Rules of the Game: Cross Stitch Rules and Tips

Cross stitch
Irina Tkachenko / EyeEm / Getty Images

Sometimes you need a few rules, or tips to follow to ensure that you will have a successful project. Cross stitch is no exception. There are "rules" that every cross stitcher should follow. While these tips are not set in stone as the beginning and end of cross stitch, they are smart guidelines to follow. 

  • 01 of 09

    First and foremost, always make sure to have clean hands when stitching. Oils from your skin transfer easily to Cross Stitch fabric and over time create stains that are not easy to remove. The best way to avoid this is to avoid the problem in the first place. Train your family not to touch your projects unless they have freshly cleaned hands. Better yet - tell them to keep off the fabric and floss!

  • 02 of 09

    Don't stray from the path - Stitches should face the same direction.

    Cross Stitch is a fairly flexible embroidery style. There are not a lot of hard and fast rules. It is imperative, however, that all stitches face the same direction, unless otherwise specified in the instructions for the project. Choose a direction for the first leg of the cross stitch and stick with it.

  • 03 of 09

    Consistent tension is crucial for creating proper stitches. They should be flat against the fabric, not too tight, not too loose. Experiment on scrap fabric until you learn how tightly you need to pull the floss to create a perfect stitch.

  • 04 of 09

    As you stitch cross stitches, the floss tends to twist and eventually knot. The simple solution is to frequently dangle the needle and floss allowing it to untwist. Once you get into a routine, you will do this without thinking. Until you do, consciously take this step every few stitches.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Let the light shine - on your pattern, floss, and projects.

    Good lighting makes or breaks a Cross Stitch project. Proper lighting prevents floss color confusion. Adequate lighting prevents improper stitch placement. It also makes the chart much easier to read. Light sources do not have to be expensive.

  • 06 of 09

    Sit up straight - find the proper seating and stick with it.

    Set up your main stitching station so that you are comfortable and avoid injury. If you don't have the luxury of a specific place to stitch, chose your perch carefully. Don't sit in an awkward position. Your seating should allow you to work freely, with your arms in a natural stitching position.

  • 07 of 09

    Take a break - don't strain your hands or eyes.

    It is tempting to stitch for hours at a time, especially when you can make the time and when you get in the "stitching zone". It is important to avoid this temptation, especially when you are a new stitcher. Taking breaks helps to prevent repetitive stress injuries and eyestrain.

    Stop stitching, get up, stretch, rest your eyes and hands for a moment, and then start again if you like. If you have trouble with "getting in the the zone" and forgetting to take breaks, use a timer. Use...MORE the TV schedule or musical selections. When the buzzer, show or CD stops, it is time for a break!

  • 08 of 09

    Slow Down! Take your time to get it right.

    It is very important to work slowly when you try new techniques or stitching fibers such as metallic flosses. That way you learn how to do it properly without accidentally messing up your pattern along the way.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    When choosing supplies, purchase the best you can afford. Everything you choose does not have to be the most expensive, high-end model, but there are some supplies you should not skimp on. Floss and fabrics should be good quality, especially as you start to work on larger projects.

    Good scissors for cutting fabric and flosses are a must. Cross Stitch does not have to be an expensive hobby, but if you are investing your time in creating an heirloom sampler, you will want to be sure that the...MORE supplies are of a quality that corresponds to your effort.

Although it may seem that these rules, or tips, are lofty and time consuming, once you make them a habit, it will be second nature for you to do it.