We love combining our love of wildlife with our other hobbies (hence our articles on wildlife-themed board games and jigsaw puzzles), and these lovely cross-stitch kits do just that!
What's the difference between cross stitch and embroidery?
Cross stitching is in fact technically a type of embroidery. In cross stitching, each stitch is a little x and usually worked onto a piece of gridded fabric called aida. This fabric is still and has defined holes in it, making it easy to create stitches. The aida can come in slightly different sizes, with 14-count being the most common (meaning 14 holes per inch of fabric). A pattern (also known as a chart) tells you which stitches and colours to use where.
In comparison, other embroidery generally involves transferring a template outline onto fabric and then filling the outline. There's a greater variety of stitches to use, though there is some overlap with cross stitching.
If you're new to cross stitching (or embroidery), our colleagues over on Gathered.how have got lots of helpful guides and tutorials in their How To Cross Stitch hub (or How To Embroider hub), as well as plenty of free cross-stitch patterns (or free embroidery patterns) to download and enjoy.
We are also planning to put together a guide to wildlife-themed embroidery patterns – so watch this space!
How to choose the right cross stitch kit for you
There's a few factors to keep in mind when shopping for a cross stitch kit – levels of difficulty (including the types of stitches and how many colours are used), how large a design you want to stitch (and how portable it is), the type of chart style, and the quality of fabric and threads. Plus, whether you need to buy a whole kit or if you've got a stash of fabric and threads to hand and actually it would be better to buy and download a chart instead (most of the kits below are also available as standalone charts).
Best wildlife-themed cross stitch kits
‘Shell We Dance’ cross stitch kit, by Wrendale Designs and Bothy Threads
Hannah Dale, the illustrator of the very popular Wrendale Designs range, has teamed up with Kate of Bothy Threads (“The Home of Happy Stitching”) to bring her designs to needlework. There are a lot of designs to choose from, including the well-known highland cow and hare designs, but my eyes were caught by these ever-so-colourful seahorses (above).
The patterns from Wrendale Designs are quite large, suitable (and ideal in fact) for creating cushion covers (this cushion cross stitch kit round-up by our colleagues on Gathered.how includes some information on buying cushion pads and backing fabric). For example, the seahorses design measures 26cm x 26cm. The aida for this particularly pattern (and some others) comes pre-printed - in this case, with the blue bubbles, so that is something to bear in mind when orientating the fabric to begin (not that it should make too much difference if you get it wrong).
Complete beginners to cross stitch are likely to struggle with the symbol-only chart and the variety of colours to use, but once confident, this is a lovely kit.
The design uses full cross stitches and back stitch, and the kit contains: 14 count Zweigart Aida with a printed background, pre-sorted stranded cottons, a needle, stitch chart (symbols only) and instructions.
Feathers cross stitch kit, by Meloca Designs
- Buy now from Etsy
These falling boho feathers are a very soothing design, perfect for hanging up on a wall and I love the combination of colours used. The the pattern chart and accompanying chart key are very clear with which colours need to be stitched where, and only full cross stitches are needed. However, I'd say this kit is likely not suitable for absolute beginners at cross stitch, as the design is just a bit complicated for those new to the craft and some of the colours that are next to each other are similar enough that mistakes could very easily occur. The final design (on the 14 count aida) measures 20.5cm x 28.5cm.
The design uses only full cross stitches and no back or long stitch, and the kit contains: 14 count aida, pre-sorted DMC stranded cottons, an embroidery needle, a counted cross stitch pattern and chart key, and instructions. There is the option to include a hoop (for stitching purposes only) and a needle minder in your purchase.
Geometric hummingbird cross stitch kit, by Geo Creations UK
- Buy now from Etsy
This stunning geometric hummingbird caught our eye with its bright, vibrant colours and abstract design (we also like the look of the geometric dinosaur kits and patterns, those look like great fun!).
This design as listed as advanced by the creator and unsuitable for first timers (and I'd add in, even those with a bit of cross stitching experience that consider themselves intermediately skilled, unless they're up for a real challenge) due to the amount of fractional and back stitches that are required in order to get the very neat and straight edges of the hummingbird's wings and between the colours (a preview of the chart can be seen on the Etsy listing).
The design uses full cross and fractional stitches and back stitch, and the kit contains: 18 count aida, pre-sorted DMC stranded cotton, a needle, counted cross stitch pattern (symbols only), and an instruction manual.
Octopus stitch kit, by Knit Knot Crafts
- Buy now from Etsy
This very sweet octopus cross stitch is a great kit for beginners, with its single type of cross stitch (no fractionals or backstitching required!) and provided embroidery hoop, or for more experienced stitchers that want to stitch something fun and relatively small between larger projects. Unlike the other kits on this page, this one has blue aida fabric provided – perfect for getting that feeling of being underwater with this pretty cephalopod. The included hoop means that it is easy to gift to a friend or family member once complete, or to hang up on your own wall. I've been stitching this with my nephew in mind, but am quite tempted to keep it for myself ...
The design uses full cross stitches only and no back or long stitch, and the kit contains: 14 count blue aida, pre-sorted stranded cotton, a needle, a 5 inch wooden hoop, counted cross stitch pattern, and instructions.
Fox modern cross stitch kit, by Love Poppet
- Buy now from Not On The High Street
Out of all the kits on this page, this is one of the ones that is most suitable for beginners - despite the size (the final design is approximately 16.5cm x 19cm), since a hoop is supplied, it comes with just two colours to handle and full cross stitches (no fractionals or backstitching), and the central starting point means that crafter quickly builds up some very nice (and satisfying) rows of stitches.
Some care is needed as the long rows means it can be easy to miscount and put in too few or too many stitches (the former for me, but quickly noticed and easily remedied!). The fox design is gorgeous, and is based on her popular paper cut art (Not On The High Street) and matches a little needle minder (Not On The High Street).
The design uses full cross stitches, and the kit contains: 14 count aida (or 28 count evenweave if preferred), hoop, pre-sorted DMC stranded embroidery floss, a needle (size 24), counted cross stitch pattern, a tips and tricks leaflet, a guide to making up a cushion. It does not include backing fabric or a cushion pad (this cushion cross stitch kit round-up by our colleagues on Gathered.how includes some information on buying cushion pads and backing fabric).
By The Sea: Fish ‘n’ Chips cross stitch kit, by Karen Carter and Heritage Crafts
This cute design of gulls eating fish and chips at the seaside is part of Karen Carter's By The Sea collection for Heritage Crafts, a specialist cross-stitch company which works with a range of artists (both wildlife artists and others). There is a large variety of kits available, suitable for beginners to advanced crafters (and those in between) and including both traditional and modern designs.
The design uses full cross and fractional stitches, back and long stitch, and the kit contains: 14 count Zweigart Aida, pre-sorted DMC stranded cottons, a needle, charts (symbols only) and general cross-stitch instructions, and measures 20cm x 11cm.
Main image: Cross stitching. © Andrey Cherkasov/Getty