How to cross stitch: 5 steps to start today

If you're completely new to cross stitch, we're here to show you how it's done! You'll only need a few supplies and try our free beginner cross stitch charts to try it tonight.

How to cross stitch for beginners

1. Choose your project…

Make sure you choose the right level for you – if you’ve never tried cross stitch before, it’s a good idea to start with kits or charts that are marked for beginners. Absolute beginners should choose a design without fractional stitches – look for a pattern that’s made up of whole stitches, with a bit of backstitch detail, and that isn’t too large, so you can try it out and see results quickly.

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2. Gather your materials…

Cross stitch kits come with all the fabric, needles and thread you’ll need to sew the design inside. Before you start to stitch, sort out the threads into different shades and mark which symbol they match on the chart. Many cross stitchers use a thread sorter for this.

If you’re stitching from a cross stitch chart then you’ll also need to buy some fabric, threads and a tapestry needle. The chart should say which fabrics the design is intended for. We recommend starting with aida fabric – it’s more beginner friendly than evenweave or linen fabric. You can try those later! You’ll also see a list of the threads you need in the chart key.

See our guide to needle sizes to find the size of tapestry needle you’ll need.

Check out our How to Cross Stitch guide

New to stitching and not sure where to start? Our step-by-step tutorial will talk you through the basics and get you on your way!

How to use an embroidery hoop for cross stitch step 3

3. Find the centre of the chart

We recommend always starting from the middle of the design. This is usually marked in some form (for example with arrows, a ‘0’ or triangles) around the edges of a chart. Look for this symbol on the key for the colour of thread you need, plus the number of strands. Thread your needle with this colour.

4. Find the centre of your fabric

Fold your fabric in half horizontally and vertically to find the centre of that as well. The folds will make a cross, which corresponds to the cross at the centre of your chart.

5. Get stitching!

To make a cross stitch, bring the needle up at the bottom left corner of a square and down at the top right corner. Then repeat in the opposite corners to complete the stitch, with one arm ‘crossing’ over the top of the other. You should leave a long tail of thread before this first stitch, so you can catch the thread under the stitches as you work, securing it in place.

You can also use the loop method to secure your thread to the fabric before starting – this only works when using a single strand of thread doubled over in the needle, creating a loop at one end. Make the first arm of your cross stitch as above, but leaving the looped end of thread hanging loose at the back of the fabric. Then pass the needle through the loop before completing the top arm.

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To finish a thread, leave a thread tail of minimum 4cm (2in) on the back of the fabric, and catch it under a few nearby stitches to secure it, then trim all loose ends with embroidery scissors. We recommend finishing all the cross stitch in your design before you work the backstitch or add any French knots.

Stranded cottons thread guide