Introduction to Cross Stitching

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Cross Stitching

Eagle Mountain by Karexie-Maylin

Cross stitch is one of a number of embroidery stitches, but usually the one most people are familiar with. Whether it was in a school art class or just randomly picking up a cross stitch kit as a kid, a lot of us have tried it at some point. Lets delve into this popular stitch a little bit.

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.

Phoenixhead - Cross Stitch by shingorengeki Squirrel Cross Stitch by Santian69  

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.

Puma's glare (Cross Stitch) by ouraion

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.

Canvas work  --  Canvases can be purchased with the final image already printed onto the canvas. The cross stitch is then used in a paint-by-numbers style, with the stitches placed following the colours and pattens already provided.

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

120Basic cross stitch by cakecrumbs

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

120px-Long-armed cross stitch by cakecrumbs

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

120px-Double cross stitch by cakecrumbs

In this stitch the stitch is repeated but at a 45° rotation to create an asterisk.

Italian Cross Stitch

120px-Italian cross stitch by cakecrumbs

Identical to the basic cross stitch but bordered on all sides.

Basket Stitch

115px-Basket stitch by cakecrumbs

This narrow, overlapping stitch results in a basket weave pattern.

Leaf stitch

92px-Leaf stitch by cakecrumbs

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!

 :iconcrossstitching:   :iconlove-stitch:   :iconstitchingpirates:   :iconfandomxstitch:   :iconstitcher-resource:

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BellaGBear's avatar
I like this :) A very good basic guide. Especially liked the part about different basic stitches. I did not know there were so many variations of the basic cross! Gonna have to try those
thx4everything's avatar
It's exciting to see my project up there along with so many beautiful finished works.  <3  If you could see it now, you'd say, "This is what happens when you don't count properly!" (although it's almost fixed at last - boy, did I learn my lesson!)
Anoya's avatar
It brings back memories from when I was really little. My grandma used to cross stitch so much! Some of these stitches were taught to me, by her. I forgot all about them until now. I need to learn this again :aww:
EnigmaticWriterGirl's avatar
I love this, I've never heard of long-armed stitch, but I think it looks like it would be useful in personalizing items. I'm going to have to try it out...
Jasmine-rin's avatar
Ooh I've always wanted to learn more about cross stitching and this was very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to post! 8'D <3
MoonyMina's avatar
Peter-The-Knotter's avatar

Brilliantly and simply replete with all you need for an intro, not too much....or little... a complementary mix of clear honest line drawings and uncluttered text give the novice all they need to confidently begin that next adventure and exploration in the wonderfully creative world of the Artisan





(er... cakecrumbs:....too much?)*


*I think not!...any less would be insulting:   " ..sometimes very little inspires greatly...and a lot... not...."

Pukachi's avatar
I've always wanted to learn how to cross stitch :happybounce: 
Contraltissimo's avatar
Devi-Tiger's avatar
Excellent tutorial! And thank you for including a link to my group, :iconlove-stitch: :glomp: Some of those stitxhing techniques I haven't even heard of! Ive got to try it :D Thank you
jenninn's avatar
I was not even aware of all the different stitch types! =P (Razz)  Basket and leaf stitches look kinda hard.

Great article! <3
pinkythepink's avatar
:heart: This is a lovely article, thank you for showing it off! :D
ABrickman's avatar
Heh, I just stopped working on my biggest counted stitch project ever to visit dA...
I love coincidences :D
Cross stitch is fun! It takes a lot of patience, but the final result is obviously worth achieving :iconilovettplz:
Thanks a lot for such an amazing article about probably the only type of craft that may be considered mine :D
TaylorNicoleReed's avatar
Cross stitch is a lot of fun, if time consuming. Nice to see it on DA!!
Dezail's avatar
My Grandmother did some really great cross stitch pieces. As she got older it got harder to do. I used to do small simple stitching with her when I was younger, but I grew out of it. I think I might try to go back to cross stitching. ^.^
KeyboardingChihuahua's avatar
After seeing that eagle, I want to cross stitch again.
argentinian-queen's avatar
What an incredible kind of art, I admire the patience you all have!
GinkgoWerkstatt's avatar
So far i did only two pieces, but i really enjoyed it
The first piece was done with my own pattern and with the counting method, the second piece was a tablecloth with the outlines printed to it - but not done via cross stitch.
Took so long, but it's nice to work on and relaxing. The reverse side of both look horrible, but you can only learn :D

Those massive works scare me a little though. Not sure if it easier without counting and having it all printed on it already, but still. Must take years for finish such complex works!
Ginger-PolitiCat's avatar
Just beautiful work...I wish I had the patience to try it :D
pwassonne's avatar
Makes me want to resume working on my current cross stitch project. It's a huge kit I've had for years. ^^
Hisietari's avatar
What a coincidence! I just finished my third piece ever. XD;; Teresa Wentzler's designs are so huge though, they take me years. I'm afraid I've never designed any patterns myself. ^^; Clearly not enough time. *lol* Thanks so much for the introduction of new stitches, I can never have enough of those! :heart:
HowManyDragons's avatar
I love Teresa Wentzler's designs - they are soooo pretty. I started The Storyteller back in high school, back when I still had free time. =P I haven't touched it in ages, but I'm so close to finishing - just a bit of the outlining left... I should just pick it up and finish it sometime!
Hisietari's avatar
Aw, that's such a beautiful piece! You can do it!! :iconcheerplz:
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