Cross Stitch 101: Tools & Materials Before You Start

Welcome to my basic introduction of “how to cross stitch”.

Cross stitch is a skill that doesn’t take years to master; anyone can do it! It isn’t expensive to get started either, and like any fiber artistry, once you start there’s no stopping! There are actually many articles written about how crocheting, knitting, and embroidery in general are beneficial to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

So, let’s jump right in!

What You Need

To start off, the supplies you need. The absolute bare minimum you will require before you can cross stitch is:

  1. Embroidery thread
  2. Aida cloth
  3. A needle
  4. Scissors

There are other things you can get to help you along the way, such as an embroidery hoop or a needle minder but they aren’t required.

Using Embroidery Thread

What is ’embroidery thread’?

Believe it or not, there are many different types of embroidery thread.

Embroidery -in which cross stitch is one form of- uses floss that comes in 6 strands that can be split up. For cross stitching, we generally use cotton thread as it has a soft, gentle look to it, is relatively strong, and is somewhat reliable to color to exact matching dye lots (the leading floss provider DMC, has over 500 different colors to choose from!). It’s also easy to manufacture, keeping costs down.

There are also metallic threads, which can be quite difficult to work with as they are not as pliable as cotton. Perle cotton, which is shiny and gives a different look to the finished product. Wool and silk.

What do you mean by ‘splitting’ it?

Embroidery floss is made up of 6 smaller strands of thread. To create the look you want for a piece, you pull out as many strands of floss you need. I will insert a great YouTube video for the beginnings of Cross Stitch at the bottom of this post!

This allows you to combine different strands of colors to create variations in the finished look. This technique is most common to create things like hair, denim, and fur looks in your pieces.

Aida Cloth Counts

What do the number counts mean?

Aida cloth is the most common fabric to use to create cross stitches due to its gridded design with easy-to-pierce holes. It helps you keep your crosses uniform in size and straight, which is important for the overall look of a completed cross stitch piece.

Aida cloth can come in numerous different colors, with white being the most popular to use because of its clean look.

Okay, but what do the numbers mean?

Well, the count number of Aida cloth is how many squares fit into one inch. So a 14ct piece of fabric is going to have much larger squares than a 18ct piece of fabric since there is more room to fit 11 within 1 inch. Below is a picture that shows you the difference between the two.

I’ve heard it said that it is best to stick with a 14ct when stitching pieces unless stated otherwise. Generally speaking, this is the universal “recommended size” for a piece. For patterns that don’t state a grid size, 99 out of 100 times it’s implying you use a 14ct.

It’s also easy to get beautiful colors in 14ct since it’s the “universal” used size, so you can go wild with what background color you stitch on!

Needle Types and Sizes

What kind of needle should you use?

There are two types of needles used in embroidery work: Crewel and Tapestry.

Tapestry needles are more commonly used in cross stitch as they have a rounded end and a long eye (the part where you poke the thread through) so it’s easier to work with when using Aida Cloth.

Crewel needles have a pointed end and [also] a long eye. They can be helpful to use for cross stitching as they can assist in doing fractional stitches. These types of needles are best when adding hair-like features to a piece since you have a finer point to work with; you can make the “hair strands” go exactly where you want them to.

What are the numbers about?

The needle’s number is the circumference of the needle. The higher the number, the tinier the needle. It usually also means the tinier the eye of the needle, which some people find hard to thread the floss in to.

Generally, people use a size 24 needle if they are using 14ct Aida fabric and then either 26 or 28 needle size if stitching 18ct fabric.

Scissor Care

Why get special scissors?

Embroidery scissors can come in all shapes, sizes, and types. Your mom or grandmother might have scolded you as a child if you went to use her embroidery scissors to cut some paper or something equally ‘mundane.’ Why’s that?

Well, that’s because embroidery scissors are designed to be extra sharp and cutting them on non-thread things dulls them incredibly fast.

It’s important to use scissors that are super sharp to cut your threads so you can achieve a clean finish. It makes it 100 times easier to thread your needles if you don’t have little wispy bits at the end of the thread! It also means you don’t inadvertently fray the thread when cutting it, since you may need to go back and redo work if it cuts poorly.

Next time, we’ll actually start doing cross stitches and I’ll explain (as best I can!) things like how to make crosses, options in directions, and the difference between Danish and English methods.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to hit the like button if you found this post helpful.

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