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How to follow cross stitch patterns

How to follow cross stitch patterns

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Now I know most people are intelligent enough to be able to figure out how to follow cross stitch patterns on their own, but depending on the pattern it can sometimes look like a logo machine threw up all over the page. As an example, the header image is a sample piece of part of a floral pattern I’ve designed, it’s a screenshot from the design software (MacStitch, which I talked about in this post).


Thus, it can be quite intimidating to start a cross stitch if you’ve never followed a pattern before, you might have no clue how to start or how to keep track of where you are. In the video below I explain how to follow along with a simple chart, and I demonstrate with a small single colour design – the Chinese character “peace” (pronounced “hei” in Japanese). Below is a copy of the pattern that I’m using in the video, this is my first “freebie” design for this site. The pattern is using the symbol and the colour, but of course you can make it any colour you like, as well as use a background colour or a dyed fabric to stitch on.


Peace pattern freebie
Peace pattern freebie






More tips to help follow cross stitch patterns


In the video near the end I talk a bit about how to keep track of where you are in the pattern. In later videos I will discuss some slightly more advanced techniques that can help with this, but there are many ways to follow along your pattern (and be able to know where you are when you need to put it down). For a simple pattern like the peace symbol above, it’s not that hard to see where you are, but if you’re working on a more complex one like the floral design, you’ll need to experiment to see what works best for you. You can either have your pattern on a device like a phone or a tablet (usually as a PDF file), or you can have it printed on paper (single-sided is easiest). For paper, it’s super easy to use a highlighter or a pen and mark off the stitches you’ve already done. If you might want to use the pattern again, make a copy and mark that one up (do check the copyright though, some pattern designers don’t permit working copies). For a digital pattern, there are many PDF readers that allow you to search for a specific symbol and to highlight them. You can also take a picture of your pattern with your phone and use a photo editing app to mark up the pattern as you go (this is what I usually do).

There are many ways to keep yourself from getting confused, and it can take a bit of experimentation to see what works best for you. The best advice I can give is to always double check the placement of new stitches (in relation to where they are on the pattern and where they are in relation to any stitches already on the fabric) – just doing this can prevent a lot of miscounting errors, and will prevent a lot of unpicking or cutting stitches out later.


Happy stitching! Of course comments and questions are more than welcome below, I’d love to hear how you found the video and whether you need more advice and help!

Follow Dana Batho:

Artist and Designer

I am an artist, veteran, analyst, and mommy to the sweetest dog ever. I am constantly thinking of ways to use my creativity in everything I touch despite my physical limitations, and I love encouraging others to do the same.

2 Responses

    | Reply

    I am doing a full cross stitch heaven and earth pattern and I’m having trouble knowing how to work the chart. I’m starting at top left hand corner, first page but do I work horizontal or vertically down. How many places, or boxes can I skip? How do you actually know where to go next with many many colors?

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      That’s up to you Allison, most people work the chart in the order the pages are printed in the pattern. I don’t stitch or design charts with so many colours that are so large, because they are hard to work your way through the pattern. This post may also help you see there are several ways to work (spoiler alert, I absolutely detest the parking method, but some people love it) — https://peacockandfig.com/2015/07/parking-versus-cross-country-stitching/. 🙂

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