How to Page

Cross-stitching is easier than you think. I just takes patience and practice.

Reading a Chart

Each square on the chart matches a square on your Aida cloth. 

On the sample shoe chart, you see a row of 7 Dk pink stitches and 3 more going up at an angle. So, you sew a horizontal row of 7 stitches and 3 going up at an angle on your cloth.

Use the stitches you’ve already made to figure out where to place the next ones. Here, there are 3 Med pink stitches to the left side of the 3 Dk pink stitches.

colour chart and pattern for a cross stitch high heel

Counting Stitches

Use the thick lines of the large blocks to help you count how many stitches you need to make. Each large block is 10 stitches wide and 10 stitches tall. Look at the numbered rows in the peach example.

The first row has 3 Dk orange squares to the left of the thick line, and 3 more to the right. That’s 6 in total.

The fifth row looks like there is a lot to count, but you can see that between the two thick lines there are 2 white squares and the rest are Dk orange.

Since there are 10 squares in a row, and 2 are white, then there are 8 Dk orange (10-2=8).

Since there are 8 Dk orange squares in this row, there must be 7 in the row below it, because it is 1 square shorter (8-1=7).

colour chart and pattern for cross stitch peach


Aida Cloth 

photograph of various kinds of aida cloth

Aida cloth is a material specifically designed for cross-stitching. Its crisscrossing weave of threads forms obvious squares with large corner holes for you to stab.

Graphic showing the weave and holes of aida cloth

All ABIT projects were designed for 14ct Aida cloth. This means you have 14 stitches for every inch of fabric. A pattern that is 2 inches wide would have 28 stitches per row.

There are other counts of cloth such as 11 and 18. 11ct has 11 stitches per inch and 18ct has 18 stitches per inch. The higher the number, the more stitches you can fit in an inch.

11ct is easier for beginners, for people with poor eyesight, and those who have fine motor difficulties, because the squares and holes are bigger. 11ct uses a bigger needle, too, which might be easier to hold.

If you choose to use 11ct to make these projects, your final measurements will be a lot bigger and the recommended fabric/frame sizes won’t work. You will need to convert them.

Heart cross stitch pattern and how it looks on different aida cloth sizes

For example, a design 100 stitches long, on 14ct fabric, will have a finished stitch length of about 7 inches (100 ÷ 14 = 7.14in).

The final stitch area for the same pattern on 11ct would be almost 9 inches long (100 ÷ 11 = 9.09in), so you would have to add at least two inches to the recommended length and height of your cloth. 

You would also need more floss because, even though you’re making the same number of stitches, each individual stitch is bigger on 11ct. Finally, you might need to find a rare frame size to mount the finished piece.

Likewise, you can shrink the final dimensions by stitching on 18ct or higher. In this case, divide the stitch length and height by 18 (100 ÷ 18 =  5.5 inches).

High-count Aida is only recommended for advanced stitchers. It is often used for very detailed work like converted photographs that look best when stitched with little crosses. Some of the designs in this book may be too dense for 18ct if you are not an experienced stitcher.

In any case, if you change the aida count, you will also need to change how much aida cloth you will use and change the frame size.

Calculate Your Aida

A good rule of thumb is to add 4 inches to the finished length and height of your stitch to figure out how much aida you will need. This will give you a MINIMUM amount. It is always a good idea to have too much than too little.

E.g., if your finish is 5.6" x 7.2", add 4 inches to each measurement. 5.6 + 4 = 9.6 and 7.2 + 4 = 11.2. We suggest rounding these up to 10 and 11.5 just to be safe.

But keep in mind that your aida also has to fit your embroidery hoop. If you cut a 5" x 7" rectangle of aida, it WILL BE TOO SMALL for a 6" hoop.

Ideally, you want a piece of cloth that is at least 4 inches longer than your hoop is wide. A 6" hoop should have a piece of cloth that is a minimum of 10" x 10." An 8" hoop should have a piece of cloth that is a minimum of 12" x 12."

