Cross-stitch instructions and tips

Preparations

Before beginning your cross-stitch project, it’s important to wash your hands and ensure that your work area is clean. This will help keep stains out of your fabric and ensure that your finished project looks its best.

Reading the chart

The digital file includes charts in different sizes and colors. The grid system shows the width and height of the pattern, and the arrows indicate the center of the pattern. Each symbol on the chart represents one stitch and one color.

In addition to the pattern, you’ll find a color and symbol key that includes the DMC Mouliné floss number, the name of the color, and the number of skeins needed.

Fabric

The size of your cross-stitch project will depend on your fabric. Before cutting your fabric, make sure to add an allowance around the pattern. This allowance needs to be big enough for you to hold the fabric, help you fit the project into your frame, and optionally fit your fabric into your mount or hoop.

To prevent fraying, use masking tape or blanket stitches to protect the edges of your fabric.

Floss

Most patterns use DMC Mouliné floss and are stitched using two threads. Check the instructions for your pattern carefully.
To avoid tangling and wear, I recommend cutting an arm’s length of floss. Pull individual threads from the skein. Avoid pulling two or more threads because it increases the risk of the threads twisting, resulting in uneven stitches.

Needle

I recommend using a blunt needle to avoid piercing the thread in your fabric. The size of the needle depends on the fabric you’re stitching on:

  • For 14-count Aida, 28-count linen, or evenweave, a size 24 needle is recommended.
  • For 16-count Aida, 32-count linen, or evenweave, a size 26 needle is recommended.

If you use a needle that is too large for your fabric, the eye of the needle may pull too much on your fabric and create visible holes.

Starting your project

Starting your project in the center of your fabric ensures that you have enough room on all sides to stitch the pattern. To find the center of your fabric, fold it in half and then fold it in half again. Mark the center with a pin, a stitch, or a non-permanent fabric marker.

Fabric with dotted lines describing where to fold it.

If your pattern is symmetrical, it’s a good idea to mark the top of your fabric to help you use the same direction for your stitches when you turn the fabric around.

Finishing your project

When you’ve finished stitching, secure all remaining loose threads on the back of your project to prevent them from unraveling.

You can hand wash your project using lukewarm water and mild soap. Rinse the fabric thoroughly, but be careful not to stretch or twist it as this can distort the stitches.

When ironing the fabric, place it face down on a pressing cloth or use a white towel that won’t bleed dye onto your fabric when heated.

Stitches

Securing your thread

You need to secure your thread when you start and end your stitches so that the stitches do not unravel. Avoid using knots on your thread because they will make your finished project uneven and may be visible through the fabric.

Starting with the loop method: If the pattern instructs you to stitch with two threads of the same color, take one thread and fold it in half. Start at the backside of your fabric and bring the needle up. Make your first stitch. On the backside, pull your needle through the loop that you created by folding the thread. Go up through the next hole in the fabric and complete your stitch.

The three steps of the loop method, with the loop under the fabric, the thread going through the loop, and up on the other side of the fabric.

With the second method, you start at the front of your fabric. Locate where you want to place your first stitch but bring your needle down through a hole in the fabric several squares away. Leave a few centimeters of thread hanging on the front. Hold this thread when you make your first stitches, but do not pull too hard.

The end of the thread is on the front of the fabric, away from the stitch.

When you have made a few stitches, turn your fabric upside down, and secure the loose thread under your stitches. Cut away excess thread.

You can use the same method for securing the start of your next thread:

The underside of the fabric where the stitches are in vertical lines across the fabric, and the end of the thread is inserted under the stitches, horizontally.

Do not pierce the thread or the fabric when pulling your needle and thread under your stitches. Piercing through the thread will make it much harder to remove your stitches if you need to redo a part of your project.

Cross stitch

Cross stitches are sewn diagonally across a square in the fabric to form a cross. When stitching on aida, you can start your cross-stitch by going up in the lower left or lower right corner: the most important thing is that your stitches always go in the same direction; otherwise, they may look uneven.

  1. Go up in the lower left corner
  2. Go across and down in the upper right corner
  3. Go up in the lower right corner
  4. Go across and down in the upper left corner
The position where the needle is inserted in the fabric in the different corners, numbered 1-4.

If you’re working on a row of the same color on aida fabric, you can stitch multiple bottom stitches and then complete the row with the top stitch:

Half stitches which are completed into full stitches on the second lap.

Half cross stitch

If the pattern includes half cross stitches, only do the bottom stitch:

Half stitches starting in the bottom left corner and ending in the top right corner.

Quarter stitch and ¾ quarter stitch

Quarter stitches (¼) end in the center of the cross, between the threads of the fabric. A ¾ quarter stitch is more common and illustrated below, and it uses one short and one full-length stitch:

The position where the needle is inserted in the fabric in the different corners, numbered 1-4.

Backstitch

Backstitches are used for outlining and adding details to the design.

It is best to add your backstitches last to prevent them from being covered by other stitches.

  1. Go up in the hole of the fabric where you want to start
  2. Go down at the second hole in the direction you are stitching
  3. On the back, go across one or more holes depending on the design, then bring your thread to the front
  4. Return to the second hole to anchor the thread and continue
The position where the needle is inserted in the fabric in the different corners, numbered 1-4.