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Why Is Counted Cross Stitch So Addictive?

Updated on December 3, 2016
"The Big 5 of Africa"
"The Big 5 of Africa"
"The Milkmaid" by Jan Vermeer (1658-1660)
"The Milkmaid" by Jan Vermeer (1658-1660)

Do you ever feel the urge to be creative? To make something special with your own two hands? Something you can proudly display? To be admired by all visitors into your home?

If you do, then counted cross stitch is a great way to satisfy that urge! I guarantee that for the majority of you, if you try this craft, the creativity bug will bite; and you'll become a total cross-stitch addict - just like me!

For many, understandably, the humdrum of everyday life does get a bit tiresome and at such times our stress levels can get pretty darn high. We all need to de-stress and have different ways of achieving this.

Let me tell you that for many people, the activity of stitching small crosses onto a scrap of canvas is truly therapeutic.

So, why not create a family heirloom or a brightly colored piece of artwork, such as "The Big 5 of Africa", to proudly display by boldly leaping into our wonderful world of cross stitching? This is a sure fire, stress-busting cure for the mundane day-to-day tasks each of us has to endure.

Counted cross stitch is a type of embroidery. You generally work from a printed chart, which uses symbols to represent various colors. It's a lot like paint-by-numbers or, more accurately, stitch-by-numbers. Wherever there is a symbol, you make a stitch in the recommended color.

You can create beautiful gifts using this craft. There is an abundance of pattern subjects to choose from (just look at the variety of patterns on this page), and the color palette is practically endless.

Cross stitch is generally worked using a simple unspoken rule - when creating more than one stitch of the same color in a row, it's best to go in one direction first and then come back to the beginning in the opposite direction.

For example, let's say you have three stitches in red to do. You would go from the bottom right corner to the top left corner with all three stitches, and then starting with the third and final stitch, go from the bottom left corner to the top right corner of each stitch until you complete your X on the first stitch.

You can certainly modify this system to suit your personal needs. The most important thing about this common practice is that your top stitches are all going in the same direction. If they aren't, it will greatly affect the look of your finished piece.

This theory can be ignored only when using specialty stitches such the quarter stitch, backstitch, and French knots (Continued below...)

Creating and Adding Embellishments

As novice stitchers gain experience they seek out new ways to personalize their cross stitch projects. An easy and inexpensive way to do this is to add embellishments (as we call them in the trade), which simply means adding beads or buttons - or both.

The short two-minute video below shows you how one person creates many such buttons for her customers. It might give you a few ideas too, such as how you can use a smaller cross stitch design to create a button pin for example.

"Airy Lovers ~ Love Encompasses All"
"Airy Lovers ~ Love Encompasses All"
"Fairies In A Cup"
"Fairies In A Cup"

Why is Counted Cross Stitch so Addictive (Continued)...

Aida is the easiest fabric to use when cross stitching. This is the fabric most beginners use when first learning this wonderful craft. Aida fabric is stiffer than others and is woven to produce a grid-like form (rather like graph paper) with the center of your stitches covering each small square where the horizontal and vertical threads intersect.

Once you've mastered cross stitching and are looking for a more challenging fabric choice, you may wish to try either evenweave or linen. Information, as well as comparisons of these fabrics and more, can be found by doing a general "cross stitch fabric" search on the Internet.

Counted cross-stitch pieces are generally stitched using a 6-strand cotton thread normally called "floss". The floss is separated into one or two strands depending on the stitch you're doing. The cross stitch pattern directs you as to how many strands to use for each type of stitch.

A big advantage is the huge range of colors available. In fact, it's sometimes tough to decide which color to use! And if you can't find the perfect color, you can use tweeding?

Tweeding is where you take one strand each of two different colors and combine them. By threading your needle with these two differently colored floss strands, you can achieve a unique and stunning effect.

One of the many great things about cross stitch is that it requires remarkably few tools to complete a beautiful piece of art. Other than the fabric, needle, pattern and floss - the only other tools that would probably be useful are a small pair of sharp scissors and an embroidery hoop to help hold the fabric taut.

With just these few tools, you'll be well on your way to creating wonderful cross-stitch pieces. Another bonus is you can do this anywhere and at any convenient time! Your counted cross-stitch supplies take up very little space; so, you can continue to stitch when away from home.

In the early days of your new hobby, when choosing a cross stitch pattern to stitch, don't choose something just because someone else will like it or it's a simple design. Make sure you choose a counted cross-stitch pattern that appeals to you, no matter what you are going to do with the finished project.

If you decide to stitch a design that doesn't hold your interest, you won't be too surprised to discover the chances are rather high that it will go unfinished.

The best way to stay motivated to complete a counted cross stitch pattern, is to make sure you will enjoy stitching the subject.

An Essential Subtlety of Cross Stitch is ... Contrast!

Many veteran stitchers are constantly seeking to polish their skills and improve the quality of their completed cross stitch projects. They seek to create variety into their craft by subtlely introducing depth and tone.

One way they do this is by "tweeding" with contrasting colors and shades. Thanks, in no small part, to the many hundreds of different thread colors produced by the leading thread manufacturers, they have lots of options from which to choose.

