A complete guide to cross stitch for beginners
Want to try counted cross stitch for the first time? Great idea! Here is our complete guide to cross stitch for beginners
Now make an easy cross stitched chevrons cushion
Cross stitch chevrons onto white linen fabric using your new skills for a graphic look! Cross stitch may be thought of as quite a traditional technique, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used in a modern way – just look at these contemporary chevrons, and a great project for cross stitch for beginners! Bring this classic embroidery technique up to date by using it in unexpected ways, like we’ve done here with this stitched panel on a crisp white linen – backed and framed with white cotton fabric. It’s a creative way to incorporate graphic prints into a modern home. See our colourful chevrons in a hoop above for how to perfect this versatile stitch.
Counted cross stitch designs are stitched from charts onto a clearly gridded fabric fabric, such as aida or evenweave. For each symbol you see on the chart, you need to make a cross stitch on the fabric. Counted cross stitch is different from printed or stamped cross stitch, where the pattern is printed onto the fabric and you work your cross stitch on top of it without needing to refer to a chart. In counted cross stitch you need a chart with an accompanying key to recreate your chosen cross stitch design.
The key tells you what symbols on the chart correspond with which colours of stranded cotton. Gathered’s cross stitch charts and keys are also colour tinted to help you pick out different areas of the design much more easily. They key tells you how many strands of thread to use for the cross stitch and backstitch, and whether there are any French knots or other stitches used in the design. The key also often tells you what the stitch count of the design is and gives you its finished size if it it stitched on the recommended fabric.
The centre of most cross stitch charts is specially marked. This is the best place to start stitching, so you end up with the design stitched in the middle of the fabric. The centre of our charts on Gathered is where the heavy vertical and horizontal lines intersect – these lines are marked by triangular black arrows. To find the centre of your fabric, fold it in half horizontally, open it up and fold it vertically. When you open the fabric again, you’ll find the creases mark the centre. Start stitching with the colour that’s nearest to the centre of the chart. The charts are divided up every 10 squares, to make counting easy.
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. For any terms you are not sure about, check out our cross stitch glossary.
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.
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!
You’ve now got all of the essentials to start cross stiching and it;’d time to make your first 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.
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. – see our video guide on How to do French knots.
When you are just starting out with cross stitch for beginners, it’s best to choose cross stitch patterns for beginners that use whole cross stitch and some backstitch for detail and definition. Try not to tackle cross stitch design with lots of fractional cross stitches or French knots. Below are some free cross stitch patterns for beginners you will find on the gathered website.
These heart designs are stitched entirely in whole cross stitches. Work them on 14-count aida rather than the wooden necklace mount for a fabulous beginner cross stitch pattern.
Here’s another sweet design stitched entirely in whole cross stitch. Work the pattern to build up the shape and easily practice your counting.
Not just for kids! These sweet woodland characters use while cross stitch with just a little backstitch
Worked in whole cross stitch and backstitch. these simple summery motifs are great for beginners
Click to browse more free designs in our archive of beginner cross stitch patterns.