I know its not my normal flair, however this was requested over on the SpriteStitch boards and is actually one of their most popular threads, so I thought I would post it here too.
“I’ve been stitching now for more than 5 years, and in that time; I’ve amassed more than 230 threads, but is it worth getting the complete set of DMC threads?”
That was a year ago, and now, with the full set of DMC threads, I can finally answer the question. However as always, its not that simple.
The story starts back when I picked up a small inch square kit from the local hobby store. I had nothing, yet instantly fell out of favor of the standard kits. So I started making my own, and buying threads up.
The early years
At first you buy a thread here. A thread there, and maybe you buy 10 or 20 for a big project. But it never really goes beyond that. You never finish a thread, resorting to reusing the same color next time, even if it isn’t a perfect fit.
Cross stitch is my main hobby
But things start getting better. You start larger and larger pieces, and you’re getting picking about the right colors. Sure, you still make changes to reuse old ones, but you have 5 reds to choose from, so its OK!
But you realize buying 1 or 2 threads isn’t effective. You get batches, and you start having over-spill from your storage boxes…
I’m serious about this now.
So you get new storage. Maybe you get the DMC boxes.
But that makes you realize how few you have..
But you just keep getting through those blacks… So you buy a cone or two. And that’s where things hold.
You have so much selection you can always find 1st or 2nd choice threads.
And that’s where I caved. Now, to be clear, I didn’t go out of my way to buy all the threads. I had actually got an offer from a store to buy a kit at a discounted cost.
And I turned it down.
And regretted it instantly.
I made a new pattern, and pulled up a list of colors to find I didn’t have any of them, which was rare in itself. I searched my thread book for a good alternative, and didn’t have the second choice.
So I finally splurged on a full 447 set, complete with variegated threads for £250.
Whilst initially I started using a few new threads, I quickly found another problem. Over-spill. I had worked with 230 threads for the better part of 3 years, and when I brought my new set, I also got those 230.
So I had to work through all 230 threads first.
It took 9 months, and a load of stitching, but I got through it all. Now, I can use any color. Now I have so much choice every piece uses a new thread just for the hell of it.
And you know what? I finally have choice when it comes to skin color. Skin tone threads! Ahhhh!
Is it worth it?
Yes. Oh my word yes.
Even though it doesn’t seem it at first, a complete set means you can always pick the right colour. Hold it up to your screen to check its perfect, or put multiple threads next to each other and pick the best.
And it really shows in your work…
Regardless of where you are in your cross stitch journey, you will find a time where you want to stitch, but don’t know what. Unlike the same feeling with reading a book, its not as simple as to just walk into a bookstore, and so I’ve compiled a list of the places I most frequent to get some cross stitch inspiration.
You can buy degree artwork online, for less than £500. Whilst many of these artists have great skill, they’re still exploring their creative side and style. This means the wealth of content from varied styles is staggering. The link above has 1 million pieces in it, all gallery level quality, simply from lesser known artists. This is where the trends for the next few years come from, so get in early.
Online Museum Collections
Etsy is a fantastic place to pick up patterns, completed pieces, and frankly, anything. But its also great at inspiration. The above link looks at just cross stitch within Etsy worldwide, however you can also look at all art (be it cross stitch, paintings, illustrations, etc).
Stock images are quality images created for all kinds of purposes, however they can also serve as inspiration. They’re well put together images from a series of styles and offer a sheer volume greater than even google images. The link above goes to shutterstock, but they’re all as good as each other.
There are loads of artists on DeviantArt that specialise in cross stitch, and most of those find groups like the stitching pirates. They have a whole heap of artwork by previous artists, ranging from super contemporary, to standard kits.
If that doesn’t fill your inspiration bottle, then you can look at all of DeviantArt’s content, or narrow it down on specific words.
When it comes to contemporary sewing, Mr X Stitch is the place to go. It has everything from my own column on video game cross stitch, to not safe for work clothing elements. You can find 7 years of daily posts all lined up and ready for you. Alternatively you can also check out their twitter, which posts a large volume of images too.
