This article is about the embroidery style called cross-stitch or counted cross-stitch. For specific crossed stitches used in needlework, see cross stitches.
Cross-stitch sampler, Germany, 1735.

Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. Cross-stitch is often executed on easily countable evenweave fabric called aida cloth. The stitcher counts the threads in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance. This form of cross-stitch is also called counted cross-stitch in order to distinguish it from other forms of cross-stitch. Sometimes cross-stitch is done on designs printed on the fabric (stamped cross-stitch); the stitcher simply stitches over the printed pattern.

Fabrics used in cross-stitch include aida, linen and evenweave. Projects are categorized by stitches per inch, which can range from 14 to 40 count, and the appropriate fabric is then chosen.



Detail of floral border pattern in cotton. Tea cloth (small tablecloth), Hungary, mid-twentieth century

Cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and can be found all over the world.[1] Many folk museums show examples of clothing decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe and Asia.

Two-dimensional (unshaded) cross-stitch in floral and geometric patterns, usually worked in black and red cotton floss on linen, is characteristic of folk embroidery in Eastern and Central Europe.[2]

In the United States, the earliest known cross-stitch sampler is currently housed at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts.[3] The sampler was created by Loara Standish, daughter of Captain Myles Standish and pioneer of the Leviathan stitch, circa 1653.

Multicoloured, shaded, painting-like patterns as we know them today are a recent development, deriving from similar shaded patterns of Berlin wool work of the mid-nineteenth century.

Traditionally, cross-stitch was used to embellish items like dishcloths, household linens, and doilies (only a small portion of which would actually be embroidered, such as a border). Although there are many cross-stitchers who still employ it in this fashion, especially in Europe, it is now increasingly popular to simply embroider pieces of fabric and hang them on the wall for decoration.

There are many cross-stitching "guilds" across the United States and Europe which offer classes, collaborate on large projects, stitch for charity, and provide other ways for local cross-stitchers to get to know one another.

Today cotton floss is the most common embroidery thread. It is a thread made of mercerized cotton, composed of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread, silk and Rayon. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other specialty threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes for accents and embellishments. Hand dyed cross stitch floss is created just as the name implies - it is dyed by hand. Because of this, there are variations in the amount of color throughout the thread. Some variations can be subtle, while some can be a huge contrast. Some also have more than one color per thread, which in the right project, creates amazing results.

Related stitches and forms of embroidery

Ukrainian girls in traditional embroidered costumes

Other stitches are also often used in cross-stitch, among them ¼, ½, and ¾ stitches and backstitches.

Cross-stitch is often used together with other stitches. A cross stitch can come in a variety of prostational forms. It is sometimes used in crewel embroidery, especially in its more modern derivatives. It is also often used in needlepoint.

A specialized historical form of embroidery using cross-stitch is Assisi embroidery.

There are many stitches which are related to cross-stitch and were used in similar ways in earlier times. The best known are Italian cross-stitch, Celtic Cross Stitch, Irish Cross Stitch, long-armed cross-stitch, Ukrainian cross-stitch and Montenegrin stitch. Italian cross-stitch and Montenegrin stitch are reversible, meaning the work looks the same on both sides. These styles have a slightly different look than ordinary cross-stitch. These more difficult stitches are rarely used in mainstream embroidery, but they are still used to recreate historical pieces of embroidery or by the creative and adventurous stitcher.

The double cross-stitch, also known as a Leviathan stitch or Smyrna cross stitch, combines a cross-stitch with an upright cross-stitch.

Berlin wool work and similar petit point stitchery resembles the heavily shaded, opulent styles of cross-stitch, and sometimes also used charted patterns on paper.

Cross-stitch is often combined with other popular forms of embroidery, such as Hardanger embroidery or blackwork embroidery. Cross-stitch may also be combined with other work, such as canvaswork or drawn thread work. Beadwork and other embellishments such as paillettes, charms, small buttons and speciality threads of various kinds may also be used.

