The 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Cross Stitching | S2E4

In this episode of The Cross Stitch Podcast, I’m talking about the 7 things I wish I knew before I started cross stitching. Some of them might seem quite obvious but if you are a beginner they may be quite new to you and hopefully help you to avoid the mistakes I made.

You can listen to the episode or scroll down to read the show notes/blog post. And if you’re short on time then scroll to the bottom and pin the image for later!

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Listen to the Episode:

This month’s comments from you:

Ttrufflemoo via Instagram commented; “I’m an accountant by day and a cross stitcher by night. It’s a great way to unwind. I love using my creative side to make new designs and in the process of opening up an Etsy shop to see if other people like them too!”


7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Cross Stitching:

1. Don’t pull so hard when making/stitching your “X”

On some of my old projects, you can see the pre-made holes on the aida even more prominently because I have pulled my needle so hard when I have been stitching (like the photo below). This is something I did when I was younger, but also when I found stitching again in later life. The trick is to pull it just tight enough so the “X” sits flat on the aida.


2. That there are different counts of aida, and what this means

Holes per inch is the count, so on 14 count aida there are 14 holes per inch of the aida which means 13 stitches per inch. And on 16 count there are 16 holes and so 15 stitches per inch of the aida. (The most typical count is 14 and is what I worked with when I started designing my own patterns).

Again, this not something I knew when I was younger. When I learned, I just learned for the kit I had; I didn’t need to know what the different counts meant.

But, if you want the same design to fit in a smaller space, you can stitch it on a higher count of aida. For example, one of my first designs was a rainbow in an 8 inch hoop. If I wanted to make this finished piece smaller and therefore cheaper, I could have stitched it on 16 or 18 count aida.

3. To stitch contrasting colours of aida and thread on 16 count or higher aida

For example, I had a Halloween kit that was black aida and glow in the dark thread (which is basically white). When I stitched this hoop, I used 14 count aida and you could see lots of the black aida through the white stitches.

This also happened when I stitched some animals in all black thread on white, 14 count aida. You could see the white aida through the black stitches.

At first, I considered using more than the usual 2 strands of thread to stitch it. But I don’t think stitches look quite as neat when using more than 2 strands, so I didn’t really want to do this.

It took me a while to figure out that if I just stitched it on a higher count aida (16 count was fine) it eliminated this problem. This is because the stitches are more compact and closer together on higher counts so less aida shows through.

4. That you can buy cross stitch pattern software

When I started designing my own patterns, to stitch commissions, I would use graph paper and Microsoft Excel. This worked quite well because it was just for me. My commissions were usually announcements, new baby, weddings etc. so they were just names and dates and I would only really use excel so I could see the colours. I would make all the squares the same size (12px x 12px), then use the fill button to fill the squares with colour.

When I started selling kits this wasn’t ideal anymore as it wasn’t professional; the colours weren’t true to the DMC ones and there were no symbols.

I went onto the Etsy forums and found out about PC Stitch (there is also MacStitch too for Mac users) and it was around £36 when I bought it. It has just recently updated so it has the new 35 colours and some variations. 

There are other softwares out there that tend to be more expensive, but PCStitch works great for what I need it to do.

There are so many features that I don’t actually use too such as:

  • Importing photos and changing them into patterns.
  • Make fonts
  • Access a library of patterns
  • Use specialty stitches
  • Blend colours.

5. That thread conditioner exists

I first found out about thread conditioner through Cloud Craft and it makes stitching with light effects thread so much easier. I love light effects and use it in quite a lot of my designs, but it was a bit of a pain to stitch with before I started coating it in conditioner.

I use Thread Magic* now, and you can read more about stitching with Light Effects thread in my blog post How To Cross Stitch With Light Effects Thread.

6. That needle minders were actually a valuable addition to my supplies (and a pretty one too!)

I don’t know how I cross stitched for so long without a needle minder and I don’t stitch without one now.

It’s so useful when you pick up and put down your stitching a lot, which I do as I have 2 kids to run around after. You can buy needle minders in many craft stores, including mine!

I have a friend, who runs Koru Clay Studio, who makes exclusive, heart-shaped needle minders for Hannah Hand Makes. I will also say, that if are a knitter or crocheter you totally need to check Koru Clay Studio out; she makes the most amazing hooks and accessories. I don’t knit or crochet and I still want to buy all the things.

