Embroidery vs Cross Stitch - What are the Differences?

December 16, 2022

If you’re someone who is naturally creative and fairly new to the world of needlework, you might be wondering whether to start with embroidery or cross stitch? 

Or you may already enjoy embroidery and are ready to learn how to transition your skills into cross stitch. There are some similarities and things to definitely consider before you make your decision. This week, we’re going to talk you through the key differences between both crafts to help you decide and get started!


Cross stitch is known as a form of counted needlework, where you create X-shaped stitches on a piece of evenly woven fabric, such as aida. There are five types of stitches use in cross stitch to create a range of effects: full cross stitch, half cross stitch, fractional stitches, backstitch and French knots. Do watch our YouTube video for an easy, step-by-step guide on how to master these stitches!

jungle animals cross stitch

To create the finished piece, you follow a pattern with cross stitch, which is also sometimes referred to as a chart. You will follow a colour key, which works with the pattern to show you the colour and position of each stitch. If you are just getting started with cross stitch, kits are much easier to begin with as they include the printed pattern, fabric, pre-sorted threads and a needle so you have everything you need. We have a range of beautiful, modern cross stitch kits available on our website for you to choose from!

Embroidery is simply defined as the art of decorating fabric using a needle and thread. Unlike cross stitch, embroidery is much more free-form as you aren’t limited to following the ‘grid’ of the aida or evenweave fabric. 

Like cross stitch, you can follow a pattern with embroidery. Typically, the design is transferred onto the fabric and you can use the template to add in your stitches. Alternatively, you could draw your design onto the fabric directly with a pen or pencil that disappears or rubs off.

Another key difference is that embroidery can be made to look more realistic with different stitches and techniques. Some of the most popular embroidery stitches consist of backstitch, French knots, satin stitch and chain stitch - but there so many to choose from! You can use a mixture of stitches to create the desired effect, and techniques such as blending colours or thread painting help to add more dimension to your project.


With cross stitch and embroidery, the supplies you will need are slightly different but some of these are exactly the same.

Embroidery tends to be worked on linen and cotton fabrics, with a solid colour and medium weight. Kona Cotton Solids are a popular brand of fabric to use for embroidery, as they are high quality and 100% cotton.

For cross stitch, you will need need a piece of fabric that is evenly woven. The most popular choice is aida, which can purchased in various different 'counts' which means the holes per inch. 14 and 16 count aida tend to be the most popular options, while evenweave is another great choice. If you're unsure, here's our guide to cross stitch fabrics! Like with any other needlecraft, high quality fabric is so important and that's why all of our kits include Zweigart aida or evenweave.

The type of needles you will need vary between cross stitch and embroidery. With any embroidery, you need embroidery needles as these have a sharp, pointed end. This will allow you to pierce through your fabric with ease.

As the holes in the aida or evenweave are quite easy to come through with cross stitch, you need special tapestry needles. These have a blunt end and come in different sizes - you will 24 size needles for 14 count aida and 28 count evenweave, and size 26 needles for 16 count aida and 32 count evenweave.

Next up are scissors, which are essential for cutting lengths of thread and snipping the ends off on the back of your project. Embroidery scissors work perfectly for both cross stitch and embroidery, as these tend to be small but precise. Our range of scissors are comfortable and sharp, making your stitching a pleasure! Available with a choice of pink, blue, purple or green.

For both cross stitch and embroidery, you will need some beautiful cotton threads to create your stitches. DMC Stranded Cotton is the best choice for both techniques, as they are high quality, vibrant and colourfast! You can use all 6 strands for embroidery, however it's best to separate and use 2 strands of thread for cross stitch. All of our cross stitch kits come with a pre-sorted Carlos the Caterpillar thread holder with the gorgeous DMC shades specially chosen!

Whether it's embroidery or cross stitch, an embroidery hoop is another essential piece of equipment. The inner and outer hoop separate, so that you can keep your fabric nice and taut inside the hoop! Elbesee branded hoops are available to buy on our website and are high quality and trusted due to their smooth, wooden finish and sturdy build. Most popular are 6" and 7" inch hoops for both cross stitch and embroidery.

Lastly, why not get your hands on a needle minder? Our range of needle minders are a cute and helpful accessory for any stitcher, with over 35 beautiful designs to choose from!

The front enamel piece sits on the top of your fabric and the back magnet is attached behind your fabric. Simply pop your needle on top of the fabric and it's held safely on the top enamel piece!


If you like to improvise and have more freedom with your crafts, then you may prefer embroidery. Although it can be intimidating with hundreds of different stitches, you can first learn a few different stitches to build your confidence.

If you’re just getting into needlework then cross stitch is the best place to start for beginners, as it can be much easier to follow a pattern. All of our patterns only use full cross stitches, so there is only one type of stitch you will need to learn to start with!

Now that you know the difference between cross stitch and embroidery, you’re ready to choose which needlecraft you want to get started with! Either way, both techniques allow you to take some much needed time to relax and let your creativity run free.

Don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter where you will receive regular emails with helpful cross stitch tips, videos and more great blogs! Not to mention the beautiful FREE eBook of patterns we will send you, including 8 designs for you get started with so you can fall in love with cross stitch.

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