Cross Stitch vs Embroidery: What's the Difference?

Cross Stitch vs Embroidery: What's the Difference?

Want to know the differences between cross stitch and embroidery?

While cross stitch is a type of hand embroidery, the two require different stitching techniques. See below to determine which method is best for you!

1. Stitching Supplies

Cross Stitch vs Embroidery Supplies - Heart Scissors by Haley Hamilton Art

(Image: Heart Embroidery Scissors)

Both cross stitch and embroidery are done by hand using near-identical supplies, including an embroidery hoop, embroidery floss, a needle, scissors, and a design or pattern

Cross stitch requires using minimal strands of embroidery floss (1-3). 

Embroidery favors using all 6 strands of embroidery floss for a textured, chunky look and fewer strands for fine details.

    RESULT: Similar

    2. Fabric

    Aida cross stitch fabric in embroidery hoop with heart needle minder

    (Image: Aida cross stitch fabric)

    While many of the supplies used for embroidery vs cross stitch are similar, the preferred fabric differs.

    Cross stitch fabric requires an even-weave fabric like Aida, which is thick and starchy with visible holes throughout (shown in above image).

    Embroidery can be stitched onto many different types of fabric, but is most commonly stitched on plain-weave fabrics like linen or cotton.

      RESULT: Very different 

      3. Counting 

      DIY Cross Stitch Luggage Tag Kit from Chasing Threads sold by Haley Hamilton Art

      (Image: Leather Luggage Tag Cross Stitch Kit)

      Cross stitch requires you to count the holes within the fabric to determine where to place each stitch and thread color. As a hand embroidery artist, I found the counted cross stitch process a little tedious, frustrating, and easy to make a mistake. However, I'm sure that with practice, it gets easier!

      Embroidery has no counting required. Hooray!

        RESULT: Very different 

        4. Stitches

        DIY Strawberry Embroidery Kit for Beginners from Haley Hamilton Art

        (Image: Strawberry Embroidery Kit)

        Cross stitch uses just one type of stitch. You guessed it, it's a cross or "X," which helps to simplify the process of stitching a pattern like this onto fabric.

        Embroidery has hundreds of stitches to learn with varying difficulty levels, thickness, and textures to create a design. It may take more time on the front end to learn all of the stitches hand embroidery allows, but doing so can also enable more creativity.  

        RESULT: Very different 

        5. Precision 

        Cross Stitch vs Embroidery: Precision

        (Image: Cross stitch example)

        Both cross stitch and embroidery require a lot of precision and attention to detail.

        However, I have to give a tiny lead to cross stitch here. Because of its even-weave fabric with tiny, evenly-distributed holes, you must be that much more precise in where you place each stitch. Hand embroidery allows a touch more flexibility. 

        RESULT: Similar 

        6. Flexibility 

        Bee Kind Embroidery Kit and Pattern for Beginners

        (Image: Bee Kind Embroidery Kit)

        Cross stitch is somewhat rigid, due to it's even-weave fabric and single type of stitch. While you can create just about any design you can think of, the stitching process itself lacks flexibility.

        Embroidery offers more flexibility in design, due to its plain-weave fabric and large variety of stitches you may use. 

        RESULT: Very different 

        7. Appearance

        Rose Embroidery Kit for Beginners from Haley Hamilton Art

        (Image: Rose Embroidery Kit for Beginners)

        Cross stitch creates a somewhat boxy design and appearance, similar to how you would imagine a pixellated computer screen. 

        Embroidery produces a more free-flowing look due to the many types of stitches and embroidery techniques. Surface embroidery can create a 3D appearance, and it's also easier to add curves, variation, and texture into your finished artwork.

        RESULT: Moderately different 

        Beginner Stitching Projects to Try

        Hand Embroider a Cap Tutorial

        (Image: Embroidered Cap Tutorial)

        Which hand stitching technique is best for you, cross stitch or embroidery? Try out the projects below to start stitching!

        Cross Stitch: 



        Cross stitch vs embroidery: what's the difference?

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