweaters are an excellent background for cross-stitch. Just by basting a grid onto the sweater you will be able to have the even consistent stitches you want. But don't try cross-stitching on knits without the grid because knit stitches are not square. They are wider than they are tall and your design will appear broader and shorten than the pattern you are working from.


Burlap can be counted and stitched as easily as any other traditional cross-stitch fabric. And if you are working a country style pattern it will give you that little extra something we all look for in the work we do.

Evenweave Fabric

The recent popularity of cross-stitching has created a need for specialty fabrics. These fabrics are called evenweave fabrics because they are woven from threads of a consistent diameter. Most of the evenweave fabrics are counted by so many threads by the inch and are worked much like the linen fabrics.

Needlepoint Canvas

Quite often needlepoint canvas is used for cross-stitch, especially on clothing and things that are not suitable alone. In fact waste canvas is designed to unravel when dampened. And the count runs from 6 1/2 to 20 stitches per inch.

Hardanger Fabric

Now hardanger fabric is used for the extra fine cross-stitch. This is the traditional fabric used for the famous Norwegian embroidery of the same name. This weave produces 22 small squares per inch.

Threads for Cross-Stitching

Most threads used for embroidery can be used for cross-stitching, just separate the threads into ones, twos, threes, fours, etc, etc. The more threads you use the richer the work will look, the less threads the more fragile it will look. The rayon or silk floss will give your work a shine or slick look but sometimes they are more difficult to use as they tend to tangle. Pearl cotton is also a high sheen.

Flower Thread and Other Specialty Threads

Flower thread is 100% cotton with a matte finish and is used as a single thread (same as two ply). Over dyed threads are introduced on the market almost everyday. Most of them give that one of a kind appearance because of their irregularly variegated colors. All of the threads I have mentioned so far are available in this form also. They are great for when you want to change colors without having the need to change threads.

Yarn and Ribbon

When working with the large projects you can use yarn, ribbon and even strips of fabric to give your work your own personal touch. The larger the squares the larger ply thread you can use.


Generally blunt pointed needles are better for working on most cross-stitch fabrics because they slip through the holes and threads without snagging and splitting the fibers. There is one exception to this rule, when working with waste canvas you will need to use the sharp embroidery type needles. And a lot of companies sell the blunt needles labeled "Cross-stitch" but they are identical the tapestry needles which have a much larger selection to choose from.

The First Pattern

Your first pattern should be something small and simple, so you would be better off starting out with a small kit. It's kind of like using training wheels on your first bike... it will give you a little security. Besides it comes with needles, floss, fabric and anything else you need to complete your first project.

Good luck and happy stitching.

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