How to frame cross stitch

framed cross stitch

A freshly washed cross stitch is great, but unless you want to store your stitch you’ll want to show off your gorgeous piece? Well, good news for you, as Lauren of Plastic Little Covers has you covered with this perfect little guide on how best to frame cross stitch. You can also pick up the pattern used for this guide on her Etsy store.

Here’s a quick cross stitch framing tutorial for you all!

Before I start with this no doubt subpar tutorial, let me preface it with the fact that I am in no way precious about the way in which I finish a project. There are definitely neater ways to do it, so if you’re a perfectionist this mightn’t be for you! I also took the photos during the grim winter months here in the North East of England. To quote Florence & the Machine “no light, no light…”

Having said that, on the rare occasion I go all out with a frame this is the method that works for me, so here it is:

Things you’ll need:

Your ironed cross stitch with at least two inches of excess material around all edges of the design.
A photo frame
Acid-free foam board (sometimes labelled as foam core mount board). Make sure you get a colour that coordinates with your fabric, white for white etc.
Needle and strong thread (the thread in the photo was as weak as my tutorial game, so make sure you’ve got something strong enough to pull taut without snapping. I actually ended up using Anchor embroidery floss, which wasn’t ideal but just about did the job.)
Scissors (pictured are my tiny embroidery scissors, but you’d be better off using a pair of sharp habedashery scissors for trimming your cross stitch and kitchen scissors or something similar for the mount board) It’s even better to use a proper cutter for the board, but alas! I don’t have one.
how to frame cross stitch what you need

Step one:

First off you need to cut your foam board down to a suitable size for the inside of your frame. My frame was 6 x 4 inches, so I cut it to a few millimetres shy of that. You’ll want it to fit inside the frame but still have a little bit of wiggle room at the edges for when the cross stitch fabric is eventually folded around it. Check you’ve got that gap by trying the foam board in the frame, it shouldn’t be too snug or be wedged in there.

<how to frame cross stitch foam board 2

Step two:

Now that you have your expertly measured foam board at the ready, it’s time to pick up that lovely cross stitch of yours. Position it over the foam board, making sure that the design is central and level, and begin by folding the top side down. Find the middle of your design and push a pin into the foam centre of the board right on the top edge. Repeat at the bottom.

how to frame cross stitch foam board

Step three:

Repeat Step Two, this time at the centre of the left and right sides. As you do this try to make sure that the fabric is as flat as it can be, and pulled fairly evenly across the board.

how to frame cross stitch find the center

Step four:

Start working your way out from the centre, placing pins diagonally opposite each other, a couple at a time on each side. As you do this check that your design is still central, and that the fabric is laying flat and taut. Continue all the way round.

how to frame cross stitch pin down

Step five:

Now that you’ve finished pinning flip the whole thing over. This is where my shambolic tutorial skills once again show themselves. For reasons unknown I’m holding the whole thing the wrong way round in the photo below. S0 what looks like top to bottom is actually side to side. * Sighs*

how to frame cross stitch sew the back

What you need to do is fold your sides inwards, and lace them together. I found doing the sides first is best for a flatter overall finish. For the lacing you’re going to need a really long length of your thread, as you can see I underestimated and had to do a shoddy retying job in the middle. For my lacing I started at about 1cm from the edge (you can go in closer to the edge than that if you want), and stitched backwards and forwards between the two sides. Pull it tight as you go, but make sure you’re not warping the board.

Step six:

If you’re still with me here then not only are you some kind of modern hero, but the end is also in sight!

At this stage fold over the top and bottom edges and lace those too.

how to frame cross stitch sew the back 2

As you can see my back isn’t the tidiest, but I left far more than two inches of excess around the piece and didn’t pull very tight with my stitches, so it’s all a bit bulkier than usual.

There are neater ways to finish a piece (there’s a snazzy method of folding your corners down and sewing them, which gives the whole thing a lovely finish), which I’d be happy to point you in the direction of if you’ d like to try them!

After you’ve done all of that you should find that the surface of your cross stitch is pulled nice and taut across the board, and that the edges are smooth.

Step seven:

Rejoice and remove those pins!

how to frame cross stitch remove pins

Step eight:

Because you left that little bit of wiggle room at the start you should find that your cross stitch fits into the frame nice and snugly now.

framed cross stitch


This is just one of many ways to finish a cross stitch piece. There’s also the option of embroidery hoops and professional framing. Ultimately it’s all about personal preference and budget! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

Washing, Drying & Ironing

how to wash cross stitch

Having mastered the art of cross stitch you’re now looking to display it, however there is often an over looked step.
When you’ve been stitching a while you’ll find out exactly why washing is important. But even I would admit I never really gave it credit when I started, and I’ve seen the problems first hand.

