It is often said (and I very much agree) that cross stitch is an ideal hobby to pick up if you don't want to spend a lot on fancy equipment; it really doesn't cost a lot of money to get started.
However, I think it's only fair to warn you that cross stitch can become highly addictive and you may eventually find that...
"buying cross stitch supplies and using them are two separate hobbies"
I think this is totally true for me. There's always a new fabric to try or a pretty new thread colour I absolutely must have or a fabulous pair of scissors that just falls into my basket.
But if you are just starting out with cross stitch or can't afford to spend much then what do you really need?
I'm going to run through the basic items I think you absolutely can't do without and what are just 'nice to have' bonus items for your stitching stash.
Kit vs. pattern only
The thought of gathering all the supplies needed to start cross stitching can be a bit daunting, so it is often easiest to start with a kit. This will contain almost all the things you need to get started, apart from scissors.
But once you get into it, you might want to work from just a pattern and buy your own supplies so read on...
Well, it's pretty hard to stitch without this but if you want to keep things simple you can just find one fabric you like and use it for everything. I recommend buying the largest piece you can afford, then cutting pieces out of that for each project to give you the most efficient use of fabric.
The fabric I always reach for is white 16 count Zweigart Aida because I like the slightly smaller stitch size than 14 count and Aida is easier to stitch on than evenweave.
For more fabric information check out;
- Other fabric types and colours. For some projects I prefer to stitch on linen so I do also have a large piece of 32 count Belfast linen in 'raw' colour.
I suspect you will find, like me, that your fabric stash grows over time as you want to try different colours, but it's not essential.
Blunt ended tapestry / cross stitch needles are another essential, and I do like to splash a little extra cash for the gold plated ones because they glide through the fabric so easily. I have so far not been converted to one specific brand and just buy whichever ones I can lay my hands on at the time. I do like to have LOTS of them though because I always have several projects on the go with at least one needle in each.
I also recommend having a few different sizes on hand so you have the right size for the fabric you are using. I like to use a size 24 needle for 14 count Aida and size 26 needle for 16 count Aida and 32 count linen.
Take a look at What are the best needles for cross stitch for an in depth analysis of needle brands and what to look for.
- If you struggle with threading your needle then there are various needle threader gadgets available to help you out and these are not expensive.
- One other handy tool that doesn't count as essential, but I wouldn't be without, is a needle minder, which is a small decorative piece with a magnet that you can put your needle on when you're not using it. I currently *only* have six, but my collection is constantly expanding!
If you want to know more about these fabulous accessories then take a look at How to use needle minders for cross stitch.
I think most stitchers do have a favourite thread brand and mine is DMC. It's what I've always used, it has ALL the pretty colours you could want and is easily available.
Most cross stitchers start with buying the colours needed for specific projects and gradually build up a stash.
Of course, once you start growing your thread stash you will be thinking about storage, and if you want to know more about this I have a round up of storage options and a peek into how I store my threads.
- You could experiment with other brands of thread or some of the speciality threads available, such as the gorgeous DMC Etoile threads which have a subtle sparkle, or metallic threads, or variegated threads...so many to try!
- Some people like to have a little pot or bag to keep all the thread ends in, often called an ORT (Old Raggedy Threads / Odd Random Threads...or more probably from 'ort' meaning leftover) pot.
- If you want to be able to choose your own colours for a project then a shade card is super useful. I don't know if all brands have this but I love my DMC shade card.
All you need is one pair of dedicated sharp embroidery scissors. It's best not to use any old pair of scissors you have around the house as this will not give a nice clean cut on your thread. You also don't want to use your embroidery scissors for anything else as it will blunt them. So, one pair of small scissors...easy, right?
Well, yes and no because one pair of scissors is all you need but I can pretty much guarantee that you will end up with more over time!
I think I have quite a frugal collection of scissors compared with some stitchers. I have around 6 pairs of embroidery scissors and I try to keep one in with each project I am working on, plus one pair in the spot where I do most of my stitching.
I do seem to have more WIPs than scissors though which means I have to keep moving the scissors around so maybe it's time to go shopping?! (Yes, I could have less WIPs but that's probably not going to happen - lol!)
- A thread cutter tool is handy to have especially for travelling. You can pick up a simple plastic thread cutter for very cheap, but I did recently treat myself to a lovely Clover thread cutter.
- Many cross stitchers find a stitch ripper handy to have for taking out stitches when you make a mistake. I have never found a use for one because I honestly don't make big enough mistakes very often...apologies if that sounds rather #smug but it's just the truth.
If you like to stitch in a hoop or frame then you will need one of those, or maybe a few for different size projects. These range from cheap wooden or plastic frames or hoops to much larger and more expensive frames and stands.
If you intend to display your piece in a hoop when it's completed, then you could use that for stitching in.
Unfortunately I don't have many pearls of wisdom on this topic because I like to stitch in hand as I have never got on with stitching in a hoop or frame. It's really a personal preference so don't let anyone tell you one way is better than the other and try out all the options to see what you like best.
- I have seen some very fabulous looking grime guards around, which are elasticated fabric covers that go over your frame to protect the fabric from getting dirty and to hold any excess fabric out of the way. I almost want to stitch in a frame just so I can use one! If you want a cheaper option, I have seen some cross stitchers using a pillowcase to protect the excess fabric - neat idea!
WIP bag / project pouches
I think it's really essential to have some kind of bag to store all the items for a project in to keep it all tidy, but it certainly doesn't have to be anything fancy; you could simply use a plastic bag or zipper pouch.
This is not an area you need to splash cash on, but of course there are some lovely options out there if you want something special. I treated myself to some beautiful Sarah Ashford project pouches with sparkly lettering.
Other odds and ends you might find useful
Notebook - for jotting down ideas and planning projects
Pens/pencils/highlighters - for taking all those essential notes and marking off patterns
Lamp / light with a daylight bulb - so you can stitch into the wee small hours if you so wish, or just when it's grey and cloudy
Magnifier - handy if you find it hard to read smaller charts
Did I miss anything? Do let me know if there's something you simply can't live without when cross stitching.
Until next time... happy stitching!