Thats NOT a cross stitch sampler!?!

The oldest surviving sampler. Jane Bostocke, England, 1598 (source: collections.vam.ac.uk)

Today, I want to talk about samplers, both in the general sense as well as cross stitch. I know your first thought might be “Its a sample, whats more to learn?” however samplers are a very interesting part of cross stitch history. One that whilst looking rather simple actually has complicated roots.
 

Sampler
[sam-pler, \sam-plər\]

noun

  1. 1 – A piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of skill, typically containing the alphabet and some mottoes.
  2. 2 – A representative collection or example of something.

 
I figured we should start with a definition of a sampler, considering what the topic is about, however that simple definition hides something. In fact, it hides something major about samplers. That simple description suggests that anything cross stitched, unless its a reference tool, isn’t a sampler. However, that simply isn’t true. So lets break down exactly why.

15th Century

In our history of cross stitch we see how counted cross stitch was invented just before the 15th century. During this time samplers, we, exactly as you expect; samples. Books weren’t in common print, cross stitch patterns definately didn’t exist, and so samplers existed as professionally curated parts stitched together into long scroll like reference materials.

The oldest surviving sampler. Jane Bostocke, England, 1598 (source: collections.vam.ac.uk)
The oldest surviving sampler. Jane Bostocke, England, 1598 (source: collections.vam.ac.uk)

17th Century

The state of samplers somewhat continued in the same vein for sometime, before spot samplers came in during the 17th century. During this time, books were starting to be produced with patterns for purely cross stitch, however cross stitch was still firmly a hobby for europeans. In order to appeal to the English, books were put together without cross stitch alphabets, and as a result started to focus on objects.

18th Century

This trend boomed. Not only in the intended country of England, but in European countries as well. Pushed on by the import of cheap German wool, cross stitch was no longer a hobby for the super rich, and was possible for the moderately wealthy too (small steps). It meant that wool thread was no longer something to be used sparingly, allowing for greater change and in turn, more creativity. For a time, samplers became works of art. Instead of simply being a sample of something, they were an object in themselves, to be cherished. In fact, samplers were often created for funerals and morning activities. If you want to more about this point in history for cross stitch, check out our article on death and cross stitch.

Mourning Sampler (USA), ca. 1850; wool, silk and metal-wrapped silk embroidery on cotton foundation; H x W: 11 3/4 x 15 1/2 in.; Gift of Anonymous Donor from the Fraser/Martin Collection (source: rachelpiso.com)
Mourning Sampler (USA), ca. 1850; wool, silk and metal-wrapped silk embroidery on cotton foundation; H x W: 11 3/4 x 15 1/2 in.; Gift of Anonymous Donor from the Fraser/Martin Collection (source: rachelpiso.com)

19th Century

However, the 19th century is what most people think of when someone says sampler. A usually forced activity that young ladies in waiting would need to complete to show they were marriage material. However this is where the word sampler starts to get murky. Yes, there were written words in cross stitch during this time, often religious text, mottoes and icons, however their purpose was not a sample. In fact, the only cross stitch, was a sampler. A collection that depicted anything the cross stitcher wanted. It could include poems, religious passages, or just images.

Linen sampler embroidered with silk, by Elizabeth Parker, Ashburnham Forge, Sussex, England, about 1830. (Source: Victoria & Albert Museum)
Linen sampler embroidered with silk, by Elizabeth Parker, Ashburnham Forge, Sussex, England, about 1830. (Source: Victoria & Albert Museum)

Modern Times

So what of modern times? What now? We know samplers can be a collection of mottoes, words, icons, images, they can be a reference material, or a finished piece.
Well, that says it all. Cross stitch, however stitched, is always a sampler. It doesn’t matter what it contains, what parts it includes or not, its always a sampler. A piece of work for the simple reason to show off its skill in being made. This of course opens up the debate about is cross stitch art or craft, however cross stitch has always been a collection. A collection of stitches.

World War 2 sampler by imprisoned POW Major Alexis Casdagli
World War 2 sampler by imprisoned POW Major Alexis Casdagli (source: V and A website)

 
I’d like to thank the Victoria & Albert Museum for their resource on the history of samplers, which was super helpful in putting this article together, and a great read.

