Posted in How To, Tips and Tricks

How Do You Teach Someone to Cross Stitch? Part 5 – The Final Touches

Hi Everyone

This is the last post of the series and looking at the date (in Australia, it’s Sunday 29th December, 2019), the last post for this year!

We’ve come a fair way in this series. We’ve considered who our student is and what their learning styles and abilities are, and some of the tools of the trade that may help them with starting out in cross stitch and hopefully enjoying it! We’ve had a quick look at some of the different patterns that are out there, with the strong recommendation of starting your learner out on a kit before embarking on chart and kitting things up themselves. Let alone embarking on a project that has a fabric count size 20 or over!

With these things in mind, we now need to have a chat with our learner about how they want to finish their project and the potential for back-stitch, beads, French Knots and what should be done with it when we’re done.

Back-stitch – is it overrated or a necessary evil?

Over the years I have definitely complained about doing back-stitch on many of my projects. Sometimes it’s because there’s so much of it and it’s felt like I’ve been working on the project for a really long time. Other times it’s because I’m just really keen to get moving onto a different project and I’m procrastinating the inevitable. That said, I know that really, back-stitch isn’t really all that hard. Tedious at times yes, but not hard. It also makes the world of different to a project and makes things stand out in a way that other stitching wouldn’t be able to do – that I’m aware of. If anyone does know of another stitch similar to back-stitch that can be used in cross stitch, I challenge you to show me!

Reading the pattern however, for doing back-stitch on a project – that may be another reason why I grumble about it. Because the pattern will remind me where I’ve fudged things on the project and when I go to try and follow where the back-stitch needs to be, I get annoyed at myself all over again. To help you understand why this is, the two clips below by Peacock and Fig, explain how back-stitch works in cross stitch projects:

“Backstitch tutorial for embroidery and cross stitch” by Peacock and Fig – uploaded to YouTube on 14 November 2015
“Intermediate backstitch techniques: handling long runs of backstitch” by Peacock and Fig – uploaded to YouTube on 31 October 2017

For some of the projects I’ve worked on that have had long runs or long lines of back-stitch, I’ve carried my thread from point A to point B without any stops in-between. This could cover a number of centimetres and I’ve then gone back and put some small anchors along the line to secure the thread. I’ve found this to have a bit more of a cleaner view rather than stitching the individual stitches and it saves a bit of time. You may need to help your student with starting and finishing the back-stitch to ensure the stitches stay put.

French Knots or Beads

This is something you and your student will need to have a chat about, regarding whether or not your student wants to give them a go. Personally, it’s taken me a very long time to get the hang of doing French Knots and I have used beads instead of the knots. An example of how this can look is shown below:

“Angel Bear with Candle” – design by Joan Elliott (C)2006 – stitched by Kristen Gawronski (The XStitching Runner)

The additional tip I can provide you and your learner with if either of you choose to use beads, is the smaller the bead, the fiddlier they are going to be to use in the project and you’re going to need to use a thinner needle than what was used to stitch the project. The image below shows the needle I use for beading. Unfortunately I’ve lost the packaging that the needles came in, so I’m unable to let you know the details of the brand and needle size. What I do like about these needles is that they are a little longer and thinner than the regular embroidery needle and I’m able to get a little Mill Hill Seed Bead on the end of the needle. Which helps a lot when I’m trying to pick a bead out from the packaging and adding it to the project, like the ‘Angel Bear with Candle’. I like to grow my fingernails a bit and I find it difficult to pick out just one of the little beads out of the packaging because of my nails!

Needles I use for beading. Brand and needle size unknown.

Additionally, I use one strand of cotton that’s the same colour (or as close as possible) as the bead I’m attaching to the project. My logic for doing this is to make it as seamless as possible and the centre of the bead is sometimes so small that it can only handle one or two strands at the most.

Washing your final project

Have you ever taken a project out of a stand, hoop or frame and found that your hands weren’t as clean as you thought they were – even though you thought you were diligent about washing them before working on the project? Don’t worry. Accidents happen. Even with the best of intentions!

Washing a project after it’s been finished is a personal preference for many people. If I’ve been working on light coloured fabric, I prefer to wash my projects to be absolutely sure I’ve not left any grubby marks on it. My logic behind this is I want the project to last for as long as possible. By removing any contaminates from the fabric, it puts my mind at ease knowing that I’ve done what I could to remove anything that could increase the deterioration of the fabric or threads.

It’s important to note that whenever I’ve washed my projects, I’ve hand washed them in the basin with some warm water and hand soap. Nothing fancy. I’ve rinsed the project in cool to warm water and gently wrung the project out and laid it out flat on an old, clean tea towel. I’ve usually left it overnight and then used an iron to smooth it all out. I’ll usually iron the back side of the project to ensure the iron doesn’t catch on any of the back-stitch or cause any problems with the French Knots or beads.

However, this is a personal preference and you will need to have a chat with your student about what they want to do about washing their finished project. Aside from potential marks from dirty hands or accidental spillages, another deciding factor will be what your student wants to do with the finished project. Do they want to frame it? Make a card? Turn it into a pin cushion? No decisions have to be made straight away. There are a lot of options out there regarding the way a cross stitch project can be fully finished. In the related posts section at the end of this post, is a link to an earlier post I wrote on what finishing options there are, if you or your student choose not to frame.

End of a series, but not goodbye…

It’s been fun and interesting writing this series. I hadn’t anticipated parts of it being so difficult to write – mostly the parts about doing the actual stitching! I’ve likened it to teaching someone to drive. Whilst the two activities are very different, it’s the fact that both activities are so hands on, that at times it can be easier to just jump straight in and make adjustments as you go!

Thank you for bearing with me throughout this series. I hope that you have picked up on some different things that help you and your student. I’ve certainly learnt a bit about different learning styles and going through my stash has reminded me how much I have and how much I want to stitch!

So until next time, happy stitching!

Related posts:


I am an avid cross stitcher. I was first introduced to cross stitch when I was primary school age. Paused for while during my teens and then took it up again in my early/mid 20's and I haven't looked back. To mitigate the amount of time I'm sitting down stitching, I'm a regular member of the gym and I'm a runner. To keep me motivated, I participate in short to medium length fun runs. Which at times feel torturous, but I feel really good at the end of them! With these activities in mind, this blog is about the combination of my experiences with running and cross stitch and encouraging people to think differently about cross stitch - it's not just Grandma's who do this anymore!