Figure Out Your Frame

To figure out what size frame you will need, calculate the new length and height of your finished stitch, and compare those dimensions to common frame sizes to find one that is bigger in both directions.

E.g., if the new finish will be 4.5" x 6.2", it will not fit a 4" x 6" frame, but it might fit a 5" x 7" or a 6" x 8".

Here are some frame sizes that are commonly available at stores that sell frames. 

4" x 6"
5" x 7"
6" x 8" 
8" x 10"
8.5" x 11"
10" x 12"
11" x 14"
12' x 15"
16" x 20"
20" x 24"

But REMEMBER that some frames cut off the edge of what you are displaying, so pick a frame that allows an empty aida cloth boarder around your piece. Test frames out by placing the empty frame on your work like a window. Does it cut off any of your stitching? Should you go up a size?

Aida comes in different colours, too. Most of our projects were designed for bright white fabric. If you choose an antique or off-white cloth, floss colours might look off. Some stitch colours might even blend in with the background fabric and disappear.

The exception would be designs like ‘Climb Every Mountain’. This project is very dense with every square stitched, so you won’t necessarily see the background fabric except at the outside edges. ‘Passive Aggressive’ would be best on black cloth so white doesn’t peek out through your black stitches.

Aida cloth can be purchased in small, pre-cut sizes or cut off of bolts found at your local sewing supply store.


a bundle of floss skeins

These projects were designed using the DMC colour palette. If you have a different brand of floss, you can find websites that let you convert one palette to another.

We do not recommend trying to match threads by comparing floss bundles to the colours printed in the book. There is no guarantee that the printing process didn’t alter the colours on the page slightly. Every design was stitched in real life to test the colour combinations, so as long as you follow the given numbers, you will get great results, even if the piece doesn’t quite match the printed page.

DMC floss generally comes in 8m/8.7yd bundles. The floss is actually 6 intertwined strands of thread, and it must be separated to use it. Our patterns were designed for 2 strands of floss at a time—each stitch is 2 strands thick.

How much floss you need greatly depends on how efficient you are and how many mistakes you make. Sewing with 2 strands on 14ct gets between 1600 to 1800 stitches per skein. If you are a beginner, figure on 1600. This chart shows our suggestion for the minimum amount of floss you’ll need based on the stitch count for any given colour.

Chart showing how much floss you should buy based on the number of stitches in a pattern


packet of embroidery needles

Cross-stitch is usually done with tapestry needles. Unlike sewing needles, tapestry needles have fairly blunt tips that easily find their way into the holes in the Aida fabric. Their eyes are much wider, so you can use multiple strands of thread at once. The most common needle sizes used for cross-stitch are 24 or 26. If you can’t find ones labelled with a specific size, just keep in mind that a needle has to fit easily into the holes of the weave and you need thinner needles for higher-count cloth. Directions for threading a needle and hiding the ends of thread are in the

Step by Step section.


Embroidery hoops come in many different sizes. Any hoop will do in a pinch, but one that fits most of the design inside the circular frame is best. If your hoop is too small, you will need to constantly remount the fabric. This is time-consuming and it can cause wear on your finished stitches. If the hoop is too big, you can’t stretch the cloth properly, leaving floppy gaps between the fabric and the hoop

embroidery hoop

Hoops are sized by their diameter, so if you use one that is slightly larger than the longest edge of the finished project, you will have plenty of room to stitch and you won’t need to reposition very often. A 6 or 8in hoop will do ya for the small projects in this collection. The large designs will fit in an 8 or 10in hoop. Directions for mounting a hoop are in the
Step by Step section.

Other Tools and Materials

Besides the materials and tools described above, you’ll need a ruler, pencil (or other way to mark your fabric, such as chalk or fading fabric marker), scissors and maybe a seam ripper.

1. Cut the Cloth

Each of our patterns tell you the minimum amount of 14ct Aida cloth you will need. You can alway have more than this. A rule of thumb is to add an extra 4 inches to the final stitch dimensions. If you are working on a very small design, keep in mind that you need at least an inch of fabric sticking out from all edges of your hoop. For example, for a 6 inch hoop your fabric should be at least 8 inches square.

image of measuring a piece of aida cloth

Measure from a corner of the cloth and mark the length on the edge of the fabric. Working from a corner makes sure any leftover scrap cloth is as big as possible. Scraps can be used for small projects like bookmarks.

