These cross stitch terms will answer the questions you might have while reading our pages. In many cases you'll have the opportunity to click on links that will take you to other pages on the site for more complete step-by-step explanations, drawings or pictures.
Click on any letter below to go straight to a particular term. After every definition, you can click on "Return to the top " to come back here.
Aida cloth - A type of even weave cloth made for counted cross stitch. Available in many sizes and colors. Identified by the number of stitches per linear inch. For example, 9 count consists of 9 stitches per inch, 14 count has 14 stitches per inch, etc. Counts are available from 2 ct up to 100 ct. but the most common sizes are 9 ct., 11 ct., 14 ct., 18 ct., 22 ct., 28 ct., and 32 ct. When counts reach the 20s, they are often used for stitching over-two-threads. For example, instead of using 9 ct., you might use "18 ct. over two threads." This makes partial stitches (quarter stitches and three quarter stitches) easier to make accurately. It effectively doubles the size of the image.
backstitch - A method of finishing off areas that have been cross stitched to make them more defined. See how to backstitch on our tutorial page. See backstitch sewing method below.
backstitch, sewing method - This is the sewing method of finishing off areas that have been cross stitched to make them more defined. Rather than using the "push and pull method," this technique completes the backstitch in a single stroke. See how to backstitch using the sewing on our tutorial page.
blanc - DMC, a floss manufacturer based in France, uses this French word for "white" as a name for one of its shade of white floss.
blended stitch or blended needle - In a blended stitch, two or more floss colors are threaded together on your needle and stitched where the cross stitch symbols indicate. The key will indicate multiple floss colors for the symbol. Thread all floss colors through your needle, then complete your cross stitches as you normally would.
bury the ends, or bury the thread - A method of securing floss without using knots, preventing bumps on the finished article. See our tutorial on how to bury the thread.
chart - A pattern used to complete a cross stitch design. In the form of a graph it uses symbols and/or colors to indicate the position and type of stitches, beads and other specialty materials. It is accompanied by a legend that lists the color number of each floss used, as well as other materials shown on the graph. Can also be referred to as a pattern, design or graph.
chenille needle - Longer, thicker and with larger eyes, sharp pointed chenille needles make a good choice for embroidery with heavier yarn. They range from size 13 to 26. Click to see our guide to selecting needles for cross stitch.
color card - A floss color card is a booklet produced by a floss manufacturer. Updated and printed periodically, it displays their floss colors with the corresponding number, and the floss types available in each color. The floss colors are often printed, but the most accurate type contains actual floss strands for each color/number. Click to see an example of a DMC Color Card in our Amazon Store.
crewel needle - Crewel (embroidery) needles are sharp pointed and range in size from 1 to 10. These are used for standard embroidery stitched on common fabric such as stamped designs on pillow cases, towels, etc. Click to see our page on selecting needles for cross stitch.
cross stitch, counted cross stitch - A form of embroidery that consists of crosses, or X's, as the main design element. A cross stitch design may also contain "partial stitches," such as half stitches, quarter stitches and three-quarter stitches, and accents, such as daisy stitches, French knots, as well as beads. "Counted cross stitch" is stitched on plain fabric, without pre-printing, and is completed by counting the holes in the fabric to determine the position of each stitch. A pattern or chart shows a graph, and symbols indicate each stitch type and the color of floss to use.
daisy stitch - A special stitch that is often combined with others to make flowers, leaves, vines or to decoratively fill in large areas of a design. Also called a lazy daisy or detached chain stitch. Click to see our page on how to make a daisy stitch.
ecru - From the French word écru, meaning 'raw' or 'unbleached,' ecru refers to a very light tan color, similar to that of raw fabric. You will find the color of both fabric and floss described as écru. It is considered a different color from beige.
embroidery - A style of needlework where designs are stitched onto fabric using cotton, silk or other thread types. Most often, the artist uses embroidery floss to embellish fabric with a variety of stitches, like straight stitches, cross stitches, partial stitches, daisy stitches and the like. Click to see our tutorials on embroidery stitches.
embroidery needle - Embroidery needles (also know as crewel needles) are sharp pointed and are used for standard embroidery such as stamped designs on pillow cases, towels, etc., stitched on common fabric. Click to see our how-to page on selecting needles for cross stitch.
even weave - A fabric that has the same number of threads per inch in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. Aida cloth is an example. Cross stitch patterns placed on such cloth are therefore uniform in spacing.
French knot - Used in the center of flowers, as eyes or curly hair, the French knot has a raised, rounded look. Most often used as an accent stitch in a small group or scattered in the midst of a larger cross stitched area. Click to see our French knot tutorial.
graph paper - Graph paper consists of vertical and horizontal lines in a grid pattern. Unless you have a computer cross stitch program, you'll need graph paper to design (or modify) your own cross stitch charts. You can buy regular graph paper that comes 10 squares to the inch at office supply stores, or you can get special graph paper that comes in other counts, like 11, 14 or 18. Click to learn about graph paper and print free graph paper in a variety of counts.
gridlines - Reference lines that you baste into your cross stitch fabric to match the grid shown on your cross stitch chart. Done to make counted cross stitch easier, quicker and more accurate, the grid lines are removed after stitching. Click to see how in our Preparing Fabric tutorial.
hoop - A round or oval wooden or plastic device made up of an outer and inner ring designed to keep fabric taut while stitching. Click to learn about embroidery hoops and other devices to hold your fabric while stitching..
