Tutorials / Materials & Techniques

Loop Method for starting a thread

Loop Method for starting a thread

Try beginning your stitching with a Loop! This easy tip saves you time, and keeps the back of your work looking nice and tidy!

(It is also comes in handy when you are working with “confetti” stitching, where there are single cross stitches with no others around it.)



Separate ONE (1) strand of floss, twice as long as you normally use. Fold the floss in half, and thread the 2 loose ends through the eye of your needle. This should make a long tail with a “loop” on the end. Bring your needle up from the back, as you would to make the first half of your cross stitch.


Now bring your needle down through the front of the fabric to complete the first half of your ‘X’. Don’t pull the thread tight yet…turn your work over, and on the back of your fabric thread your needle through the loop. (see the photo below)

loop method


Now you can pull the thread tight (but not too tight!) to secure it in place. (see the photo below)

Then you can finish your cross stitch as usual. End your thread in the usual way of running it under several threads along the back to secure.

loop method-2

Cheryl McKinnon
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How to Clean your finished Cross Stitch

How to Clean your finished Cross Stitch

So, once you are done stitching, how can you clean your cross stitching to prepare it for framing or other finishing? 

The best way to prepare it is to hand wash it to remove oils and small stains, and press it remove any wrinkles or small folds. 


How to Hand Wash Your Cross Stitch

1. Place the finished piece luke warm water with a very mild washing liquid (dish soap).

2. Soak for about 15mins, moving the fabric around gently in the water.

3. Rinse it carefully in clean water several times, until all the soap is gone, and water runs clean.

4. Place the work carefully face-down on a clean white towel, smoothing out any wrinkles. 

5. Place another clean white towel on top. 

6. Roll up the towels and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Do not fold.


How to Dry and Press Your Cross Stitch

1. Place the piece face-down on another clean dry white towel. 

2. Press the reverse side using a pressing cloth and iron at medium heat. (You may use steam if needed, but only when you are using a press-cloth)

3. Continue pressing until it is mostly dry.

4. At this point, I check to make sure my stitching "lines up" (sometimes the aida can get stretched out so the stitching edges don't look square). I lay a ruler along each edge to check how straight the stitching lines are. If the stitching does not line up vertically and horizontally, you can gently tug at the opposite corners to coax the stitching into place. 

5. Now, continue pressing until it is completely dry. 


Well, that was easy! You are now ready to frame your work :)

Cheryl McKinnon
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Materials & Techniques

Materials & Techniques

Some Useful Techniques

Cutting Enough Fabric

When you cut the fabric from a larger piece, make sure to leave at least 3" – 5” of extra fabric on each side of the design to allow for finishing or making up.

Centering Design

The centre of the design is the best place to start stitching, and you can work out from there. In order to centre your design, you need to find the centre of the aida cloth. To do this, lightly fold the fabric in half, and half again to find the centre point. This point should coincide with the centre of the chart, which is normally marked with arrows at the top, bottom and sides. Place your needle through to mark the spot or run a short marking thread, which can you can remove once you begin stitching.

Reading a Chart

The chart is divided up into a grid of squares. Each colour is represented by a symbol and/or coloured square, and there is a "colour key" which shows which symbol represents each colour. Imagine that each block on the fabric is represented by one square on the chart. Solid colour lines on the chart represent backstitching.

Cleaning Completed Work

Once all stitching has been completed, the best way to prepare the work for framing or finishing is to hand wash it to remove oils and small stains, and press to remove any wrinkles or small folds. Soak in warm water with mild soap for about 15mins. Rinse carefully in clean water until water runs clean. Place face down on a clean white towel, smoothing out any wrinkles. Roll up towel and squeeze gently to remove excess water. Do not fold. Place the piece face down on a dry white towel. Press the reverse side using a pressing cloth and iron at medium heat until dry. 



  • Always wash your hands before stitching, to keep your work clean
  • Always stitch in good lighting
  • Make sure your ‘X’s always slant in the same direction
  • Don’t pull the thread too tight
  • Don’t carry your thread more than a few squares at the back
  • Let your needle “drop” periodically and allow the thread to untwist
  • Sort your threads onto bobbins and store in boxes
  • Remove your work from the embroidery hoop when not stitching to prevent permanent marks


Cross Stitching Materials

Aida Cloth


Counted Cross Stitch is usually worked on even-weave fabric. The number of squares per inch is known as the count. The higher the count, the smaller the finished stitching will be. The most commonly used even-weave is called Aida cloth, and most of the designs in this book use 14-count Aida, although 16-count and 18-count are also popular counts.


Waste Canvas


This handy even-weave fabric allows you to stitch onto any fabric (think baby bibs, canvas sneakers, baseball hats). Cut the waste canvas about 1” larger than your design, and baste it onto the fabric to be stitched. Once your stitching is complete, wet the area slightly and pull each strand out one at a time. Allow to dry, and iron.


Plastic Canvas


Lightweight plastic with regularly spaced holes- just like even weave fabric. It is available as sheets, which can be cut to any shape. It comes in a count, just like aida cloth- and the most popular sizes are 5-, 10-, 11-, and 14- count. Because of its rigidity, plastic canvas is perfect for making things like earrings, necklaces, or boxes etc. 




Our patterns show 2 brands of embroidery stranded floss: DMC and Anchor. All of our samples were stitched using DMC floss. Both Anchor and DMC brands are 100% cotton, and available in a wide range of colours. They are comprised of 6 strands that can be split into separate strands. It is common to use 2 strands for cross stitch, and 1 strand for backstitch, but each pattern will include specific instructions.




