Have you ever looked at beginners cross stitch projects and didn’t even know where to start? Or have you tried to learn on your own and got hopelessly lost? Well you’re in the right place, grasshopper, help is at hand! 🙂
First things first, there are two paths you can take to learning how to be a cross stitch master (kind of like being a Zen master, but more stabby… 😂). If you want to take the superhighway and learn everything you’ll need to know to go from complete beginner to stitching up your first cross stitch hoop project in only an hour, then this is the path for you — you can learn to stitch the pretty Love hoop art pictured above with the Cross Stitch Fundamentals class. The class will teach you everything you need to know from what materials to use, how to do the actual cross stitch, and even how to finish the back of your hoop for gifting or displaying. The class comes with the pattern shown for free, as well as instructions for how to read and follow a cross stitch pattern. And PS, this link will also give you access to a free thirty-day trial to Skillshare in case you’re not already a member, which is pleeeenty of time to go through the class and complete your project. You’ll also be able to take any of the other Peacock & Fig stitching classes on Skillshare as well. 🙂 I’d really recommend taking the class if you’re a beginner or don’t have a lot of time on your hands — you’ll learn everything you need to know in a much more condensed way than by skipping around individual tutorials, and the class will take you through one full project from beginning to end.
Or, if you’d like to go the longer and more windy road to learning the basics of cross stitching (or to augment what you already know), the below collection of tutorials and tips is a roundup of some of the most popular tutorials for beginners. If you’d like to see more information on any of the topics, click the title to be taken to the full blog post.
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. 🙂
Quick beginners cross stitch tutorial
First off, the video below shows a quick overview of how to cross stitch. I briefly discuss how to do the loop method to start (as well as just using a simple knot if that’s easier), and how to do full cross stitch and backstitch. In this video, I demonstrate with the little free cross stitch pattern Tiny Heart how to follow a cross stitch pattern. Most Peacock & Fig patterns use only full cross stitches and back stitch, so by learning these simple stitches you can stitch almost all of the patterns in the cross stitch pattern shop! So start with this brief video, and then if you would like more information, see below for more detailed videos! Any links I mention in the videos are listed at the bottom of this post.
In the video below, I go into more detail about the materials that you need to start stitching. Cross stitch is such a simple craft and you only need a few basics to get started with a beginners cross stitch project. Cross stitch fabric, tapestry needles, embroidery floss and scissors are your basics, and I also demonstrate a few different ways to hold your fabric such as embroidery hoops and scroll frames.
If you’re unsure of how to form a cross stitch itself, this video shows more details about how to do that. In cross stitch you’re making two small diagonal stitches / and \, and overlapping them so they make an X. There are two main methods of stitching a cross stitch. The English method is when you form one “leg” of your stitch and then the other, completing your stitch before moving onto the next stitch. The pictures below show the Danish method, which is doing one half of your stitches in one direction, and then coming back and finishing the top half of the stitch. There is no right or wrong method, you can try both and see which method you prefer. Click here to see a full tutorial on the English versus the Danish method. In cross stitch it’s good to practice having your top stitches always going the same way. It doesn’t matter which way you prefer (/ or \), but if you form the habit when you first start stitching it’s a lot easier to always do it that way. You want your top stitches facing the same direction as they reflect the light more evenly across the piece once it’s finished, so the colours look uniform.
Once you have practiced your basic cross stitch a bit and you’re comfortable with it, the next thing you will want to do is practice with a pattern. In the video below you’ll see what a cross stitch chart looks like, and what the symbols mean. Here is the blog post with the free cross stitch chart featured in the video. For your first cross stitch project, just make sure you have enough fabric to stitch the design. The finished size is usually indicated on patterns. The little free pattern featured in this video is approximately 1 ½” square (4 cm) on 14 count fabric. As long as you have a few inches spare around the edges, don’t worry too much for your first project about getting it centred on the fabric. There’s another video tutorial showing you exactly how to do that below in this post, or you can see the tutorial about how to centre your fabric here.