What’s the Best Cross Stitch Needle For You?

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

A few weeks ago we listed out some of the best known cross stitch needle brands and gave them reviews based on a lot of factors. However, despite allowing us to work out who the best cross stitch needles were made by, we got a few people asking about different types of needles. In that post, we only focused on your standard needles, and we made comment on their range, but didn’t go into why you would want a specific type of needle.
Well, in the same way we helped to find the best cross stitch scissors for you we’re doing the same with needles!

Normal Needles

The standard cross stitch needle for anyone who picks up a cross stitch kit, and for everyone that follows standard cross stitch needle size for aida count tables. The normal needle works well. It’s been perfected for literally hundreds of years (in fact, we covered this in our history of the cross stitch needle). However, it doesn’t mean its the perfect needle for you.
Yes, it works fine, its easy to pick up in a variety of materials, and you can pick them up for pennies if you’re looking to save money in cross stitch. In reality, needles like this tend to wear heavily, which was why we wrote about getting rid of your old needles.
 
So why would it be perfect? Well, simply put, you either want an easy needle that you don’t have to think too hard about, or you prefer a longer needle.

cross stitch needle (source: cross-stitching.com)
Cross stitch needles; rounded and sharp (source: cross-stitching.com)

Petite/Small Needles

Of course, petite needles are basically the same as a normal needle, but they’re smaller. This isn’t much of a bonus if you want a longer needle, however petite needles allow you to move through the aida fabric with much more ease. In reality, a size 24 needle (standard for 14 count aida) is slightly larger than the whole it goes into. With a petite needle, you can drop it through the whole with ease.
However petite needles give you a lot more variety with stitching too. I prefer to use a smaller needle, rather than a petite. I use a size 26 for 14 count fabric. It has the same impact as using a petite, but is much easier to get hold of, and usually cheaper.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want a smoother stitching experience.

Gold Needle

The next set of needles to look out for are gold needles. Now, most people expect that to mean a whole needle in gold, and sometimes that is the case, but you can also get gold eyes. The reason some only have gold eyes is to put the price down. The widest part of the needle is the eye, so if you wan make that area slip through the material better, it improves the whole needle experience. Essentually, that’s the purpose of a gold needle. Gold is slightly smoother than nickel, so moves through the fabric better. Now, gold does comes off. In fact, the reason to stop using gold needles is the plating has come off, and that means gold needles rarely have a long life span, however they do move smoothly through fabric, and so can be a good idea if you can’t find a petite.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want a smoother stitching experience, but like a larger needle.

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)
gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

Easy Guide Needles

Next up, we have a little needle that not that many people know about. Instead of a rounded tip of a normal cross stitch or tapestry needle, easy guide needles have a small ball. This allows you to get a lot better control over your tip, but still allows you to traverse the fabric without punchering it. For many, control isn’t much of an issue, however those with a slight shake can find a massive benefit in using easy guide needles.
They do have a small downside though; they are very hard to get hold of, and don’t come in many sizes. We pick ours up from Etsy.com however even then they can be hard to find.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want greater control.

Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)
Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)

Self Threading Needles

For many, the worst part of cross stitch, is trying to get the dang needle threaded. I know many people who use needle threaders however the same issue always comes up; they break. They break ALL the time. There are needle threaders that don’t break, but for many, a needle threader is something else to loose in their cross stitch kit. So instead, there are self threading needles.
Now, there are loads of different self threading needle types, and due to this, they can cause you issues in your cross stitch experience. For many self threading needles aren’t worth it, but for those that struggle with threading the needle, they can be a life saver (if an expensive one).
 
So why would it be perfect? You struggle to thread the needle.

Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)
Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)

Double Needles

Finally, we have the double needle. Many don’t even know it exists, and when they see one, they often think its a crazy needle for a machine or something. Now, you do have to change the way to cross stitch with a double needle, but it allows you to cross stitch faster.
They are fairly hard to come by, and they don’t come in gold. They break often, and they’re weird to use. But they increase your speed by an insane amount. If you value speed; these are the needles for you.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want to speed up your cross stitching.

Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)
Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)

Who Makes The Best Cross Stitch Needles?

