• Rhona Norrie

How to read a cross stitch chart


The text "How to Read a Cross Stitch Chart" sits on a purple square. Behind the square are purple cross stitch threads.


If you don't know how to stitch, start with our "How to Cross Stitch" post. Once you know how to cross stitch, it's time to learn how to read a chart!

Let’s make it simple and break it down into bite sized chunks that will have you tackling any design.


A cross stitch chart is made up of symbols or coloured blocks on what’s basically graph paper. Each square of the design corresponds to a stitch that you will make. The colour of the square, or the symbol in the square, tells you what colour of thread to use. If there are no symbols on part of the chart, then that area is left blank.


Here's an example:

A cross stitched pink heart sits on a graph paper chart.
Each pink square corresponds to a stitch!

You may notice on some charts that there are darker lines every 10 x 10 block - this is to make counting easier so you can keep your place (especially if the chart is HUGE!). There are often numbers along the top and side that also help you keep your place.

All the information you need about threads is on the key that comes with the chart. Each symbol (whether coloured or black and white) refers to one thread colour which is indicated by the number next to the symbol. The brand of thread will be noted at the top of the key. Sometimes there are multiple thread brands listed so that you have a choice of what brand to use.

Most keys will also give you other information such as what fabric to use, design size (often given in centimeters or inches, as well as number of stitches), and number of strands of thread to use (note: your thread is made up of multiple strands).

Copyright symbols show you who owns the rights to the design. You may make a working copy of the chart but may not make copies to share or sell.


You can find free beginner charts in our Beginner's Guide. I recommend starting with our easiest chart (pictured above) - a heart pattern.

Post pictures of your finished stitching on social media… I’d love to see your work! And don’t forget to hashtag #TangledThreadsAndThings and tag us on Instagram (@tangled.threads.and.things).