Beginning Cross Stitch Embroidery Tips

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When I was younger, my mom cross-stitched all her family’s Christmas cards every year. Some years they were simple designs, while others were complex, elaborate creations. And now, as an adult, I have taken up cross stitching myself because it has such a calming effect on me – plus there are so many gorgeous patterns out there just waiting to be created!

If you find yourself drawn into making your own patterned projects then the following tips will help you to create beautiful cross stitch embroideries like those made by your mother or grandmother.

What You Will Need

Before beginning any project, take some time to consider what materials you need and plan accordingly. The first thing to do is decide whether you want to use fabric or paper for your backing. Fabric backings tend to give off more heat than paper ones, but if you’re working on larger pieces, paper may work better for you. If you choose to go with paper, make sure you purchase acid free papers that won’t yellow over time. Paper also tends to fray when cut which means you’ll need extra patience when cutting edges. It’s best to start out using one piece at a time until you learn exactly how much thread works with each type of material before switching between them.

Basic Materials for Beginning Projects

Once you’ve decided on the material you wish to use, you should next decide on specific threads. There are several different types available on the market today, and choosing the right color(s) can often determine success or failure. When selecting colors for your chosen design, think about the mood you’d like to convey with the finished product. For example, if you’re working on something whimsical and colorful, try not to include too many black or dark brown stitches. On the other hand, if you’re creating a large landscape scene, stick with darker shades.

Cross Stitch Embroidery

One way to add variety to your design without adding lots of additional colors is to simply change the colors within shapes. This makes changing the overall look of your completed piece far easier later on.

Another important consideration is where you will store your supplies. Obviously, you don’t want to keep everything close together under your table during stitching hours, nor do you want to leave it lying around where someone might trip over it. Make sure you either put away tools after finishing any particular area or hide them behind furniture or rugs. A good idea would be to set aside a special place specifically for storing unused items.

It goes without saying that safety must always come first when doing anything involving needles or scissors.

Advanced Materials for Intermediate Projects

Now that we know what basic materials are needed, let’s talk about getting comfortable with intermediate level techniques. Once you become familiar with these skills, you’ll soon find yourself ready to tackle even the most challenging designs. Here are some things to watch out for:

Getting Started With Freebies

Freebie books are great resources to draw inspiration from, especially since you usually only pay shipping costs when buying one online. While browsing through pages of photos, check out both sides of each page and see if you notice certain elements that catch your eye. Try pinning images down to use as templates, write notes on the backs of pictures that interest you, and sketch ideas quickly onto scraps of paper.

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After you begin collecting possible designs, it helps to organize them according to their complexity levels. Start with simpler designs and move towards more complicated ones as you gain confidence in your abilities. By keeping track of your progress, you’ll eventually be able to tell at a glance which styles suit you best.

The Internet is another excellent resource for finding cross stitch kits that cater to various skill levels. Many companies offer starter packs that contain multiple patterns designed to teach new crafters everything from beginner to experienced. Another option is to buy individual patterns and complete projects based on them. One advantage of going this route is that you can experiment with the different types of stitches used and discover what suits you best.

Finding Other Inspiration Outside Your Comfort Zone

While looking at photographs of real life scenes can sometimes inspire you, taking photos of models and magazine layouts isn’t recommended unless you really feel confident enough to recreate them perfectly. However, once you develop your own signature style, you can easily incorporate elements from your favorite magazines and adornments into your work. Just remember that you shouldn’t copy anyone else’s exact technique. Create unique pieces instead of trying to replicate existing examples.

Cross Stitch Tools

Most people who enjoy cross stitching also love scrapbooking. Combining the two hobbies could provide you with endless possibilities for creative combinations. In addition to sharing your finished products with friends, you could sell them at craft shows or give them away as gifts. Donate them to charity organizations or local hospitals whenever possible.

Using Colors Wisely

Colors play a huge role in determining the final outcome of your designs. Too little contrast causes confusion and less detail, whereas having too many conflicting colors can end up distracting viewers’ eyes. Balance is key here. Keep colors consistent throughout your entire design, including backgrounds, borders, and stitches. Use complementary colors well and avoid clashing hues. Choose colors that compliment your skin tone and hair/eye coloring. Also, be aware that light versus bright colors can affect how strong they appear against white background fabrics.