Recent trends in the UK

Cross-stitch has become increasingly popular with the younger generation of the United Kingdom in recent years[4]. The recession of post-2008 has also seen renewal of interest in home crafts. Retailers such as John Lewis experienced a 17% rise in sales of haberdashery products between 2009 and 2010[5]. Hobbycraft, a chain of stores selling craft supplies, also enjoyed an 11% increase in sales over the past year[6]. The chain is said[by whom?] to have benefited from the "make do and mend" mentality of the credit crisis, which has driven people to make their own cards and gifts.

Knitting and cross stitching have become more popular hobbies for a younger market, in contrast to its traditional reputation as a hobby for retirees[7]. Sewing and craft groups such as Stitch and Bitch London have resurrected the idea of the traditional craft club[8]. At Clothes Show Live 2010 there was a new area called "Sknitch" promoting modern sewing, knitting and embroidery[9].

In a departure from the traditional designs associated with cross stitch, there is a current trend for more postmodern or tongue-in-cheek designs featuring retro images or contemporary sayings[10]. It is linked to a concept known as 'subversive cross stitch', which involves more risque designs, often fusing the traditional sampler style with sayings designed to shock or be incongruous with the old-fashioned image of cross stitch.

See also



  • Caulfield, S.F.A., and B.C. Saward, The Dictionary of Needlework, 1885.
  • Enthoven, Jacqueline: The Creative Stitches of Embroidery, Van Norstrand Rheinhold, 1964, ISBN 0-442-22318-8
  • Gillow, John, and Bryan Sentance: World Textiles, Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, 1999, ISBN 0-8212-2621-5
  • Reader's Digest, Complete Guide to Needlework. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (March 1992). ISBN 0-89577-059-8

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cross-stitch — ( st?ch ; 224), n. 1. A form of stitch, where the stitches are diagonal and in pairs, the thread of one stitch crossing that of the other. Tent and cross stitch. Sir W. Scott. {Cross stitch }, v. t. & i. [1913 Webster] 2. embroidery done in cross …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cross-stitch — ( st?ch ; 224), n. 1. A form of stitch, where the stitches are diagonal and in pairs, the thread of one stitch crossing that of the other. Tent and cross stitch. Sir W. Scott. {Cross stitch }, v. t. & i. [1913 Webster] 2. embroidery done in cross …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cross-stitch — cross′ stitch n. 1) clo a stitch in which pairs of diagonal stitches of the same length cross each other in the middle to form anX 2) clo embroidery or needlepoint done with this stitch 3) clo to work in cross stitch • Etymology: 1700–10 …   From formal English to slang

  • cross-stitch — 1710, from CROSS (Cf. cross) (adj.) + STITCH (Cf. stitch) (v.) …   Etymology dictionary

  • cross stitch — ˈcross stitch f33 [cross stitch] noun countable, uncountable a ↑stitch in ↑embroidery formed by two …   Useful english dictionary

  • cross-stitch — [krôs′stich΄] n. 1. a stitch made by crossing two stitches in the form of an X 2. needlework made with this stitch vt., vi. to sew or embroider with this stitch …   English World dictionary

  • cross-stitch — n [U and C] a stitch in a cross shape used in decorative sewing …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • cross-stitch — cross ,stitch noun uncount the activity of creating pictures or writing on cloth using a needle and THREAD to make stitches that are shaped like the letter X ╾ cross ,stitch verb intransitive or transitive …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • cross-stitch — noun Date: 1640 1. a needlework stitch that forms an X 2. work having cross stitch • cross stitch verb …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cross-stitch — /kraws stich , kros /, n. 1. a stitch in which pairs of diagonal stitches of the same length cross each other in the middle to form an X. 2. embroidery or needlepoint done with this stitch. v.t., v.i. 3. to work in cross stitch. [1700 10] * * * …   Universalium

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