A Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch

With the popularity of social media, a lot of non-stitchers have seen these reviews in their feeds and ask "How do I start this?" I must thank Julie Dollery for the suggestion of writing this as a weekend spotlight, and it is dedicated to all the non-stitchers who have approached their friends and asked "How hard would this be for me to learn?" If you want to learn cross stitch but don't have any friends nearby that can show you ... YouTube is your friend! Yes I could write a long and involved article, but this is a case where a moving picture is worth more than 1000 words.  YouTube excels at showing how-to videos. I love this video from Kate for Bothy threads because she lists and explains all the tools you may need, how to choose your materials as well as how to create an x. This small video from Yarn Tree explains how to follow a cross stitch chart. Then there are hints and tips that can make life easier for you, such as the loop start shown here by G. Romilly Mueller:


The more you learn about cross stitch the more you learn what suits YOU. Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or use a hoop or a qsnap or a frame? This is something that YOU need to try to see which suits you.  If there is a local group near you, see if you can borrow a frame or hoop from another member for an hour or so to try. Do you prefer to stitch on Aida or linen or lugana or jazlyn?  It is a good idea to buy small pieces of each type of fabric and see which ones feel nice to you; feels right for your project. There is no one right fabric for all people for all occasions.  Especially if you are stitching larger projects, use the fabric that you like the most.

Where can I buy the stuff needed?

Most of the tools and materials can be bought from your local needlework stores, online needlework stores and even big box stores. Here in Australia, Spotlight and Lincraft sell DMC threads, Aida fabric, tapestry needles and small embroidery scissors. If you want to try some of the more interesting fabrics and floss, or tools, try looking in your local yellow pages for needlework stores in your area or contact any of the stores listed in the chart reviews.  I have personally bought from these stores and highly recommend their service and efficiency.

Further Suggestions

My usual rule to new stitchers is
thread goes through needle; needle goes through the fabric; the rest is optional.
Yes even having all the top stitches going the same way is optional.  There may be good reasons why you choose not to do this on a particular pattern. So experienced stitchers, what hints or tips do you have for new stitchers?

5 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Cross Stitch”

  1. My only pet peeve that a lot of even experienced stitchers have is not ironing or otherwise de-wrinkling the finished piece. I don’t mind any other mistakes but that one.

  2. When I started (over 30 years ago) I was the first on my family and the first in my area to start stitching. There was no internet, and the only instructions I had was an A4 page on how to make an X. I’m not sure, but I wonder if that lack of ‘rules’ ended up more blessing than curse.

    I see people online, dutifully asking “Should I start at the top, or the middle? What size needle for what fabric? How many stitches should I carry across the back? All I can think is……”Well, what do YOU think and why isn’t your opinion as valid as anyone else’s?”

    All these years later and I’ve been forced to explore, test and try endless variations, and in the end I know the tools, the method and the look that is unique to me. And I LOVE IT.

  3. Like anything creative cross stitch develops over time. Firstly enjoy what you stitch. Over time you’ll work out what is important to you – some people aim to have a super tidy back to their works, others (like me) don’t care. You might be particular about the direction of your top thread, about the order you stitch your colours (I personally try to stitch light to dark). You might like small projects, you might only like big. You might not even care about finishing and be a serial starter. One WIP or 20. Rotations, making changes, using specialty threads and stitches – honestly the options are endless and the ones you choose to include in your stitchy life is up to you. And they’ll probably change over time anyway. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about enjoying your hobby!

  4. My only tip would be to watch other stitchers and see how they stitch and maybe something they do that you have never thought of might work for you. I would have never in a million years thought of parking but I had watched a youtube video with parking in it and now I am most definitely a parker I love it and it has changed my stitching, I am so much faster and making a lot less mistakes.

  5. Your usual rule for new stitchers is the same one I use! In fact, my new videos now add:

    After a project (or during), ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Does it look the way I wanted it to / Do I LIKE the way it looks?
    2. Did I learn something? (Even “That didn’t work!” is a valid thing learned!)
    3. Did I have FUN?

    As long as even ONE of the answers is “yes,” it’s a successful project.

    Have fun stitching, and keep at it!

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