One stitch that is very useful for cross stitch beginners is backstitch. Backstitch is found in many cross stitch patterns. It’s the (usually) thin black lines that give details to a design, such as whiskers, facial expressions, and outlines. Here is an image of stitching the backstitch in the That’s What She Said cross stitch pattern — it really brings the pattern to life. Backstitch can also be used for writing and text on the pattern, or even signing your initials in the corner of a completed piece. It’s a very simple stitch, it just takes time to do. You stitch the backstitch after the cross stitch is done (as sometimes it crosses over your cross stitching), and many stitchers prefer to leave it to the last part of their project.
The last thing important skill in this beginners cross stitch series is learning how to wash your cross stitch at the end of your stitching project. The video below shows you the easiest way to do this, so it won’t take you long at all. No matter how careful you are with keeping your hands clean while you stitch, oils from your hands will always transfer to your floss and fabric. Over time these oils will start to turn your project yellow, and eventually it will start to deteriorate. To protect all the hard work you just did, the best practice is to wash your pieces before you finish them or frame them.
Bonus videos for cross stitch beginners
Below are three videos to help beginners get more out of their stitching projects. These will give you extra skills to boost your confidence as a stitcher, and help you progress to more advanced skills. Cross stitch is a very simple craft, but there are many techniques and tricks to make stitching more enjoyable and improve how your finished product looks.
This first video is how to start your stitching using the loop method, and how to end your threads using a pin stitch. These two techniques mean you will never have to make a knot ever again, which keeps your back from ending up with lumpy knots. The loop method is very simple — you fold your floss in half and “anchor” your thread by passing your needle through the loop. Here are some images demonstrating this:
The video shows how exactly to do this, and shows how to use a pin stitch to end your thread. You can also use a pin stitch to start your thread, it’s a really versatile stitch!
For a small pattern, as long as you have enough fabric it’s not really important whether you get your stitching exactly centred. As in the little Tiny Heart key fob pattern demonstrated in the first video, sometimes you’re going to trim the project close to your stitching so you don’t need to have a big margin. But if you’re working on a bigger or more complex piece, it is very important to make sure you’re starting in the right place, and that your pattern will be centred on the fabric when it’s stitched. Otherwise, you could run out of room for framing or finishing. You could even run out of fabric if you accidentally turn the fabric lengthwise instead of horizontally when starting to stitch, or get the pattern too far off centre. I’ve seen photos of projects that have taken months to get to a certain stage, only to have the stitcher end up in tears because they will run out of fabric as they didn’t centre their piece properly when starting. The video below will show you a few quick tips about how to make sure this never happens to you, and what size margins you should add onto your fabric before cutting it or starting stitching.
This video talks about the “controversial” theories behind whether you should worry about what the back of your cross stitch projects look like. Especially as a beginner stitcher, it’s easy to get discouraged when you hear well-meaning people tell you “the back is supposed to look like the front.” There are four main reasons that you should be mindful of what the back looks like once you advance in your stitching:
- You’re entering the stitching into a competition or fair where the back will be judged.
- You’re using very sheer or delicate fabric.
- Lumps and tangles on the back will be seen from the front when framing.
- You could use up a lot more floss if you carry your threads too far across the back.
Other than these reasons, please try not to be critical of what the back looks like. In the video you’ll see some examples from my own stitching, and from an embroidery artist who celebrates what the back looks like. If you find having a neat back relaxes you, then please do it, but otherwise don’t stress about it. The whole point of stitching is to relax and enjoy the process.
Other cross stitch tutorials mentioned in the videos
Below you’ll find a few links to help you learn more skills! If you subscribe to the Peacock & Fig YouTube channel, you’ll be notified of when new video tutorials come out! There are several playlists in the channel (including the beginners cross stitch playlist listed below). If you have any questions or would like to learn a technique that’s not covered in the videos, please leave a comment below! If you enjoyed these videos, please share this post with your friends, and share the stitchy love! Happy stitching!
- Cross stitch for beginners YouTube playlist
- How to finish the project as a key fob (how to do slip stitch)
- Join the Peacock Lounge and get the free cross stitch patterns
Want a head start with some recommendations of stitching materials, tools, and stitchy books? Head to the Peacock & Fig Amazon page! 😀