Cross-Stitch 101 - Lesson 3: Different Cross-Stitches

Cross-Stitch 101 - Lesson 3: Different Cross-Stitches

Let's keep learning cross-stitch!

It's been a little while! Let's have a continuation on my basic cross-stitching lessons, finally! Today I'm going to talk to you about the various different stitches you are likely to come across when reading a cross stitch pattern. Especially any of my own patterns that are deemed intermediate or advanced.

What do those symbols and shapes mean?

This lesson is going to talk about the shapes and symbols you see on a cross-stitch pattern you've now ready to create!

Example of a cross-stitch pattern, highlighting a specific coloured symbol
What do these symbols mean?...
The legend of coloured symbols for the pattern in the previous image
...They correspond to the colour you need to select!

When you purchase a pattern, it's likely you will get a black and white pattern with a bunch of little symbols in each square. You might also receive coloured patterns -like the one you see here and will get with any pattern purchased from my website- with symbols on them too. These symbols correspond to a legend, or key, of which flosses are recommended for the pattern itself.

But sometimes, you might find a pattern that isn't just filled with a bunch of evenly spaced little squares (which indicate a regular full cross-stitch). What do you do now? What do they even mean? How do you actually stitch these strange shapes?

What does this half-square mean?

This is what's called a half cross-stitch. It's where you are only utilising half of a cross-stitch square -either horizontally or vertically, depending on the pattern- and creating one teeny tiny little rectangular cross-stitch. See the images below for a step-by-step of how I recommend stitching a half cross-stitch.

What is this stitch?
What is this stitch?
Half cross-stitch explanation, step 1
For this stitch in particular, come up through the normal Aida cloth and poke your needle in between the top two Aida holes.
Half cross-stitch explanation, step 2
Pull the needle through, then come up halfway through the bottom two Aida holes to begin the second half of the stitch.
Half cross-stitch explanation, step 3
Put your needle through the top-left hole of the Aida cloth, to complete your half cross-stitch. It is that simple!

Wait, now there's a triangle?

This is known as a ¾ stitch! It hits 3 of the 4 corners of the Aida cloth to form a mini triangle and is great for rounding out sections of patterns. And trust me; once you've done it a few times, it's no big deal!

Similar to the ½ stitch, we're going to pierce the cloth between it's natural holes but this time, it will be the very center of the square.

What is this stitch?
What is this stitch?
3/4 cross-stitch explanation, step 1
To start your 3/4 stitch, you will want to come up through the "filled in" corner of the square and pierce the very center of the square with your needle.
3/4 cross-stitch explanation, step 2
Pull the needle through, so you have a teeny little diagonal line all by itself.
3/4 cross-stitch explanation, step 3
Bring the needle up from one pointy corner of the triangle and cross over, like you are doing a normal cross-stitch.
3/4 cross-stitch explanation, step 4
And that is it! You have just made yourself a tiny little triangle.

What about 2 coloured triangles?

This is a ¼ and a ¾ together to form one full cross-stitch.
There's a few different ways to stitch this but I find the shown example to look the nicest and cleanest way. It does mess up the "flow" of your crosses (see lesson 2 for an explanation of why we want the top stitch to sit in the same direction) but I feel like some patterns require it.

What do we do about these stitches?
Close-up photograph of some tiny little cross-stitches. They are showing an example of 3/4 stitches
2 triangular colours within 1 cross-stitch square should look like this!

You'll find a lot of my own personal patterns include these kinds of stitches - I feel like they can add a huge difference to a piece!

One drawback of this stitch is that it interrupts the natural flow of the top stitch, so you will find that your top line might not face the same direction ( /// or \\\ depending on which way you cross-stitch normally).

Wrap up

Congratulations! You're continuing your journey into this peaceful, calming, creative hobby by being able to pick up any pattern and feeling confident that not only do you understand what you're "reading", but you can actually do those stitches! They might seem daunting but I promise you; once you've practised them a few times, keep your tension even and clear your thread of any twists or knots, you'll be a pro in no time.

Cross-Stitch 101 - Lesson 2: Making The Stitches


  • Kate (Two Little Kits)
    May 28, 2024 at 11:15

    @Susan You will need to find the original designer of the pattern to be able to get this list, unfortunately. There isn’t a ‘general guide’ that pattern designers follow when it comes to symbols and colours.

    Good luck! I hope you can find the colour key for your pattern!

  • Susan
    May 28, 2024 at 11:11

    I’m looking for a complete list of cross stitch symbols to DMC colors
    I have a pattern that I love but no guide to show what colors were used for corresponding colors and I can’t seem to find a list


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About the author

In a previous life (AKA: pre-kids), I was a web des/dev & photographer who loved to dabble in numerous arts and crafts. Now, I'm a cross-stitch & embroidery pattern designer and full-time mum to Charlie & Alex, with adult-diagnosed ADHD. Closet nerd, self-proclaimed hermit and professional procrastinator. I have a secret crush on modern architecture, brush calligraphy, sweets, pretty nails and pastel colours.