This entertaining five-minute video, while not directly cross-stitch related, does examine the subtle variations of the term contrast. I think you will enjoy it!

Follow the simple advice I've given you here, and the cross-stitch bug will bite you, too! There are lots of us cross-stitch addicts out there. Come join our family!

More Great Cross Stitch patterns...

"A Young Leopard" by Riaan
"A Young Leopard" by Riaan
"Butterfly Kisses"
"Butterfly Kisses"
"The Cherokee Child"
"The Cherokee Child"
"Bald Eagle on Stars & Stripes"
"Bald Eagle on Stars & Stripes"
"Dearest Guardian Angel"
"Dearest Guardian Angel"
"Mama's Boy"
"Mama's Boy"


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    • Germainpuck profile image


      2 years ago from Adelaide

      Thank you for the article.

      I have been doing cross stitch patterns for about 30 years, I agree it can be addictive.

      But nothing beats the feeling of seeing the finished product.

      I commenced this art form to help me relax, but it has given me much more.

    • darciad profile image

      Darcia Douglass 

      3 years ago from Kennewick, WA

      A woman after my own heart! I love to cross stitch the hours away. Well done article!

    • retta719 profile image


      3 years ago from United States

      I don't think Patterns Patch offers subscriptions anymore, they were previously selling a lot of copyright infringement patterns and I think they were finally shut down for it.

      Sadly, Top Cross Stitch Sites closed this year.

    • profile image

      Cross stitch 

      9 years ago

      I love cross stitching, there is only one problem, I have no more empty walls to hang my cross stitch :-)

    • profile image

      Lenna Green 

      12 years ago

      I love cross stitch as well although I have to confess that as a busy mum of 3 I now work on hand embroidery designs that don't rely too much on following a pattern. Much easier on the eyes and the nerves!

    • newlife profile image


      12 years ago from Malta

      I love cross stitch myself. While it's family tv time, and we are all sitting there watching a movie or something similar, I wind down, with cross stitch:) Great hub. Thanks for all the information!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great hub. Wonderful use of graphics and video. I'm a diehard stitcher of many years but still found the information useful and interesting.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great piece, informative and fun to read

    • NatChar profile image


      12 years ago

      This hub is thumbs up all the way! You clearly show that you are very passionate about cross stitching and you delivered this information so nicely for us the reader. Great Job!

    • John Austwick profile image

      John Austwick 

      12 years ago from Bolton

      Great hub beautifully illustrated both my mum and sister really enjoy cross stitch.

    • elisabeth reid profile image

      elisabeth reid 

      12 years ago from Colorado

      Good hub...lots of good information and inspiration. Makes me want to pick up a pattern and dig out the Aida that I have out in a box somewhere.

      Now...where did I put that box?

    • profile image


      12 years ago

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I love cross stitch. If I had the talent I would love to paint. Some how the painting gene doesn't go from my brain down to my fingers. Being able to cross stitch classic paintings allows me to feel very creative. I am also addicted to collecting patterns. I have done several victorian pictures which are my favoriates to do.

    • siennapacific profile image


      12 years ago from California

      I am a die-hard cross stitcher and yes, it is ver therapeutic. I did some for some friend's babies and mine as well.

      It takes a lot of time to complete a 10x13 piece but I really enjoyed it.

      Go cross stitching!

    • Sheila Martin profile image

      Sheila Martin 

      12 years ago


      I had no idea you could create projects with such detail and painterly effects.

      Thanks for opening my eyes to this creative hobby.



    • DayTradersWin profile image


      12 years ago from Laguna, California

      Well I don't plan to take this activity on as a hobby, but it did give me some ideas for my pages.


      John McLaughlin - Day Traders - Consultant / Coach

    • Caregiver-007 profile image

      Margaret Hampton 

      12 years ago from Florida

      Excellent Hub. Very well organized with clear information, beautiful illustrations throughout, and diversified points of interest all along the way. The instruction was very useful, and the variety most intriguing. Almost made me want to rush out and buy a kit! This is clearly one of the better Hubs from a presentation standpoint. Thumbs up!


    • flyingeagle profile image


      12 years ago

      That's a nice Hub, with lots of attractive pictures. Neither my wife nor I have such skills, but know a few who do, and have some of their work decorating our home.


    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great page. Tons of valuable information! Worth your time to check it out!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Great hub! It was useful, informative, and enjoyable to read. Excellent description of what cross stitching is and the tools needed to enjoy it.

      Cross stitching really is a "simple" craft that can deliver some awesome finished pieces. The examples of cross stitch patterns offered show just how wide-spread patterns and kits can be.

      I liked the use of video within the hub, although not entirely cross stitch-related. Their usage helped to show that there is diversity, just like in this awesome craft. I appreciated the author choosing shorter videos. Quite often embedded videos can be more of a distraction. These were well-placed and added another dimension to the hub.

      Overall, I would say that this author has delivered a very helpful new hub. It was well-written, filled with useful instruction, and shows the great possibilities of cross stitching. It was pleasant to the eye and well-organized. Yes, it was very useful, indeed.


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