Want to learn to cross stitch like a pro? Have a look at this list and see if you know all these cross stitch tips and tricks that experienced stitchers live by! You’ll not only end up with a nicer finished product, but you’ll enjoy this addictive craft even more!
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission (such as from Amazon). Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality, and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. I would never recommend something I wouldn’t use myself. 🙂
1. Clean hands
It seems like common sense, but wash your hands before touching your fabric or floss – you’ll wash your piece when it’s done anyway, but there’s no point getting your floss and fabric dirtier. If you’re not sure how to wash your piece, click here for a video tutorial on the easiest way to wash your cross stitch piece when you’ve finished stitching it (and why you should wash it). If you’re using hand-dyed floss or fabric (or floss from a kit), it’s always a good idea to pre-wash it before stitching to get rid of any loose dye that may stain your project later.
2. Loop Method
Use the loop method for starting threads if you’re using an even number of strands (or a pin stitch if you’re not) – here’s a video link showing you exactly how to use the loop method and pin stitch.
3. Length of embroidery floss
Measure your floss strands using the length of your fingertips to your elbow (double it if using the loop method to start) – this length is just perfect for reducing the amount of tangles in your thread.
4. Protect your fabric edges
If you want, you can protect your fabric edges with a zigzag stitch or a small amount of Fray Check. You can also use painters tape to seal the edges of your fabric. This will help prevent your edges from getting banged up and fraying while you work on your project. Fray Check can be bought at most needlecraft shops, or even the craft section of big stores like Walmart.
5. Untwist your needle
Keep untwisting your thread every now and then. Drop the needle and let the floss unwind or hand twist the needle. Most people naturally will rotate the needle slightly with every stitch which makes your floss slowly start to twist up (I need to untwist in a counter-clockwise direction). You can also use techniques like railroading to keep the floss parallel and neat, but just remembering to untwist my needle every few stitches works just as well. If the floss is twisted, it can create an odd texture in your stitches and the fabric will show through your stitches more.
6. Check your counting
Count count count and double check your counting. You can keep track of where you are by marking your pattern (paper or digital) in various ways, or you can just count. I don’t mark my patterns as I sometimes take a photo with my phone and hang it on my sewing frame. I then read the pattern directly from the photo (pic below). So make sure to double count, it really helps minimize mistakes. And tip #7 will really help you with not making counting mistakes.
7. Gridding cross stitch
For bigger pieces, gridding is a godsend and will save you hours of time (and your sanity) – you can see the video demonstration here of how to grid your cross stitch project with a fabric marker or mechanical pencil. Don’t forget to check that your chosen method of marking the fabric will erase/wash out cleanly before marking up your entire piece of fabric, and check the linked post for “issues” that can arise later with fabric markers. If you prefer having a fool-proof method to grid your fabric that’s reusable, check out this post about how to grid your fabric using fishing line.
8. Try making your own pattern
If you’re wanting to make a quick gift or to help teach a child or beginner to stitch, here are some good tips to help you make a simple cross stitch pattern. You can use software or needlework graph paper and coloured pencils.
9. Use a frame
Use a sewing frame (like a scroll bar frame) if you’re having a hard time holding embroidery hoops or Q-snap frames (or need to stitch while reclining like I do). You can even try just holding the fabric with no hoop at all and stitching using the sewing method, many stitchers prefer it. If you do want to try a sewing frame, there are variations that stand upright, as well as lap stands and stands that you can clip your existing hoop or Q-snap into. You can even turn a scroll bar frame into a lap frame really easily and inexpensively – here’s a blog post showing you how to make legs for your scroll frame.
10. Don’t worry about rules
Don’t stress about how other people stitch, or what the “right” way to stitch is. For example, unless you genuinely enjoy making both sides of your piece look perfect, don’t worry about how the back of your piece looks – many stitchers were taught by their grandmothers that “the measure of a good woman is how neat the back is.” Unless your piece is going in a fair to be judged or is being stitched on very translucent fabric, there’s no need to be concerned about carrying threads or the occasional knot. Cross stitch is meant to be relaxing. And quite often the back of an embroidery piece has a really interesting personality all its own, as the back of my “Pieta” test piece shows below. Also don’t worry about doing techniques like the parking method (as opposed to cross country stitching) if it’s just not your style. Even keeping all your top threads going the same direction isn’t a set-in-stone rule – some artists switch it up to create texture in a piece as the light will fall differently on the colours. Just do what you like, experiment, and don’t worry about what anyone else tells you is the “right” way to do cross stitch.
11. Bonus tip: Relax!
Don’t forget to have fun and relax! Cross stitch is proven to be hugely beneficial for your mental and physical health — you can see one article here on the mental health benefits of cross stitch. If you’re having a bad day stitching and just can’t get into it, put it away for a day or so and come back to it refreshed. There are also several ways to get your stitchy bug back if it’s gone on vacation without you. And join in with many of of the online groups to discuss cross stitch, it’s a great community out there! Feel free to post pictures of what you’re working on onto any of my social media pages, I’d love to see what you’re up to!
If you enjoyed these cross stitch tips, please share this post and help out other stitchers. 🙂