Its all about finger juice. Yeh, you heard me. More specifically the thin layer of oil around your fingers to help you grip things. This oil is fairly innocuous, and doesn’t do any damage on its own, however it bonds with the thread. When it bonds the thread takes on the same characteristics and can grip to things. Specifically dirt.
To make things worse, if you leave your thread out in the sun it will brown (quite considerably). Even worse if you’ve ironed without washing!

Unless you have yourself a house trained raccoon, you have to do the washing yourself. And its not obvious as you might think, but don’t worry, its easy. So lets jump in.
how to wash cross stitch


The problem with washing cross stitch is that the threads and aida aren’t treated dyes like your clothes. As a result they bleed heavily. In addition if you use special threads like metalics or glow in the dark threads they have metals or plastics in them which react differently. But there is a tried and tested way you can clean ANY cross stitch. This is even what you need to do if you’ve got dirt on your ironed piece.

There are two things you need. Ones a bowl, big enough to hold your piece (it can be rolled to fit, but don’t fold it). The second can be slightly harder to find; non-colored, non-bleached, non-abrasive dish soap. This is actually easy to find, but its always in an obscure place to see in the super market, so you might have to nose around a little bit.

Once you have everything, fill the bowl with water. COLD water. The colder the better in fact. This is the thing that stops the threads loosing their color.
Add 1 drop of dish soap per 5 liters (a normal washing up bowl is about 10). Then very slowly pass your hand through the bowl to mix it, making sure no bubbles form.
Then place the cross stitch on top and let it sink. Wait 15 minutes.


That was washing. Simple as letting it sit for 15 minutes. All it does it wash the oils through so they are more dilute so won’t bond to the thread. As a result you don’t need to rub it off the cross stitch.
However all that water has left the threads weak, and the aida very pliable. Drying the correct way is the only way to make sure the finished piece is flat. You often pull the aida out of shape slightly when stitching, and the washing will release all of that stretch, leaving your piece warped. As a result we dry in two stages.

Firstly, its VERY wet, so we need to take the bulk of water off. Get a towel large enough to place the cross stitch on, and roll from one edge to the other. Leave this for 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece (the larger pieces need longer, but if you’ve used plastic canvas it needs at least 20 minutes).


Once the time is up unroll. This stage could have a whole entry devoted to itself, there are a lot of different ways to do it, and people have come up with some creative ideas. However I’ll tell you two ways. The idea here is to stretch the canvas out again.

Most people call this pinning as, you guessed it, there are pins involved. The first way does involve pins, but if you don’t have any to hand, move to the second option. You want to have a flat surface you can pin. I know that might be unlikely in some houses, so you can also use a flat bit of aida left over (or even a bed sheet). If your backing is fabric, stretch that out first to make sure its flat. Then take your cross stitch and place it on top. Put a pin in a corner. Then in the opposite corner pull it as far as possible, and pin it. Do this all they way around the cross stitch. You should put a pin every inch/2 cm around the edge. Then let it dry some more! It’s likely to take about 2 days to dry fully.

No pins? No problem. Get two pegs and roll your project on its longest side. Do it tightly so there is 1 cm gap in the center. Then pin the edges down so the roll holds. This method uses the aida against itself, meaning it can’t warp. But it also means it takes AGES to dry. I would give it at least a week before you unroll. I would also make sure you put it somewhere dry and breezy instead of damp and humid.


So its washed, great. Now it won’t get dirty in the sun. However what happens if you accidentally spill something on it? If its something like fruit juice it will stain. However there is a super easy way to stop this. Ironing. Basically it heats the threads up enough that they secrete their own natural oils, which seal the threads (this is how sheep stay dry if you’ve ever wondered). But if you throw the iron on top of your cross stitch its going to flatten it, so lets go about this the right way.

Get a towel and dampen it slightly. You could do this under the tap, but make sure its not dripping if you pull it taught. Its only meant to be JUST damp. I tend to iron before the washing is fully dry, so I use a towel in the washing. Heat the iron up to the highest level, and remove the steam.
Cross stitch face up on the ironing board, towel on top. Then iron, using a large amount of pressure.

