In this tutorial, you will learn how to backstitch in a cross stitch project worked on Aida cloth or other evenweave fabric. While this stitch isn't part of all cross stitch patterns, it's useful for stitching letters, and it and its variations appear in traditional blackwork embroidery. In cross stitch, it adds extra detail and outlining to a design, adding a beautiful finish to a project.
As you stitch, move your stitching hand from the back of the fabric to the front of the work as needed.
Equipment / Tools
- Tapestry needle, size 24
- Embroidery hoop, 6 to 9 inches
- Small sharp scissors
- 11-count Aida cloth, size large enough to overlap hoop
- Six-strand embroidery floss, any color
Find and mark the center of the fabric. Place the fabric in the hoop and set aside.
Cut a 12 to 14-inch length of six-strand embroidery floss. Separate two strands and thread them through the tapestry needle.
The First Stitch
You will be taking the needle up and down through the holes visible in the Aida fabric.
- Start with a waste knot, placing it near the edge of the hoop. The waste knot will keep the floss from pulling through to the front as you stitch.
- Count over two squares from the center of the fabric and bring the threaded needle up from the back.
- Insert the needle from the front in the hole to the left of the one you brought the floss through and draw through to the back. Each stitch will go "back" from where your needle came up.
Making the Next Stitch
As you make your next stitches, be careful not to pull the stitches too tightly or leave them too loose. You will learn how much tension to put on the floss as you stitch.
- Insert the needle from the back in the next empty hole to the right; draw through to the front.
- Insert the needle from the front in the hole to the left of the one you just came through; draw through to the back to complete the second stitch.
Repeat to continue working horizontally from left to right. Each new stitch should come up one square away from the previous stitch, then go back down, meeting up with the previous stitch.
As you can change directions, the process for the stitch remains the same: each new stitch should come up one square away from the previous stitch.
- Insert the needle from the back in the next empty hole to the right and down; draw through to the front.
- Insert the needle from the front in the hole directly above the one you just came through; draw through to the back to complete the second stitch.
Continue working straight as in the previous step, but downward.
It's easier to work within the large, main holes of the Aida, but if you need to outline a design with angled lines or on a shorter area, you can take smaller stitches through the weave of the fabric.
Use the same process any time you want to change directions.
- Practice, making a two-stitch square on the Aida cloth.
- Use the two-stitch square as a base for making a pattern with single stitch shapes.
Now that you have the backstitch down, you have a perfect starting point for finishing your cross stitch pieces and taking the final work up a notch. This stitch may seem very simple, but it is very crucial to your cross stitch projects. It adds dimension to the pattern and allows you to add facial features, tiny or fancy lettering, and it also closes up the stitching, so it looks more like an actual thing than just a bunch of "x's."