I love cross stitching, it’s the easiest form of embroidery you can start with. But, if you’re new to cross stitching you may need a little help understanding how to read cross stitch patterns.
Because if you just opened a cross stitch kit ready to get started on a new craft. And you notice all those strange symbols and the chart that doesn’t look anything like the finished design on the front of the kit.
And to help you understand how to read a cross stitch chart. I created a very simple beginner-friendly small cross stitch pattern for this blog post to show you.
Cross stitch projects are made almost entirely out of one stitch, a x-shaped cross stitch. But, sometimes you’ll have french knots and back stitches and what’s called fractional stitches.
Fractional stitches can be a half stitch, 1/4 stitch, or 3/4 stitch. Instead of the full cross stitch.
There are tons of different cross stitch designs out there for you to choose from. Some come in kits with all the materials you need to make your cross stitch project. Or, you can sometimes just buy the pattern. Etsy is a great place to buy digital patterns. But, you can find a lot of free cross-stitch patterns online.
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Understanding The Chart
A cross-stitch chart is the piece of paper that has the pattern grid. The grid is made up of a bunch of tiny squares and if you look at your Aida fabric you’ll see that the Aida fabric looks like a bunch of squares.
But, back to the pattern grid, if you’ll look closely at the grid you’ll notice that some are darker lines than others. That’s because the squares are grouped by 10 by 10 squares for easier counting. Meaning that after the lines after every 10 squares is darker than the others.
And each square that has a cross stitch symbol that represents a stitch. The squares that are white or blank means that there is no stitch in that square.
Reading The Chart
Before I talk about reading the chart download and print the free heart cross stitch pattern below, it’s in a PDF format. And below under reading the list of symbols is the list for this pattern
For those of you that are wondering for this pattern I use DMC floss colors bright red, and very light cranberry (even though I think it looks pink). But, you could use different colors if you want.
Looking at this pattern or any other cross stitch pattern, you’ll see different symbols. This pattern only has two symbols to make it really easy for beginners.
But, more advanced patterns will have a bunch of different symbols, and it gets really confusing if there are similar symbols. Each unique symbol stands for what the color the cross stitches are. And with different patterns different symbols stand for different colours.
To find the color that the symbol stands for you’ll look at the list of symbols and find the symbol your looking for. Then you’ll look across for that symbol and see what that symbol stands for.
You’ll notice that some charts have different colored lines and round dots. A lot of the time that’s where you’ll backstitch and do french knots on the pattern.
Reading The List of Symbols
And with or right next to the chart is a list of symbols that tells you what color thread goes with the symbol. The list also tells you what brand of thread and color number of floss you use.
All cross stitch patterns are different so lists may very. And here is the list for my unique pattern.
The list will also sometimes tell you how many number of strands of thread you’ll use and the embroidery floss number. But, most of the time you’ll use two strands of floss unless noted otherwise.
If your cross stitch pattern is larger then your chart is broken up on a couple piece of paper. Especially if your printed pattern is one you print out on regular paper. And that means you’ll have a longer colour chart of different thread colors and symbols.
The pattern will sometimes have a comprehensive list that will give you the finished size, stitch count, and fabric used. And sometimes even how to prep your fabric and organize your thread.
It’s always a good practice to look over the chart and instructions on your counted cross stitch pattern before you make a single stitch.
And if you have a kit it might even show how to start your first stitch and how to make a couple of different stitches. And here’s a tip, if you’re making a cross stitch piece for the first time, smaller patterns are a great beginner project.
When you go to start cross stitchers always start in the center of your fabric and the middle of the pattern. And you find the middle starting point by following the arrows on the cross stitch chart. And to mark the center points, I’ll poke a needle or pin in the fabric.
I hope that this post helped you to figure out how to understand cross stitch patterns a little easier. No matter what type of cross stitch pattern you wanting to do.
Cross Stitch Questions
What does the different counts of Aida fabric mean? The different counts have a different number of stitches per inch. For example a 14 count Aida fabric has 14 stitches per inch. And 18 count Aida has 18 stitches per inch.
Can you change the colour of thread for your projects? Yes, you can change the thread color. But, you just have to make sure to use that color though out the pattern for that symbol.
Is there a front and back to Aida cloth? Yes, there is a front and back to Aida. It’s just harder to see, unless the fabric has the selvedge edge. But, if I don’t pay that much attention to which side is the front on Aida cloth went I cross stitch. Because honestly the weave of the fabric looks the same on both sides to me.
Do you use an embroidery hoop for cross stitch? No, you don’t have to use an embroidery hoop for your cross stitch project. To me Aida fabric is stiff enough, so I don’t use an embroidery hoop. Plus, I don’t like how it creases the fabric.
Check out my other embroidery posts.
- 9 Cross Stitching Tools to Help With Your Stitching
- Picking an Embroidery Hoop or Frame for Cross Stitching
- Cross Stitch vs Needlepoint: What’s The Difference
- How do I Pick The Best Needles for Cross Stitch
- What is The Best Type of Embroidery Machine Thread