Home > Beginners > How to Start A Cross Stitch

How to Start A Cross Stitch

Making patterns using cross-stitches is one of the most satisfying things you can do if you love hand embroidery. With an easy to learn method and plenty of patterns to try out, most people find it easy to engage in cross-stitching as a hobby or even for serious embroidery projects. It all starts with a single X-shaped stitch which turns into a row.

How to Start A Cross Stitch

Assuming you have gridded the fabric, have some thread and a pattern in mind, the easiest way to start a cross-stitch is by creating half stitches from one end of a row to the other. Starting with half stitches makes it easy to correct any mistakes and is also faster. After you have completed the row with half-stitches, you can then do a return stitch going the other way to complete the cross-stitch.

How to Start A Cross-Stitch Using A Reference Chart

If you have purchased a cross-stitching kit, then you may have a reference chart to guide you on where to put your rows, columns and which colors to use for each part of the pattern. The chart might also show you where to start the cross-stitch to achieve the desired result. Whichever the case, it’s always good to start your cross-stitches at the center of the fabric and work your way to the edges.

What You Will Need

  1. Some cross-stitching fabric– Preferably Aida or any linen with visible holes that you can use as a reference when stitching your design. Some kits may come with the right fabric.
  2. Some thread– You will need enough embroidery thread to finish your design. It may come in different colors and shades depending on the design you are stitching. Again, some cross-stitching kits do come with the right floss/ thread needed as per the reference chart.
  3. A round-end tapestry needle– Choose a size that matches the fabric you will be working on. 

Step One- Preparation

Start with pressing the fabric and placing it on an embroidery hoop if you have one. It’s easier to do hand-embroidery when your fabric is on a flat surface and held tight with a frame or embroidery hoop but it’s optional. 

Next, choose the thread you are going to start with and cut at least 15 inches to start with or a length that you think will complete the first set of rows on your pattern. As a rule of thumb, you should not be tempted into cutting a very long strand of thread because it will make your job more difficult. Also, be sure to separate the strands and pick one if you are using special embroidery thread.  

Having selected and cut your starting thread, thread the needle but avoid creating a knot at the end of the thread as you normally would. The best approach to securing your tail is to stitch over it and secure it at the back of the fabric. This will make your final design neater and less bulky especially if you have to cut and restart the stitches after a few rows.

Step Two- Starting A Cross-Stitch 

This is the most important part of the whole process and one you should try and get right from the word go. If you have a reference map, identify where you are supposed to start the first row. The center of the fabric is always good if the reference map does not indicate a starting point. We will start our cross-stitch by making a complete row using a half stitch. 

There are two methods you can use to start your cross-stitch as explained next.


  • The American Method


This method involves creating the bottom half of the cross-stitch before completing the top half on the return trip. Essentially, you will insert you first needle through the bottom hole in the square and proceed to make diagonal stitches (half stitches) to the end of the row. On the return trip, you will cross the diagonals from the top holes going to the bottom. You can start from left to right depending on your design or the hand you are using to stitch.


  • The European Method


The European method involves creating the top half of the cross stitch and then completing the bottom with the return trip. You will insert your first needle through the top hole in the starting square and proceed to make your diagonal half stitches to the end of the current row. On your return trip, cross the diagonal from the bottom going to the top hence creating a complete X-shaped stitch for every interval.

Finish the Row

After creating a complete row filled with cross-stitches you should make sure that the tail is properly secured by stitching over it on your last cross-stitch.  From here, you can make an additional cross-stitch to either side of the current row to transition to the next row. Alternatively, you can transition using a normal running stitch if the next row is too far. If the next row or column you are working on is more than two inches away, it’s better to just cut the thread and secure it before you start again.

How to Start A Cross-Stitch Without A Reference Chart

This method requires a bit of skill and patience as you will not have any reference points. However, it’s similar in every way to the other method except that you will have to estimate your stitching points and count the number of cross-stitches you make for each row. Use this method if you are working on normal fabric and don’t have a printed design to refer to.

Some Dos and Don’ts

  • Do not create a knot when starting your cross-stitch pattern. Look for an alternative way to secure your tail instead.
  • Don’t make your cross-stitches too tight especially on fabric with large holes. This might make it harder to achieve your desire pattern and pull the fabric inwards.
  • Use the right thread with the correct thickness.
  • Don’t run your thread more than two inches at the back to transition to another row or column.
  • Finish one row before you move to the next one if you are using half-stitches unless you are sure that the return stitch will come from the opposite direction.  

What Is A Cross-Stitch?

Cross-stitching is a decorative stitching method comprising of a series of X-shaped stitches. The stitches have to be carefully arranged and counted to achieve the desired pattern.  For instance, if one is making a square shape using cross-stitches, they will have to count the number of X-shaped stitches they make for every edge and make sure they are equal.    

Most people use cross-stitches to embroider complex patterns on fabric using a simple needle and thread pair. For beginners and enthusiasts, buying a cross-stitching kit is more convenient than trying to grid or estimate the stitching points on unmarked fabric. Experienced designers can make complex patterns on any fabric without a grid by counting and measuring their rows with precision.

Related Questions

What Do You Need to Start A Cross Stitch?

You will need some fabric, embroidery thread, needle minders, a tapestry needle, pair of scissors, a printed pattern (optional), embroidery hoop or frame (also optional).  If you are a beginner, you might also want to buy a cross-stitch kit to help you make your first patterns as you learn.  There are different kinds of cross-stitch kits out there that come with the essential items you need to create basic patterns.

Is Cross-Stitching Easy?

Cross-stitching is among the easiest hand-embroidery methods out there. Once you learn how to create a single row and connect it to the next one, you will be able to make simple patterns in no time. What’s more, you can purchase ready cross-stitching kits with reference maps and essential materials to make your work easier.


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SewingMachineBuffs.com is participating in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
The Amazon Services LLC Associates Program is the leading selling program on the Internet, with hundreds of thousands of members.