Have you found yourself deep into a project and you start to notice that your stitches look a bit messy? This has happened to me more than once. It seems way simpler than it actually is sometimes to keep your work looking tidy.
But don’t worry! All of these tips will help improve the finished look of your cross stitch project and they’re not hard to implement.
I took a deep dive into my reference books and a few places online to figure out how to cross stitch neatly.
An added bonus: These tips are helpful for the front AND the back of cross stitch projects.
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If you’re new to cross stitch, check out this beginners guide.
Keeping the Front Neat
Secure Your Thread
When you first start stitching, it’s helpful to anchor your thread. That way, the first few initial stitches won’t be loose.
- Cut a long strand of thread and fold it in half.
- Thread the end with the two seperate strands onto the needle. (The looped end should be at the very end of your thread.)
- Make a stitch leaving a tail. When you go back down the fabric, place your needle through the loop of the tail and pull tight. This will secure your thread.
Use The Railroad Technique
Sometimes when you are stitching, the thread can get twisted up. The thread won’t lay as flat when this happens.
This technique involves separating the 2 strands of floss with a tapestry needle after a stitch is made so that they lay next to one another. This will take a bit more time to do, but the end result will look much neater.
Here is an in-depth tutorial about the railroad technique.
Use 2 Strands Of Thread
Using more than 2 strands of thread can make your work appear messier and less flat. 2 strands of thread is an adequate amount of thread for cross stitch.
The order in which you make each cross stitch should be the same throughout the project. This will result in a cleaner and more uniform look to the cross stitch piece.
It can be easy to forget which direction you made a diagonal stitch first.
You can work each cross stitch one at a time.
However, here is the easiest way to ensure your stitches are going the same direction: Make diagonal stitches in a particular column or row and then return back down the row to complete each cross stitch.
How To Keep The Back Of Your Cross Stitch Neat
Don’t Skip Around
Skipping around a pattern will cause the back and front of your work to get messy and the tension of your stitches will not be consistent.
It’s good practice to start in one area and work in that area.
If the pattern has a color you are using that is not directly adjacent or relatively near the space you are working, it’s best to end your working thread and start with a fresh strand so you are not carrying the thread too far.
Don’t Knot Your Work
Here are a few ways knots can cause problems:
- Stitches may get pulled too tight when knotting strands of thread together
- Knots can also leave lumps on the back of the fabric. This can cause trouble especially if you decide to frame your work.
- They can get in the way while you are stitching
To start a piece of thread, use the loop method.
To end a thread neatly, simply tuck the tail underneath several stitches.
I hope these tips were helpful! Most of them take little to no time to implement, so you should see a change in how smooth and tidy your work is almost immediately.
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Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.