Jobelan - An evenweave fabric about half cotton and half man-made material that feels softer than Aida or linen and is available in many colors and stitch counts. Ideal for table cloths as well as samplers.
kit - A kit is a collection of items needed to complete a cross stitch pattern. Usually included are fabric, floss, any specialty items needed (such as beads), chart and instructions as well as a picture of the finished project
linen - Made from flax, linen consists of somewhat irregular strands of evenweave, a consistent number of threads per inch. Available in mostly higher stitch counts (14 to 40), it is usually worked over two threads.
loop start - A method of securing the ends of your floss, when beginning to stitch, that doesn't involve knotting the floss. Alternative to a waste knot, burying the thread and a pin stitch, it is used when stitching with an even number of floss strands. Click to see our loop start tutorial.
metallic thread - Metallic thread is often used in combination with or in addition to regular embroidery floss. It can be used to add sparkle to cross stitch designs, but must be worked in shorter lengths to prevent knots. Click to learn how to stitch with metallic floss.
needles - Tapestry needles are used for cross stitch in size 24 (for 11 and 14 ct fabric) and 26 (for 18 and 22 ct). The have larger eyes than other needles, which enhances threading floss, as well as a blunt point to avoid piercing fabric in the wrong place. Click to learn more about tapestry and other needles.
over two threads - Stitching over two threads means to make each cross stitch twice the size as that indicated by the cloth. Instead of using each hole of the grid, skip to the next available hole. Thus the project will be twice the size it would be otherwise. Sometimes done to make partial stitches (quarter and three-quarter stitches) easier to make accurately. The placement of the first stitch, when working over two threads, is critical. Click to see how to stitch over two threads on our tutorial page.
petite stitch - Petite stitch is a term used by the PCStitch Pro software I use to create my counted cross stitch patterns. It is the first place I discovered this term, and I have yet to encounter it elsewhere. A Petite Stitch consists of one small, full cross stitch placed in one of the four corners of a square; therefore, a square or block on your pattern (and your fabric) can contain up to four Petite Stitches. You can use Petite Stitches in this manner if you are working over two threads, since you have precise holes in which to position your stitches. If you are not, simply replace a Petite Stitch with a 1/4 stitch."
perforated paper - A paper card punched with holes that can be cut to size and used much as Aida cloth. Available in 14 ct and is frequently used for cards and decorations.
pin stitch - In cross stitch, the pin stitch is a tiny stitch used secure the ends of your floss at the start or end of stitching. A pin stitch is ultimately hidden underneath the overlying cross stitch. Click to see our tutorials for a straight and an angled pin stitch.
preparing fabric - Refers to the steps you do to your cross stitch fabric prior stitching. Usually includes finding the center, securing the edges and stitching gridlines. Click to see how to prepare fabric for counted cross stitch.
quarter stitch - A diagonal partial stitch often used for fine details. It goes from the center of a fabric square diagonally to the corner of the same square. Click to learn how to make a quarter stitch.
sampler - A sampler is a cross stitch design that often combines an alphabet, motto and a picture or pictures done in cross stitch on fabric.
sewing method - The sewing method involves creating cross stitches, working only on the front side of the fabric. You push the needle through to the back of the fabric in one hole, and thread it to the front of the fabric in another hole. It is usually a faster method of stitching because you use a single motion. Click to see the illustrations on our sewing method tutorial.
stab method - Most people learn cross stitch using the stab method. It involves "stabbing" the needle through the fabric from front to back, then stabbing from back to front. The hand thus works on both sides of the fabric. See the "sewing method" above for an alternative. Click to see diagrams of the stab method in our basic cross stitch tutorial
stitch count - The stitch count of a design tells you the maximum number of stitches the design spans horizontally and vertically at their widest points. Divide the stitch count of your design by the count of your fabric to determine how many inches your stitched design will be. Click to see a stitch count-to-inches conversion table.
strand count - The number that appears on cross stitch charts or legends to indicate the number of floss strands you should use when stitching the corresponding symbol. Click for an easy way to separate floss strands.
tapestry needle - A blunt tipped needle that works perfectly for "finding" the hole in evenweave and Aida cloth by feel. Preferred over sharp needles that so easily pierce the fabric, resulting in uneven work or repetitive stitching. Click to see our how-to page on selecting needles for cross stitch
thimble - A common thimble consists of a metal or plastic cap that fits over the middle finger, protecting the end of that finger from getting sore. Not often used for cross stitch, thimbles come several sizes. They used to be primarily made of metal, but now are made from various materials, including leather and plastic.
threader - Any of a number of devices, manual and "automatic" or "mechanical," designed to insert thread into a needle. The thickness of the floss used for cross stitch calls for a different type than is used for most sewing needles. Click to see our page illustrating various styles and learn how to select the right needle threaders for cross stitch.
three-quarter stitch - A partial stitch used alone or in combination with a quarter stitch in the same fabric square. It consists of a quarter stitch and a half stitch. Click to learn how to make a three-quarter stitch.
variegated thread - Variegated thread or floss refers to the color. In the past, the floss would go gradually from dark to light shades of the same color. Now you can find it blending several different colors on the same skein. Interesting effects can be achieved using this thread in cross stitch.
waste canvas - Waste canvas can be attached to fabric that is not evenweave so that a counted cross stitch pattern can be applied. When completed, the waste canvas is carefully removed, leaving only the stitched design. It comes in a loosely threaded fabric, making the threads easy to pull from beneath the stitches. Or it is made from a material that, when wet, will dissolve away from underneath the completed stitches. Click to see examples of this in our Amazon store, listed under "Waste Canvas."
waste knot - A knot that is tied in the end of the floss when beginning to stitch in a in a new color. It is threaded from the front of the fabric, a few squares away. Stitches will cover the floss and the knot is then cut away. One of the traditional ways to secure the end of your floss. Click to see our waste knot tutorial.
x-stitch - An abbreviation for cross stitch.