How to Read a Cross Stitch Pattern

Cross stitch

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When you first begin to enter the world of cross stitch, you'll need to know the basics of the cross stitch pattern. Several elements make up a cross stitch pattern. There is a grid made up of tiny squares. Each tiny square on the grid represents a square of Aida fabric. There are other types of fabric, but Aida is the most common and if you are just beginning, the easiest to find and work with. 

Grid Lines on a Cross Stitch Pattern

Grid lines are darker in 10 x10 sections to make reading the pattern, counting the stitches and keeping your place much easier. 10x10 sections mean that there are 10 cross stitches in that section. A pattern is dissected into these 10x10 squares. Some stitchers choose to mark their fabric according to the grid lines on the pattern with a water soluble marking pen.

Arrows Indicate the Direction to the Center of the Design

The pattern also has arrows to indicate the center of the design. Most cross stitchers start in the middle but you can really start anywhere you feel comfortable. 

Colors and Symbols

In the grid, there are colors and symbols. These colors and symbols represent a certain color of embroidery floss. Some patterns use symbols only and are printed in black and white.

The Key

The key decodes the pattern. The key lists the symbol, the number of strands used for a stitch, the type of floss used and the corresponding number of the color.

The other symbols in the pattern such as the half squares, the outlines and the blue dots represent quarter stitches, outline stitches and French knots. This would be described in another part of the key

Many times, the pattern also gives information about the publisher, the designer and provides a stitched model of the finished project.

The Size of the Finished Design and Fabric Counts

The size of the finished design on certain fabric counts is also generally provided. It is very important to note that the size given is the size of the finished design, not the size you should cut your fabric. Always increase the design size by three to six inches all the way around when cutting the fabric for a new project.This gives you room for framing and not damaging your completed project.