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How To Cross Stitch - Part One: Fabric and Threading a Needle

We are going back to the basics today to explain how to cross stitch. I know there are a lot of articles that explain how to cross stitch, but I'm hoping mine adds a little more information, or maybe if someone is a little bit confused, my articles will help clear up that one thing they don't quite understand.

This is the first of many articles about how to cross stitch. This post focuses on knowledge you need before you can start - supplies, fabric, and how to thread a needle.


Supplies needed to cross stitch

  1. An embroidery/tapestry needle (I haven't found a favorite brand of needle yet, but I like stitching with size 24, round (or blunt) tip needles)
  2. Fabric to stitch on (aida, linen, or evenweave)
  3. Embroidery floss (such as DMC)
  4. Scissors

*I generally stitch on 32 count linen (I'll explain fabric count a little further down). I would most likely switch to a different needle size if I stitched on a different count fabric. Also, I recommend round (or blunt) tip needles because you don't want to split threads of the fabric you are stitching on, you just want to push your needle through the holes that are already visible in the fabric.


Different Types of Cross Stitch Fabric


Aida has distinct holes in the fabric that create a grid of squares. Between all the holes is a dense, flat cluster of threads. Aida generally comes in low counts (counts refers to the number of squares of the natural, mesh-like grid that occur in one inch - both vertically and horizontally). Common count sizes are 11, 14, 16, and 18. As the count number for the fabric increases, you generally want to decrease the number of embroidery threads that you use because less thread is needed for smaller squares (or x's) and more thread is needed for larger squares (or x's).



Linen does not have clusters of threads like aida. At each intersection point of the linen threads (running vertically and horizontally), there are four visible holes in the linen. The tricky part with linen is that you generally stitch over two (linen) threads (although you can stitch over one). The fabric count of linen is higher than aida because the stitch count refers to the number of linen threads in one inch - both vertically and horizontally. The common count sizes for linen are 28, 32, 36, and 40. Those count types are comparable to 14, 16, 18, and 20 ct aida since you need to take into account that you are most likely going to stitch over two threads of linen versus stitching over one square of aida.



Evenweave is referring to a fabric that has the same number of thread vertically and horizontally per inch. When people use the term evenweave in the cross stitch industry, they are commonly referring to a man-made fabric (a blend of materials) that is similar to linen, but does not have the imperfection of varying thread sizes that is commonly found in linen. Aida is an evenweave by definition (same number of squares vertically and horizontally in an inch), but someone stitching on aida, will rarely refer to it as evenweave, they simply say aida. Linen is also an evenweave by definition, but people don't refer to it as a evenweave due to the imperfections that it might have.


Picture of an imperfection in embroidery linen

The arrow points to an example of an imperfection in linen.


Before you even start stitching, you need to decide how may threads you want to use when stitching. When you buy embroidery floss (called a skein of floss), such as DMC, it commonly is a length of six embroidery threads.


You need to cut a length of floss from the skein - I recommend a length about a few inches longer than the length of your elbow to your wrist. Once you have a manageable piece cut, you need to separate out the number of threads that you would like to stitch with.


Close up of DMC embroidery thread

Unseparated threads of embroidery floss.


For aida,

11 count fabric - recommend 3 threads of embroidery floss

14 count fabric - recommend 2 or 3 threads of embroidery floss

16 count fabric - recommend 2 threads of embroidery floss

18 count fabric - recommend 1 or 2 threads of embroidery floss


For linen or evenweave (if stitching over two threads of the fabric)

28 count fabric - recommend 2 or 3 threads of embroidery floss

32 count fabric - recommend 1 or 2 threads of embroidery floss (I prefer 2 threads)

36 count fabric - recommend 1 thread of embroidery floss


In all my pictures in this blog post showing how to cross stitch, I will be using two threads.

close up of separated DMC threads

Notice there are two threads, not six in this photo.


Tip for threading a needle

There are a few different ways to thread a needle. Some people lick the ends of the threads to get the threads to lay flat to stick them in the eye of the needle, some people use a needle threader, and some people pinch the threads to slide the eye of the needle onto the threads.

I'm going to show the process of pinching the threads to help get the thread through the eye of the needle. This technique doesn't work very well for needles with super small eyes, but I find it works great for me with size 24 needles.


Start by folding the thread over the needle.

DMC thread wrapped around a needle for threading

Then, pinch the thread between your index finger and thumb. While the thread is pinched, keep it pulled tight against the needle as you slide the thread over the eye of the needle (with the eye of the needle running as flat as possible between your fingers). Keep the thread pinched tight after the thread slides off the needle. Then, slowly separate the tips of your index finger and thumb until you see the tip of the folded over thread. Take the needle and push the eye of the needle onto the thread - trying the get the thread through the eye, of course.

embroidery needle getting threaded

Once a portion of the thread is through the eye of the needle, use your finger tips to grab the thread and start to pull more of it through the eye.

Thread getting pulled through the eye of a needle

Keep pulling the thread until one end of the thread is pulled through the needle. At that point, adjust the thread on the needle so that one end of the floss is further away from the eye of the needle than the other. You only want one end of the threads to get caught in the stitching. The second end is to remove the needle when you are done with a thread.

Now that you know the basic knowledge needed before stitching, check out my How To Cross Stitch - Part Two: Creating X's or How to Cross Stitch - Part Three: Fabric Size and Chart Reading.

Thanks for reading!




P.S. I want to thank you for making it to the end of this post. :) Use code ENDOFPOST10 at checkout to save 10% on your next order (maybe including some fabric, thread, or needles) with Cross Stitching Supplies. Head over to the online shop ->


Adam Golightly
February 23, 2021 at 13:23

My aunt has been thinking about learning how to cross stitch because she wants to have something to do when she isn’t working. She would really like to get her supplies from a professional because she wants to get better at it. I liked what you said about how linen has a higher fabric count because they have to stitch over two linen threads rather than one.

rachel frampton
September 22, 2020 at 18:59

I’ve been wanting to try cross stitch, which is why I’m currenlty looking for a needlework supplier that sells various types of embroidery products. Thank you for sharing here the different kinds of cross stitch fabrics, such as the aid that has distinct holes. It’s also interesting to learn that linen does not have clusters unlike the aida.

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