There are loads of websites out there that sell t-shirt designs for one day only. This means you get great quality images, filled to the brim of pop culture references on a daily basis. Now, the great thing about these, is they put all their old t-shirt images on their websites to review. So people like dayoftheshirt have compiled all of the shirts in one big repository.
I really wasn’t joking about how perfect Etsy is for inspiration. The above link looks at just pop culture pieces, in all categories.
This link on the other hand looks up all “contemporary” items within the art category. I prefer this as its more narrowed and doesn’t give me something like a teapot, which is inevitably un-cross-stitch-able.
All cross stitchers have their own style and topics, and if you can find one with similar interests, you should check their profiles and past work out. After all, they’re in the same world as you. However, I would also suggest contacting them, speak with how they’re getting their own inspiration.
SpriteStitch is a craft website built upon the sole purpose of great video game cross stitch inspiration, and whilst its changed a bit to include more usual crafts, its still mostly cross stitch.
Fair warning: not everything on this site is cross stitch. In fact, a large section is cosplay, however of the content that can inspire, it sure does.
Want something just video game centric on DeviantArt? Well we have you covered, with a team from the makers of SpriteStitch who only post video game cross stitch.
With little to no effort (just click the link), you can see some of the best curated video game art anywhere on the web, gratis of Etsy.
There are a lot of communities out there looking to fill the video game arena on Pinterest, but the above link features some of the best work possible, and its curated by cross stitchers, so everything you see is possible.
Makibird has some of the best free pokemon patterns out there. No joke. They are simply inspired. Not only that, but she has a slew of other games, and comes out with at least one new pattern a week. Always worth a stop for a free pattern, or some great composition ideas.
Real world inspiration
The V&A in London not only has a large selection of historic samplers among its ranks (including the piece we looks at in the history of cross stitch post), but it’s constantly rotating exhibitions make it a fantastic source of new ideas from other art mediums.
Whilst some of the art can be well over the top, the Tate Modern galleries in England are a great source of unusual ideas. Whilst the average piece might not be to taste, that one random idea pops out of no where.
Maybe an option only for the modern/contemporary art movement, the MoMA is a great source of inspiration due to its sheer volume of art. Just let it soak in…
No list of museums would be complete without the Smithsonian. Simply put, if you can walk around these museums for longer than a few hours without getting crazy inspired then there’s something seriously wrong. The one thing I love in particular about the Smithsonian is the volume of printed material backing up each exhibit. A space shuttle is one thing, but it comes with reams and reams of posters, nasa manuals, detailed specs, blueprints, etc all on display along side.
The affordable art fair offers the largest collection of purchasable art I’ve ever seen. There are thousands of paintings, thousands of sculptures, and even a few cross stitches. The great thing about it though is its been treated like an aspiring artist gallery for decades. Tickets are about £20 each, and that’s all you need. The sale conversion rate is super low (1% max), so you’re in great company of others just walking around. The artists are all there, talking about their own pieces and inspiration, and they enthuse you just by talking to them! I’ve even set up collaborations with artists here before.
Local Art Fairs
Much in the same way that the affordable art fair in the UK works, but on a much smaller scale, local art fairs showcase the best of the local area. The amount of work is likely to be much smaller, and they try to sell in these, but you still get a lot of work to see and inspire you.
An odd idea, granted, however every brand has at least a brand book or guidelines to work from. In turn most push this content out on the web. Whilst some times you may want to copy the style of a brand it can be helpful, but sometimes the visuals are just amazing from these guides. I love NASAs 1970s brand guide for example; pure distilled 70s style.
Sometimes the greatest issue with inspiration is the ability to do ANYTHING, and you just can’t work out what. That’s where competitions really shine. They focus the mind on a set task, usually with some rules to follow, meaning you’re pushed to do the best you can. And if you win you get recognition/free stuff!
