Gridding your Fabric for Cross Stitch

by Sherrin Elliot for Stitching the Night Away

So you have decided to tackle a large project, or maybe your eyesight is diminishing, or you just need a little more help keeping track of where you are in your stitching project so that you don’t have to “frog” as many times as you used to. Gridding is for you.

Gridding is a way to “mark” your fabric without actually leaving any permanent writing or prints on it. This is a truly effective way to know that the stitch you are placing is in the correct area of the fabric.

First, grab a chart and take a look at the “grid” that has already been placed on there for you. The first step has already been done! Now we only have to transfer this over to the fabric.

Supplies you need:

  • Sulky thread in Neon Pink or other bright color that does not match your fabric or design
  • ** a second color of sulky thread if you would like to mark the center of the chart with a different color ** I like bright green
  • Size 24 needle
  • scissors that you use specifically for metallic thread
  • Leaflet of the design
  • The fabric you’ve chosen
  • Paper and pencil

After you have all your supplies together, pull out the paper, pencil, and the leaflet once again. Look closely at the leaflet and find the measurements of the actual design by Width x Height. Write this on the paper.

Now, look at the chart. Notice that every 10 squares, you find a heavier line marking this chart off in 10×10 squares completely. This is the line that we’ll place onto our fabric. If you locate the arrows on the top and bottom of your chart, and follow them into the center of the design, this marks the center. Use your pencil to make a light mark where the placement of the center is. This spot should fall somewhere in the middle of one of those 10×10 squares.

At the moment, we will focus only on that 10X10 square. From the right side line of that square, count how many squares OVER until the center spot. Do the same from the top line down to the center spot. Write this onto the sheet of paper for future reference. It will look something like this:

Example 1: “Center spot: two squares over, and three squares down”

If you find that the center point falls on the intersecting lines, just write “at center”

We are now done with the leaflet and the pencil at this point.

Using the metallic (sulky) thread, Make a small loop start, half stitch at the center point of your fabric. You can find the center by folding the fabric evenly in half and then in half a second time.

Now, using a long piece of thread that will go the width of the fabric, thread the needle. Refer to the piece of paper and notations that you made. (following example 1) You know that the center is 2 squares over and 3 squares down from the top left corner of the center 10×10 square.

Starting from this point, you will make a basting stitch going out to the left side of the fabric. Only baste half of the width of the chart. If the width of the chart is 100W, then only stitch 50 squares counting by 2’s. (you are only going over or under two squares for each basting stitch)

Remember, we mentioned that the gridding is the marking of the 10X10 squares. If you are working on aida, then you will be going over and under on the fabric every 2 squares/threads. BUT if you are working on even weave other than aida that would be stitching 2 over 2, you will be going over and under on the fabric every 4 squares (threads).

Once that side is done, you will re-thread your needle and baste the line that begins at the same starting point, going up. Again, you only need to baste half of the height up.

When this is accomplished, you will complete each line by stitching the width out to the right and the height out to the bottom by completing the second half of the stitch width and height.

Now, you should have a stitch where the center point on your fabric falls, and a line going top to bottom and side to side on the fabric. This does not intersect at the center point for our example. Remember, the center point is 2 over and 3 down from the intersection of the two lines.

From here, you will complete each line going across the fabric and top to bottom until you have created your grid. Remember, each line is 10 squares from the one below, above, and to the sides.

I prefer to work the rows by beginning at the perpendicular line (the one going up and down the fabric) and basting all the lines that will go across the fabric to the left. Following this center line gives me a place to easily count up by 10 squares for placement of the next row. Once I have the left hand side complete, then I finish the right hand side. Next I baste the top half and then finally the bottom half.

Now, the fun part begins. Pull out your leaflet and all your thread and enjoy the stitching of the actual project!

Sherrin Elliot

note: This article is not available for reproduction.

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About Loretta

Passionate stitcher. Mom of four amazing young men. Wife to a comic book geek who makes me smile every day. Transcriptionist by trade. Gluten-free by necessity. Writer at heart. Seeker of knowledge and reader of novels. Dreamer of big colorful creative dreams.


  1. Lynn Knowles says:

    I read your article regarding the counting pins but I felt uncomfortable with possibly leaving the pins in longer that they sould be. Sometimes I can’t get back to a cross stitch project for awhile! This gridding technique is exactly what I was looking for!

    Thanks you!


  1. […] know we’ve talked a lot about gridding recently and I love gridding for large projects, but I don’t take the time to grid out my […]

  2. […] I Googled how to grid cross stitch and came up with several tutorials, including one from this very website.  After doing a bit of research, I decided to use this grid […]

  3. […] was a mention in the HAED newsletter about gridding your cross stitch fabric for large projects and it referenced the article here that Sherrin wrote ages ago about how she did […]

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