Have you wondered how to do
reversible cross stitch?

Is it possible to work reversible cross stitch?

I was first asked about this at a blackwork class I ran, which is often worked reversibly. However, I hadn't tried doing the same thing when doing cross stitch so it took a while to come up with a technique that gave the desired results. 

Before I started my experimentation I wanted to know the reason behind the question...

Why do you want to make your work reversible?

Here were some of the answers...

  • So that when you stitch towels or tablecloths etc. they look good whichever side is visible.
  • So when someone turns your work over to look at the back they are surprised!
  • For the challenge!
  • So that Christmas decorations can twirl on the tree and still look good

I couldn't argue with any of these, so I set to and came up with a solution.

Can all cross stitch designs be stitched this way?

I found that this technique is best suited for designs with simple blocks of colour or checked/plaid type patterns. You might find it tricky to stitch more complex or realistic designs that use lots of different colour changes.

The method I am going to explain here is easy, and it gives you crosses on both sides of the work resulting in that all-important tidy back to your cross stitch project.


How to work reversible cross stitch

We will work with a variation of the continental method of working cross stitch; i.e. work a row of the first "legs" of the stitches and cross them on the way back. This is demonstrated on my learn cross stitch page

The difference is that we will miss out alternate stitches as shown in the first photo, below. Here I have completed the first row and am working back along the second.

When you have the first "layer" in place you can then work over the area again filling in the gaps in the same manner as before, but taking note of where the different coloured stitches are positioned.

To keep the back neat, try to fasten off your threads under their own colour if at all possible.

You can work the second "layer" either horizontally or vertically depending on the pattern. If you have a run of stitches in a particular direction then use that as your guide as to which way to go.

An issue I encountered

If, like me, you use the loop method of starting your thread when working with two strands, you will find an empty area on the back of your reversible cross stitch wherever you start a new thread.

On my stitched sample you can see this where I changed colour from red to green at the bottom centre.

However I have now worked out a way to eliminate this problem.

When you take your first stitch, which will create the anchoring loop, work it over the top of an existing cross stitch. (Be careful to make sure the stitch lies in the same direction as the top stitch so as to keep things looking even and tidy.) Then your next stitch will be in the gap of the previous layer as normal.

This technique has a lot of potential and can be a fun process. Enjoy!

Do let me know if you try it out.

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