I’ve done loads of competitions in the past, and the simple fact of it being a competition always pushes me. After winning with my Transformer Cross Stitch and Arcade Cabinet Cross Stitch I’ve come away with ideas up the wazoo, itching to stitch more projects.
Yeh, you heard me. Book covers go through many design phases with designers, and hold images and text. Depending on what you like to stitch, walk around a book shop and check out some covers, I guarantee some will peak your interest (and in the worse case scenario, you can always buy a book!).
Cross stitch books are a great place to start with a project. I’ve had a few pieces start from designs in a book, to end up looking nothing like them. I tend towards more pop culture books as they push boundaries a bit, I have a Star Wars Kit and a Star Trek Book out that you can try!
This is a bit of a two part inspiration. The first is that travel, and unique experiences change the way you think about things, they add another point of view, and help create a large set of reference material in your head.
That all helps MASSIVELY, however whenever I travel I always pop into a museum or gallery. Not only do they have different stuff, but they’re opinions are different. I went to a Japanese museum which painted America as the aggressor in WWII, and taking opinions out of the matter, they displayed things differently, took the other point of view, and in doing so made me look at a uniform or map in a totally different way.
Movies can be a great source of inspiration for two reasons; style and graphics. Some movies have a signature style, with red hues over the whole thing, maybe a set color palette, but also film scenes in a unique way, which could be great cross stitched!
The second reason is the graphics involved in films. In sci-fi in particular you get fantastic set pieces with objects in them, like harry potter posters, the martian computer screens, or styling of moon’s habitat. You could use them directly, or indirectly for inspiration.
Well that’s not much of a surprise, is it? Video games tend to have rich graphics, full backstories, objects not in the real world, and they create pop culture references that can be used to your advantage.
University Art Sales
Did you know at the end of the school/uni term all the art created that year gets sold? Well now you do. This is a great place to pick up a sub £500 bit of unique and quality art work, however they always feature a wide variety of art styles, more so than any museum or gallery, due to the experimental nature of study, and so have a great source of unique content to feast your inspiration hunger on.
Go For A Walk
Not exactly what you were expecting? Well, when I’m stuck the first thing I do is go for a walk. I tend to know where I’m walking by now, however just the act of walking clears your head. Once you’re back, look at some of the other inspiration sources and something normally comes. And the old adage of one the doors open, the flood comes is true for inspiration.
Something has happened! You spilt something, theres a mark, or even worse; you ripped a bit. Well, fear not, as its ALWAYS savable.
I would start by saying though, that if you wash and iron your work, and store it properly, most of the below issues are fixed by washing it again.
This is a common issue with cross stitch that’s not been washed correctly. The oils from your fingers discolor in sunlight, making brown spots.
If you haven’t ironed the piece, you can just wash it in cold slightly soapy water for about 6 hours and you’ll be golden.
If you have ironed your work, then I’m afraid you’ll have to pick the stitches and redo them. There’s a quick guide on this at the end of the post.
Fairly uncommon on cross stitch, however if you’ve stored it in the frame somewhere you may get rust.
Get ready for science! You want to find some Oxalic acid. You can find it online (its used by Bee keepers) or specalist cleaning stores. In short, it bonds with the iron of rust and makes a water soluble solution. Mix a small amount (10g) with a tablespoon of water, and rub in. Wash it out under a tap after 15 mins and it should be as good as new!
Happens ALL the time. This is most common in old samplers as they had candles around all the time.
Straight from the Smithsonian museum, the best way to clean them is bicarbonate of soda and water. Just rub it on and it will remove the spot by removing the top most layer of threads.
Or you would use white vinegar (very small amounts) which will remove the burn color from the stain.
This usually happens during the sewing, following nose bleeds, however the key here is speed. You want to be cleaning it the SECOND it hits thread/aida. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets to clean.
Salt. I would use a 3:1 salt to water ratio, and just rub it in. Once the salt has gone brown, wash it off. If the stain is still there, repeat.