Remember I was talking about getting dirt on your finished piece? Well now any dirt should just wash away!
Not too hard, was it? Just need to frame it now or if you have too many like me; you’ll need to store it somewhere.

Fifth Element Multipass Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Fifth Element Multipass Cross Stitch

Title: Multipass
Date Completed: June 2016
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: Black
Colours: 18
Film: The Fifth Element
My all time favorite movie is the fifth element, and in the past I’ve stitched a few things, such as the ZF-1 blueprint cross stitch. I finally decided to buy the remastered version and watched it again, and it was roughly the same time when loot crate where sending out their multipass props, and I knew I had to stitch one up. Its based on the screen accurate model, which has some unique data in it; like leelo being classed as a man…
I tried to match the details as best I could, however couldn’t resist; in the end I had to pick up one of those lootcrate props.

Create your own free Pokemon cross stitch pattern online

porygon cross stitch

Aime Cox of originally wrote this super sweet post on how to do free Pokemon cross stitch patterns yourself online. Not only is it a great guide, but it uses Porygon as the example! However, if you just want a quick Pokemon pattern, I have free Pokemon cross stitch patterns too

I love Pokémon, nowhere near as much as I love Digimon but that might well be another post. My boyfriend Alex also loves Pokémon, probably more than I do and probably more than the non-nerd society thinks a 28-year old man should.

As I’m such a bitchin’ girlfriend, I decided to create a Pokémon cross stitch for Alex to make up for being a bit cruddy at chores, working all the time and worst of all, dual-screening during Masterchef. So, Project Porygon was born.

porygon cross stitch

Project Porygon!

Before I get started, I must mention that there are some alternatives available, Makibird-Stitching on DeviantArt has created some spiffing patterns that you can download for personal use.
You can also pay for templates from various etsy stores, but I’m a much bigger fan on investing about 15 minutes to save myself some dolla dolla bill y’all.

In my previous post I mentioned how searching for ‘sprites’ through Google images can help you find some really simple cross stitch patterns for beginners.

This method can also be used to create your own not-so-simple Pokémon cross stitch patterns.

1. Find a good source of Pokémon sprites

There’s literally a truck-load available. I like this one, and this one. Visit one of these links, and find an angle of a Pokémon that appeals to you. I chose the one in the triangle below.

porygon sprites

Generation 4 was a strong one for porygon.

Right click, or drag and drop, to save the sprite to your desktop.

2. Convert the sprite to a JPG

Most of the sprites available are PNGs, the next program we’re going to use can’t cope with transparent backgrounds so it’s important to convert the file in order to have a white background.

If you’re on a Mac, you can open the file in Preview, select ‘Duplicate’ and then change the file format to JPG.

If you’re on a PC, you can do the same in MS Paint by opening the file and selecting ‘Save As’ . Again, you need to choose ‘JPG’ from the drop-down.

You could also use these opportunities to trim any excess white space off the image – this will make your pattern easier in the long run.

saving as png - porygon

3. Upload to My Photo Cross Stitch

This site is so cool considering it’s totally free. Visit this link and select ‘Advanced’ from the primary navigation at the top of the page.

Now, click ‘Select Image’ and upload your shiny new JPG. There’s a field to add the maximum number of thread colours. Be prepared to play around with this as each Pokémon is different. I find 5-8 is enough.

Pick coloured boxes or symbols, or both, I like coloured boxes but each to their own. Then simply select ‘Make Pattern’ et voilà! A beautiful pattern that you can download as a PDF, print or save it to a cloud drive for use on the road.

Porygon cross stitch 2

Porygon cross stitch final piece, still working out what to do with it.

And that’s it. Let me know in the comments how you got on with creating your own pattern!
Looking for something else? Check out our list of free cross stitch patterns for more.

How do I make a free video game cross stitch pattern?

I went over how to make a cross stitch pattern a few weeks ago, however if you want to make a video game cross stitch, you actually have a slightly different set of options.

There are a few reasons for this, but the main ones are:

  • You can edit your pattern heavily
  • You work on a very small scale
  • You work with a limited color palette

In short, you’re making far more of the pattern than you would normally. In the below example I’m going to go through the whole guide using a space invader being eaten by pacman.

Pacman eating space invader free pattern

Collecting your sprites

If you weren’t aware, the little characters in video games are called sprites. And the first step for any project is to get the sprites needed for your project. There are loads of dedicated sprite websites out there such as The Spriters Resource and Sprite Database, you could always search google images for the relevant characters like I have.
However you do it, make sure you save your images as PNG. This is to make sure the image quality is still super high.