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

We love cross stitch needles here at Lord Libidan. In the past we’ve covered the suprising history of the cross stitch needle and how cross stitch needles are made in length, but a recent post about time to ditch your cross stitch needle led us into interesting territory; some cross stitch needles last longer than others. And that got us thinking, whats the best cross stitch needle manufacturer out there?
 
Thankfully, over the last 6 months, we’ve tested over 130 needles from the 6 biggest brands to rate needles. We chose to include durability, plating, quality, range and price as factors, but chose not to include availability (although we do make comment on this in the reviews). We chose to ignore stuff like self threading needles, so we’re looking at purely common cross stitch needles.
 

DMC Needles

Most of the time, when we hear of issues with needles, it turns out to be a DMC needle. This is probably due to many picking them up in kits, however our testers rated DMC needles the worst in durability and how fast the plating comes off across all the brands we’ve tested, normally with the eye breaking. However, DMC needles do have something going for them. Firstly, they are easy to pick up, they come in a massive (but not exhaustive) range, and they are really cheap. As a way of testing out needles like petites and gold plated, they are a great place to start, but I wouldn’t use them as a standard needle.
 

Durability – 2/5
Plating – 2/5
Quality – 2/5
Range – 4/5
Price – 5/5
Total – 3/5

 

John James Needles

For most, John James needles seem to be the standard in the cross stitch world. And this is due to the fact that they’re a great all round needle. Yes, they do break, but they last a good amount of time, and with a strong eye, the main issue is loosing its plating. Yes, the plating does come off, in gold needles particularly fast, however you can easily use a single needle for 2 or 3 projects before needing to replace it. They do have a whole range, including golds and petites, however finding anything other than the standard count needles can be very hard, and the price jumps as a result.

Durability – 3/5
Plating – 4/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 4/5
Price – 4/5
Total – 3.5/5

 

Hemline Needles

Hemline produces some OK needles. They last a long time, the plating tends to stay on for a long period of time, they don’t go blunt often either. However, there are two big issues with Hemline. The first is the range; they have standards, but no petites, and if you want gold plated, the price jumps a very long way, making them some of the most expensive needles on the list. This makes them a little too much effort for their price, and we’d suggest others on the list that can be quite cost effective.

Durability – 3/5
Plating – 3/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 1/5
Price – 2/5
Total – 2.5/5

 

Milward Needles

A lot of people know of Milward needles thanks to sewing, and honestly, they make great sharps, however their tapestry needles seem to suffer from a few manufacturing issues. They tend to have a weak eye (at least in our tests) and the plating doesn’t last as long as the likes of John James needles. However, the price and overall quality of the needles are OK. For a single project needle, Milward do a good job. Once again though, range is an issue. No gold needles, no petite needles, and you usually have to buy in packs of multiple sizes. Milward get a big thumbs down from us.

Durability – 2/5
Plating – 2/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 1/5
Price – 3/5
Total – 2/5

 

Clover Needles

Our tests with Clover needles came back very positive. They had a fantastic life span, they kept their plating longer than any other needle on the test (including gold needles, which is shocking), and the range is rather large. The issues we had were two fold, firstly, finding these needles (outside of Japan) can be hard, meaning you often have to get packs with other needles you don’t need/want, and price. They are very expensive needles. This might just be down to the import costs, however our testers all over the world reported high costs.

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 5/5
Quality – 4/5
Range – 3/5
Price – 2/5
Total – 4/5

 

Bohin Needles

Bohin needles rock. They’re very well made, the plating doesn’t come off for anything, and they just don’t break. They also have a good price point considering how well they’re made. However, Bohin needles are a problem in two ways. Firstly, getting your hands on them, anywhere in the world, is always tough. For some reason Bohin aren’t in many retailers, even online, making picking up a pack hard. This usually comes with a large postage cost from a different continent and so the price rockets up quickly. The second issue is the range. Whilst they have a full set of sizes, they only have one size of petites, and no gold plated needles. But they do have a double eye needle, and a self threading needle too.
 

