Embroidery is a word that covers a lot of different crafting skills and techniques. The thing that unites all these different embroidery techniques is that they are practiced by using a needle and thread to stitch into fabric. They’re more purely decorative arts than sewing or knitting: rather than creating garments or accessories, you’re creating images and patterns on a canvas – albeit images and patterns that may go on to be the foundation of jewellery or household accessories.
If you’re interested in embroidery, it’s useful to make sure you understand the different techniques and styles you’ll be using. This means you can make sure you have all the correct tools and materials ready for your next project, allowing you to make an educated decision about how to achieve the effect you really want to.
With these concerns in mind, it’s time to put embroidery under the microscope, and take a close look at what distinguishes this specific kind of embroidery, the effects you can achieve with it, and what tools and materials you need to practice it successfully.
What is cross stitch?
Cross stitch is a form of counted thread embroidery, in which you follow a pattern to count the threads in the warp and weft of the base fabric and produce accurate geometric designs.
In cross stitch, you use a specific kind of x-shaped stitch (which gives its name to the discipline), counting the threads both between stitches and across each individual stitch to ensure they are all of the same size and appearance. By using many of these stitches in close proximity, you build up designs and images into your finished project.
What do you need for cross stitch?
Unlike surface embroidery, for example, cross stitch needs a specific, carefully chosen kind fabric for you to stitch into. What you’re looking for is called ‘even-weave’ – that is, fabric where the warp and weft yarns are the same size and there is the same number of threads in every square inch of fabric. This means that when you stitch into even-weave, a two-thread stitch is the same size anywhere on the canvas, so you can accurately follow the instructions of your sewing pattern.
You’ll also need a needle and thread. Cotton embroidery floss is the most popular material for cross stitch and you can buy that in bulk from craft stores – and even larger supermarkets – so you can be confident you always have the quantities and colours that you need.
You also need a tapestry needle: these needles have a large eye, and a blunted point, so they easily penetrate between the threads of your fabric than pierce those threads.
Patterns and plans
You also need a pattern to follow – whether you buy it from a craft store or design it yourself. You can find cross stitch patterns as lists of instructions and diagrams you can follow to create the image you want to, or printed directly on an even-weave fabric, for which you simply stitch over the printing to produce your own piece of needlework!