This photo shows us excluding the selvage, the edge of the fabric made in the fabric weaving process which you can't actually stitch through. But you can measure right from the outside edge because this strip will end up behind your work when framed.

Here, we pin the measurements, but if you need to, draw a vertical and horizontal line across the fabric at your marks. The grid of the weave makes it easy to keep your pencil on track. If Danger is your middle name, cut freehand using the weave as your guide.

2. Find the Middle

Fold the Aida cloth in half from left to right and press firmly on the folded edge to crease it. Open the fabric up and fold it in half from bottom to top. Crease that fold. Open it up.

Marking the centre of a piece of folded aida

Mark a hole close to where the two creases criss-cross. Note the red lines on charts don’t cross on a square, they cross at a hole.

3. Mount the Hoop

Unscrew the clamp until it’s loose enough to separate the two rings. Place the inside ring on a clean, flat surface and lay your cloth overtop, making sure that the middle of the cloth is in the middle of the ring. Then slide the outside ring down over the cloth to trap it between the inside and outside rings.

aida mounted in a hoop

Tighten the screw clamp just slightly and pull down evenly on the edges of the cloth, rotating the hoop as you go until the middle of the cloth is taught like a drum skin and no longer shifts when tugged. Tighten the screw completely.

Be careful not to stretch completed stitches out of shape or to pull out thread ends when repositioning the hoop.

4. Prepare Your Floss

To separate your threads, first cut a length of floss from the bundle. If you’re using 2 separate strands, cut no more than 2 feet or half a meter. If you’re using one folded thread, cut no more than 1yd or 1m. Long threads get tangled. An arm-length is a good guide.

pulling strands of floss apart

Take one end of the cut floss and fluff it with your fingers, making the individual strands spread out. Pinch one strand with one hand and pinch the rest with the other. Pull the threads apart a few inches at a time, moving your fingers down to the V where they join. Let the floss hang in the air as you pull the threads so the ends can twirl and spin freely—this prevents tangling. Explore other methods on the web if this proves too tricky.

Wrap the rest of your floss and the extra strands on a pre-punched card like the one here in the photo. These can be bought separately or as part of a floss storage kit. Label the card with the thread number so you don’t mix it up with other similar shades. You could store all the colours for one project on a keyring.

floss wrapped on cards

5. Thread the Needle

There are many different methods to thread your needle. Here are a few. They each have advantages and disadvantages. It comes down to personal preference.

three ways to thread a needle

Double strands: Line up one end of each strand and push them both through the eye of the needle, pulling about 1 foot/30 cm through the eye. This extra prevents the needle from falling off. Don’t tie any knots yet. As you stitch, slide the needle farther up the thread until you only have a couple of inches left. This method works for any number of strands and you can just slip the needle off and thread it back on when you’re done pulling. Use the Knot or Weave method to secure your thread to your work (see below).

Single Strand (Version 1): Thread one end through the needle and pull exactly half the thread through the eye. Line up the ends. Don’t tie any knots yet. Use the Knot or Weave method to secure your thread to your work (see below).

Single Strand (Version 2): This is a combo of the first two methods. Fold the strand in half exactly and thread the cut ends through the needle. Pull about half a foot/15cm through the eye. No knots yet. This method has the same advantage of slipping the needle off and on when you make mistakes. Use the Loop Method to secure your thread (see below).

Start Stitching

6. Find Your Starting Point

Pick a section near the middle of the chart (the two red lines cross). Choose an area with a group of the same colour if you can. In this example, the first stitch is going to be the far left end of the top red row. That stitch is 10 squares to the left and 3 squares up from the middle of the pattern (blue star).

So, look at the centre mark on your Aida cloth. Count 10 squares to the left and 3 squares up from your mark (see the blue star). That square is going to be where your first stitch goes. Mark that first square.

