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What Is Railroading Cross Stitch

When you cross stitch large projects, you sometimes find that your threads are twisting and knotting up. You let go of your needle and let it hang as the threads straighten out themselves. This is the most common solution to the problem.

The other solution you can use that preempts this problem is railroading. Railroading ensures that your thread stays straight and on its path throughout your cross-stitching project.

What Is Railroading In Cross Stitch?

Railroading in cross-stitch refers to the process by which you separate the strands of your thread to keep them from twisting and knotting. To railroad properly, bring your needle up from the bottom side of the fabric. Before you push the needle back down, separate the strands on your embroidery floss and push the needle back down through the space between the strands.

Railroading is done to ensure that your stitches are neat and lie flat on your fabric. It also ensures that there is even coverage of floss on your fabric as you cross-stitch.

When you are working with threads that knot up easily, you can prevent this from the start to have a neat outcome with railroading. Many cross-stitching experts prefer to railroad when working with light colors.

For beginners, this extra step to make sure your thread lies properly on the fabric may cause you to take some more time to complete your cross-stitch project. With time, you can incorporate railroading naturally in your stitches.

How to Do Railroading In Cross Stitch?

Method 1. Railroading With Your Needle

Step 1. Have everything you need for your cross-stitch project. Embroidery floss in the colors you need, Aida fabric, scissors to cut your threads, and your embroidery needle. Depending on your stitching preferences, you can use any other tools you may need to stitch with. For example, you may require a hoop for your cross-stitch project.

Step 2. Once you have all the tools and materials you require, start your cross-stitch project. Thread your embroidery needle with two strands of your embroidery floss. Separate a sufficient length of the strands you need from the rest of the floss. Cut them and thread your needle.

Step 3. Start your cross-stitch normally. Bring your needle to the top of your fabric from the bottom to make your first stitch. As you push the needle down, use it to separate the strands of the floss.

Step 4. In the space between the two strands of floss, insert and push down your needle to complete the stitch. Your strands will lie on the fabric flat as two separate strands, resembling a railroad. They will be parallel to each other and evenly covering the fabric without bunching.

Step 5. Continue and complete your cross-stitch project. Remember to separate the strands of your floss with every stitch that you make. Different people railroad differently. You can choose to railroad the top stitch only. Or, you could railroad both.

An experienced hand embroiderer will get used to railroading fast. A beginner may feel that it takes a lot of time to complete their project when they railroad. With lots of practice, railroading comes naturally to your cross-stitching experience.

You will observe that your railroaded cross-stitch projects are neater and have a strong outline. The threads evenly cover the fabric. You don’t have any knotting on the threads. Since they are separated, they cover the fabric more evenly without looking like small knots.

Method 2. Railroading With A Laying Tool

Step 1. Get all the tools and materials you need. You will need a laying tool. You can use a large embroidery needle for this. Embroidery floss in the colors you need, embroidery needles for your fabric and, Aida or linen fabric for your cross-stitch project. You may also need scissors to cut your threads and probably a hoop if need be.

Step 2. Thread your needle. With a laying tool, it is possible to work with more than two strands of embroidery floss. You can use the six strands of floss or just four strands. Measure and cut a sufficient amount of floss. Cut with scissors and thread your needle. You should use a needle that can easily hold the number of strands you need.

Step 3. Start your cross-stitch normally. As you push your needle back down through the fabric, you need to separate the strands of your floss. With one hand, pick the large embroidery needle that you will use as the laying tool. Place your embroidery floss on it while pulling tight. You will observe that the strands of your floss lie separately on the laying tool.

Step 4. With your embroidery floss still lying on your laying tool, push the needle back down the fabric. Then pull tight to maintain the thread tension. Remove the laying tool. You will observe that the strands of floss on the fabric are separate from each other. Making your first successful railroad cross-stitch.

Step 5. Similar to when you are using a piece of two-strand embroidery floss, you can choose to railroad only the top thread or both on your cross-stitch project. The lower thread is not easily seen as the top thread. However, railroading both threads will lead to a beautiful result at the end of the project.

You will have your stitches evenly spread on the fabric. This will ensure that your cross-stitch is easily seen especially when you use light-colored embroidery floss.

Step 6. Using a laying tool for your cross-stitch may be a little difficult for the first time. As you proceed through the project, you get used to it. You will get more comfortable the more you use it. This will ensure that you will make better stitches as you go along.

When using a laying tool, you may need to use a hoop to hold your fabric. You may also require a stand. This will help you to use both your hands efficiently as you cross-stitch. The hoop will help to maintain the integrity of the fabric as you focus on railroading the floss.

Using a laying tool may take more time to complete a project. With practice, you will get better at it and will easily railroad your cross-stitch projects.

What Do You Do With Your Finished Cross-Stitch Projects?

Cross-stitch is a hand embroidery skill. Therefore, a finished cross-stitch project is a work of art. It will have many people marvel at its beauty and the skill of the embroiderer. As such, you need to display it properly. Or, whatever use you put it to, let it show how good an embroiderer you are.

Most cross-stitch embroiderers display their finished projects. This is common when you have a full coverage cross-stitch project. This is where an embroiderer takes an intricate pattern and cross-stitches it onto a fabric. This cross-stitch project is then framed and displayed just like a painting. It is even often mistaken for a painting.

Another thing that you can do with a finished cross-stitch is to stick it on clothes. In this case, you will have to decide beforehand what garment you want to sew a cross-stitch project for. This helps you to determine the size and color of threads you will use to match your garment.

You can also use a finished cross-stitch project as decoration. You can make placemats for your dinner table or mousepads for your home computer. You can also make an office banner from your complete cross-stitch projects.

Can You Wash Your Completed Cross-Stitch Projects?

You can easily wash your cross-stitch projects. Cross-stitch projects take more time to complete. As such, they will be dirty by the time you are done. Since you can’t display a dirty project, you have to wash it.

To wash your cross stitch project, soak it in cold water for about ten minutes. Wash with mild soap and wash by hand. Rinse it in clean water until all the soap is gone from the project.

When you finish washing your cross-stitch, you also need to dry it correctly. To do this, get two towels. Lay one on a flat surface, then lay your cross-stitch on it. Place the other towel on top of the project. Roll the towels and squeeze gently. Do this for some time until you have squeezed all the water out of your project. This prevents your fabric and cross-stitches from stretching.

You can now go ahead and iron your project. Place it on another dry and clean towel or cloth. Cover it with a light ironing cloth and press your iron onto it. Make sure to use medium heat settings on your iron.

As you iron, keep checking that your fabric doesn’t stretch and that your cross-stitch threads are intact. Press in this way until your cross-stitch is dry.

You have now finished your cross-stitch project. It is now ready to frame or to use for any other intended purpose. Every finished project is the start of another. Consistent practice helps you to boost your skills and become a better cross-stitch embroiderer.


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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