A beginner’s guide to cross stitch

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Cross stitch is one of those wonderful crafts that’s easy to learn and eminently addictive. Once you get started, you’ll come to love the rhythm of stitching and the endless creative possibilities it offers.

This guide is intended for those of you new to cross stitch who are creating one of the Red Gate Stitchery pendants, rings, or cuffs. Stitching on bamboo, acrylic, and leather isn’t any different that stitching on traditional cross stitch fabric, but there are a few tips and tricks.

If you’re looking for more comprehensive instructions, you can download this How to Cross Stitch Guide that covers things like how to choose fabric and floss for a traditional cross stitch project.

Looking for a blank design grid so you can map out your project design? Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll find printable versions there.

How to Cross Stitch

Step 1: Cut a length of embroidery floss about 36 inches long. Floss is made up of six strands twisted together, and you’ll stitch with only one strand at a time. Separate a strand by pulling it gently apart from the others.

Step 2: Fold your separated strand in half and thread both ends through the needle provided with your pendant.

Threading the needle

Step 3: Now it’s time to stitch. Look at your pattern and pick a starting point. Each square in the pattern represents a stitch. I recommend starting near the edge of the pendant so you won’t have to count in as many holes.

Step 4: Starting from the back side of the pendant, bring your needle up through a hole toward the front, leaving a couple of inches of thread at the back. Because you doubled it, the thread will make a loop in the back.

Make your first half stitch

Step 5: Next pass your needle through a hole diagonally across from where you started, bringing it through the loop of thread you left in back. Give a little tug to secure the thread.

Make a row of half stitches

Step 6: Follow the diagram below to complete a row of half stitches, going up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, down at 4, and so on.

Make a row of half stitches in the other direction

Step 7: Now return making a row of half stitches in the other direction, going up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, down at 4, and so on.

Tip: It doesn’t matter which direction you stitch in – that is, whether you start with half stitches that slant to the right (/////) or to the left (\\\\\), but pick one and be consistent. All your X’s should be crossed in the same direction.

Step 8: Keep stitching until you reach the end of the thread (or until you run out of stitches in your pattern). On the back side of the pendant, pass the needle through at least three completed stitches to secure the thread.

Finishing your pendant, ring, or cuff

If you don’t want the reverse side of your stitching to be visible on the back side of the pendant when you flip itover, cut a piece of felt or other material to size and carefully glue it to the back. Any all-purpose craft glue should work.

Tips and tricks

  • When stitching on Red Gate Stitchery bamboo or acrylic forms, use a size 28 round-end tapestry needle. On leather you can use either a size 26 or 28 tapestry needle. If you purchased a kit, an appropriately-sized needle will come with it. Tapestry needs are readily available at most craft stores if you need a replacement. You’ll find them in the needlework aisle (not the sewing aisle).
  • Don’t pull your stitches too tight. If you do, it will be difficult to pass a needle through the stiches on the back to end your thread. Grip the needle with pliers if you have any trouble pulling it through.
  • Cross stitch isn’t the only stitch you can use on these pendants. When stitching with two strands, each hole will accommodate at least four passes, so you can have fun trying out all sorts of decorative stitches.