Teaching Cross Stitch

One nice thing about learning cross stitch is the fabric. An 11-count Aida fabric has a large weave and the holes are easily seen. As the child gets more proficient, they can move to 14- and 16-count Aida. Other supplies include:

You can use floss (all 6 ply) or pearl cotton threads.

Needles can be an issue with younger children. For cross stitch you can start them with a size 20 tapestry needle.

20 tapestry needle

A LoRan needle threader is a wonderful tool to help with hand-eye coordination when learning to thread a needle.

needle threader

An embroidery hoop is a must! Kids will love these fluorescent hoops.

A pair of scissors is also needed. Scissors come in a variety of shapes, colors, and prices. A great choice might be the Cotton Candy Scissors. (Pink, Lavender, Blue).

If you have a young stitcher, you may want to create a design on Trigger Cloth like a stamped cross stitch project.

You would also need an iron on blue pencil or water soluble marking pens. The marking pen set allows you to color code sections of the design and may make it easier for a younger stitcher to follow the chart.


The full cross stitch can be done as a single stitch or as a row either horizontally or vertically. The main point is to end the "X" stitch the same way every time. Come up in the lower left-hand corner and down in the upper right-hand corner. Then come up in the lower right-hand corner and down in the upper left-hand corner. We have seen the cross stitch illustrated every way possible in different references. You may do your stitch a different way, but be sure to always have that top stitch going the same direction on your fabric. Again, the key is to be consistent.

For the beginning stitcher you may want them to finish one cross stitch at a time. For a more advanced or older stitcher, they may be able to understand the progression of a row or column.

The other stitch to teach is the back stitch. This is done after all the cross stitches are done. The backstitch is used to outline certain design elements to help them stand out.

The key is you are always working beyond your stitch back to your stitch. Using this diagram, you would come up at 2 and down at 1. Then come up at 3 and down at 2, working your way across the design making small stitches.

There will be times that you may decide to make a little longer stitch because of the design you are outlining. Sometimes you will use long stitches to add detail to your design. For example, what would a cat face be without whiskers? They certainly would not look right as a backstitch as we know whiskers are long. This would be one of the few times that your stitch would extend beyond one or two holes.

Technical Issues

We need to talk about a couple of areas that are often overlooked when teaching beginners.

First, how do they start their threads? Teach them from the very start not to use knots! Here are two suggestions. One of the easiest ways to go "knotless" when you need two ply is to double one ply over and thread the two ends through the eye of the needle. That leaves a loop on the other end. Come up from the back and don’t pull your thread completely through. Make your stitch through the fabric to the back. Take your needle through the thread loop. This secures the thread on the back.

This may not be a recommended method for an advanced stitcher or if you are you are using variegated threads, but it is a great way to get a young stitcher stitching. As they improve their skill level, they can go on to do the away knot, tiny, piercing back stitch securing method, or even hold the end of the thread behind their work as they stitch over it.

The second method is to use an away knot. Help them create a knot on the end of their thread. You make your first stitch from the top an inch or more away from your actual starting point. If possible, position that away knot so that you can make your first stitches over that thread on the backside of your fabric to secure it. Once you have enough stitches done over the thread you can clip the knot off the end and trim your thread. If that is not possible, you will have to cut the knot and weave the thread ends under completed stitches later in the project.

How do we secure the ends of our stitching? Most of the time, there will be an adequate amount of stitching done so the person can run their thread underneath stitches on the back to secure it. The recommendation is to travel under several threads, come up and over a stitched thread and then back underneath those same threads. This example is shown from the backside of the fabric.

Another technical aspect to cover is tension. One way to control the tension is to be sure the fabric is kept tight in a hoop or frame. The best way to explain this to a new stitcher is to show them what a correct stitch should look like. Then do one that is pulled really tight and another one that is loose. Just as with other needlearts, this is something the stitcher needs to experience and work on.

Getting Started

Counted cross stitch takes a little more understanding by the stitcher on how to look at a pattern and count it out on the fabric. You could use the marking pens and draw the cross stitch design on the Aida cloth. Another thought is for you to start stitching the design for them. Then they have a starting point to work beyond.

If you have really young stitchers, you may want to start them out on lacing project. This really uses a running stitch, but it gives them a general idea of stitching and a way to practice following a pattern.

We have a series of counted cross stitch kits called "Kid Stitch" that are stitched on 14-count Aida. The hoop is included which becomes the frame for their completed design.

For a little more advanced stitcher there are several counted designs stitched on 18-count Aida. These are complete kits that include a frame (not a hoop) for the finished design.

There are also some counted cross stitch kits on 14-count plastic canvas.

We are carrying several stamped projects, some of which might be appropriate for a young stitcher with some experience.

The main idea is to get the children started and encourage their creativity. It will be fun for them to look back at their first projects.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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