These needle minders are now currently out of stock, but I have new Little Llama ones which are a minder and cross stitch pattern in one!


7. You can use a trick to cut your thread into even lengths

Take all the loops at the bottom of your skein and snip them. You should now be able to pull the loops out at the top and they will the perfect length of thread.

Not everyone will like this length but it is perfect for the types of patterns I go for. I usually go for ones that have a lot of colour changes so smaller lengths of thread work well for me.

It also keeps your threads in the casings (you can just take 1 cut piece at a time out) and so you don’t need to wind it around bobbins. Again, you might love winding them up but I would rather save time and get straight into stitching!


Pattern of the month

This month’s pattern is from Country Magic Stitch on Etsy and is 2 patterns in 1 download; “But First Coffee” and “But First Tea”.

It is a huge, black coffee cup with a bunch of flowers in and it has those 2 quotes on the mug. it uses 29 DMC colours and if stitched on 14 count aida it measures 10 x 10.4 inches. This pattern gives me a Gilmore Girls feeling, and is one I want to stitch myself for the kitchen.

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Music by:

Carefree Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

23 thoughts on “The 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Cross Stitching | S2E4”

  1. Now that you have learned these lessons about cross stitching, try using linen, your projects will look so much nicer and once you get the hang is using linen you will love it.

    1. I use plastic boxes (within household/cheese organizers) to keep my floss sorted in different colour ranges. It is cheap and handy.
      My second hint: When starting a new floss mind the end and sew it in when doing your first crosses… saves a lot of trouble and work doing it later.

      1. If you cut longer pieces and thread both ends through the eye, when you make your first stitch you go through the loop. That way you don’t have to catch your ends in the first row of stitches. Cut your thread twice as long as normal

  2. Love the tips! Especially #7! But how do you keep the band’s on the thread once you have used quite a few?? I would think the band’s would get lose and fall off… thanks for your advise! Katherine

  3. Where do you buy most of your supplies! I am wanting to take up cross stitching and have no idea what i am doing and would love your help!

  4. Hi Hannah, So pleased to have found you! I’m a man and a cross-stitcher, feels like a confession! I work for the NHS and needed something to switch my mind off when I got home and stumbled across this. Found a kit with a multicoloured lion I wanted to do for my sister which is full coverage and massive (25 thousand stitches). Never stitched before so bought a little owl kit to start on and now totally hooked. Im a bit obsessive once I set my mind to something so did a lot of research before I started and your site, blogs, newsletter etc have all really helped. So thank you, looking forward to many years or switching my brain off and will definitely look to you for my next pattern once this lion is done!


  5. I’ve always understood the count of fabric differently than what is in this list. The count for any fabric is thread count, not hole count. 14-count Aida doesn’t mean 14 holes and 13 stitches. It means 14 “threads” to stitch over that gives you 14 stitches. Another example is if you stitch over two threads on a 28-count even weave, you’ll have 14 stitches. I measured a piece to check and found 14 cross-stitches per inch on 14-count Aida, just to be sure. What am I misunderstanding from your tip?

    1. Hannah Hand Makes Team

      Hi Jenifer, Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure I’m understanding your question. The tip made in that section was that using a higher count Aida means your finished product will be smaller. I hope that helps. ~ Megh (Hannah’s Assistant)

      1. Hi! I understand the point of the tip regarding how the size of the design depends on the count of the fabric. I was trying to point out politely what I saw as an inaccurate statement. 14-count Aida means 14 stitches per inch (framed by 15 holes), not 13 stitches per inch (framed by 14 holes). (For most projects, it really won’t make much of a difference when measuring fabric before and framing/finishing a project after.)

        1. Luella Langdon

          Yea. 14 count is 14 stitches per inch.
          16 CT 16 stitches per inch..
          28 CT even weave is 14 CT per inch

        2. Yes, Jenifer, you are right. 14-count does indeed give you 14 crosses per inch. And, although it *ought* to be 14 threads framed by 15 holes, one could even think of it as 14 holes framed by 15 threads. Either way, we’ll still get 14 crosses per inch of fabric. 🙂

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