Top tips for cross stitch
A top tip at the right moment can make a huge difference to how you stitch and how you look after your finished stitching. Our team of cross stitch experts share their top tips for upping your cross stitch game!
1. Choose the right kit for you!
Cross stitch kits vary hugely from small designs that take a few hours to whip up to massive charts where you have to source the projects and get to spend weeks, months or even years working on a really stunning design. Follow our top tips for picking a design that is both attractive and suited to your stitching needs in our How to find the right Kit post.
2. Organise your threads
Are the threads for your project pre-sorted on to an organiser? If not, will it be an easy job to identify the colours and mark them on an organiser. This feels like a bit of effort when you start but trust us, it will speed up your stitching and save you so much time later trying to find the right thread and stop them getting tangled up.
3. Experiment with your stitching
If you always stick to working on aida, then try evenweave for a change; if you normally work on evenweave, then try stitching a design on linen. Find out more about the different fabric you can use in our cross stitch fabric article.
4. Fantastic framing
Always buy enough material so that you've got a decent margin around your stitched piece for framing.
5. Start a cross stitch club
Gather together a group of fellow cross stitch fans for regular meet ups. Try to appeal to stitchers of all abilities and make sure those who are just beginners feel welcome then they will have lots of fun and tell all their friends. Make posters or flyers – it's easy these days just on a home computer. Put these up in your local library, post office, community centre etc to advertise your meetings.
6. Keep your stitching looking good
Always stitch with clean hands - any grease on your fingers will be transferred to your fabric, and keep family pets away from you while you are stitching (unless you can't resist them curling up on your lap / hoop!).
7. Tip for getting kids stitching
Choose a low count fabric, like an 11- or 14-count fabric, for a child's first project. They'll be able to see the holes clearly and their stitching will grow fairly quickly. See our 10 tips for cross stitch for kids for more ideas and tips on teaching children to cross stitch, and try our free children's cross stitch patterns with them. Make sure you know the skills you are passing on by studying up with our complete guide to cross stitch for beginners.
8. Stay focused
Try and stick to stitching just one project at a time - if you can't quite manage this (we feel you) then keep each separate project in a clear zip-up wallet, so your stitching time can be spent doing just that, rather than rummaging in a cupboard for that design you haven't worked on for six months! If you are stuck on a tricky stitch, swot up with our complete guide to cross stitch for beginners to make sure you are getting the basics right.
9. It's all in the presentation
Use non-reflective glass when framing your work. It's more expensive, but as you've spent so much time and effort stitching your design, it's worth it to be able to see the work clearly from all angles. See our How to frame cross stitch guide to help get this right. Embroidery hoops make brilliant modern frames for a more contemporary finish – see out How to mount cross stitch in a hoop article.
10. Think outside the frame
If you don't have much wall space, turn your designs into cushions! To put a design in a cushion cover, cut around the design, leaving a border of fabric then fray the edges. Carefully pin the stitching to the cushion cover and use a matching sewing thread to stitch along the first un-frayed row, securing the fabric to the cushion. For smaller motifs, why not make a novelty mini cushion with our How to make a biscornu guide.
11. Mounting lighter fabrics on to dark cards
Iron-on interfacing is helpful when mounting lighter coloured fabrics on darker cards. This reduces the visibility of the holes.
12. Back your stitching with iron-on interfacing
It will stiffen the fabric and prevent fraying. This is especially helpful when using evenweave.
13. Try a canvas finish
Mounting your stitching over a stretched canvas creates a modern finish. To do this, follow the same steps you would use to lace your work (see our how to frame cross stitch guide) but use staples to secure the fabric at the back of the canvas instead. Here's our guide to How to mount cross stitch on to canvas.
14. Step up your frame game
Try giving old frames a lick of paint for a new look. Or embrace the trend for framing your finishing cross stitch in an embroidery hoop. Check out our guide showing how to mount your cross stitch in a hoop as well as these embroidery hoop craft ideas to decorate your hoop frame and make it even more special.
15. Make sure your frame doesn't overwhelm your stitching
There's only one star of the show and it's your work! Before you commit to a frame, lay out your stitching in front of it and step back to view it from a distance. The frame should let the stitching shine, not take attention away from it.
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16. Easy cross stitch cards
To patch your stitching onto a card, cut your design to size, leaving three or four squares of aida all the way around, then fray the outer edge. Back the stitched area with paper and use double-sided tape to stick it in place on the card. Check out our photo guide to see how to mount cross stitch in a triple fold card or stretch your craft budget by making your own aperture cards in our DIY aperture card tutorial. We also have these brilliant free cross stitch card patterns for you to download!
17. Pressing your work
When ironing your work, gently iron the back of the work on a cool setting.Find more advice on pressing your work as part of our How to wash cross stitch guide.
18. Try a larger design
If you've only ever stitched small motifs or cards, up your skill by scaling up your stitching scale. Check out our top tips for stitching large designs.
19. Washing your finished stitching
Only use a very small amount of detergent. Soapy suds are hard to wash out. Take a look at our How to wash cross stitch guide.
