Reading a Cross-Stitch Chart

Cross-stitch patterns are laid out in 10x10 grid format. Each square of each 10x10 grid accounts for one thread if stitching on Aida, or two threads if stitching on evenweave or linen. Each square of the pattern that has a symbol corresponds with a colour of thread. Colours of thread are indicated by a legend. Designers always include a legend which is typically located in the instructions section of the chart. The legend shows what symbol corresponds with what thread colour. It will also tell you what brand of thread has been used and the corresponding brand item number. Squares that have no symbol indicated are not stitched.

Most patterns will also have a basic instructions section that should somewhat mimic what we have provided in this guide. It will also include instruction for any specialty stitches which may be incorporated into the patterns. Back stitch is typically indicated with a thick black outline around the sections that require it. The legend will indicate what colour the back stitch is in each specific section. Back stitching is also sometimes described by instructions like “around the racoon’s ears” or “on the outside edge of the dress”.

To make this a bit easier, here is a free sample chart of our logo! If you right click the image and save, it should give you a high quality image you can blow up so you can see everything a bit more clearly. Feel free to stitch this at will, but if you do, please post on Instagram and tag @chelseabunscrossstitch and use the hashtag #chelseabunscrossstitch so we can see your work! We'd probably cry! (Seriously. We'd cry. Ugly cry.) 


Please note, this is the world's most boring colour palette and was used to do up a sample chart and legend as an example. I highly recommend you swap out these colours for something that will look a bit prettier! But hey, the Stitch Mafia crew will love this, so who am I to change it up! 

Now, here are some things to think about when reading a chart: 


These numbers indicate every set of 10 rows horizontally and 10 columns vertically.

Indicates the middle of the chart. The same symbol appears on the top of the chart. To easily find the centre, find where both these arrows meet in the middle of the chart.

Here is a closeup of the chart showing the three different symbols indicated in the legend.


Tip: Most stitchers make “working copies” before they start a project. A working copy is a photocopy of a chart for personal use only. This allows a person to highlight and mark up the chart without ruining the original. It also helps to blow the chart up to a larger size, so the pattern is easier to see. Use this 8x10 page and make an 11x17 personal working copy. When you complete a set of stitches, simply highlight it on the working copy so you know exactly where you are in the pattern! 

Gentle Reminder: Copyright should be taken seriously and helps protect the hard work of designers everywhere. Making a working copy is ok for personal use, but never make copies (electronic or otherwise) to hand out to others for free.