Cross Stitching: Getting Started for Complete Beginners

I started cross stitching this January, and since then, I’ve picked up on a lot. I’m probably one of the least crafty people of all time, so if I can do it, you can do it too. I’m going to walk you through the first things you need to know in order to start stitching and keep stitching. Here are some things I found out while I learned (many of them the hard way).


You are going to need a few things to get started. Luckily, cross stitching is an inexpensive hobby and relatively accessible. I picked up my supplies at Walmart for the first time, but you can find it at any craft store and at most supermarkets.

  • A hoop: You’re going to need a wooden hoop to keep your stitching tight. Displaying your stitching in a hoop is also one of the most popular ways to finish a piece.

  • Aida Cloth: This is the cloth you use for cross stitching. It has pre-made holes, which is extremely useful. The higher the “count,” the closer together the holes are, and therefore, the tighter your pattern will be (it’s measured by how many stitches can fit in one inch). Most cross stitch patterns are designed for 14 count. The cloth comes in a lot of colors. I love using a light brown because it looks very vintage and rustic.

  • A needle: For cross stitching, you’ll need a needle. A size 24 or 26 is perfect.

  • Embroidery floss: DMC is the queen in the world of embroidery floss. The floss comes in a ton of colors and shades, and it’s very high quality, yet still extremely cheap.

  • Craft scissors: You need little craft scissors to snip your floss without fraying it.

  • A pattern: Here’s the fun part. You need to choose a pattern to start working on. DMC has a ton of free patterns available to download on their website, and there’s an infinite supply on Pinterest, many of them free. For getting started, Country Living has beautiful designs that aren’t too intricate or taxing. (

  • Note: Some people find it easier to begin with a kit, because then they know they have everything they need.

Setting up

So, you have your supplies, and you’re ready to get it going in the stitching department. Here’s how you start.

  • First, make sure you have all of the embroidery floss you need for your pattern. If you don’t like and/or have the colors in the pattern, feel free to swap them out for different colors.

  • Second, place your cloth in your hoop. I recommend cutting a square of your cloth big enough so that you have about an inch and a quarter hanging over around the hoop. It’s hard to explain how to fasten the cloth into the hoop, so here’s a tutorial.

  • Third, thread your needle. You’ll have to do this often. I usually put the end in my mouth and then simply put it through the eye of the needle, folding it over and holding onto it as I go so that it doesn’t fall out.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Embroidery floss actually comes in 6 stands wound together. For cross stitching, you should separate out two of those strands after cutting off a length of the floss about the distance from your wrist to your elbow.

Let’s get stitching

  • The basic cross stitch is going up through the fabric, down through the hole diagonal from it, up through the hole beside where you started, and then back down through the hole diagonal to that. It sounds complicated, but you’ll get the hang of it extremely fast. I watched a few tutorials and had it down pat.

  • Anchor your first stitch. There are multiple methods of doing this, but my personal favorite is to secure the end of the floss within the first stitch. Here’s how you do it along with other steps I’ve mentioned.

  • Keep on going: It’s really up to you how to go from here. The more stitches in a row you do, the neater the backs of your work will look, but some people don’t care about the backs at all. Some skip around from one end of the pattern to the other, if that’s where their color of floss is needed, and other people will tie if off and start a new section. It’s up to you.

  • Secure your stitches: when you finish a section or start to run out of floss, simply run the needle back through the stitches you’ve done and let the remaining floss be secured by them. You can also knot the floss, but securing it in the stitches is my personal favorite method (probably because I suck at making knots)

Finishing your piece

Weeks, or at least a couple days after when you finish your piece, you have to do something with it.

  • My favorite method, as mentioned above is framing in the hoop. I usually pull my overhanging cloth around the hoop together into the middle with some simple stitching in and out, and then sew a piece of felt onto the back so that nobody can see the (usually messy) backs of my pieces. This took me a few tries to get. Here’s a video I found helpful.

Some tips

  • You’re gonna mess up sometimes. It’s okay. You can always undo your stitches or improvise.

  • Don’t start on an impossible pattern--I made the mistake of doing something super elaborate for my first pattern, and it made me extremely frustrated. There’s no shame in starting with something simple and fun.

  • Don’t make your pieces of floss too long. There is nothing worse than getting a knot while you’re stitching

  • Make a playlist or cue up an audiobook. One of my favorite things about cross stitching is the fact that it lets me do something productive when I feel like listening to music or  doing nothing.

  • When it gets stressful, stop. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun hobby.

Happy stitching! Remember, if you ever get lost, someone on YouTube has already answered your questions.