20. Design your own cross stitch
There's nothing more satisfying that stitching a one-of-a kind design that you've created yourself. If you'd like to try creating your own cross stitch pattern, read our beginner's guide to designing cross stitch patterns!
21. Avoid creased fabric in cross stitch kits
The best way to remove a stubborn crease is to press it with a steam iron before you start stitching. Although this may not completely remove the crease, it will make it much easier to iron again with a light heat, once you've completed your design.
22. Don't twist threads as you stitch
This is a common problem and happens because as you pass the needle back and forth through the work you inadvertently turn it slightly each time, causing the threads to gradually twist. To eliminate any twists in your thread you need to stop stitching every so often and just let the needle hang down from your stitching. The threads will untwist themselves and you can then carry on from where you left off.
23. Solve thread snagging on fabric
Try wrapping tape over the edges of the canvas to make them smooth. Alternatively go round the edge of the canvas before you start stitching, and snip off the little 'pegs' that may be sticking out from the canvas.This will also help stop your fabric edges from fraying! Check out more advice on how to stop fabric fraying.
24. Working over two strands on evenweave
Designs are usually stitched over two threads on an evenweave fabric, such as 28-count jobelan. This will make your design come out the same size as it would on 14-count aida. To work this way, you need to count across and up two holes instead of only one each time you take a stitch. Try counting 'one, two' each time you make a stitch until you get the hang of it. Click to read more about cross stitch fabrics.
25. Bulk up threads on plastic canvas
For 14-count canvas you can use either two or three strands of thread, it's really a matter of personal preference. Two strands is easy to stitch but gives a much lighter coverage of the canvas. Stitching with three strands gives a lovely dense coverage and brings out the richness of the colours used, but it can take longer to stitch because it's slightly harder to get the needle through the holes. Fore more about the number of strands to use on different materials, check out our cross stitch thread guide.
26. Complete each cross individually or work in rows?
You can use both methods to stitch a design. Some areas are more suited to one method. For example, if you are stitching a flower made up of several different colours dotted around, it's best to complete each cross stitch individually before moving on to the next one. But if you are working a solid block of colour, work a row of half crosses and add the top arm to each stitch as you work back across the fabric. This is known as the Danish method.
27. Sewing on a bead
Attach each bead in a design with a half cross stitch using a single strand of matching cotton. Bring the needle up through the fabric ready to make a half cross as normal and thread a bead on the needle. Take the needle down in the opposite corner of the square and pull the thread taut.
28. Stitching on paper
After you've bought the paper and thread, the only specialist item you will need to invest in is a pair of craft scissors for cutting out your design. Resist the temptation to use your embroidery scissors as the paper will blunt them.
29. Keep your stitching neat
If you make all your cross stitches facing the same way, you are more than half way to having neat stitches. Think also about how you handle the thread. To make the strands lie evenly on top of the fabric, you need to pull out the strands one by one from the length of cotton and smooth them together to thread the needle. Try to keep your tension even, too, by pulling the thread taut but not too tight.
30. Washing your threads
The three main manufacturers, DMC, Anchor and Madeira, all state that their stranded cotton is colourfast and can be washed at 95 degrees and ironed on a high setting. However, if you intend washing a precious design you have just completed, you may prefer to wash it gently by hand for your own peace of mind. Click for our How to wash cross stitch guide.
31. Keep your scissors sharp
Scissors that have a screw or nut on the pivot point can be adjusted or separated to clean, oil and sharpen easily. Manufacturers of more expensive scissors with a rivet claim that their scissors are so well made that they do not need to be adjusted.
32. Avoid getting knots in thread
Cut your thread length to no longer than about 18ins (45cm). This should reduce your knots. If you still get the occasional knot in your thread, use the tip of your needle to loosen the knot slightly and then pull the thread firmly. If this doesn't work, cut off the thread below the knot and start again with a new length of thread. As you stitch, your thread will become twisted so, every now and then, let your needle hang down and the thread will naturally untwist itself.
Want to find out more about cross stitch?
If you are looking for advice on getting started in cross stitching, check out our cross stitch for beginners article or click to find out more about cross stitch thread and cross stitch fabric. If you want to take a look at the free cross stitch patterns we have available for you on Gathered, we have lots of brilliant designs for you! For floral inspirations, try out our lavender cross stitch patterns and our sunflower cross stitch pattern or browse our selection of cross stitch flower patterns. If you are looking for simple designs that are great for beginners try our children’s cross stitch patterns or our cat cross stitch patterns. For fun cards which are always popular, try our caterpillar cross stitch patterns or for more grown up celebrations, our gorgeous cross stitch cards for all occasions. Don’t miss our special stitch of Durene Jones cross stitch fox pattern either!
Hannah has worked on Gathered for 3 years, since our launch in 2019. At school Hannah learned to knit collaborating on dorcas blankets – now she edits our knitting section. She inherited her love of stitching and embroidery from her talented grandmother, and her passion for thread led her to be Editor of The World of Cross Stitching for six years. Card making is a more recent passion, developing from her position as editor of Cross Stitch Card Shop. She loves using kinetic techniques to make cards that move – she was editor of Papercraft inspirations magazine for over four years, creating loads of card making video tutorials at www.youtube.com/PapercraftTV.