7. Secure Your Thread

You have to secure the loose end of your thread or it will unravel and you’ll lose stitches.

Knot Method: This is the easiest but not the prettiest or most effective method. Tie the ends of your threads several times to make a large knot. Make it big enough that it won’t pop through the hole in your Aida cloth. You can use reef knots (like when tying shoes) tied close together.

Position your needle at the back of your hoop, locating the top-left hole of the square you marked. Push your needle through to the front and pull the thread all the way out until the knot snags against the hole. If the knot pops out, you have to make it bigger.

Weave Method: This is a fairly advanced technique but it is very neat and tidy, and highly recommended. This is our variation on a standard method.

Choose an area to start where you will be stitching at least 4 stitches in a row. Mark the square you’re starting with (see green star to the right).

From the front of the Aida cloth, count 4 squares to the right of your marked stitch. Push the needle through the bottom-right hole of the 4th square. Pull the thread until a tail about 1in/2cm sticks out of the top of the fabric. Smooth the tail out so it points to the right. Carry the thread across the back to your first stitch and start stitching as normal. Hold down the tail with one hand and pull the thread until you feel the tail tugging.

Stitch all the first strokes of this row. As you work, each stitch is wrapping around the tail at the back of the cloth. Trim the extra bit of tail sticking out from the front. Continue your stitches as you would normally.

If you already have rows of stitches near your starting point, slip the needle underneath the backside of 4 or 5 stitches and pull the thread through until the end is trapped. Then push the needle through the top-left hole of your starting square.

Loop Method: Using Single Strand (Version 2) threading method,  start your first stitch as normal. Pull the thread out until about 1in/2cm of the looped end is left sticking out the back of the cloth. Complete the first stitch through the bottom-right hole and pull the thread all the way without yanking the loop free.

Feed the needle through the looped end. Pull the thread until the looped end tightens around the length of thread. Don’t pull too tight or you could misshape the square and leave a gap. Continue stitching as you would normally.

8. Stitch a Row

Contrary to how it looks, cross-stitching is not done by making X after X all over the fabric. You do so for random details like flowers in a field, but if you are stitching grouped areas, there is a more efficient and tidy way to it.

Your work will look crisper and more polished if all of your stitches are uniform. This means the top strokes all go one direction and the bottom strokes all go the opposite way.

In this example, you can see the first stroke of each stitch is made by pulling the needle up through the top-left hole of each square (step 1) and then pushed down through the bottom-right hole (step 2).

This makes a row of  \\\ that all travel in the same direction. To complete the X, push the needle up through the top-right hole and down through the bottom-left hole (step 3). Do this repeatedly to make all your Xs (step 4).

This example is for stitching left-to-right. If you have to go right-to-left, come up through the bottom-right hole and go down the top-left hole to make the same \\\ strokes.


From time to time, you might realize you miscounted and have too many or incorrectly placed stitches. Don’t panic. If you’re using the open end method of threading, just pull the stitches out in reverse order of how you stitched them. Or, use your seam ripper to carefully lift each thread and gently pull up to cut them. Do one stitch at a time, slowly. Don’t cut the Aida cloth. This is why it’s good to have extra floss.


Backstitches make outlines and add details. The charts only show you the outline to follow. For this example, pretend the arrows are your needle.

Come up Hole 1 then go down Hole 2. Run the thread across the back so you can come up 3. Go down 4 then run the thread so you come up 5. Go down 6 and cross the back to 7. Start and end your threads as you normally would.

Ending a Thread

When you are down to about 2 in/5cm of thread left on your needle, slide the needle under a row of three or four stitches at the back of the work. Cut the tail so no threads poke out.

Threads crisscrossing on the back of your fabric is unavoidable, but too much can be a hassle and it wastes floss. Reduce waste by planning your stitches. When it’s time to jump to another section, decide if you can save floss by ending the thread and starting fresh in a new location.

What's Next?

Click here for care and framing instructions to get your finished project clean, pressed and framed!

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