Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. Cross-stitch is usually executed on easily countable evenweave fabric called aida cloth. 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 done on designs printed on the fabric (stamped cross-stitch); the stitcher simply stitches over the printed pattern.
Cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and can be found all over the world. Many folk museums show examples of clothing decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe and Asia.
Two-dimensional (unshaded) cross-stitch in floral and geometric patterns, usually worked in black and red cotton floss on linen, is characteristic of folk embroidery in Eastern and Central Europe.
In the United States, the earliest known cross-stitch sampler is currently housed at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The sampler was created by Loara Standish, daughter of Captain Myles Standish and pioneer of the Leviathan stitch, circa 1653.
Multicoloured, shaded, painting-like patterns as we know them today are a recent development, deriving from similar shaded patterns of Berlin wool work of the mid-nineteenth century.
Traditionally, cross-stitch was used to embellish items like dishcloths, household linens, and doilies (only a small portion of which would actually be embroidered, such as a border). Although there are many cross-stitchers who still employ it in this fashion, especially in Europe, it is now increasingly popular to simply embroider pieces of fabric and hang them on the wall for decoration.
There are many cross-stitching "guilds" across the United States and Europe which offer classes, collaborate on large projects, stitch for charity, and provide other ways for local cross-stitchers to get to know one another.
Today cotton floss is the most common embroidery thread. It is a thread made of mercerized cotton, composed of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread, silk and Rayon. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other speciality threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes for accents and embellishments. Hand dyed cross stitch floss is created just as the name implies - it is dyed by hand. Because of this, there are variations in the amount of color throughout the thread. Some variations can be subtle, while some can be a huge contrast. Some also have more than one color per thread, which in the right project, creates amazing results.
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