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How To Read Cross Stitch Patterns

Reading cross stitch patterns can be daunting, especially if you are a beginner. However, with a little patience and practice, anyone can learn to read and understand cross stitch patterns. In this article, we will guide you through the process of reading cross stitch patterns, step by step.

Understanding the Basics

The first step to reading a cross stitch pattern is to understand the basic symbols and terms used in the pattern. Here are some of the common symbols and terms you will encounter:


The most basic element of a cross stitch pattern is the stitch. There are two types of stitches used in cross stitch: the cross stitch and the backstitch.

The Cross Stitch

The cross stitch is the main stitch used in cross stitch patterns. It is made up of two diagonal stitches that intersect in the middle to form a perfect X. In cross stitch patterns, the symbol for the cross stitch is usually a square with a diagonal line running through it.

Cross Stitch Symbol

The Backstitch

The backstitch is used to create lines and outlines in a cross stitch pattern. It is made by stitching a series of single stitches in a straight line. In cross stitch patterns, the symbol for the backstitch is usually a dotted line.

Backstitch Symbol

Floss Colors

Another important element of a cross stitch pattern is the floss colors. Floss is the embroidery thread that you will use to create your cross stitch. In cross stitch patterns, each color of floss is represented by a symbol and a corresponding number. Be sure to check the key or legend in your pattern to determine which symbol corresponds to each floss color.

Decoding the Pattern

Now that you understand the basic symbols and terms used in cross stitch patterns, it's time to decode the pattern itself. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Read the Key or Legend

Before you begin stitching, make sure you read the key or legend that accompanies your pattern. This will tell you which symbols correspond to each floss color, as well as any special stitches or techniques that you need to know.

Cross Stitch Key or Legend

Step 2: Locate the Center of Your Pattern

Most cross stitch patterns are designed to be stitched from the center out. To find the center of your pattern, count the number of stitches horizontally and vertically. Once you have located the center, mark it on your fabric with a pencil or a small stitch.

Locating the Center of Your Pattern

Step 3: Start Stitching

Now that you have located the center of your pattern and understand the basic symbols and terms, it's time to start stitching. Follow the pattern carefully, one stitch at a time, working from the center out. Be sure to keep track of your stitches as you work, so that you don't make any mistakes.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips and tricks to help you read and stitch your cross stitch patterns more efficiently:

Use a Highlighter

Color-coding your pattern with a highlighter can help you keep track of which stitches you've already completed and which ones still need to be done.

Follow Your Eyes

As you stitch, follow your eyes and not your needle. This way, you'll be able to see exactly where your needle is going and make sure that your stitches are clean and even.

Take Regular Breaks

Cross stitch can be a very time-consuming and tedious activity. Taking regular breaks can help prevent eye strain and keep you from getting frustrated.


Reading cross stitch patterns may seem intimidating at first, but with practice and patience, anyone can master the art of cross stitch. Remember to take your time, read the key or legend carefully, and follow the pattern step by step. Happy stitching!