Space Invader and Pacman Sprite

Resize your images

The chances are good that your sprites are the correct size to start, however you’ll want to zoom in on the sprite to check, I would suggest something like paint, but Photoshop works well too.
You’re looking for is one pixel being over more than one pixel when zoomed in. If this is the case, you need to resize the image down to make sure its perfect. As you can see in the image below, we’ve resized the Space Invader. However, both pixel characters look good together, but I want an image where it looks like Pacman is eating the Invader, so I’ve made Pacman bigger.

Resized sprites

Image editing

In the example below, I’m happy with the image I have, however this would be the time you may way to change things. This could be changing hair color, adding parts, removing parts or adding a background. The options are yours.
The great thing about video game cross stitch is you can do ANYTHING to the sprites you want.

Pattern creation

So now you have to make a choice, and its based on colors. One way (option 1) we’ll manually pick the colors out, the other way (option 2) this will all be done for us.
Colors are very important for any pattern, if one color is slightly off, it ruins the look, however in video game cross stitch this is even more important, as the color of Pikachu is THAT yellow, so you need to make sure its perfect. There are two questions I ask myself; how many colors are there? and Will an off color ruin it?
If the answer is more than 20 colors and it won’t ruin the pattern to have one off color, then go for option 2. Otherwise, always go option 1.

Option 1

You’re willing to pick out your on colors; great! This is how I do most of my patterns. The even better bit about this however is you can do it all from your image editing program. The first thing you need to do, is check the options. You’ll see that you can add a grid over your image. Well, this is the grid of your fabric, you’ve just made a pattern!

pattern example

But you do still need to pick colors. This is where a pattern chart comes in handy; you can see one here for DMC threads. You now need to select each color and pick a thread. Once you’re done, you can start stitching!

Option 2

The second option is a lot easier. We’re going to use an online pattern maker called
Its super easy to use, just save your image, upload it, and it spits out the pattern, colors and all!

And that’s it! Easy.
Looking for something else? Check out our list of free cross stitch patterns for more.

What’s the best cross stitch pattern software?

I often get asked “What’s the best cross stitch pattern software?” , and it shouldn’t surprise you that there are lots of options. This post details the most used cross stitch programs on PC, Mac, Online and iPad with online polls and feefo review scores. Updated June 2018.

Jump to PC
Jump to PC (Free)
Jump to Online
Jump to Mac
Jump to iPad
Jump to Android
Jump to Android
Jump to Unsupported Replacements

Best PC cross stitch pattern software:

WinStitch ($52 ($47 with discount)) – 10/10

Based on 832 reviews
Use this link to save yourself $5 when you buy!

PC Stitch ($50 ($20 with discount)) – 9/10

Based on 1024 reviews
You should also use the code “PCS11UPG” to save $30 when you buy!

KG Chart ($35) – 8.5/10

Based on 1112 reviews

BlendThreads (FREE) – 8/10

Based on 37 reviews

Istitch 2 ($30) – 7/10

Based on 31 reviews

Sew and So Cross Stitch Designer ($42) – 6/10

Based on 46 reviews

HobbyWare Pattern Maker for cross-stitch ($60) – 6/10

Based on 57 reviews

Ryijy Stitch Designer (FREE) – 6/10

Based on 7 reviews

DP Software Cross Stitch Pro Platinum ($182) – 5/10

Based on 47 reviews

StitchCraft ($155 to $830) – 5/10

Based on 213 reviews

STOIK Stitch Creator ($51) – 5/10

Based on 98 reviews

Stitch Painter ($199/FREE) – 5/10

Based on 23 reviews

ILSoft Stitch R-XP ($99) – 3/10

Based on 13 reviews

Stitch Art Easy! (FREE) – 4/10

Based on 14 reviews

Cstitch (FREE) – 3/10

Based on 4 reviews

Best FREE PC cross stitch pattern software:

BlendThreads (FREE) – 8/10

Based on 37 reviews

Ryijy Stitch Designer (FREE) – 6/10

Based on 7 reviews

Stitch Art Easy! (FREE) – 4/10

Based on 14 reviews

Cstitch (FREE) – 3/10

Based on 4 reviews

Best ONLINE cross stitch pattern software: (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 1523 reviews ($7.50) – 8/10

