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A beginner's guide to cross stitch

We have completed this instruction for those who cannot stitch at all or have a general idea of cross-stitching. Here, you will find the most basic ways and simple steps to enjoy the process and perform your first stitching work on high-quality level.

After having fully mastered this material in practice, you won’t be disappointed by the stitching result. We have taught a lot of people this kind of needlework, who made their first stitches together with us. We suggest that you also should get acquainted with this extremely exciting activity!


Before getting down to stitching, it is necessary to get your workspace ready. Choose a well-lit place: next to a window (during daylight hours) or in close vicinity of a lamp that will illuminate the working area (at night time).

You may need additional tools. Prepare the ones you consider to be necessary.

The most important tool you can’t do without is scissors. They are essential when you cut off a thread of a convenient length.

Hoops – use whatever kind of hoops you like, if you have any specific preferences. If you don’t know what kind of hoops is comfortable for you, try stitching without hoops. This method is called “on-hand stitching”. Later, you will be able to experiment with using hoops by trying different types of them, if the method of “on-hand” stitching won’t suit you.

A needle threader – a handy tool that enables you to thread the needle in no time.

A writing implement to mark the stitched areas on the pattern; choose the one depending on a paper type the pattern is printed on. This method will help you to avoid mistakes and enable to navigate the pattern easily.

Determine a place where you will store the needle while changing the thread. It can be either a special needle-holder or canvas itself. You should always leave the needle in the determined place so that it won’t get lost.

After you have prepared the additional tools you need, arrange them in front of you on the workplace, as well as all the contents of the cross-stitch kit.

The Stitchering kit contains:

  • pattern;
  • canvas;
  • organizer with threads;
  • needle.
Finding the pattern center
Lay out the stitching pattern in front of you.

The pattern is a table with cells containing multicolored blocks with symbols. These very blocks communicate information about colors. One cell with a symbol on the pattern represents one cross on the canvas. An empty cell indicates that the corresponding cross on the canvas should be omitted.

To navigate the pattern better, it is worth paying attention to the guiding lines. As a general rule, it is the upper horizontal line, as well as the right and left edge lines that are used for counting symbols. They can be counted starting from the pattern center to the edges or from the upper left cell. Every 10 cells are framed by a thicker line, thereby making the pattern grid more readable. The main guiding lines that are used for counting contain arrows, indicating the center of the canvas. The center can be highlighted by a bright line.

Find the guiding lines, determine where the cells count starts from, and find the pattern center; mark it if it hasn’t been marked.

Reading the pattern
Find the pattern key – the symbol explanation.

To read the information encoded in symbols, you should refer to a table with symbol explanation.

The table contains the following information: the first column indicates an assigned color and symbol for each floss color in the set; the second column indicates a serial number in the DMC palette. This number can also be found at the thread organizer; in case your table contains a third column, usually, it is a name of a color.

Let’s study additional information about this kit.

This section of the patter also contains all important clarifying information:

  • the total number of stitches;
  • the size of the resulting image in inches and centimeters;
  • the count of the canvas provided;
  • the recommended number of thread folds.
Finding the canvas center
Lay out the canvas in front of you.

Usually, it is a piece of fabric of a square or rectangular shape. When the canvas is rectangular, you should pay attention to the design of the image you stitch. If the image is vertical, the canvas should be allocated vertically (portrait orientation). If the image has a horizontal orientation, the canvas should also be positioned horizontally (landscape orientation).

Determine the canvas center.

To determine the canvas center, you should fold the canvas in half twice. By doing so, you will find the canvas center.

Mark the center, guiding lines and top on the canvas.

Take a needle and any kind of a thread. Mark the canvas center with a cross-stitch, making large stitches on the canvas. You can also mark the guiding lines from the center and make a stitch at the top, indicating the top of the stitched image to later find where you finished stitching quickly and correctly.

The starting point
Select a uniform symbol area on the pattern in close vicinity of the center or guiding lines.

You can start stitching from any place, but it’s easier to start from the center or guiding lines. Instead of a single cross, choose an area in order not to change the thread color too often, but fully use at least the first thread in the needle.

Find the thread color corresponding to the chosen symbol

After you have chosen the first cross stitch, you should find out the color this thread belongs to. Find this symbol in the pattern key and find out the number this thread corresponds to. Take this color from the thread organizer.

The working thread

The stitching threads are called mouline floss. Usually, mouline floss consists of cotton yarn, which has been specially designed for stitching. In all Stitchering sets, floss by the world leading manufacturer of the stitching threads – DMC – is used. The mouline thread consists of 6 thin weaving threads. Let’s unfold the mouline length of the color we have decided to start with. Usually, it is a long or short skein, a pieceless or divided into no more than 3 fragments. If the thread is short – about half a meter –we can start stitching. If the thread is long, we have to cut it into parts.

Divide the skeins into the equal lengths

We suggest the following method: take the thread end with your thumb and index finger, stretch it along the wrist and forearm, taking it around your elbow, thereby forming a loop, bring it to the starting point and cut off. This method makes it possible to wind the thread around the elbow several times and to cut the entire skein into equal parts in one movement. The skein cut using the above-described method will be about 70 - 100 cm long.

Pull one thread out of the skein

You should use two threads for stitching. This is enough to make the stitching look dimensional. This is exactly the number of threads each Stitchering kit is designed for.

Fold the thread in half and insert into the needle

Fold the pulled out thread in half and insert both ends into the needle eye with your hands or using a needle threader.

How to make the first stitch

Making knots is uncommon for stitching since they can form roughness and pimples. In this regard, we will show you two basic methods of making the first stitch that fixes the thread on the canvas.

Have some practice in making the first stitch for different types of the working thread.

The “loop” method for a single thread folded in half.

The loop method involves piercing from outside of the canvas, leaving a tail after the thread passed through the canvas. Put the thread in the loop from outside, and pierce the canvas in place of the loop once again. The thread has been fixed, finish the cross if necessary.

The common method for two threads inserted in one needle eye.

To use this method, pierce the first stitch from the back of the canvas, and leave the thread tail. Hold this tail with a finger and try to fix it with the following stitches, so that the entire tail is embraced with stitches. Thus, the thread will be fixed thoroughly from the back. After making 3-4 stitches you may stop worrying that the tail will come undone.

How to make the last stitch to change the thread
Be ready to change the thread when it finishes.

To change the thread, no knots should also be used. All you need to do to fix the thread is just to stretch it along the stitches from the back side. Thus, the thread won’t come loose and will cause no inconvenience.

Back view
Stitching direction and sequence
How to stitch smooth crosses.

To make the resulting stitching look uniform without bumps and rippling and with equal crosses, you should stitch crosses and rows of crosses moving from left to right.

You can start either from the leftmost fragment or from the center, moving from left to right as well, and going down clockwise.

The right way is to make the lower stitch first and then the upper one, with the upper stitch always having the same direction.

To get this, you should choose a single stitching sequence for yourself and follow this sequence for each cross. You should follow the chosen sequence when stitching both single crosses and rows of crosses. Always follow the same sequence.

Now you know all the necessary information. Start stitching!

Proceed to the previously chosen fragment, fix the first stitch and go on moving from left to right. When the thread finishes, take a new one and continue. Indicate the stitched areas on the pattern. At the end of your stitching day, don’t forget to put the needle and scissors to a safe and secure place.

Enjoy your stitching!

After you apply all the above-discussed stitching principles in practice and complete your first work, you can justifiably call yourself an experienced embroiderer!

And once again, the most important things:

  • use 2 strands of thread to stitch;
  • move from left to right, clockwise;
  • stick to the same piercing sequence.