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Cross-stitch is a technique typically used in, well, cross-stitch work. Examples of this sort of work can be seen in many available books, including Stephanie Rohr's Feminist Cross-Stitch (2019), and Lindsay Swearingen's Creepy Cross-Stitch (2021).*

In today's post, I'll be showing you how to do the cross-stitch on non-cross-stitch fabric, so that you can incorporate this simple stitch into your hand embroidery designs. I'll also show you how to create your own cross-stitch "fabric" using washable transfer paper, which allows you to create cross-stitch designs onto whatever fabric you like to use in your hand embroidery work.

*These are NOT affiliate links, they're just links to examples!

Photo of a pink cross-stitched heart on green fabric, surrounded by pink and green vines.
A simple cross-stitched heart on linen fabric.

How to do a single cross-stitch

A cross-stitch is simply two lines of straight stitching, with one line crossing over the other. Start by creating a short straight stitch.

Next, create a second straight stitch that crosses over the first, doing your best to keep the length of this second stitch consistent with the length of your first stitch.

I'll often use single cross-stitches like this as simple embellishments; to see an example of this in my own work, take a look at the Snowflake Sampler project I sent to Hopebroidery Box subscribers in 2021.

How to create cross-stitched designs without cross-stitch fabric

Another way to incorporate cross-stitch into your hand embroidery work is by creating your own cross-stitch "fabric" using washable transfer paper (or other transfer methods) to create a gridded guide. Creating a grid on your fabric allows you to create more even cross-stitches, even if you're not working on even-weave fabric.

In the example below, you can see that I've printed out a grid using washable transfer paper that forms the shape of a simple heart. I'll use this grid as a guide for myself, creating cross-stitches within each square until my shape is filled.

You can also create a grid like this using any number of other transfer methods; I recommend choosing a method that can be erased once you've finished stitching (versus something like a pencil), as you will not be covering the lines on the grid itself with any stitches.

I created this grid using simple graph paper; in the past, I've drawn grids onto my fabric using a ruler to help me create even squares.

When using a grid like this, you'll think of each square as one single cross-stitch. Bring your needle up through one corner of your square, and then back down at a diagonal. In the example below, I'm coming up through the "top left corner," and back down through the "bottom right corner."

Now you have two stitched corners, and two empty corners. To finish your first cross-stitch, bring your needle up through an empty corner, and back down through the last empty corner, crossing over your first straight stitch. In the example below, I'm coming up through the "top right corner" and going back down through the "bottom left corner."