How to Start Stitching

Beginners Tutorial to Cross Stitching

If you have never picked up a needle and thread before, this is where you need to be! Cross stitching is a hobby that everyone does different. Find what works for you. If something is shown here and you think there's a better way, do it, try it! Then let us know how it went.

Getting Started

Choose a pattern or a kit. If you’re doing a pattern, you’ll want to buy the your materials. If you’re doing a kit, you may have most of your items. Check the essential materials page, you may still need scissors.

Organizing Your Floss

Looking at the picture we can see two rolls of floss and our chart. Above the chart you’ll see the “Color Key”. Most of the time there will be floss numbers (usually DMC or Anchor) listed next to the color.

Some kits will have pre-sorted floss, which means you don’t have to do the next step!

If you're using a kit, sort your floss out into colors. Some colors will look almost identical (for example on this project, I had a hard time telling the difference between the light peach and dark peach colors). Give yourself some time, have some patience and separate your colors. Some patterns will tell you how many skeins of each color the pattern will use.

There are many methods of organizing floss. The ziplock bag method is used here. Labeling the bags with the symbol associated with the floss color will help while stitching. You can use ziplock or you can buy ones just like this with the rings at a craft store.

Another option: Floss Organizers

Follow this guide to find the center of your pattern.

Find the Center of Your Fabric

When folding fabric you’ll fold once lengthwise and once widthwise.

Fold your fabric in half. Make sure that edges of the fabric line up, especially if it was previously folded in the packaging.

Fold your fabric in half the other direction, making sure your edges line up again.

Find the folded corner. The hole closest to that point is the center of the fabric.

Mark it with a water soluble marker or with a lose stitch that you can easily remove later.

Separating the Floss

Grab the color you are going to be working with first.

The floss we use for cross stitch is called six-strand embroidery floss, because you can separate the skein into six individual strands. Patterns will state how many stands are needed for cross stitches and backstitches or french knot.

Separate all the strands from each other.

Thread your needle with the amount of strands called for in your pattern. You are ready to stitch!

Starting the Project

When cross stitching DO NOT tie a knot at the end of your floss.

Leave a short tail on one side of your needle about an inch long.

Picture each hole in the fabric as a corner to a square. Push the needle up from the bottom/back of your fabric in the lower right hole.

Push the needle back down into the fabric in the upper left hole. You’ll want to follow your pattern and continue stitching the first half \ of each X in a line horizontally, until you run out of that color to do on the pattern. Remember: you want all of your stitches to go the same way. Example: \ \ \

Here is an example of my pattern (look at the highlighted part) and half stitches.

Note: I have not stitched the fraction stitches next to the two rows.

Before we complete the X's look at your piece, are all the stitches going the same way as shown to the left? Make sure all of your stitches either go left to right, or right to left. If you they aren’t pointing the same way, now is the time to go back, take them out and try again!

Stitches going the same direction give the piece a more refined, polished, and finished look.

Now we’re ready to cross over. Bring your needle up from under your fabric into a hole that would be going against your current stitching pattern. See how we started with going from the lower right corner to the upper left corner? Now we’re going to start with upper right corner to lower left corner.

Here I’m going into the lower left corner to complete my first actual cross stitch. Remember, cross stitches look like Xs.

Your cross stitches should look like this (though nicer, it’s hard to keep the thread taut and take your own pictures lol). Congratulations, you have officially cross stitched! Continue with your pattern and you’ll be finished in no time!

Every person cross stitches differently. Every person sorts their floss differently, threads their needle differently, and follows their pattern differently. It’s up to you what is easiest and most enjoyable. Some people when reading a pattern, like to start in the middle and then stitch all of that color before moving onto something different. Others, will start in the middle, do all of that color that is close enough by, and then will switch colors (looking at the pattern above, they may switch and begin working on the O symbol that is near the middle where they just worked).

Ending Your Strand/Switching Colors

Sometimes you run out of floss in the middle of a section. Other times, you’re done with that color and need to move on. However it happens, you’ll need to learn how to secure your floss.

In this case, I have completed all the grey for the section on my pattern and I need to switch colors. First take a look at your piece. Are all the stitches going the correct way? The biggest part, is your needle underneath/at the back of your fabric? If your needle is on top where the cross stitches are, something is amiss, take a look at it. Take a quick count on your pattern.

Flip your fabric over. The end of the floss has been covered by your other stitches, this has secured your floss and if some of the ends seems a little long you can trim them a bit - not too much!

To secure your floss run the needle underneath two or three stitches on the back of the fabric, as shown in the picture. Make sure your needle only goes under the thread, you could snag the fabric.

Pull your needle under the stitches. This will secure your last stitch.

It should look like this. Hold your thread taut, and give it a snip towards the base of the secure point. If have a lot of remaining floss - keep it! You’ll need it.

More Stitching Guides

The Cross-Stitch Guild - The basics of cross stitching.

Spruce Craft Co Beginner Guide - A beginner’s guide on cross stitch.