Get started with Cross Stitch


Cross stitch, in its simplest form, is an ‘X’ made by two stitches over a small square of fabric. In some patterns there are a few more stitches, such as a French Knot, Half stitch or back stitch… but for the vast majority of time it is the basic ‘X’.  


Cross stitch snow flakes


Cross Stitch was the first handwork I learned as a child, and I recommend it as a good starting point for one's stitching and fiber art journey.  The patterns and projects range from the simplest composition to vast and sprawling designs that can take years to finish.  Its important to note that cross stitch, along with simple embroidery, are among the most accessible fiber arts - and hobbies in general - to start.  There are countless kits available in the $20 range, but you could even get started for quite a bit less than that.  A bit of fabric and floss can be found for $5 - $10, and if you keep an eye out, you can find kits, projects, and supplies at local charity shops or yard sales for next to nothing.  Another avenue into a new craft is to find a stitching circle or guild meeting, stop in, introduce yourself and say that you are interested in the hobby.  Fiber artists are keen to share their passion for the art and will quickly take you into the fold and get you started!


ivory colored Aida for cross stitch


The first item you will need to get started is fabric.  Aida and linen are the two most used fabrics for cross stitch.  They will be classified by the size of the stitch you will be making.  So, a 14 count Aida will have 14 stitches per inch, and this is a very common size and a good place to start.  With linen, you will usually (but don’t have to) stitch over two threads.  This means that a 28 count linen fabric will have 14 stitches per inch.  28 count and 32 count linens are the most common and lovely to use.


Examples of tapestry needles

Next item is your needle.  A blunt tipped needle is used for cross stitch, as it glides through the holes easily and is often called a Tapestry Needle.  A sharp tipped needle could split the threads of your fabric causing both breakage and uneven stitches.  The size of the needle depends on the fabric you are using, as well as your comfort. 

Here is a general rule of thumb to get you started:

22 Tapestry needle 11 count Aida 20, 22 count Linen

24 Tapestry needle

14 count Aida

24 count Linen

26 Tapestry needle

16 count Aida

32 count Linen


Remember the bigger the number = the smaller the stitches.  If you are using a needle that seems difficult to pull through the fabric, maybe try the next size smaller.  Also, if your needle is constantly slipping out of your project try the next size larger.

A rainbow of embroidery floss wrapped on cards



Next up is thread!  DMC 6-strand embroidery floss is by far the most commonly used threads for cross stitch and embroidery worldwide.  It is 100% cotton, comes in over 500 solid colors, as well as a number of variegated colors and other types of fibers.  It is often referred to as just ‘DMC’.  It’s widely available from small shops to big box stores.  There are many other, smaller companies offering a similar 6-strand floss.  In recent years the rise in hand-dyed floss has taken off and provides additional colors and color variations that are quite stunning.  I’m going to stop myself before I go down an embroidery floss rabbit hole!  It’s a whole other article on its own!


Embroidery hoop sitting on top of Aida

You will need a hoop in order to keep your fabric flat and stable to stitch through.  The size of the hoop really depends on the project, but 5 - 8 inch hoops are very common and can work with most patterns. 
Red illustrated cross stitches

Wow, you’re almost there!  You have your hoop with fabric, a needle and thread… Now, what are you going to stitch?  Patterns + charts for cross stitch are limitless, truely!  Whatever it is that is your JAM I guarantee there is a pattern for it.  My only piece of advice is to choose something small or smallish for your first project.  Finishing a piece is a great feeling, and it will spur you to do more.  However, really big projects might weigh you down a bit and discourage you from putting in the time.  
Charts, where to find them!  You can get our very own Tiny Tomatoes Winged Heart Chart by signing up for our newsletter.  We also offer the sweetest little cross stitch booklets from Samantha Purdy, you can find those HERE.  DMC, the thread manufacturer has an extensive FREE charts collection, there are over 600 designs!
I would also encourage you to support small, independent businesses that design and sell charts, you can find many of these on Instagram (search for #crossstitch) and on Etsy, or visit your local stitching or craft shop.


Happy Stitching!

Yellow illustrated clothes pin