How do I Read a Cross Stitch Chart?

Jessica Reed

A cross stitch chart, also known as a cross stitch pattern, divides a picture pattern into a grid-like design where each square represents an individual stitch. Each square also has a symbol on it, which stands for the specific color the stitch represented by that square should be and what type of embroidery thread to use for it. A box located on the pattern, known as a key, specifies what each symbol stands for. Cross stitch charts may be printed in black and white or in color. While both patterns are read the same, the colored cross stitch charts are easier to follow because the crafter can simply glance at the colored picture instead of constantly referring to the key to determine what color to make the next stitch.

Each square on a cross stitch chart represents an individual stitch.
Each square on a cross stitch chart represents an individual stitch.

Many crafters who do cross stitch projects find it easier to draw the outline of the pattern onto the fabric before they start. On a plain piece of cross stitch fabric, holes are punched across in rows and four holes form the corners of each square. The crafter can count out the number of squares both horizontally and vertically on her cross stitch chart and then count out that number on her fabric. She can draw light lines to mark out the square or rectangle representing the grid on her cross stitch chart. This helps her keep track of where she is, and she can cross off individual stitches or entire rows on her cross stitch chart as she completes them on her fabric.

Beginners should use an embroidery hoop to hold fabric still.
Beginners should use an embroidery hoop to hold fabric still.

When the crafter first starts on her cross stitch project, she should review the key on the cross stitch chart to see what colors and types of embroidery thread she'll need. The key may also recommend the number of individual embroidery thread strands to use in each stitch. Certain patterns may have a solid outline around the images in the picture. Marking these squares on the fabric with a black marker to create the overall outline before making any actual stitches can help the crafter keep track of where she's at on the pattern. This is especially useful when working on large pieces.

Cross stitch patterns come both individually and as a set in a book. Craft and hobby stores often have a kit which includes a cross stitch pattern, the thread and needle to use with the pattern, and the fabric to sew it on. An embroidery hoop may also be included to hold the fabric taunt and in place while working on it. Software is also available to let crafters create their own cross stitch charts to print off and follow.

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