Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread
embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture.
Other stitches are also commonly used in cross-stitch, among them,
1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 stitches and backstitches. Cross-stitch is usually
executed on easily countable evenweave fabric, or more rarely on
non-countable fabric, on which a countable fabric is applied that
is removed later, by drawing out every thread of it under the embroidery.
This fabric is called waste canvas. 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 also done on designs printed on the canvas,
showing every single cross (stamped cross-stitch).
Description of the technique:
Cross-stitch embroiderers frequently use an even-weave fabric of
linen or cotton and work from charts on graph paper. Cross-stitching
can also be done on a specialty Aida cloth that is available in
11, 14, 16, 18, and 22 count sizes. The sizes of Aida and Evenweave
types denote the approximate number of fibers in an inch. Special
vinyl weaves and perforated paper products are also available. The
size of a piece of embroidery can be changed by using a fabric with
another count size.
Today cotton embroidery floss is the most usual
thread. It is a thread made of mercerised cotton, made of six strands
that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other
materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread and several
different threads made of silk or Rayon. Danish flower thread is
especially popular for nature motifs which originally came from
Denmark. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other
specialty threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes
for accents and embellishments.
Thread size is usually chosen so that the stitches
cover the fabric completely, creating a tapestry-like effect. But
especially in monochrome work the thread can also be chosen a bit
thinner, so that the individual crosses can be recognised as such
and let the fabric show through a bit. The latter possibility can
look nice in monochrome patterns and in combination with Blackwork.
Today cross-stitch is the most popular form of embroidery as a hobby
in the western world. It lends itself well to recreational use because
it's easy to learn and very versatile. There are patterns available
for almost every taste, and even beginners can create beautiful
stitchery with some patience.
Traditionally cross-stitch was used to embellish
things like dishwear, household linen, doilies and similar, half
useful, half ornamental items. This use is still popular, especially
in Europe. But often cross-stitch is used to make pieces that are
meant to be framed and hung as pictures. On items for daily use,
usually only small areas are embroidered. The pictures can either
have an unembroidered background or be completely covered with stitches.
There are cross-stitching "guilds" in
various cities of the USA and other countries that propagate knowledge
about cross-stitch and give stitchers the opportunity to meet people
with the same interest. Often they also offer lessons. Sometimes
these guilds do collaborative works that would be too big for one
Modern cross-stitch designs often makes extensive use of colours
in many shades. When using fine fabric and thread this can create
very realistic effects, almost like paintings, if that is desired.
The look of such opulent designs is somewhat related to Berlin wool
work, although the subjects are more varied and sometimes more modern.
Others prefer more stylised patterns with less colours, which may
go well with modern furniture, but also may be suggestive of traditional
Often cross-stitch is combined with other popular
forms of embroidery, such as Hardanger embroidery or Blackwork embroidery.
A fairly recent development is the use of other
stitches in cross-stitch work, in this context called special stitches,
in order to create new visual effects and satisfy the wishes of
keen stitchers who may find pure cross-stitch boring after a while.
These may be stitches from surface embroidery, canvas embroidery
or even drawn thread work and other more unusual branches of embroidery.
Also beadwork and other embellishments like paillettes and specialty
threads of various kinds are becoming more popular.
This development, new as it may seem is in fact
a reinvention. In earliest times, cross-stitch was often used as
one of many different stitches.
Especially in the USA there are many cross-stitch
designers who sell their patterns under their names and are well-known
among stitchers. Many of them maintain websites and keep in touch
with possible customers, although usually the patterns are sold
by shops and other distributors. Other patterns are published in
cheap magazines, especially patterns done by native designers in
Cross-stitch design has become possible for many
hobby embroiderers with the advent of cross-stitch design computer
software. Thus it can be a form of creative expression rather than
just copying the patterns of someone else.
Related stitches and forms of embroidery:
Cross-stitch was often used together with other stitches. 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, long-armed cross-stitch, and Montenegrin stitch.
Italian cross-stitch and Montenegrin stitch are reversible, that
means the work looks the same on both sides. They have a slightly
different look than regular cross-stitch. Two-sided cross-stitch
looks exactly like regular cross-stitch, but is also reversible.
The reversible stitches are more difficult and time-consuming, and
use more thread. All those 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.
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 one of the oldest forms of embroidery and can be
found all over the world. Many folk museums show examples of clothing
decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe
and the Orient. But multicoloured, shaded, painting-like patterns
as we know them today are an invention of the last two centuries.
In the United States, the earliest known sampler
is currently housed at Pilgrim Hallin Plymouth, MA Pilgrim Hall.The
sampler was created by Loara Standish, the daughter of Captain Myles
Standish, circa 1653.