Beginning Cross-stitch – The Basics

Every month it’s one of my goals to share a quick and easy cross-stitch pattern that you can download for free and enjoy. I’m all about the instant gratification and it’s fun to be able to complete something cute in a sitting. These little craft projects are something that I’ve loved creating at random times throughout the year and I’d like to make it a more regular feature. If you’re new to the blog, you can catch some of the older patterns here, here and here.

However, each time I’ve posted a pattern, I’ve heard from people who are interested in learning to cross-stitch, but they’re just not sure where to start. So this month I thought it would be helpful to share some cross-stitch basics.

Use an embroidery hoop

Basic Cross-stitch tips |

Those cute embroidery hoops that are all over Pinterest actually have an awesome purpose; to keep your needlework from becoming distorted while stitching. It’s very easy for your project to shift due to variances in stitch tension and a hoop can help minimize this.

Hoops come in two different styles: wood with a tension dial and plastic spring loaded. I prefer the spring-loaded as it gets the Aida cloth tight and secure. However, I inevitably end up shooting the inner hoop ring across my workspace while trying to put on the cloth. It scares the crap out of me every time, but it’s a compulsion I can’t seem to avoid.

Aida Cloth

Cloth for cross-stitch |

  1. Color – Many kits include white Aida, but you can buy Aida cloth by itself in a variety of colors. My “go-to” colors are white, cream, black and linen. The September project will use linen which I particularly love because it has such a rustic look to it. My October pattern will be using black… just in time for Halloween. However, you can find all the colors of the rainbow to stitch on and express yourself with.
  2. Size – The size is in reference to how many squares you will find per inch. The rule of thumb is that the higher the number, the smaller the squares and the smaller your project will turn out. For many of the projects featured on Storypiece, I often use 16 or 18 point Aida.


DMC floss is the most common thread that you will find at your craft store. There are a ton of great colors and you can even get it in variegated skeins and metallics… both of which I’ll explore in upcoming projects.

Cross-stitch Thread |

Look for floss that has multi strands that you can pull apart (as seen in photo). If you cut off a section of floss and begin to open the strands, you will discover that one cord of floss is made up of 6 strands. Many kits will indicate how many strands they intend for you to use depending on the size of the Aida cloth. The bigger the squares, the more strands you will need for coverage. For Storypiece patterns, I typically use 2 ply or 2 strands to stitch with.

Dye Lots

Most of the patterns that I provide are small enough for you to finish in a few hours and you won’t have to worry about dye lots.

Entryway Cross-stitch Artwork |

However, if you take on a larger piece like this one that required multiple skeins of red, you will want to buy all of your floss (of a particular color) at the same so that you will be getting it from the same dye lot. You’d hate to spend hours on a project, run out of floss and buy more only to have your work look slightly “off” because the dye lots don’t quite match.

Tip: If you are ever facing this scenario, start using one ply of your old thread with one ply of your new thread to blend everything together.


Cross-stitch Needles|

I like to use a brand new tapestry needle whenever I start a project. With most of the projects I do, I use a 22 or 24 tapestry needle. This size fits Aida that is 16 to 18 point and is easy to thread and work with. If you are using a small point Aida, 22 or higher you may want to get a thinner needle to avoid having the needle stretch the holes in the cloth.

Optional Basics

Needle threader & scissors |

A good needle threader and small scissors are not necessities, but they are really nice to have. I recommend a threader with the metal hooks as the wire ones break easily. The threader pictured has both metal and wire.

Wash Your Hands Before Starting

This might sound silly, but it’s especially key if you are doing a large, involved piece to wash your hands before starting. Food and dirt are obvious, but even the natural oils from your skin can discolor the project, so you always want to start with clean hands.

Cross-stitch Basics for Beginners

One of my favorite things about cross-stitch is that it can be completely customizable. Even if you buy a kit, you can always buy your own custom color floss, change out the Aida cloth, alter the pattern… whatever you’re inspired to do and you can make a kit or pattern look completely your own.

Now that you’ve got the basics, feel free to download any of the patterns listed below. These are all simple, little projects and many include additional tips to further your craft. Enjoy!

**This post contains affiliate links. Many of the supplies listed can be found at your local craft or fabric store, but the links have been provide for your convenience in recreating this project.**

Free Cross-Stitch Patterns |

Mini Arrows

Cross Stitch Arrow |

Valentine’s Day Cross-Stitch

Free Cross Stitch Pattern for Valentines Day |




Free Cross-stitch Pattern |

Beaded Apple

Apple Cross-stitch Pattern Free |

Plaid Heart

Fall Cross-stitch Heart |

Birthday Cake

Cross-stitch Birthday Cake Pendant |

St. Patrick’s Day Heart

Irish Checkered Heart for St. Patrick's Day |

Faux Halloween Cross-Stitch

halloween-cross-stitch-alternatives |