A cross stitch is an embroidery stitch which is simple to form and easy to use due to its reliance on the shape of a square. Due to the square being an easy shape to tesselate, the cross stitch is frequently used in an embroidery style called counted cross stitch where hundreds of small cross stitches are worked on one piece of material to create a image or sampler.

How to sew a cross stitch

A cross stitch is a cross made in the shape of an X which fills a square. This is done by working a stitch in two parts.

The first part of the stitch is done by bringing a threaded needle up fom underneath the fabric at the bottom left corner of an imaginary square. The needle is then pushed down through the material at the top right of the imaginary square forming the cross stich's first diagonal.

Next push the needle up through the material in the bottom right corner of the imaginary square, and down through the top left corner.

You now have your first cross stitch!

How to sew a line of cross stitches

To form a row of cross stitches, you form your first diagonal of the stitch as described above then carry on in this way horizontally to the right until the row is the required length.

To complete the stitches, complete the second diagonal as above. Do this to complete your row of cross stitches.

This is much easier if working on a woven material such as aida, binca or hardanger as the weave dictates where the stitches should go even so far as to having precise holes as to where the needle should go through the material.

It is important that all the cross stitches that are formed should lie in the same direction. This makes the embroidery look neat and professional. A regular tension is also required otherwise the base material will become warped.

Counted Cross Stitch

Due to the cross stich being based on a square, multiple cross stitches fit together very easily to make images and patterns.

Counted cross stitch patterns have been found dating back centuries in Russia and Eastern Europe where traditionally cross stitch has been used to embellish materials used for clothing and household linen. A vast array of colours were used with many patterns passed down from generation to generation through the female line with different geographical locations having their own particular style of cross stitch design.

In England in the 18th Century, pieces of furniture were decorated with cross stitch, in particular chair seats. Children were also encouraged to take up cross stitch as a hobby with many framed samplers being produced which can fetch a large amount of money per piece when found in auctions today.

The most suitable fabric for a counted cross stitch piece, whether clothing, a framed piece or a tablecloth, is a material which is woven in an even manner. An evenweave material has the same number of strands of weft to the warp, which makes the cross stich easier to produce. Gingham material can also be used due to its pattern on multicoloured squares.

A popular material for cross stiching is called aida. This evenweave material is made from cotton and can be purchased in a variety of gauges, the most popular is 14 hole per inch, abreviated in sewing circles to 14HPI. 14HPI related to the number of little squares that are woven into the material within a measured area, therefore, on 14HPI material, 14 cross stitches can be sewn per inch vertically and horizontally.

The most popular material to work cross stitch on by children is called binca. This material is very similar to aida, but is approximately 4HPI.

Cross Stitch Thread

Many different thread can be used for counted cross stitch depending on the gauge and weight of the material used and the effect wanted. This can range from thick thread such as tapestry wool, to a single strand of stranded embroidery silk.

A BA(Hons) in Fashion and Textile Design
Teach Yourself Embroidery by Jean Kinmond