A journey to create something beautiful every day!

Make Your Own Cross Stitch Family Portrait

Learn how to make your own cross stitch family portrait!

As the holiday season approached I was trying to think of the perfect gift for my mother and mother-in-law. The older I get, the harder it seems to find gifts for people that can already buy anything they want themselves. I had come across pictures of cross stitch families several times and found instructions on martha stewart’s website and thought it would be a great idea. I already knew how to cross stitch and had plenty of left over thread from previous projects so I made the decision and got started on my very own cross stitch family portrait. With these instructions you too can make your own!


  • 14 count fabric
  • Skin tone & other color thread
  • Cross Stitch Needle
  • Excel or graph paper
  • Embroidery Hoop

Time: 1 hour per person

Cost: $20 (or less if you already have thread and a hoop)


Step 1: Choose a Photo

The first step is to choose a photo to base the cross stitch family portrait off of. I chose a photo from our most recent family pictures. This way you can use the hair styles and clothes worn as a pattern for the cross stitch. It also helps to look at a photo of everyone together for heights. (I am the super short one on the left…..)

Step 2: Make a Simple Pattern

Use the photo to create your own cross stitch pattern. Subscribe below to have my excel file emailed to you to use as a reference. You can also use Martha Stewart’s website here or purchase this book from Stitch People here to help you make your pattern.

Simply color in the blocks on excel or graph paper with the various colors of thread you will use. Each box on the pattern will represent a cross stitch or “x” made with the thread on the fabric. I started with heads and then added hair styles and necks followed by a basic shirt and pants for each. Then I changed sleeve lengths and styles. Start with the tallest person near the top of the sheet and then use them as a reference for the rest.

How to create a pattern for a cross stitch family portrait

Step 3: Condense the Pattern

This is the step that I differ from both resources mentioned above. I think it looks better to have the people touching and overlapping instead of space between each one. Let me tell you this is easier said then done.

 (***See note below if you would like me to make you a pattern).

Start a new sheet in excel and copy and paste one two of the people on the page. Highlight one and move it towards the other until they over lap. Then fill in the boxes that have been replaced by white with the correct color. Continue this until they look the way you want. Use the bottom of the pants as an easy way to make sure the heights haven’t changed from the previous page.

Creating cross stitch patterns in excel

Step 4: Find Center

Print out your pattern and fold in half to find the center. Fold your fabric in half and begin there. This will ensure that your entire family fits on the fabric and is nicely centered.

Step 5: Begin Stitching

I like to begin with skin color on the middle person. That way I can set the height of the stitching on the fabric and use a color that is not just for one person. I think it goes faster when you stitch color by color rather than person by person, but you can choose whatever way you would like.

Learn how to make a cross-stitch family portrait!

Step 6: Finish People

I have estimated that it takes about 1 hour per person, but it could take a little longer at first and depending on how many color changes you have (or how tall the people are….) but congrats at this point you probably have a very cute looking family portrait unique to your family. You can stop here and skip to step 8 (framing) or move onto step 7.

Learn how to make your own cross-stitch family portrait!

Step 7: Back Stitching

Back stitching is a method used to add more detail to your cross stitch family piece. Most commonly, it is used to write out words or numbers such as “The Butler Family 2017” as I did. I would suggest this youtube video for instructions on how to back stitch. There are plenty of other good ones too. I also used back stitching on the button up shirts and bow. This is the alphabet I used but again there are plenty to choose from.

Step 8: Frame & Show It Off

Measure your finished product to figure out what size frame would work best. Custom framing can be expensive so I would recommend standard sizes. Iron our creases in fabric on a low setting. Cut around and tape the edges of the fabric using painters tape so it will not unravel. Place inside frame and display.

Note: if you get a cross stitch professionally framed, they will stretch it over cardboard/equivalent and glue the edges down on the back. It makes it tricky to ever change frames in the future.


Learn how to make your own cross-stitch family portrait!

^^ This was cross stitch family portrait take 2 this time for my own mother.

***If you would like me to make a pattern of your cross stitch family to work off of, email me the photo at mycraftadventures@gmail.com or dm me on instagram. I'll charge $15 via Venmo.

Hi there! My name is Jen and these are my crafting adventures. Join me on my journey to create something beautiful every day!