I know it’s a bit odd at first. The term “cross stitch” really has two meanings.
It refers to the whole cross stitch style of embroidery (which can use many stitches). And it also refers to the actual embroidery stitch – the one that looks like an ‘x.’
This post teaches you how to do the actual stitch.
This stitch alone is all you need to complete hundreds of thousands of cross stitch patterns!
The cross stitch actually is made up of two individual stitches. We call them “legs.” The two legs cross over each other in one little box on your Aida and you have a cross stitch.
So you might see me refer to something as the / leg of the stitch. That’s the leg that goes from the bottom left corner to the the top right.
And following that logic: if I mention the \ leg, you know it’s spanning the top left corner to the bottom right.
We’re going to cover this stitch in two parts.
First, I’m going to teach you how to do one completed stitch. Then I’ll show you a way to make it faster and easier. Give each method a try and see which clicks the most for you!
Now comes the fun part – the actual stitching.
Here’s what you’ll wanna grab:
Aida (or other fabric), needle, floss, scissors + pattern (optional)
a single cross stitch in 6 steps
- Anchor your floss
- Bring needle up through fabric.
- Know your square.
- Put needle down, making first / leg
- Bring needle up through fabric
- Put needle down, making final \ leg.
This handy pinnable graphic illustrates all the steps + keep scrolling for more details!
step 1: thread needle + anchor floss
If you’ve never stitched before, start with this tutorial on the Loop Start first. When you use the loop start, you actually complete the first leg of your stitch while you’re anchoring the floss! Feel free to skip ahead to step 5.
Otherwise, get your needle ready and secure your floss whichever way you choose.
step 2: bring needle up
Bring your needle up through your fabric from back to front.
step 3: know your square
That hole you just brought your needle through is going to be the bottom left corner of your cross stitch.
We’re numbering the holes you’ll be using to make your stitch in the order you’ll be using them. So this is Hole #1.
I bet you can’t guess where we’re going next…
If you’re a leftie, you may prefer to work with the steps mirrored.
Your “Hole #1” will be the bottom RIGHT corner, and you’ll work from right to left.
step 4: down at two
Put your needle down into your fabric from front to back at Hole #2.
Hole #2 is diagonal from #1, which is what creates the angled stitch. You have just stitched the first (or bottom) “leg” of your cross stitch.
If you used the Loop Start tutorial, this should look familiar!
step 5: up at three
Bring the needle up through the fabric at #3, from back to front.
You’re now beginning the second (and final) leg of the stitch.
step 6: down at four
From front to back, put the needle down into the fabric at #4.
Woohoo! You just completed the final leg of your first cross stitch!
That was pretty simple, right?
Now let’s try the “quick and easy” way.
the row stitching method
Instead of making each full cross stitch individually before moving onto the next one, the row stitching method creates a row of / legs before adding a row of \ legs on top.
start by scrolling up and doing steps 1 to 5.
That creates your first / leg, and you brought your needle through at #3.
From now on the original numbering is history. Look at the “row stitching” section on the graphic for the new numbers, okay?
We want to make another / leg located in the square to the right, so go down at #4. Now you have two legs right next to each other like: / /
Keep repeating this process along the row. Go up at 5, down at 6, etc. You’ll end up with a bunch of / / / / / / / / / legs.
now we’re finishing the row!
Begin by bringing your needle up at 1, and go down at two.
You just completed the first full cross stitch! Your row now looks like: / / / / / / / / X
Now finish the rest of them following the same pattern. Up at 3, down at 4. Up at 5, down at 6, etc. You will reuse holes, that’s okay!
You’ve learned how to do a full cross stitch two ways: by itself or as a row.
Believe it or not, but you now have the skills to stitch hundreds of thousands of projects. There are so many designs that use ONLY the cross stitch!
a few more tips + tricks
You can also work vertically, and stitch in columns the same way you stitched the row. Same concept, just up and down instead of right and left.
When you’re done stitching and ready to finish the project, check out this tutorial on how to secure your ends.
does the order of the legs matter?
Yes… and no.
Your projects will look neater and more uniform if you consistently stitch the legs in the same order.
Meaning, if you always do the / leg first and the \ leg second, you do that EVERY time you make a cross stitch.
Also, it doesn’t matter which order you choose – it simply looks more visually appealing when the top legs are all going in the same direction.
But it can be hard to remember this when you’re just starting out!
If you accidentally switch up your order partway through a project, it’s not worth ripping out your hard work.
Any technique that’s about making your projects look better is something to work on once you’re comfortable with the basics.
Don’t stress too much about leg order as a beginner.
Ready to give cross stitching a try?
If you want to get started and skip the trip to the craft store, hit up the shop and have a beginner kit mailed right to your door!