Embroidery vs Cross Stitch – What’s the Difference?

Embroidery vs Cross Stitch

I get this question constantly: What’s the difference between embroidery vs cross stitch? There are so many different types of needle crafts that it can get kind of confusing as to what things are. Here’s the difference between the two of them in my own words.

Cross Stitch

cross stitch
Cross Stitch with a hand embroidered rope border.

Cross stitch is a form embroidery, but it’s a kind of counted needlework. This kind of needlework is normally on evenweave fabrics such as aida, which is a stiff fabric that has visible holes in it. (I would compare to graph paper in fabric form.) You still use embroidery thread for this, but normally only use 2 of the 6 strands of the cotton floss are used. The cross stitch, half stitch, and back stitch are the stitches used frequently. The most common, the cross stitch forms a little “x” on each square of the fabric. A pattern is normally followed that shows you how many “squares” or cross stitches to do of each color. This finished product of cross stitch generally lays flat onto the fabric, as opposed to hand embroidery that normally has a bit more dimension and texture to it. You don’t really blend colors together when cross stitching. In order to create the affect of colors blending together, different shades of color are used side by side of each other to create a color gradient. If you’d like to try your hand at cross stitch, I have a beginner cross stitch tutorial here!

cross stitch patterns


embroidery vs cross stitch

Embroidery is a more general term for any sort of embellishment stitched onto fabric. When people refer to hand embroidery, however, they’re normally referring to the kind of needlework that is worked on top of the fabric in a free form fashion. You can follow a pattern with this kind of embroidery, however this kind of embroidery doesn’t rely on using a graph or counting stitches. There are hundreds of different stitches and knots. Some common stitches include: back stitch, satin stitch, french knot, herringbone stitch, lazy daisy, etc. Blending color together, or “thread painting” is easier to accomplish with hand embroidery in my opinion. A series of long and short stitches help to blend the colors together. Stitches like the herringbone stitch, cast-on stitch, and pinwheel rose are more 3-dimensional. If you’d like to read about more forms of of embroidery, I’ve posted about them here: Types of Embroidery

Pinwheel Rose

I hope this clarified things regarding embroidery vs cross stitch. They’re both really fun and rewarding to learn!

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Whats the difference between embroidery and cross stitch?