Stitching Basic Shapes, Simple Color Scheme

A basic shape can consist of lines, circles, squares, ovals, etc., although triangles, stars, hearts, flowers, leaves, and crosses are also popular choices. Keeping the number of shapes low allows you to concentrate on learning shading and blending colors rather than memorizing long lists of instructions. Additionally, fewer shapes mean fewer places for mistakes to occur.

As mentioned earlier, combining colors can open up your imagination and creativity. Creating interesting effects with bold, contrasting colors is fun, but it can be overwhelming if done incorrectly. Experimentation is crucial when deciding upon colors and amounts to achieve your desired result.

Adding More Detail To Shapes & Adding Details Using Multiple Threads

Shading areas within shapes provides depth and dimensionality. Learning proper shading methods early on gives you the ability to enhance details and increase visual appeal. Each shade should flow seamlessly into the adjacent area without leaving unsightly gaps.

For instance, filling in curved areas involves increasing density along straight sections to smooth out transitions. Or you can fill in corners by decreasing density near parallel segments. Blending colors smoothly across straight line boundaries is called “blending.” As mentioned above, blending takes practice, so don’t worry about being perfect right away. Instead focus on mastering one section at a time.

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Experiment with different ways to blend colors and see what happens. Changing the angle at which you hold your needle dramatically alters the appearance of blended sections. For example, holding your needle vertically creates sharper angles, while horizontal strokes produce softer corners. Different degrees of blending can completely transform the character of your design.

Trellis Chart Patterns Using Multi-colored Thread

Chart patterns require extremely precise placement of colored stitches to achieve realistic results. They can range anywhere from intricate floral arrangements to geometric lattices. Trellises are actually comprised of smaller chart patterns stacked atop one another. These patterns are easy to master, and achieving stunning results becomes increasingly easier with experience.

You can also combine different chart patterns to create entirely original designs. But beware — never mix charts containing very similar colors. Doing so can cause disastrous clashes. Stick to mixing chart themes from opposite ends of the spectrum. Mix red with blue, orange with green, purple with pink, etc.

Creating Complex Design From Scratch

Complexity refers to the amount of detail present in a given design. Starting out with relatively simplistic designs lets you explore detailed aspects of each pattern without feeling overwhelmed. After you become proficient with the basics, however, you can advance to designing more complicated projects.

Don’t forget about symmetry. Even though symmetry itself doesn’t necessarily indicate beauty, it does contribute greatly to pleasing aesthetics. So if symmetry is part of your goal, try incorporating mirror image motifs. This adds subtlety to otherwise jarring contrasts and keeps the viewer’s attention focused on the main subject matter.

Embellishment plays an essential role in enhancing the beauty of any cross stitch design. Adding embellishments enhances texture, highlights focal points, and draws our gaze toward objects of interest.

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To ensure balance, pay careful attention to sizing. Avoid placing small motifs in locations that are likely to compete with larger subjects. Since size cannot be adjusted, scale down the actual size of your design to compensate for overly large elements.

Borderless border designs are ideal for beginners due to their ease of construction and uncluttered appearance. Yet, borders can also serve as accents and frames for your masterpiece. Whether you prefer to frame your creation or highlight its features, borders bring orderliness and harmony to otherwise chaotic forms.

Borders Made from Lattice Work

Many traditional European folktales rely heavily on lattice fences, hedges, and walls. Their natural structure lends themselves beautifully to cross stitching projects. Lattice patterns themselves are formed by filling in rows of small squares, which can be stitched as squares, diamonds, triangles, or other geometric patterns.

You can also fill rows of lattice with different colors to create your own designs. In addition, you can add borders by framing off the edges of your design with rows of individual stitches. It’s easy to learn lattice patterns and use them in combination with other charting techniques to create unique results.

Fancy Borders Made From Stitching With Different Threads

Stitching using varying colors gives your projects a truly unique look. You can fill in individual sections with just one color, or you can use as many colors as you wish within a single section. Further, you can use shaded sections for added visual interest. Experiment with different combinations of thread and see what happens!


With proper planning and meticulous attention to detail, creating a cross-stitch masterpiece is achievable for everyone! But don’t be intimidated by the massive amount of work involved; it’s really not as hard as you might think. If you’re up for the challenge, make yourself a challenge. Master one difficult technique, then try it again with another one. Soon enough, you’ll be creating masterpieces on your own!

Check out our comprehensive guide to cross-stitch techniques and cross-stitch patterns for inspiration.

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