Are you on a budget?
Would you like to craft, but hate making decisions?
Does your idea of ‘fun’ involve doing a simple, robotic task over and over again, much like the dot-matrix printers of old?
Then this post is for you! Many people have taken up needlework as a way to re-allocate all their bad brain energy into a physical task. Cross-stitching is really the perfect level of mindlessness; you still need to keep the lights on in there, but otherwise there’s very little to it. I often call it the paint-by-numbers of embroidery…by the way, have you seen those kits now? They’re selling full-on Van Goghs! I don’t know why I’m surprised.
Anyways. I’ve made three different free cross-stitch patterns for the spooky season, two of which are beginner-friendly, and one of which is Not.
What do I need?
Getting started with cross-stitch is both cheap and easy. Basic supplies are readily available at any big box craft store, and you only need six (6) things to get started. Many stores also sell convenient kits that come with everything (or almost everything) you need.
- Embroidery hoop: If something is missing in a kit (besides scissors), it’s usually this. I most often use a 4 or 5-inch hoop, as it’s the largest size I can comfortably hold in my hand. The plastic ones with a lip or groove in the inner ring to prevent slippage are my favorite, whereas the cheap wooden ones I’ll only use for framing.
- Aida cloth: This is the go-to fabric for cross-stitch. It’s a non-stretch, grid-like woven fabric that typically comes in white, off-whites, black, and a few other colors. You can usually find it sold in small, folded rectangular portions, or in larger rolls. Nearly all Aida cloth sold is 14-count, which means that one inch will measure 14 squares long.
- Tapestry needle: Since Aida cloth has little holes in it already, you can use a needle with a (relatively) blunt edge, called a tapestry needle. For 14-count fabric, a size 24 needle is recommended, but an adjacent size will usually work fine.
- Embroidery floss: A divisible, six-stranded thread. For projects cross-stitched on 14-count, it’s common to use 2~3 strands. The premier brand of floss is DMC – many patterns sold online will use DMC numbers for their color key, and the floss itself is often regarded as the gold standard. Most craft stores in the US will have a DMC floss display, with plenty of colors to choose from.
DMC floss is also fairly cheap – with a skillful coupon application, I can often buy a skein of floss for 50~60 cents each. You can, however, use any decent brand of floss (like a random freezer ziptop bag full of old J.P. Coates picked up at the thrift store for five dollars).
BUT I don’t recommend using value pack floss that’s sold for kid’s crafts, like hair wraps and friendship bracelets. This floss is often not color-fast, prone to knotting and breakage, and inconsistent across dye lots.
- Scissors: You don’t need those fancy golden gooseneck ones, but you will want a small pair of sharp scissors nearby to snip your floss. For cutting Aida cloth, I usually use pinking shears, but any pair of sharp scissors should do the job.
- Cross-stitch Pattern: I’m providing free ones here, but there’s also many good free patterns online (if you can brave cursed P*nterest boards), as well as plenty of inexpensive patterns available from sellers on marketplaces like Etsy and eBay. Some patterns are sold as kits; this is very helpful if the pattern uses small amounts of many different floss colors, as you won’t have to buy way more than you need.
With that, let’s get to the free* patterns! (*Don’t sell them. Especially the last one.)
This is a beginner-friendly pattern with a seasonal variety of lil’ guys. You can pick one to stitch by itself as a little cameo, or you can use it as a border stitch to outline a larger project or whichever. For color choices, I’ve suggested some DMC numbers, but feel free to use whatever you like. For the orange, I picked Autumn Gold on my monitor, but turns out there’s literally a color called Pumpkin (DMC 970, 971, 3825), and at the craft store I noticed the Orange Spice range is also good (DMC 720, 721, 722). Lastly, I’ve modeled this on grey-colored Aida cloth, but depending on your cloth color choice, you may need to omit/add contrasting outline stitches for best results.
Gramarye: The Cross-stitch Pattern
Another beginner-friendly pattern, this one-color rendition of the Bay Area Kei Halloween event logo would be perfect to make into a bookmark, or to add on to another pattern to make it a souvenir. Remember: stitching on black Aida cloth can be hard on your eyes, so consider using a lighter color if you want to avoid straining.
Welcome to the Big Leagues. This pattern actually isn’t all that advanced – it’s only one color, and there’s no fractional stitches, beading, or french knots. There’s not even any backstitching!
But it is Big. Dimensions clock in at about 390 x 350, with roughly 26,000 stitches. The pdf pattern takes 20 letter-sized pages to print. Even if you stitch it on 18-count Aida cloth, it will still measure close to 2 feet wide.
I spent days on this, poring over Purestmaiden’s close-up photos of her own dress for reference. In the process, I learned that the aesthetic signature of this Well-Known Metal Fence is slight asymmetry. If you go on to spend days stitching this pattern, please know that every weird little design decision you run into, every strangely asymmetrical bit and bob, was one I likely futzed with at least three times. Feel free to futz with them more! But seriously. If anything, my pattern added MORE symmetry than the original.
The Stitching Hour
That concludes this round-up of free* cross-stitch patterns to hopefully help inspire you on your own DIY journey. And please tag me on social media if you post any work done with my patterns!