In rare cases the blood will have dried into the aida and you either can’t access it, or it won’t come out. In this situation get a bowl of warm water and add salt until it doesn’t dissolve anymore. Sit the piece in the water and let it sit. I would suggest covering it with something non-transparent to stop evaporation too.
Yeh, we’ve been there…
Cut a lemon open and drip it onto the pen mark. It should wipe straight off.
But limit the lemon juice, and make sure to give it a good clean afterwards, as over time the lemon will bleach the threads.
As a stern tea lover I’ve had this issue more than a few times. Cold water works well, but if you have soda water/carbonated water that works best. Just poor it over, letting it bubble on the surface until its all out.
This is actually fairly rare, normally as a result of incorrect washing, or a cleaning fluid.
This will take time. Be prepared.
The first step is a big flat pan. Lay it down face up, and add ice on top. Let it melt, add more. Repeat for at least 3 days, if not a week. The colder you keep the project the better, so you can keep it in the fridge or freezer if you want too. After this, wash it in cold water only. Dry it so its thtouch dry, but not perfectly dry. The you need to iron it, stopping any bleed happening in future.
Too late to save
Sometimes its just too late. Maybe you only noticed something weeks after it happened, or the above cleaning doesn’t work. Its OK, as there are ways around it.
Remove a stitch
If the area effected is small enough, then you can remove the stitch and put a new one in. This is actually quite common, and even if you need to remove a whole row, the effort it takes is often less than cleaning.
If the piece has been out in the sun a while, the threads can be a little bleached, and so sit the new thread in lemon juice for a few hours and it should match better.
Three free Pokemon cross stitch patterns. I’m spoiling you, aren’t I?
Whilst some pieces are destined to be framed, there are other finished pieces that just aren’t. That’s not to say they suck, but you JUST HAVE TOO MANY!!!
Cross stitch is addictive, and so you will inevitably need to store some pieces temporarily/permanently. And whilst out of sight out of mind is a great way to think sometimes, finished cross stitch sometimes needs a helping hand. In particular you could get all types of awful things, like rust spots, water damage or warping if not properly stored. But you can fix them with this quick guide on how to remove stains from cross stitch.
There are two accepted ways to store cross stitch; and I tend to use both for different reasons as sadly neither is perfect.
Kinda in the name, isn’t it?
Now I would ALWAYS suggest sending pieces in storage tubes, however they are also a great longer term option. The great thing about them if you can stack them either on top of each other, strapped together, or even better, in a box. I bet you didn’t realize that all tubes are designed to fit into a 1x1x1.5m box in the most optimal way possible? Well now you do!
However, there are down sides.
The first thing to note is you need to cover the tubes. Most tubes are cardboard, and so water CAN go through them. In addition if the ends are left open you could get moths moving in. The easiest method is cling film, however is still not going to protect it from a flood, so always store them high up if possible.
The second, and most irritating, is warping. Whilst the cross stitch will stay square, it curls. Heavily. In fact, the tube creates are warmth which causes the aida to permanently warp. Now, I’ve just said permanent, but in reality you’ll be looking at maybe 10 years in a tube before its permanent. A quick ironing will be enough to clear any shaping issues up.
But this isn’t my preferred permanent storage method; that title goes to the next type of storage.
Flat portfolio storage
Portfolios are problematic from the start. Firstly, they’re HUGE, and secondly they need to be laied flat, which can be a massive problem. Then there’s the sheer choice, why are some hard, some soft?
I can’t tell you to be honest, they just are, however they have massive positives when it comes to cross stitch storage.
- They’re flat.
- They split the cross stitch out so there are no threats of bugs.
- They’re waterproof.
- They’re naturally sun bleach proof.
- They’re cheap.
- They’re easy to store (once you have a space for them).
In short, so long as you can cope with the sheer size of them, they’re great. However, as they’re so good at storage, feel free to store them in a loft, under the bed, or anywhere out the way…
Continuing my free cross stitch pattern posts; this is one I’ve never actually stitched before, however you can enjoy!
