How to Stitch a Single Cross Stitch From Start to Finish

Woman doing cross stitch
Tatiana Maramygina / FOAP / Getty Images
Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Stitching a cross stitch pattern from start to finish doesn't have to be a headache. Follow these easy steps, and you'll be on your way to a perfect cross stitch project. 

Notes

The instructions below show how to stitch right-handed. Reverse hands and mirror positions for stitching left-handed. The cross stitch is made up of two half stitches; the tutorial will take you through making both halves as well as teach you how to secure the ends of floss.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Embroidery hoop sized for practice cloth
  • Tapestry needle, size 24
  • Small sharp scissors

Materials

  • Small square of 11-count Aida cloth for practicing
  • Six-strand embroidery floss, any color

Instructions

  1. Getting Ready

    Place the fabric in the hoop and set aside. Cut a 12-inch length of embroidery floss and separate the strands. Separate two strands from the six-strand floss, and thread the tapestry needle.

    A hand placing the fabric in the hoop
    Connie G. Barwick
  2. Holding the Hoop and Needle

    Hold the hoop in your left hand and the needle with your right thumb and forefinger. Do not grip the needle too tightly.

    Position the hoop with the adjustment screw to the left, out of the way of the stitches. Otherwise, this part of the hoop can catch the thread, causing possible damage to the floss.

    Hands holding the hoop and needle
    Connie G. Barwick
  3. Beginning to Stitch

    Aida, a common cross stitching fabric, is made up of tiny squares. Pick a square of Aida near the center of the hoop. Look closely at the square and locate the lower-left corner.

    • Take your needle behind the fabric and bring the tip up through the hole; do not push the needle all the way through the fabric. If you have difficulty placing the needle, flip the hoop over, and locate your desired square on back of the fabric. 

    Check to see that the needle is inserted directly into the space in the corner of the Aida square. It should not pierce any fabric threads. When you're sure that you have the needle inserted correctly, bring your right hand to the front of the hoop. The needle should be perching in the fabric, but if it starts to fall out, support the needle with the ring finger of your left hand.

    • Grasp the needle and bring the floss up through the hole. Do not pull the floss all the way through. Leave a "tail" of about 2 inches on the back of the fabric.

    In this tutorial you will secure the tail just before finishing the first stitch. If you have difficulty with this step, use a waste knot to secure your thread.

    A hand beginning the first half stitch
    Connie G. Barwick
  4. The First Half Stitch

    Draw the thread across the Aida square diagonally.

    • Insert the tip of the needle in the upper right-hand corner, and take your right hand to the back of the fabric and pull the needle and floss through the hole.

    Take care to leave the "tail" of the floss on the back of the fabric—do not pull the stitch too tight. Leave the floss a little loose. You have just stitched a half stitch.

    A hand completing the first half stitch
    Connie G. Barwick
  5. Begin the Second Half Stitch

    Your right hand should be at the back of the fabric.

    • Bring the needle up in the lower right corner of the Aida square, directly below the top of the half stitch. Draw the needle and floss to the front of the hoop, but do not pull to tighten yet.

    Flip the hoop over and keep your needle in your right hand. There will be one strand of thread across the back of the work.

    A hand beginning the second half stitch
    Connie G. Barwick
  6. Securing the Tail

    On the back of the hoop, use your needle to drag the tail of floss under the strand formed by the back of the stitch. Gently pull the floss on the front to secure the end under the loop.

    Fingers securing the floss with a needle
    Connie G. Barwick
  7. Finish the Second Half Stitch

    Your right hand and the needle should be at the front of the fabric.

    • Take the needle tip down in the upper left corner of the Aida square. Move your hand to the back of the fabric and draw the floss through.

    Flip the hoop over.

    Fingers completing the second half stitch
    Connie G. Barwick
  8. Secure the Second Tail

    On the back of the hoop, slip the needle under the back of the stitch and pull the floss through. Tighten the floss. Snip the existing tail and the floss in the needle, leaving about a half inch of floss.

    Hands securing the floss and snipping the ends
    Connie G. Barwick
  9. The Stitch Completed

    Congratulations! You have just completed a cross stitch. Use your needle to adjust the floss, or pull on the ends of the floss to tighten the stitch if needed.

    A completed cross stitch
    Connie G. Barwick

Next Steps

Now that you've completed your first cross stitch, choose another square and repeat steps 3 through 9. See what happens if you pull your stitches tight or leave them loose. As you practice, you'll learn how tightly to pull the floss as you stitch.

When you're comfortable with stitching a cross stitch, the next step will be to learn how to stitch a row of cross stitches.

A row of cross stitches
Connie G. Barwick