Based on 257 reviews (FREE) – 7.5/10

Based on 1042 reviews (FREE) – 7/10

Based on 302 reviews (FREE) – 7/10

Based on 57 reviews

DMC Snap & Stitch ($10/FREE per pattern) – 6/10

Based on 36 reviews

Thread-Bare ($10 per pattern) – 6/10

Based on 12 reviews

PictureCraftWork ($12 per pattern) – 6/10

Based on 4 reviews

craftdesignonline (FREE) – 5/10

Based on 46 reviews

Pic2Pat (FREE) – 5/10

Based on 78 reviews

StitchBoard (FREE) – 5/10

Based on 13 reviews

Photo2CrossStitch ($5 per pattern) – 5/10

Based on 8 reviews

Best MAC cross stitch pattern software:

MacStitch ($52 ($47 with discount)) – 9/10

Based on 543 reviews
Use this link to save yourself $5 when you buy! (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 1523 reviews

DP Software Cross Stitch Pro Platinum ($191) – 5/10

Based on 47 reviews

Stitch Painter ($199) – 5/10

Based on 23 reviews

Best iPad cross stitch pattern software:

Cross Stitch Saga (FREE ($4 upgrade)) – 9/10

Based on 127 reviews

StitchSketch ($8) – 9/10

Based on 251 reviews

Cross Stitch Camera ($4) – 5/10

Based on 36 reviews

Best ANDROID cross stitch pattern software:

eCanvas for cross-stitch PRO ($3) – 8/10

Based on 92 reviews

XStitch Designer ($1) – 7/10

Based on 220 reviews

Best LINUX cross stitch pattern software:

KXStitch (FREE) – 6/10

Based on 7 reviews

Unsupported Software Replacements:

Photoshop Swatches (PC)

REPLACEMENT: Ryijy Stitch Designer (FREE) – 6/10
The only usable free alternative, Ryijy is open source and works independantly from Photoshop, but with a very similar process.

MyriaCross (PC)

REPLACEMENT: WinStitch ($52 ($47 with discount)) – 10/10
MyriaCross gave some of its code to WinStitch, so they could replicate their features. As a result, its the best, and closes alternative.

Easy Cross (PC)

REPLACEMENT: WinStitch ($52 ($47 with discount)) – 10/10
Slightly less easy to use, but a full software option.

PixelCraft (ONLINE)

A slightly improved version of PixelCraft.

StitchCraft (MAC)

REPLACEMENT: MacStitch ($52 ($47 with discount)) – 9/10
A similar, but much more advanced program.

Spriter (MAC)

Just as simple to use, but without the need for installation. In addition has slightly better editing tools.

Cross Stitch 2 Go HD (IPAD)

REPLACEMENT: Cross Stitch Saga (FREE ($4 upgrade)) – 9/10
A slight improvement on Cross Stitch 2 Go HD, with a low price tag.

X-Stitch (IPAD)

REPLACEMENT: Cross Stitch Saga (FREE ($4 upgrade)) – 9/10
A better alternative app, with more features.
I’ve also created a great infographic on which is the best cross stitch pattern software for easy selection.

Super Miniature 3D Ecruteak City Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Miniature 3D Ecruteak City Cross Stitch

Title: Ecruteak City
Date Completed: May 2016
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Video Game: Pokemon
After playing with a miniature arcade cabinet that tested my small plastic canvas creations, I wondered just how small I could go. I settled on trying the smallest scale possible, make one cross stitch one meter (or 1:500 scale if you’re interested).
I’ve been throwing a lot of ideas around following a trip to Japan in late 2014, and I started by making a torii gate. I left it unfinished and when I went back I started putting peices together and thinking ‘oh, maybe a tree would look good’, etc. It eventually evolved from there, and it turned into the Pokemon Ecruteak City.
Ecruteak City is actually different in the anime, manga, and games, and so this is a combination of a series of images and video to make the most generalised city. 
The bell tower (tin tower originally) is the main feature of the city, designed in the traditional way, with accurate angles, which has 9 floors with purple roofs, complete with a golden stand on top, which is meant to draw the legendary Pokemon Ho-oh to it. The opposite side sits the ill-fated burnt tower, with only 2/3 floors left, where the legendary Lugia used to reside. Both are on raised land masses to add to their height, which is shown in most itterations of the city.
You can also find a Pokemon center, gym, PokeMart, zen garden, two red bridges, a pagoda, cherry tree, a blank house tile (which has always featured in both games and anime, I have no idea why), and trees surrounding the whole city.
It’s 3.5″ by 3.5″, and 4″ tall.

ecruteak city

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