Online resources for a cross-stitch newbie
October 12, 2010 3:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm getting really interested in cross-stitch. Problem: I haven't actually done any since my grandmother first taught me when I was 7. What are some great online resources that'll help me get back into the swing of things?

At the moment I'm working on a pretty basic piece (small, stamped cross-stitch on Aida cloth), and loving it. Anything more complex is currently outside my comfort zone, although I'd hope to get there one day in the future.

The kind of things I'm looking for, then:

- basic newbie guides and tutorials;
- blogs, communities, etc;
- resources for getting hold of non-cutesy patterns (my, but there's a lot of glurgy awfulness out there);
- ideas for turning pictures into counted cross-stitch patterns (if there's Mac software for this, so much the better);
- anything else you think might be useful!

Online resources would be great, but book recommendations would be welcome too.
posted by Catseye to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I found the best way to get better was to just keep at it. Etsy has great resources re: non-glurgy awfulness. Just search "contemporary cross stitch" and you'll find patterns to buy, which will be sent to you via email.
posted by cooker girl at 4:08 AM on October 12, 2010

Your question and cokker girl's answer sent me off to Etsy, where I found Bella Stitchery. Definitely non-glurgy!
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:58 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: I learned how to stitch by doing a couple kits from Subversive Cross Stitch. Julie has awesome patterns that are pretty easy, and she teaches you some basics on her site.

I've found a lot of stitching inspiration at the Craftster community boards (good variety of projects) and at Sprite Stitch (geek-oriented). The Craftzine blog also occasionally has stitching project posts, too.

Needlework FAQ has been super helpful for looking things up or for a refresher after I take a long break. It's also where I learned to do fractional stitches (anything not a full X) and how to stitch on linen for a Mirabilia project.
posted by mostlybecky at 5:07 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The wise folks on Usenet group rec.crafts.textiles.needlework can answer just about any question you may have about cross-stitch.
posted by candyland at 5:17 AM on October 12, 2010

I think you need less "online resources" and more "Jo-Ann Fabrics."
posted by valkyryn at 5:44 AM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: Excellent answers, thanks all!

valkyryn - alas, Jo-Ann Fabrics appear to be US-only, and the only local craft shops I've found are limited to a small selection of chintztastic patterns and no actual guides for getting started with the counted cross-stitch patterns they sell. But if anyone has any recommendations for an equivalent in central Scotland, that would be great too.
posted by Catseye at 5:54 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: I think one of your first stops should be Subversive Cross Stitch. The stuff that was linked to from Etsy is wonderful, but might be VERY daunting for a beginner. Basic X's, yes, but ... huge blocks of straight stitching can mean very slow progress. I sometimes like a little bit of outlining, or a french knot here and there, to break up the XXXXXX monotony.

If you're going from a pattern and no supplies, you'll need thread, needles, and fabric. You may also want a hoop to help you hold the fabric tight. Thread comes in all colors of the rainbow - you can order it online, or go to a local store. The pattern should specify what colors you need, and how much. Cross stitch is awesome in that you can use almost any kind of fabric - for beginning, I'd recommend using Aida. Learn more about fabric types here. Feel free to ignore recommendations that linen should be stitched in the hand (as opposed to using a hoop to stretch the fabric). Stitch however is easiest for you.

The Mirabilia stuff is pretty, but sometimes calls for a lot of extras, like beading, or use of specialty threads, or patchworks of color where every stitch is a different color than the one next to it (ughhhh). This is not bad or wrong, but could be tough for a beginner.

As a beginner, strive to make the back of your work look neat - make sure your stitches all go one way - don't pull the thread too tight. Your pattern may address some of these things. Read the pattern, you'll often find good tips on how to begin the piece, what colors to start with, etc.

There's a (well, at LEAST one) cross stitch community on Livejournal - users often post their works in progress and tips, which is fun.

And I just did a Google Search for sites similar to Subversive Cross Stitch - the first few links look promising, for ideas of what you can make! There's also a lot of geeky cross stitch out there, including an ASCII Sampler and this fun Internet sampler.

posted by kellygrape at 6:56 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Scarlet Quince is the very best site I've seen on the internet for cross-stitching. Their patterns are amazing, but incredibly hard and definitely not where you want to start with counted cross-stitch. But their Cross Stitch Tips section is full of amazingly useful information about everything from equipment to technique.

For simpler, but elegant and interesting, patterns I love Cross-Stitch-Art. I recently made this one and it was not hard at all.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:16 AM on October 12, 2010

The last time I was in the UK I bought a bunch of these little kits in a shop. Though perhaps you may find them too glurgy and touristy.

They were small and mostly easy to do though.

I find it hard to find good patterns. I'm always looking for a balance between complete glurge and that Subversive Cross stitch stuff which I don't like either.

There is a shop near me (which won't help you out!) but they have a list of popular designers on their website.

I find for beginner patterns it is easier to do something with birds, butterflies or other nature scenes rather then an abstract pattern or something with words because it is much easier to fudge the pattern when you screw up. No one is going to know you forgot the red patch on that butterfly. Just leave it off. But if you forgot to count enough space for a word it's harder to fix.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:08 AM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: Yeay for Cross-stitching!!!! Definitely check out Subversive as mentioned above. This is what got me back into stitching as an adult. The kits include everything you need. All their patterns are manageable. My first was "bee-yatch" and I was hooked!

The internet is definitely your friend - you can find lots of cute patterns. Check out the boards at for inspiration as well as Q&A. Also this tutorial made French knots a breeze.

One of the best things about cross-stitch (as opposed to needlepoint) is that you can totally customize your patterns! Once you get the hang of things you can pick and choose alphabets and designs and draw them out on graph paper and go to town!

I do hit up local stores for embroidery floss, extra needles, aida fabric, etc. I have a few books that I like too - a couple with fun alphabets, and I also have this sucker which is a good resource.
posted by radioamy at 12:17 PM on October 12, 2010

BTW don't be discouraged by some of the crazy-complex designs out there - there's nothing wrong with staying simple!!! I just checked out that Bella link above and while the patterns are adorable, the amount of shading necessary is mind-boggling. For me, that just wouldn't be fun. And I kinda like the pixelated look of more basic designs - very 8bit Nintendo!
posted by radioamy at 12:23 PM on October 12, 2010

Best answer: I just used this free pattern generator and I'm making a cross stitch of my sister and her cat for Christmas. It's great - you can specify how many colours you want to use, how big you want the finished piece to be and it generates a pattern.
posted by Pademelon at 4:30 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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