A beginner’s guide to needlework.

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Needlework is an age-old handicraft that has been adorning cloth for about as long as cloth has existed. Cross-stitch embroidery in particular has been around since at least the Middle Ages. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, in those times “it was known as opus pulvinarium, or cushion work. As its name implies, cross-stitch is a double stitch diagonally crossing intersections of the horizontal and vertical threads of the fabric.” It is a square- and cross-based form of embroidery that involves patterns and counting. For a few patterns to inspire your embroidery, check out Cross-Stitch Patterns So Cute You'll Want to Frame Them. If you’re a beginner, read on for a step-by-step description of how to get started with cross-stitch.

1. Choose Your Fabric

Because cross-stitch embroidery instructs you to make small stitches in a squared-off format, the right fabric can make all the difference. A fabric with a weave that has a visible square pattern will make your cross-stitch sewing much easier. Fabric that is called “needlework fabric,” “embroidery fabric,” “cross-stitch cloth,” “evenweave fabric,” or “Aida fabric” usually has the squared, evenly spaced texture needed for counted cross-stitch.

2. Choose Your Pattern

Cross-stitch patterns are usually formatted in grids, wherein each square equals one cross-stitch. The pattern will tell you the size of fabric you’ll need and the number of squares you’ll need to complete the pattern. You’ll follow this pattern, replicating the stitches and colors of thread from the pattern onto your fabric.

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3. Set Up Your Supplies

In addition to fabric, you’ll need various colors of embroidery thread (which correspond to the pattern you’re using) and needles for stitching. An embroidery hoop is also a helpful tool, as you can stretch your fabric between it to keep it taut and make it easier to thread a needle through.

4. Stitch Away

Most cross-stitch patterns use two strands of embroidery thread, so you’ll need to split the threads and prepare your needle, knotting the thread at the very end so that it doesn't pass through the fabric while stitching. The stitch most often associated with cross-stitch is, of course, an “X.” Begin at the back of the fabric and stitch your needle through to the front, creating a line of / / / / / half diagonal stitches. Come through again with opposing half diagonals to create the finished X X X X X  line. You can also make one X at a time by completing both diagonals, one right after another, before moving on to the next X. You’ll continue stitching this way until you run out of thread. Knot the thread at the back of the fabric to secure it, and then begin again with a new length of thread.

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Is cross-stitching your favorite form of embroidery? What cross-stitched patterns are you working on lately?

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