Railroading Your Cross Stitches

Railroading is a common term among stitchers these days on message boards. Basically it means separating the threads as you stitch so that they lay flat and create a much smoother neater appearance for your finished piece overall. Many new stitchers think this is a time consuming and unneeded process. The truth is that its not time consuming at all and in the long run will save you time and help you create a beautiful piece in the end.

There are two ways to do this, which you use is a personal preference on your part. The first way is to railroad both the bottom leg / and the top leg \ of your cross stitch. The second is to railroad just the TOP \ leg of your cross stitch. Either will give you a neat appearance, personally I railroad both legs of my stitch. You also want to do this with your backstitching.

Now, for the directions.

Bring the needle up through the fabric like you normally do, but before you go back down to create the leg of the stitch you place the needle between the two strands of floss. So it will be thread / needle / thread then with the needle between the threads you go back down through your fabric.

Doing this with your cross stitches is going to create a smooth appearance in the finished product and its also going to prevent those nasty tangles we all hate to pick out of our floss! With less twists and tangles in your floss your going save yourself time and floss because you get more flat stitches out of a length of floss than a twisted and tangled length of floss.

I hope this helps you in creating your next beautiful masterpiece and as always Happy Stitching!

Kind Regards,

Loretta Oliver, EzineArticles.com Basic PLUS Author

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. I have just started railroading for the last year or so…I was amazed at the way my stitching now looks…At first it seemed annoying but I kept at and I just do it naturally now…When using 3 strains I just pull the floss though the material take my needle and seprate the floss then put the needle though the material to make the leg of your stitch…

  2. Hadn’t heard of this, hmmm.

  3. Emma via STNA's Facebook Fan Page says:

    I had not hard of this. How would you do it if you’re using 3 pieces of embroidery floss instead of 2?

  4. Same process railroading the two and the third will usually follow suit, a laying tool also comes in handy if you’re working with a particularly twisty thread type.

  5. What I’ve always done is after a couple-few stitches is just let the threaded needle hang loose for a second to untwist itself on it’s own. This does sound like it would be too time-consuming but will have to have a go at it.

  6. I do the same dangle method, twisty floss makes me crazy. I don’t railroad every stitch, usually I only railroad the top cross when I’m coming back across the row, and I pay closer attention if it’s a blended needle with two colors of floss at once.

  7. Wow this is very interesting, thanks STNA! I had never heard of a laying tool either and just looked it up. Been stitching for 30 yrs and never heard of it. It’s so informative to have access to these sites and facebook accounts now! Thanks for the hot tips!

  8. Always glad to enable buying of more stash and tools 😉

  9. hahahaha touche! And thanks, I think, lol. I think I’ll try your technique of just doing the top cross and see how much patience I have for that!

  10. This is new for me. Thank you I am going to do this.

  11. Thanks Connie, I’m going to try it – I do get frustrated sometimes at how the yarns don’t lie evenly so maybe this is what I need to do. My perfectionism kicks in and I am not always satisfied with the stitches and take them out and in again so maybe this is my solution! Cool

  12. So is it better just to use the needle at hand or to purchase a laying tool?

  13. thank u so much had never heard of this will try it out next project

  14. I use my needle….Once you pull your thread though the material Start right at the fabric and run your needle though the floss….Watch when putting your nnedle though that the floss is going in the direction you want it to lay…otherwise you still end up with twisted threads…once you start doing it you will see what I mean…

  15. Joni via STNA's Facebook Fan Page says:

    I do my version of railroading without the tool. I’ve read that the tool makes a noticeable difference though. While I’m a bit ocd with my threads laying nice, I’m not patient enough to use a tool too. LOL

  16. Joni, me too! I’m pretty patient with my stitching, but I have a hard time using a laying tool so I just use my needle.

  17. Thanks for all the great tips ladies! I’ll try the needle first.

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