What is a cross stitch?As the name suggests, is is simply a cross, or an 'X' stitched with thread onto canvas. Typically, it's used to make a picture or a pattern. The stitch will form a complete square, and in this regard it is quite similar to pixel art. Through the placement of individual stitches adjacent to one another, an overall image will eventually appear.
It's an incredibly simple stitch, but can take some time to master. Like many crafts, it can be difficult to notice the subtle beginner errors unless you know what to look for. A skilled work will have no spots of white (or whichever colour the chosen canvas is) appearing through the stitches. All the stitches should be facing the same direction and should not be pulled too tight or too loose. The canvas on the final product should also show no signs of warping. A really advanced stitcher will also have a canvas that is just as neat on the reverse side as it is on the front.
History of the Cross Stitch
Cross stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery stitch and has been discovered in almost every society. Historically, it was most popular in Europe and Asia. Originally, this stitch was used to embellish ordinary items, such as clothing or tablecloths.
A basic cross stitch was often the first stitch young girls would learn. They would stitch a 'sampler', which is a piece of embroidery that demonstrates or tests a needlework skill. Samplers are often comprised of random patterns, pictures or lettering, and this is exactly what young girls would cross stitch to practice the craft.
The large, multi-coloured pictures created through embroidery we see today are a relatively modern form of the art. Today a massive array of embroidery threads are readily accessible, including metallic or even glow in the dark thread, allowing for endless creative possibilities.
Canvas work vs. counted cross stitch
The most common use of cross stitch these days is to create complete images. But for many stitchers there's an important distinction to be made between the two types of methods readily available.
Counted cross stitch -- Counted cross stitch is a different beast entirely. You begin with a blank canvas and a pattern printed onto paper. The pattern is divided up into squares each representing a single stitch. For simple patterns the squares will be just be different colours. For more complex patterns, the squares will also have a symbol to provide distinction between similar colours. You then need to count (hence the name) the number of stitches and work out where on the canvas it needs to go. It's a lot more difficult; the larger the piece the easier it is to miscount. I'm currently working on a piece that's over 90,000 stitches and have already had to unpick a few mistakes. A lapse in concentration can ruin the final design.
Types of Cross Stitch
For such a simple stitch, there are a large number of types and derivatives of it. Here's a look at just a couple of the types of cross stitch.
Basic Cross Stitch
This stitch can also be stitched as a 1/4, 1/2 or a 3/4 stitch to give greater detail to an image.
Long armed cross stitch
Also called elongated cross stitch, the second leg of the stitch covers twice the length of the first to create this pattern.
Double Cross Stitch
In this stitch the stitch is repeated but at a 45° rotation to create an asterisk.
Italian Cross Stitch
Identical to the basic cross stitch but bordered on all sides.
This narrow, overlapping stitch results in a basket weave pattern.
In this stitch the angle and length of each stitch is varied to give the look of a leaf created with satin stitch but with a midrib down the centre.
Want to see more cross stitching?
Check out these groups!