A freshly washed cross stitch is great, but unless you want to store your stitch you’ll want to show off your gorgeous piece? Well, good news for you, as Lauren of Plastic Little Covers has you covered with this perfect little guide on how best to frame cross stitch. You can also pick up the pattern used for this guide on her Etsy store.
Here’s a quick cross stitch framing tutorial for you all!
Before I start with this no doubt subpar tutorial, let me preface it with the fact that I am in no way precious about the way in which I finish a project. There are definitely neater ways to do it, so if you’re a perfectionist this mightn’t be for you! I also took the photos during the grim winter months here in the North East of England. To quote Florence & the Machine “no light, no light…”
Having said that, on the rare occasion I go all out with a frame this is the method that works for me, so here it is:
Things you’ll need:
Your ironed cross stitch with at least two inches of excess material around all edges of the design.
A photo frame
Acid-free foam board (sometimes labelled as foam core mount board). Make sure you get a colour that coordinates with your fabric, white for white etc.
Needle and strong thread (the thread in the photo was as weak as my tutorial game, so make sure you’ve got something strong enough to pull taut without snapping. I actually ended up using Anchor embroidery floss, which wasn’t ideal but just about did the job.)
Scissors (pictured are my tiny embroidery scissors, but you’d be better off using a pair of sharp habedashery scissors for trimming your cross stitch and kitchen scissors or something similar for the mount board) It’s even better to use a proper cutter for the board, but alas! I don’t have one.
First off you need to cut your foam board down to a suitable size for the inside of your frame. My frame was 6 x 4 inches, so I cut it to a few millimetres shy of that. You’ll want it to fit inside the frame but still have a little bit of wiggle room at the edges for when the cross stitch fabric is eventually folded around it. Check you’ve got that gap by trying the foam board in the frame, it shouldn’t be too snug or be wedged in there.
Now that you have your expertly measured foam board at the ready, it’s time to pick up that lovely cross stitch of yours. Position it over the foam board, making sure that the design is central and level, and begin by folding the top side down. Find the middle of your design and push a pin into the foam centre of the board right on the top edge. Repeat at the bottom.
Repeat Step Two, this time at the centre of the left and right sides. As you do this try to make sure that the fabric is as flat as it can be, and pulled fairly evenly across the board.
Start working your way out from the centre, placing pins diagonally opposite each other, a couple at a time on each side. As you do this check that your design is still central, and that the fabric is laying flat and taut. Continue all the way round.
Now that you’ve finished pinning flip the whole thing over. This is where my shambolic tutorial skills once again show themselves. For reasons unknown I’m holding the whole thing the wrong way round in the photo below. S0 what looks like top to bottom is actually side to side. * Sighs*
What you need to do is fold your sides inwards, and lace them together. I found doing the sides first is best for a flatter overall finish. For the lacing you’re going to need a really long length of your thread, as you can see I underestimated and had to do a shoddy retying job in the middle. For my lacing I started at about 1cm from the edge (you can go in closer to the edge than that if you want), and stitched backwards and forwards between the two sides. Pull it tight as you go, but make sure you’re not warping the board.
If you’re still with me here then not only are you some kind of modern hero, but the end is also in sight!
At this stage fold over the top and bottom edges and lace those too.
As you can see my back isn’t the tidiest, but I left far more than two inches of excess around the piece and didn’t pull very tight with my stitches, so it’s all a bit bulkier than usual.
There are neater ways to finish a piece (there’s a snazzy method of folding your corners down and sewing them, which gives the whole thing a lovely finish), which I’d be happy to point you in the direction of if you’ d like to try them!
After you’ve done all of that you should find that the surface of your cross stitch is pulled nice and taut across the board, and that the edges are smooth.
Rejoice and remove those pins!
Because you left that little bit of wiggle room at the start you should find that your cross stitch fits into the frame nice and snugly now.
This is just one of many ways to finish a cross stitch piece. There’s also the option of embroidery hoops and professional framing. Ultimately it’s all about personal preference and budget! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch!