Cross Stitch Terms

These cross stitch terms will answer the questions you might have while reading our pages. In some cases it will be better to go to the appropriate page of the "How to ..." section of this site for a more complete step-by-step explanation, drawings or pictures.

a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | s | t | v | w | x


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 (quarter and three-quarter) stitches easier to make accurately. It effectively doubles the size of the image.

Return to Top



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 also backstitch sewing method.

Return to Top

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 finishes the backstitch in one stroke. See how to backstitch using the sewing method on our tutorial page.

Return to Top

DMC, based in France, uses this French word for white as a name for its white floss.

Return to Top

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.

Return to Top

bury the ends, or bury the thread
A method of securing floss without using knots, preventing bumps on the finished article. See our how-to page to learn how.

Return to Top



A pattern, in the form of a graph, using symbols and/or colors to indicate the position and type of stitches, beads and other specialty materials to be used to complete a cross stitch design. Accompanied by a legend that lists the color number of each floss used, as well as other materials shown on the graph. Often called a pattern, design or graph.

Return to Top

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. See our guide to selecting needles for cross stitch.

Return to Top

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. See our how-to page on selecting needles for cross stitch.

Return to Top

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 indicating each stitch, the color of floss to be used and the type of stitch.

Return to Top


daisy stitch

A stitch that is combined with others to make flowers, stems, vines or to fill in large areas of a design. Also called a lazy daisy or detached chain stitch. See our page on how to make a daisy stitch.

Return to Top



From the French word écru, meaning 'raw' or 'unbleached,' ecru refers to a light greyish-yellow brown similar to that of raw fabric. It is considered a different color from beige.

Return to Top

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. See our how-to page on selecting needles for cross stitch.

Return to Top

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.

Return to Top


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. See our article on how to make a French knot.

Return to Top


graph paper

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.

Return to Top



A round or oval wooden or plastic device made up of an outer and inner ring designed to keep fabric taut while stitching.

Return to Top



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.

Return to Top



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.

Return to Top



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.

Return to Top


metallic thread

Metallic thread can be used to add sparkle to cross stitch designs, but must be worked in shorter lengths to prevent knots.

Return to Top



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.

Return to Top


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. See how to stitch over two threads on our tutorial page.

Return to Top


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. On the pattern legend, or key, they are listed under "Call-Outs. 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."

Return to Top

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 used for cards and tree decorations.

Return to Top


quarter stitch

A diagonal partial stitch used for fine detail work. See our Quarter Stitch Tutorial by clicking here, or on the "How-to ..." menu button on the left side of this page.

Return to Top


Return to Top


A sampler combines an alphabet, motto and a picture or pictures done in cross stitch on fabric.

Return to Top

sewing method

The sewing method involves working only on the front side of the fabric, pushing the needle through to the back and bringing it to the front in one motion. See the illustrations on our "How to ..." page.

Return to Top

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. The stab method is shown in our basic cross stitch tutorial.

Return to Top


tapestry needle

A blunt tipped needle that works perfectly for "finding" the hole in evenweave/Aida cloth by feel. Preferred over sharp needles that so easily pierce the fabric, resulting in uneven work or repetitive stitching. See our how-to page on selecting needles for cross stitch.

Return to Top


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. Comes several sizes. See our supplies page on selecting thimbles for cross stitch.

Return to Top


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. See our supplies page on selecting threaders for cross stitch.

Return to Top


variegated thread

Variegated thread changes from dark to light to dark along the length of floss in a skein. Interesting effects can be achieved using this thread in cross stitch.

Return to Top


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 dampened to remove the starch and the strands are withdrawn, leaving the design..

Return to Top

waste knot

A knot that is tied in the end of the floss when beginning a in a new location, then clipped off after the floss is secured. See how to make a waste knot.

Return to Top



Cross stitch.

Return to Top

› Cross Stitch Terms