Tapestry needles have blunt tips and long, narrow eyes, which slid easily through the fabric without splitting fibers. The large eye allows for multiple strands of embroidery floss. You may chose to change the size of your needle depending on what fabric you are stitching on. Use the needle chart as a guide.



Sz 22 Needle


Sz 24 Needle


Sz 26 Needle


Sz 28 Needle




Embroidery Hoop


Using an embroidery hoop is optional. For most of the projects using aida cloth, you should be able to stitch without using a hoop. Softer fabrics, such as linen or items of clothing, will likely require the use of a hoop. The size of the hoop depends on the size of your stitching; make sure there is enough fabric around the edges to stay tight in the hoop. Wrap wooden hoops in thin strips of muslin to keep splinters from snagging your fabric.




You will need two pairs of scissors for cross stitch: a large pair for cutting fabric, and a pair of small, sharp embroidery scissors for snipping thread.  

Small fabric snips

Larger fabric shears


Cheryl McKinnon
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Cross Stitch Basics

Cross Stitch Basics

Start Stitching

To begin, cut about 18" of embroidery floss, and pull out the required number of threads (usually 2) one at a time- and thread your needle. Use one of the following methods to start your stitching:

Thread Tail Start:

Bring the needle up through the fabric, leaving about 1/2" (2cm) of thread on the reverse side, and work over this with your first few stitches to secure it.

Loop Start:

Separate 1 strand of floss, twice as long as you normally use. Fold the floss in half, and thread the 2 loose ends through the eye of your needle. This should make a long tail with a “loop” on the end. Bring your needle up from the back, and down through the front of the fabric to complete the first half of your ‘X’. Turn your work over and thread your needle through the loop.

Cross Stitch

To make a single cross stitch: bring the needle up through hole 1, down through hole 2, the up through hole 3, and finally down through hole 4.

The quickest, easiest way is to work rows of full stitches. To work a row of cross stitches: work across the fabric from bottom left to upper right corners, and then back to complete the row of full crosses. Always make sure your X's slant in the same direction.  At some points, it may be necessary to work single full stitches, in areas that require only one cross stitch square. Using both methods of making full cross stitch is fine wherever they are appropriate. 

Half Cross Stitch

Some designs have areas that are worked in half-cross stitch, usually the background. This stitch is literally half a cross stitch, (up through 1, down through 2, etc.) as shown at left. 

You should always make sure your work slants in the same direction for the finished work to look good. 

Back Stitch

Back Stitch is a row of straight stitches, made with a single embroidery thread. Back Stitches are usually marked on the chart by a thick or colorful outline. The back stitch is not worked until all the cross stitches have been completed.  To make a row of back stitches: bring the needle up at 1, down at 2, up at 3, and down at 4, and so on, as shown on the diagram on the left. Notice that 1 and 4 use the same hole.

Some people like to make Back Stitches for each and every square. I prefer to use slightly longer Back Stitch where possible. It's much quicker, and I prefer the look of it. I generally stitch over 2-3 squares (but no more that that) for each stitch, but around corners and such it can be each and every square as you follow the line on the pattern. 

Partial Stitches

¼ Cross Stitch

A one-quarter-stitch is from one corner to the middle (where the legs of the x would cross). Stitch should slant in according to pattern.

¾ Cross Stitch

A three-quarter-stitch is a one-quarter-stitch plus a half-stitch. (see photo below)

When you see 2 colors that share one square on the chart, work a 3/4 stitch in the more prominent shade, and complete the block with a 1/4 stitch of the other shade, as shown in the diagram on the left. 

When you see 2 colors that share one square, PLUS a backstitch line through it, you can do one of the following things: Do two 1/4 stitches, and let the backstitch line function as the other half of the stitch (this is my preference), or, do one 1/4 stitch and one 3/4 stitch and place the backstitch on top of it all.

Finishing the Thread

To finish stitching, run your thread under several stitches on the reverse side to secure it. Snip the thread close to your stitching.

Carrying the Thread

Try to keep your work neat- don't run your thread more than 4 or 5 squares at the back of the design. There's a good chance it will show through to the front, your stitch tension won't be even, and it wastes thread.


Additional Stitches: 


Whip Stitch

Use this stitch to attach of two pieces of fabric. Usually there will be a backstitched line to follow as a sewing line. Using 2 strands of embroidery thread, begin by taking a stitch on one piece of fabric (or under one backstitch thread) and another stitch on the other piece. Continue in this method until two pieces of fabric are stitched together. To end your thread, take a tiny stitch loop your needle through the thread and pull tight. Snip threads close to stitching line.

Blanket Stitch

Thread your needle and knot the end. Bring your needle up from the back, about 1/4" in from the edge. Make a loop by bringing your needle up from the back again through the same spot. Bring your needle under this loop at the edge of the felt. This anchors the thread. To make the blanket stitch, bring your needle down from the top about 1/4" from the first stitch. Pull the needle up through the loop of thread, and pull tight.

French Knot

Bring thread up to top of fabric. Wrap thread around needle two times. Holding thread taut, insert needle back into fabric. Pull thread through to back.

Making Cording

Cut 4 lengths of embroidery thread about 3 times as long as you would like the finished cord. Put the threads together, and tie a knot at each end. Tape one end to the work table. Insert a pencil between strands at the other end, close to the knot. Begin turning the pencil clock-wise, until the cord begins to kink up onto itself. Grab the mid-point of the cord, and fold the loose end up to the taped knot. Working from the bottom, allow the cord to twist back on itself. Tie the 2 loose ends into a knot.



Cheryl McKinnon
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