Instructions for Counted Cross Stitching

cross stitch embroidery image by vnlit from <a href=''></a>

Things You'll Need

  • Embroidery floss
  • Needles
  • Cross stitch fabric
  • Cross stitch chart
  • Scissors
  • Cross stitch holder
  • Fabric tape

Counted cross stitch can be a relaxing pastime. For those that do not know how to do counted cross stitch, the beginning process can be overwhelming, however, once you get started, it is more simple than you thought. Follow the instructions and soon you will have a beautiful design that you can hang on the wall or give away if you choose.

Preparing to do Your Counted Cross Stitch

Visit your craft store to select a pattern.
store front image by Derek Abbott from <a href=''></a>

Visit your local craft store and pick out a design for beginners. There are thousands of them available, so try to pick one that says it is for a beginner. These patterns will be smaller. On the back of the package it will tell you what kind of stitches you will use, you want to avoid patterns that have fractals and a lot of color changes that are similar to another color.

Lay out all of your supplies and start getting ready to stitch. To do this, you will want to open your chart to the graph and lay it out. Set your scissors close by so they are within arms reach.

Fabric should be tightly between the two.
cerceau & tissus fleuri image by fotogis�?¨le from <a href=''></a>

Center your cross stitch fabric in the holder. To do this, unscrew the pin that holds the two pieces of plastic or wood frame together. Do not completely remove the pin as they are hard to find once you set them down. Slide the two pieces apart and lay your fabric over the top of the inside piece. Center the fabric over so that the ring is completely covered. Place the outer layer of hoop back over the inside piece and the fabric. Tighten the pin again so that it is nice and tight. The fabric should be tight in between the two pieces.

Thread all needles with colors you will be using.
needle and thread image by Nikolay Okhitin from <a href=''></a>

Thread your needles.Cut a length as long as your arm span. Separate the embroidery floss so that all six strands are loose. Thread each individual color onto a needle. If there are large patches of the same color, thread at least three needles of this color so that you don't have to stop as frequently to rethread your needles. Place all of your needles somewhere that you won&#039;t loose them-- for example, I stick mine in the arm of the couch.

Masking tape is acceptable to use.
Roll of parcel tape image by Scott Latham from <a href=''></a>

Tape the edges of the fabric. You want to tape them so that there is more tape sticking off than there is sticking to the fabric. Make sure the tape won't stick to anything else. By doing this, you are preventing your fabric from fraying as you hold it. If you cannot find fabric tape, use masking tape or painter's tape. Do not use duct tape or packing tape-- it will rip the threads out of your fabric when you remove it.

Working the Counted Cross Stitch

Picking the place suggested on your chart is often best.
needles like stock graph image by .shock from <a href=''></a>

Pick a place to start. Often, when you are working with a beginner's pattern, they will suggest a place to start. In most cases, it is best to start where they suggest. Be sure to count the stitches as you go so that you know you are in the write place.

This photos shows correct stitch
cross-stitch image by Lytse from <a href=''></a>

Look at the chart and pick out the color that is indicated by the symbol on the chart. Select that color thread to begin with. It is important to note that all the stitches should be going the same way to create the design. From the beginning point, you want to thread all the stitches in an area from bottom left to the top right box directly above it. This will make all of your stitches in that area look like this: //// Once you have completed the first part of the row going in that direction, turn around and go the other way - \ so that you form XXX with your stitches.

Once you have either completed that area of design with your first color or you need more thread, poke the needle through the back side of your stitching (it won't be hard to figure out which is the back side as it will be sloppy looking) and cut the needle free with your scissors.

Thread your next needle in the space that color goes. Be sure to count all the stitches so that you don't have to many or too few. continue until your design is finished.

Outline your finished product with the color suggested. In most cases, this is black. When doing the outline or backstitch, start the needle in one place and thread it through to the space above it. You will start at the bottom of the stitch and go up, this is why it is called backstitching.


  • It is helpful to make a copy of the pattern so that you can cross off the stitches as you go. That way you will always know where you are. Sit where there is the most light, this will help you see the holes in the fabric better. If you are working with a dark fabric like navy or black, keep a white towel or fabric on your lap so that you can see through it better. Keep a sponge or small cup of water near by to dip the ends of your floss in while you are threading needles.


  • Using linens and evenweave fabrics are difficult-- start with an Aida fabric as the squares are clearly marked. Don't eat or drink anything that isn't water while you are stitching-- it is very easy to stain the fabric or the floss you are working with. Arthritis and carpal tunnel are the cross stitcher's diseases. Make sure that you take several breaks to let your hands and eyes rest.