Chinese Cross-stitch 十字绣: It’s not just for old people, you know?

Chinese Cross-stitch 十字绣: It’s not just for old people, you know?

“Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. Cross-stitch is often executed on easily countable evenweave fabric called aida cloth. (”

Cross stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery in the world, and it is one of the oldest forms of embroidery art in China. The article Cross-Stitch Embroidery Art on Cultural China describes beautifully the different uses and the origins of cross-stitching.

buddha shizixiu

Yes, admittedly, every time I tell someone I enjoy cross-stitching, people tend to judge. Cross-stitching has a reputation of being something rather fusty that your grandmother might enjoy.

However, since I have moved to China I have realized that cross-stitches here are rather enjoyed by the younger generation, who would spend an enormous time to finish one of the bigger cross-stitch artworks. You can see girls sitting in shops and while waiting for customers they would stitch away.

I was introduced to the Chinese cross-stitches by a good friend of mine who had been into this art for year. Before I trying it myself I couldn’t understand the hype. Now I do. It is very relaxing. It’s like a form of meditation and when you are done with one piece you feel so accomplished.

There is also nothing better than to give away a self-made cross-stitch. My Chinese parents-in-law told me that some of the bigger cross-stitches can get very expensive (some even over 1000RMB!). I would never sell mine though. It’s more fun to give them as a gift (plus for the really big patterns you need months, the time-cost relation just doesn’t pay off).

I have to be honest; I do enjoy the traditional Chinese cross-stitch pattern. I never got to like the very old Western cross-stitch patterns of flowers or teddy bears. Chinese cross-stitch patterns all come with a specific meaning. At least the traditional ones do. Similar to Chinese paper cutting, every object, every character, in the cross-stitch has a specific meaning.

Nowadays, aside from very traditional motives, there are also a lot of modern ones. And to make it easier many are sold as pre-printed cross-stitches (the pattern is printed on the fabric, simply stitching on top, and when finished washing off the printed color). There are also ways to make your own cross-stitch pattern. The website Knit Pro 2.0 offers a free service which allows you to convert pictures into patterns used for cross-stiches or knitting.

Panda Cross stitch

Currently I am working on a 2.3 meter long cross-stitch of a Chinese landscape. It will take me years, but it is one of the best ways to practice patience and endurance.

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

7 thoughts on “Chinese Cross-stitch 十字绣: It’s not just for old people, you know?

  1. We got from my wife’s aunt also a cross stitch framed picture few years back but we never had the chance to take it with us as it is just too big.

    I remember in kindergarten and elementary school we used to do also this however on a far more “primitive” level :)

  2. I never finished the one cross-stitch pattern I tried. After reading your article, I am now sure it’s because it was a BORING pattern of BORING flowers. The Chinese ones look much more interesting. Thanks for sharing. I did not even know they existed!

    • Maybe you are right. Personally I don’t like any crossstitch pattern. I love the traditional ones, with tigers, or bamboo, or buddhas, or other Chinese gods. There are also very beautiful patterns of chinese landscapes. I have a 2.3m long cross stitch which will look amazing if I ever manage to finish it xD

  3. love ur buddha cross stitch.
    m searching for a buddha pattern to stitch but
    cudnt find a pattern that s suitable.
    googled n found ur blog, urs is perfect!
    do u mind sharing where u get this pattern from?

    • Thank you. I bought the buddha cross stitch pattern in China in a small shop.
      Where are you living? Maybe you can buy it on the Chinese internet or I can buy it for you and send it to you :)

      • Thx for your prompt reply!
        u js gave me a clue whr to get it, i cud get it thru Taobao.
        I m from Malaysia. Wanted to stitch and give it as a gift.
        By the way, how long it took u to finish it n how big is it?
        Ur parents-in-law must b very lucky to hav u!

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