Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture. Other stitches are also commonly used in cross-stitch, among them, 1/4, 1/2 & 3/4 stitches and backstitches. Cross-stitch is usually executed on easily countable evenweave fabric, or more rarely on non-countable fabric, on which a countable fabric is applied that is removed later, by drawing out every thread of it under the embroidery. This fabric is called waste canvas. The stitcher counts the threads in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance.
This form of cross-stitch is also called counted cross-stitch in order to distinguish it from other forms of cross-stitch. Sometimes cross-stitch is also done on designs printed on the canvas, showing every single cross (stamped cross-stitch).
Description of the technique
Cross-stitch embroiderers frequently use an even-weave fabric of linen or cotton and work from charts on graph paper. Cross-stitching can also be done on a specialty Aida cloth that is available in 11, 14, 16, 18, and 22 count sizes. The sizes of Aida and Evenweave types denote the approximate number of fibers in an inch. Special vinyl weaves and perforated paper products are also available. The size of a piece of embroidery can be changed by using a fabric with another count size.
Today cotton embroidery floss is the most usual thread. It is a thread made of mercerised cotton, made of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread and several different threads made of silk or Rayon. Danish flower thread is especially popular for nature motifs which originally came from Denmark. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other specialty threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes for accents and embellishments.
Thread size is usually chosen so that the stitches cover the fabric completely, creating a tapestry-like effect. But especially in monochrome work the thread can also be chosen a bit thinner, so that the individual crosses can be recognized as such and let the fabric show through a bit. The latter possibility can look nice in monochrome patterns and in combination with Blackwork.
Today cross-stitch is the most popular form of embroidery as a hobby in the western world. It lends itself well to recreational use because it's easy to learn and very versatile. There are patterns available for almost every taste, and even beginners can create beautiful stitchery with some patience.
Traditionally cross-stitch was used to embellish things like dishwear, household linen, doilies and similar, half useful, half ornamental items. This use is still popular, especially in Europe. But often cross-stitch is used to make pieces that are meant to be framed and hung as pictures. On items for daily use, usually only small areas are embroidered. The pictures can either have an unembroidered background or be completely covered with stitches.
There are cross-stitching "guilds" in various cities of the USA and other countries that propagate knowledge about cross-stitch and give stitchers the opportunity to meet people with the same interest. Often they also offer lessons. Sometimes these guilds do collaborative works that would be too big for one stitcher.