Cross Stitch Railroading Tutorial

If you’ve ever looked into ways to make your cross stitches look neat, you’ve probably heard about cross stitch railroading. This technique is very simple and it helps the threads to lay more neatly on top of the fabric. This post will show you the basics as well as some alternative techniques to use.

What Are The Benefits Of Railroading?

Railroading has a few benefits:

  • It untwists the threads, allowing them to lay neatly beside one another.
  • It covers more of the fabric, allowing less fabric to show through the cross stitch.
  • The stitches look more uniform.
  • The stitches have a flatter appearance.

How To Railroad

It’s easiest to do this technique with both of your hands free, so I suggest using an embroidery stand or scroll frame.

how to railroad

Simply place your needle in between the 2 strands of thread as you make each half stitch.

cross stitch railroading

If you find it hard to separate the strands, lay the thread flat across the fabric with one hand and then place the needle in between the strands.

using a laying tool

Another way you can railroad is by using a laying tool. (If you don’t have one, you can also use the tip of a pair of embroidery scissors.) Using a tool will allow you to control the way the threads are laying, flattening out the stitches as you make them.

stitches made with cross stitch railroading vs stitches made without this technique
Left: cross stitches made without any railroading, Right: cross stitches made using the railroading technique

Does Railroading Make That Much Of A Difference?

I stitched some samples of cross stitches to put railroading to the test and what I found was that the area looked a bit more flat, uniform, and filled in. The holes in the fabric were also less visible when I railroaded the thread. While the difference is pretty subtle, it does make a slight visible difference when you look at the stitches up close.

To be honest, I rarely use this technique because it significantly slows me down. (I cross stitch mostly as a hobby and don’t usually sell or gift my designs, so I’m not super concerned with my stitches being perfect.)

That being said, I suggest everyone at least try this method, especially if you’re making a gift or a design you want to sell.

Alternatives To Railroading

As I mentioned previously, railroading takes a lot more time. If you don’t want to take the time to do it, there are a few other things I have found that will make your stitches lay more neatly and evenly.

Ponderosa thread gloss

Use Thread Gloss

Run the strands of thread through thread gloss before you get started. Thread gloss is usually made of beeswax which will help to minimize fuzziness, keep the strands of thread together, and slightly stiffen up the thread which will help prevent it from twisting.

I really like Ponderosa Thread Gloss. It comes in a variety of nice scents and you can purchase it on Etsy.

Untwist the Thread

As you make stitches, the strands of thread will gradually begin to twist on each other. Whenever you start to notice this happening, dangle the thread, allowing it to untwist. Then flatten it out by running it through your thumb and forefinger.

If you enjoyed this post, check out some more tips for neater cross stitches.

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