Say it with cross-stitch

What with it being December, I have decided to combine this DIY with a Christmas gift idea. I’m going to try and give some simple advice on cross-stitch lettering, but if you are a complete beginner I think you should practice this a few times first!

Things you will need:

open weave aida fabric for your cross-stitch

medium sized blunt ended embroidery needle


embroidery thread in your choice of colour


I bought this ready-made customisable oven glove at a haberdashery (also very easy to find online), but you can start your sampler on plain fabric and then frame it, or sew the lettered fabric to pretty much anything.

First you need to decide on a phrase you want to stitch out, or you can create a classic sampler by copying an alaphabet design. I have found some free alphabet patterns online here which you can use if you like. I used this one and this one for the upper and lowercase letters on my glove.

The first thing that it is definitely advisable to do is plan. This applies even more if you have a small space to work in, or if the shape of the fabric is a bit odd, like with my gift.  As you can see from the alphabets I have listed above, cross-stitch patterns are always laid out in squares, and each square will be one cross. I find that a simple way to work out spacing is to count roughly how many rows and colums of squares you have on your fabric, then count the width and height of the squares in each letter to work out how many you can fit into one line. Don’t forget to factor in the empty spaces between your letters and words, and also spaces between each line of text.

This sounds a bit complicated, but once you’ve figured it out, it makes things so much easier! For example; for my project I decided to have two empty spaces between individual letters, five spaces between words, and three empty squares between lines of text. Remember this totally depends on how spaced out you want our work to look, and also how much room you have to work in.

Once you have worked out your design, take some thread of a different colour to what you will be working in. Thread it through your needle and use it to mark out where each letter starts and finishes on each line. I have used white for this as my main colour is going to be red. This will show you where you need to stitch and hopefully keep you from making any major mistakes.

When you work with hand embroidery thread like this, you will notice that it is usually made up of six strands all wound together. It is very rare that you will use the thread in this complete form as this is far too thick, so before you start you need to seperate the strands into two or three to work with. I have used three strands for this project.

Cut a manageable amount of thread away from the bundle and then rub the end between your thumb and forefinger. You will see the strands begin to seperate. Take hold of three strands in each hand and slowly pull them apart from each other. Use one of them to thread your needle and keep the other to use next. Tie a knot in the end opposite to the needle and you are ready to start.

Stitch each cross one by one and try to work through the letters in a logical pattern so that you don’t have to jump a long way with the needle to reach the next cross that needs to be stitched. This will ensure that you won’t have a lot of long tails on the underside of the fabric and it will also save thread! Sometimes it is a good idea to tie off your thread and start new after each letter or word. Also be sure not to pull your thread too hard as this will enlargen the holes in the fabric and can also pull the end through where you have started. Make sure you check your work often to make sure you haven’t made any mistakes. If you have, you can unthread the stitches quite easily, so don’t panic.

Once you have finished, tie off the ends and make sure there are no threads dangling. Give to someone special! Or someone you don’t like, depending on the message.