Binge watching TV shows on Netflix leaves my hands idle. It’s hard for me not to be working on something, whether it’s a blog post, scrolling through Facebook, going on a pinning frenzy, or creating. By far, one of the best creative activities for me to do while gorging on Forensic Files or Law & Order: SVU is cross-stitch. It’s easy, fun, and isn’t attention-intensive.
Getting started is relatively inexpensive. All you need is a pattern, Aida, needles, embroidery floss, and an embroidery hoop.
1. A Pattern
It’s generally best to pick at pattern first. It helps you determine the floss you’ll need, what gauge Aida is recommended and therefore, the size needles you’ll need to use, and what size embroidery hoop you’ll need.
You could buy a kit with all these things, but most are stuffy patterns that appeal to the older crowd, or are too ambitious for the beginner, or both. I recommend one of two resources for the absolute beginner: Daily Cross Stitch’s website, or one of the Subversive Cross Stitch books by Julie Jackson.
Daily Cross Stitch offers a free pattern every day when you sign up for their newsletter. The site also offers a “Charts Club” for only $19.99/year that will give you access to a bonus pattern daily and unlimited access to their archive. Their designs are cute, easy to follow, bright and colorful (major raccoon sense appeal). There’s something for everyone and every occasion: Christmas, Halloween, spring, fall, birthday, new baby, home, office, coffee breaks, bathroom breaks – you name it. You’ll have more designs downloaded than you can ever begin to cross-stitch. They even have an adorable raccoon for you to try.
For even simpler patterns with edgier designs, try Subversive Cross-Stitch by Julie Jackson. Please note this book contains explicit language. However, if that isn’t a problem, you’ll find easy to stitch sayings with simple motifs decorating each piece. As a bonus, many patterns use the same colors of embroidery floss.
There are also a number of patterns that you can find on Etsy with hip, modern styles. If you’re a beginner, try one with a simple design, not a lot of shadows/highlights, and is fairly small. Good designers will list recommended supplies and dimensions of finished product in the item listing. RingCat on Etsy is just one example of a cross-stitch designer whose patterns are suitable for novices.
Now that you’ve picked a pattern, it’s time to look at cloth. Cross-stitch is generally done on Aida, which is a woven fabric with an obvious weave and weft fibers. Aida’s weave is evenly spaced and has holes where you can insert the needle.
The pattern you chose may say something like “11 ct. Aida” or “14 count Aida.” You might be confused by the count numbers. Don’t panic! The number simply refers to the number of stitches per inch. So, 11 count Aida will have 11 stitches per inch, both vertically and horizontally. 14 count Aida will have 14 stitches per inch, and 18 count will have 18, and so on. Common counts range from 11-28. The higher the number, the smaller the stitch.
You can use the count to help determine the finish cross-stitch size. If the pattern lists 121 x 88 and calls for 11 ct. Aida, the finished product will be 11 inches by 8 inches. Just divide each number of stitches by the count number and voila! There’s your dimensions.
Bear in mind that this formula does not include a border or excess for stitching in a hoop or mounting the finished piece in a frame. You’ll need to add two inches or more to each side of the project. For example, if your piece’s dimensions are 11 x 8″, you’ll want a piece of Aida that is 15 x 12″.
You can’t escape the need for needles when cross-stitching. The nice thing about cross-stitch is that you don’t need the super sharp needles designed to pierce fabric. You can use tapestry needles with a blunt point or specially designed cross-stitch needles.
One thing to keep in mind is the needle gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the needle. With lower count Aida, this doesn’t matter too much. However, you might want to keep gauge in mind when stitching on 18 count Aida or higher and select a thinner needle. Common sizes range from 18 – 24.
4. Embroidery Floss
My favorite part of shopping for cross-stitch supplies is purchasing floss. It’s fun to stare at all the colors.
Embroidery floss comes in skeins, and is made up of lengths of 6 threads. You’ll need to separate the threads when cross-stitching. Most patterns typically use two threads. To look fuller, you can increase the number of threads, but bear in mind this makes it harder to manage the floss and pull it through the Aida.
DMC is by far the most popular brand of embroidery floss and can be found in brick and mortar stores sold by the skein. Some stores will carry a cheaper brand of floss, which may not be as shiny or as light-fast as DMC.
If a pattern needs a lot of a particular color, it will generally be noted on the pattern if extra skeins need to be purchased. When buying multiple skeins, be sure to compare the skeins for color variations caused by differing dye lots.
When threading your needle, use between 18 to 24 inches of floss. Too much floss gets tangled more easily and is a pain to pull through your fabric. Too short and you’ll have to re-thread and start a new run frequently.
5. Embroidery Hoop
You could theoretically skip an embroidery hoop, but it keeps your Aida taut and even, allowing for more consistent stitches. Why put yourself at a disadvantage when for a couple of bucks you can easily improve your work?
Choose a hoop that will allow you to stitch a lot without having to reposition constantly. For example, for a finished 6×6″ piece, I might use a 5 – 7″ hoop. This is where the extra Aida fabric is useful – without it, I wouldn’t be able to stretch the fabric over the hoop when stitching the corners.
Wood or plastic hoops? It’s up to you. Some people think that plastic tends to loosen over time, causing uneven stitches. Some people hate the feel of wood hoops. Personally, I prefer wooden ones as they’re cheaper and don’t want to risk the piece slipping.
Bonus Supply: Scissors
You probably already have a pair of these. Ones specifically designed for embroidery are not necessary, but are very nice to have. With the smaller scissors, it’s easier to snip mistake stitches.
All the supplies you could need on one simple list
There you have it – the five supplies you need to start cross-stitching. For your shopping delight, I’ve created an Amazon Idea List, Cross-Stitch Craze. This is an affiliate link, which means I get a little change when you purchase items through it.
I plan to continue this topic with tips and tricks I’ve learned for better, easier cross-stitching. Subscribe to my e-mail list so you don’t miss out!
Questions? Comments? Leave them below!