If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a way to cross stitch faster than you already are, the good news is that there is! Cross stitch is not a race, everyone stitches at different speeds and the point is to enjoy stitching and relaxing. However, if you want to get faster and more efficient, the sewing method (that I’ll outline in the video below) can really speed up your stitching. It basically halves the amount of times you move your needle, and you don’t have to move your hand from the back to the front of the fabric nearly as much.
For this method, you’ll be stitching “in hand,” or without a hoop or sewing frame. If you have a big piece of fabric, you can roll up an edge and clip it out of the way if needed. This isn’t a great method to try for new beginners, as you can get the direction your stitches lay a bit confused at first. Also because there is no hoop holding the fabric taut, if you’re not careful with your stitching tension then you could start to warp and buckle your project a bit (like if you pull harder on one leg of your stitch than the other). If you’re a complete beginner, I’d recommend getting good at the “stab” method of moving your needle from the front to the back of the fabric until that becomes second nature. Click here for some beginner tutorials on stitching.
Also note that your floss will twist a little bit more when using this method. You may not care about that, but if you do want your stitches to lie parallel to each other (called “railroading”) then I have a few tips in the video to help.
This technique is ideal to use on higher quality fabric (such as Zwiegart Aida, evenweave, linen, Fiddler’s Cloth, etc). The fabric will get really soft and pliable in your hands, making it easier to “bend” the fabric so your needle can pass through both holes. More inexpensive fabric will work too, it will just need time to get “warmer” in your hands and become softer to make bending it a little easier.
The sewing method
- Most find it’s easiest to use the sewing method for doing half of your stitches in one direction, then completing them by coming back the opposite direction (working in rows or columns). It is possible to work one stitch at a time, but your needle will be changing direction all the time.
- Practice on a scrap piece of fabric first and make sure your stitch tension is even and not warping the fabric.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments section below! And if you’d like free patterns to practice these tips with, just click the image below!
I try do the hand sewing method but my two stitches are uneven in the needle.. One thread is shorter than the other. I have uneven stitches as the result. Please help me to stitch faster than the stab method.. Judy
Hi Judy! I’m not sure what you mean, your stiches can’t be uneven “in the needle”, your needle is just a tool. Do you mean in the fabric, once you’ve stitched them? If they’re uneven (like one side of the X is shorter) it means your tension is too tight on one of them. It could just be that the sewing method won’t work for you, like if you can’t use an even tension going both directions then don’t use the sewing method. That can be a downside of the sewing method, you do have to take care to not have too much tension or you will pull the X out of shape. 😊
I used this method on a Christmas stocking, this year. It was so much faster. The back seemed so much neater, as well. I think this may be my “go-to” method.
Yeah it’s great isn’t it Patty! 😊
Love your tips. Do you know where I can find bread covers which I loved to do as gifts? No luck these days. Thanks
Hi Mary! I’ve never even heard of bread covers at all, let alone stitchable ones… I’m sorry about that! ❤️
Mary, have you looked on eBay? I actually got an unused/unopened (still in the package) white 18×18 inch 14 count bread cover in a batch of cross stitch fabrics I purchased. I did not purchase the lot for the bread cover and would be happy to send to you if you can still use it.
Hello! I’ve been sewing in hand for my current project. It’s going to take a few years and it’s quite a large one – almost the size of king size bed.
Hence why I’m doing the sew in hand, however I am starting to notice some buckling. With a piece this large, will it still be possible to smooth it out after I finish?
Hi Monique! It depends — if the threads crossing the back are what’s causing the buckling, or changes in your tension as you make your stitches, then it’s possible that it’s not going to change. When you’re done, wash the project (assuming you’re using colorfast threads and fabric), and block it to shape. That might be hard as it’s so big, but that’s the only way to pull the whole project in the “right” direction and hopefully even out any of those areas of uneven tension. Minor buckling can sometimes be corrected this way, but if it’s bad then it’s unlikely to permanently go away. 🙂
Because I learned to embroider first, cross-stitching like this is much easier. I purchased an Ultra Thimble (round and sticks with adhesive circles) for my finger in the back and put a small round bandage on my finger with the needle to help prevent the callas from getting to thick. I also use a regular sewing needle with a sharp point to go through the layers of thread at the corners easier. I love cross-stitching!
Sounds like you have a good system set up for yourself Sandy! Keep on stitching! 😀
I started with the stab method but I always ended up making mistakes tangles knots and weird stuff in the back until I started using the sewing method mixed mostly with cross country and Danish method of stitching. Why is it though that most people won’t use the sewing method? Why do they stick to the stab method?
Hi Erika! The sewing method only works if you’re stitching in hand (no hoop or frame, unless you’ve really loosened off your tension). It seems most people prefer stitching with some sort of frame, it helps keep your stitch and fabric tension even, so that’s likely why most people don’t use the sewing method. 🙂
I have only used up to 22ct Aida when stitching and I love the sewing method can I use this method on evenweave I have seen a lot of people say that evenweave and linen are easy to distort. Just wanting to pick your brain a little more. Love your site, I stream my stitching on twitch and always recommend your site and or videos to those new to stitching as you provide excellent instructions 😀
Hi Erika, thanks for referring me on Twitch and such! 🙂 It can be easier to distort linen or evenweave by using the sewing method, it’s not as stiff as Aida. But the good thing is by the time you start using linen or evenweave, you’ve likely got several projects under your belt so you know what tension your stitches should be at. I’ve done all my last collections using the sewing method (on evenweave and linen), and they’ve been ok. When you wash your piece after stitching anyway, you can block it back into shape if it did go a little wonky. Just keep an eye on your tension, and you should be ok. 🙂
Wow!! It’s very interesting to see that what I have been doing all these years both has a name and is “OK”! I do usually stitch in hand, just don’t like using the hoop. I also roll my work to the inside so as to keep the fabric clean. I learned this from personal experience (whoa – one REALLY dirty project cured that). I am totally self-taught so it’s nice to see I’m on the right track. Thank you for the video.
Haha yes it does have a name Cathy and it’s ok! 🙂 And yes, turning your fabric to the inside is always a good idea. You’re right, one mistake doing that and you never forget. 😀 And you’re welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed the video! 🙂
This is great! Whenever you see ladies stitching in period movies or dramas they always look like they’re just stitching on the front of the fabric. I could never determine if they were just faking it for show (which I’m sure the actors are usually just faking it) or if there was an actual way to do this. Trying with the fabric in a hoop was unsuccessful lol.
Ahahaha yeah, trying to do the sewing method with a hoop is usually a miserable fail — unless you know the fabric needs to be bent to have the needle go through both sides you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong. I did my entire last collection like this. When you’re trying to stitch 10 pieces all at once in a decent amount of time so people aren’t waiting too long for the collection, you learn faster ways to do things. 🙂
My first and only cross stitch project was 6 years ago & your videos were very helpful in refreshing my memory. I also found your video on French Knots very handy – I found them overwhelming but now I’m inspired to have a go at them !
I’m glad the tutorial helped you Anuradha! Happy stitching! 🙂
Wow, I never knew this “style” of stitching had a name! And I learned how to stitch this way, when my mom taught me as a wee one! Years later, I picked up stitching again (last year actually) and immediately just started stitching this way. I guess, its ingrained, LOL! I will say, it is a lot faster, than the stab method!
Haha I know right Liz, it’s so much faster! I just like to help people find what method works best for them — some people looove stitching with a hoop, some with a frame, and some in hand. I think especially with newer stitchers you don’t realize you can stitch in hand as most people do use a hoop of some sort. And that’s neat your mum taught you, so did mine. 🙂