How to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern

At a glance, cross stitch patterns might look very complicated to read and interpret. Don’t worry; it is time to break the codes and learn the tricks.

Most designers tell novices to start with a small cross stitch pattern. That’s because that makes it easy for you to learn.

The guide below will explain how to interpret simpler cross stitch patterns. Besides, the skills you have will help you read even more complex cross stitch patterns. Get the basics first.

How to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern?

Cross stitch patterns are grids that contain very tiny squares. Some come with design charts that show all information you need to stitch the design.

It includes the number of colors, strands, fabric type, and threads you need to use. Let’s figure out some ways to read this pattern.

What Does Cross-Stitch Pattern Show?

As mentioned earlier, a pattern contains many small squares. The number of squares on your chart will match those on your fabric.

Each square on your chart that needs stitches will have a symbol. A thread color key will list all signs matching the color in your design.

To spot grid lines, look for the darker lines that are in the ten by ten section. So, this makes it easy to maintain your place, count your stitches, and read your patterns.

A cross stitch pattern has arrows that show the center point of your design. You can spot them by identifying the lines intersecting at the middle point.

Most professional designers tell starters and amateurs to center their designs. However, it doesn’t matter to the fabric they are using. It allows them to have more than enough space for finalizing their project. The cross pattern charts can come in black and white or a different color.

The symbols it has will tell the stitcher if they need to use fractional or cross stitches.

Learn how to work starting from the middle of your pattern when doing a cross stitch pattern project. That’s because it is easier to trace the center point of a small cross stitch pattern using your fingers.

If dealing with larger patterns, you need to use a pen, pencil, and a ruler to get the exact spot.

Some people read their cross stitch patterns by holding the right side of the design up. But, you can hold it upside down as you orient the fabric.

Avoid turning the pattern of the fabric to 90 degrees. That’s because it will make your stitches cross on the wrong side.

Reading Symbols and Legends

Every cross stitch pattern comes with a legend showing the color of threads to use for that project. Full-color charts have color blocks and symbols.

Besides, they show the different threads to use. For charts that are black and white, you can have them with symbols only.

Moreover, you need to match your symbol or color block in that legend to identify the appropriate color you need.

Some designers would want to shift to another brand of thread. Other legends can have thread substitutions in such a case.

Symbols or blocks that cover the whole grid square represent full cross stitches.

On the chart, anytime you identify lines, know that they mean back stitches. Likewise, round dots show that you should use French knots.

Once you understand the symbols and legends, you are almost there to grasp them. You can proceed to interpret pattern notes.

Pattern Notes

Professional cross-stitch chart makers come with more helpful information for the designer. You can get the recommended count and color to fabric to use.

Some list the dimensions of stitch you need. Stitch dimensions will include the total number of stitches in height and width.

It also lists the full size after stitching in different counts of fabric. Background information on other fabric counts is essential.

Thus, to understand this section, you need to have a few details. Pattern notes can tell the stitcher so much.

Besides, they can get the total number of strands of different floss. It will be for all the other stitches in their pattern.

There is an issue on copyright that you need to get clear. Most charts have copyrights.

Thus, you are not supposed to roll copies of these charts to sell them or share with other people.

Some charts don’t have copyrights. The owners allow other users to download the charts and stitch them up.

But, they recommend sharing a photo of your final results. You can do this on any social media platform and tag the owners.

How Do You Prepare Your Fabric and Thread for Making a Cross Stitch Pattern?

You can cross stitch on different types of fabrics. But, the two that are common are linen and Aida.

These two are woven and will often fray when you cut them. Thus, ensure that you bind the edges before stitching.

Also, if you are working on a large project that requires you to handle the fabric more often, this will help.

What’s more, you can use zigzag stitches to sew your edges. It prevents fraying.

Others who have sergers can use them. Masking tape also works well if you can’t use the other methods.

Get the Center of the Fabric

Fold your fabric into halves one way, then do it again on the other side to identify where its center is. Pinch or crease the middle point before marking it.

You can use a pin in that section and make a tiny stitch in the center.

Use the Frame Or Hoop

Embroidery frames and hoops exist in different styles. You can choose to use any or don’t if you are comfortable working without it.

Starters will need to use embroidery hoops to make cross-stitching easier. Once they study the art and their skill becomes top-notch, they can do without a ring or a frame.

When using a hoop, separate the rounds by loosening the hook. Lay the first round that has no clip on the table and lay your fabric over it.

As you place your fabric, ensure that its center matches the center of your hoop. After that, lay the second round over the material.

Press the hoop down to sandwich the fabric between the two rounds. Tighten your screw as you pull the fabric.

It shouldn’t be too tight as it will spoil your fabric weave.

Preparing Your Thread

Select the floss color you want to begin with and cut 18 inches of it. Avoid using a thread that is longer than 18 inches as it could knot and tangle.

Most types of embroidery floss have six thread strands wound together. Thus, you will need to use one or two of the strands depending on your fabric type.

Separating the strands needs you to pull one strand at a time. If you pull many strands, the thread might knot or tangle.

Essential Points to Note When Reading and Making Cross Stitch Patterns

If you are new at making cross stitch patterns, it might seem challenging. But, things will be easier on your next project.

Here are a few vital tips to keep your hands-on.

  • Strive to get a friendly yet easy tension for all your stitches. Avoid pulling them very tight.
  • Pulling it warps most types of fabric. Others become very loose.
  • Stitches have to lie flat on the fabric. Avoid any long jumps on the back of your fabric.
  • The jumps heading across the backside can be visible from the front side, especially if you hang your fabric where there is plenty of light.
  • If you want to move and stitch on another spot that could be more stitches farther, end the stitch. Secure the stitch and restart at the new area.
  • Have all the supplies nearby that you need to work on your project. They should be ready before you start gridding your fabric and securing its ends.
  • Most threads come in different dye lots. They could vary a little bit between the batches.
  • You wouldn’t want to have different shades of the same color you didn’t intend to have.
  • The thread could twist when you are stitching. To counter such instances, ensure that you drop your thread and needle to dangle, as this helps the line to unwind before you can continue.
  • The most important part is to have fun and relax. Cross stitching is rewarding, and it doesn’t need you to stress so much.
  • You can be keen on every detail, but the main thing is to enjoy every process.

Which Type of Needle and Thread Is Usually Suitable in Cross Stitch Patterns?

Most often, designers use round-end tapestry needles to do cross stitches. The needle size you will use here will depend on the type of fabric.

If you want to stitch a kit, the best thing is to use whichever needle you find in it.

You have to thread the needle as you would thread your hand sewing needle. The most common one to use would be stranded cotton.

What Is the Key When Reading a Cross Stitch Pattern?

The key is what will decode your pattern. It lists the number of floss strands you need for a stitch.

You can get the symbols, the correct type of floss to use, and the total number of floss colors to use. Symbols in the pattern will represent different things depending on the design.

Sometimes, the key comes with the details of the publisher and the designer.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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