Learn the Basics of Patterns, Fabric, Needles, Threads, and Hoops
Cross stitch embroidery is fun, easy to learn, and portable. To get started with cross stitch, all you need is a few inexpensive supplies.
The simplicity of cross stitch embroidery means you can take your stitching with you wherever you go and work on it whenever you have a spare moment. Here’s a list of the essential supplies you will need to make your first cross stitch project.
Stamped or Counted Cross-Stitch Pattern
There are two types of cross stitch patterns.
- Stamped cross-stitch patterns are printed directly onto the fabric, with color coding to show you where to stitch each thread color. When you are just starting out, a stamped cross stitch pattern is the easiest to work with.
- Counted cross-stitch patterns are graphs on a grid that corresponds to the grid of holes or threads in the fabric. The pattern includes symbols to show where to stitch each color.
You can buy both kinds of patterns online or at a needlework store.
Evenweave Cross Stitch Fabric
Cross stitch is sewn on special fabric that is woven in a grid to help you count stitches accurately. If you don’t use a stamped pattern, which comes with a ready-to-use piece of fabric, you will need a piece of fabric large enough to accommodate your pattern.
Regular sewing needles are too sharp for cross stitch. What you need instead is a tapestry needle. Tapestry needles have blunt points that slide between the threads of the fabric instead of piercing them, and eyes large enough to hold several strands of embroidery floss. They are available in sizes from #26 (shortest, with the finest point and smallest eye) to #13 (longest, with thickest point and largest eye.) What size needle should you use?
That depends on the fabric count. Busy Lizzie Crafts’ Cross Stitch Needle Shop offers this general guide:
- Size 18 – 6 count Aida fabric
- Size 20 – 8 count Aida fabric
- Size 22 -11 count Aida fabric / 22-25-27 count evenweave
- Size 24 -14 count Aida fabric / 28 count evenweave
- Size 26 -16 count Aida fabric / 32 count evenweave / 22 count Hardanger
- Size 28 -18 count Aida fabric / 36 count evenweave
Buying a package that includes several different size needles will guarantee that you’re ready with the right size needle for any project.
This inexpensive cotton thread made for hand embroidery is available at any sewing or needlework store. DMC and Anchor are both popular brands. Floss comes with six strands of threads, but you don’t usually sew with all six at once. Your pattern will tell you how many strands to use.
An embroidery hoop consists of two rings that fit tightly together and a tightening mechanism such as a spring or screw. A hoop makes stitching easier by keeping your fabric taut while you work. You don’t need to use a hoop, especially if you are stitching on a stiff fabric, but many cross-stitchers swear by them. Be sure to unhoop the fabric when you’re not working on it to keep the hoop from marking the fabric.