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 5/5
Quality – 5/5
Range – 3/5
Price – 3/5
Total – 4/5

 

Tulip Needles

Let me start by saying just how much I love Tulip needles. They were so nice to use it was shocking, they never seem to break, tey keep their point well, and whilst the gold does come off, it isn’t quick. The range is full, with packs of a variety and single sizes. Not only that, but getting hold of them wasn’t that hard either. But let’s talk about the big issue here; cost. Tulip needles are VERY expensive, and whilst you do get a quality needle for the price, we’re just not sure we can devote that kind of price to a needle. There are perks that make up for this, like little glass vials they come in, but once you have a few of these you want to change to plastic ones, and packs without the vial are just as expensive.

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 4/5
Quality – 5/5
Range – 5/5
Price – 1/5
Total – 4/5

 
There you have it, our round up of the best known cross stitch needle brands out there. Hopefully this test will help you pick out your next needle supplier, however we should say that storing your cross stitch needles well and using a needle minder will increase the lifespan of your needles.
 
So, what’s our choice? Whilst they are expensive, Tuplip needles were the nicest to use, and if you can afford them, go nuts, however the cheaper and just as good needles from Clover Needles are the best for us.

Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)
Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)

Squid Cross Stitch Pattern Spotlight

Giant Squid vs Great White Shark Cross Stitch Pattern by Richearts (Source: Etsy)

A few weeks back we talked about a killer tea cross stitch pattern that was featured on our how to make sure you buy a quality cross stitch pattern post. Today we show off the other pattern featured; squid.

Giant Squid vs Great White Shark Cross Stitch Pattern by Richearts

Giant Squid vs Great White Shark Cross Stitch Pattern by Richearts (Source: Etsy)
Giant Squid vs Great White Shark Cross Stitch Pattern by Richearts (Source: Etsy)

Giant squid might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for cross stitch patterns online, and a giant squid fighting a shark even less, however as soon as we saw this pattern, we were interested. The topic might be a little weird, but by moving the bodies slightly there is a real feeling of movement in the pattern, giving you a real idea that its a struggle between these two beasts.
The way the designer has lowered the color count to very deep colors, with glimmering around the two gives a real feeling its deep down in the sea, cold, dark and unforgiving.
 
This pattern was found on Etsy.

Are magnifiers worth it for cross stitch?

I recently won the best miniature cross stitch in the National Needlecraft Awards this year with my miniature traditional pirate samplers and as a result I won a fancy magnifying light. This was the first one I ever got, and whilst it gave me loads of ideas for miniature cross stitch, I didn’t realise the problems it would have.

mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)
mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)

The Positives

I initially planned on using my magnifier on a few small count projects, think 32 count, however before I got to that point I ended up pulling it out to check something on my cross stitch project using 14 count. I would normally have squinted or pulled it close to my face, but for the first time ever, I could just use a magnifier to see it with ease!
Not only that, but cross stitching on black aida has been made considerably easier with the massive light source the magnifier has brought me. I actually use my magnifier a lot, far more than I thought I would, and whilst the super magnification area gets a lot less use, it being there means I have something to use a back up if I still can’t get that dang stitch to lie properly.

Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch
Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch

The Negatives

So what exactly are the negatives I’ve refered to?
Well, whilst its great having a tool at your disposal, relying on a magnifier is a whole different thing. Its bright lighted area and magnification causes havoc with your eyes. And stitching with daylight lamps when its not daylight can cause problems with sleep cycles too.
However the biggest issue is that magnification requires a lot of eye use, and its very common for people to get involved in what they’re doing and not taking regular breaks. For those with good eyesight, this can have long term effects on your eye health, and for those who already have eye issues, it can make is substantially worse. That doesn’t mean you have to give up cross stitch if you rely on one though; magnifiers are great to use non-regularly, so consider stitching less, lighting your stitching area better, or reducing the count of your fabric so its easier on the eyes.

Is it worth it?

All in all, I think magnifiers are a fantastic tool for a cross stitcher, even those without issues seeing things in detail (why strain your eyes when you don’t have to) however they should be used as a tool in your amoury, rather than something to rely on all the time.
If you are one of those who needs it regularly, try reducing your aida count, or using a smaller magnification, taking regular breaks and lighting up your stitching area as much as possible with natural light.

Do You Actually Need To Remove Your Cross Stitch From The Hoop?

Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t keep your cross stitch in a hoop… but it that actually true?
 
Over the last 6 months I’ve been testing out different cross stitch frames ad leaving aida in them for seriously long periods of time. Just to see, what happens. And the answer, is actually a little complicated.

Does it leave marks?

When I asked around, the main reason people gave for not wanting to keep cross stitch in the frame/hoop was leaving marks. But does it?
Yes. But also no. Hoops, bar frames, ‘Grip n Clip’ all leave marks. Now, frames and Q snaps don’t, but they can curl the fabric. This really isn’t much of an issue if you wash it, but there are many out there that don’t wash your cross stitch.
But hoops do leave marks. Our tests showed that even loose tension hoops could put marks in aida left for a week. Just one week. Now, they can be dealt with, fairly easy, but the longer you leave the hoop in, the harder it is to get out. We’ve tried, and we still can’t get some hoop marks out.
If you’re looking for more info, I’ve rounded up the results in my post about which cross stitch frame is best.

Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)
Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)

Does it cause other problems?

So what about other problems? Well, here is where the story gets interesting. Leaving your cross stitch in the frame or hoop, DOES cause other issues. Some of these can be easy to deal with, others, not so much.
 
Stretching – Frames and hoops stretch your fabric. That’s their point after all. But consistent and long term stretching will permanently keep the stretch. This might change a 14 count into a 12 count (one of our test peices was stretched this much), and whilst that doesn’t seem too bad initially it can have implications. If you’re looking to frame it, it might not fit. It its stretched, all the holes are bigger, letting the background show through. And the biggest thing? Its rarely uniform. There’s nothing worse than having a miss shapen part of your cross stitch that took hours and hours to complete…
 
Crushing Stitches – In my opinion, this is the biggest issue with leaving cross stitch in a frame, as its unfixable. Lets say you’ve stitched a section and you move your hoop and some of your stitches are under the hoop. Those stitches are being crushed. Even for short periods of time this can be an issue, which is why I use a frame, which is slightly better, but still has the problem. As you crush those stitches, the tension goes, the top stitch can wonder, and you can even pull the threads out if you’re not careful.
Crushed stitches are really obvious in a finished cross stitch, and whilst washing can give them a little rejuvenation, it can’t fix the worse cases.
 
Dirt – This is actually a fairly big issue. I know you’re thinking you can just wash your cross stitch, but when its in a frame or hoop the aida is pulled apart slightly. If dirt gets into these stretched parts, it gets stuck and you can’t wash it out as easy. A good solution here is a grime guard, but if you’re traveling, always remove it from the frame.

So do you need to remove it from the frame?

Well, it depends.
If you’re traveling, regardless of the frame or hoop you use, REMOVE IT. You’re just asking for trouble, even with a grime guard. But for anyone not travelling, its all about the frame itself. Personally, I would always loosen it when its in a frame (just to remove the tension), but when its in a hoop, remove it. Whilst the hoop marks are fairly easy to get out (see below) its not worth the extra effort, and can damage some of your stitches if you leave the hoop in long enough.

Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)
Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)

What happens if the worse has already happened?

OK, so you might be reading this after the event, so let me help you if its too late.
 
Marks/Stretching – If you’ve been left with marks or stretching, wash, dry and iron your cross stitch. It’s important that you follow the drying stage of this guide if you’ve got stretching or hoop marks as the ‘blocking’ as its refered to allows the aida to move back into shape. If you’ve still got marks after one wash, wash it again (before ironing). It can take quite a few cycles to get those annoying hoop marks out.
 
Dirt – Generally, washing will probably help you here too, but if you’re really struggling to get some of that ingrained dirt out, you can try a few cross stitch stain removal techniques to help you get it out.

Washing cross stitch (source: peacockandfig.com)
Washing cross stitch (source: peacockandfig.com)

Home Sweet Home Futurama Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Futurama Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Futurama Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Futurama Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Home Sweet Home Futurama Cross Stitch
Date Completed: October 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: White
Colours: 3
Pop Culture: Futurama
 
Before I started cross stitching back in 2001, I knew of cross stitch. This was before the big cross stitch revolution in England, and I didn’t have anyone I knew cross stitching, or even crafting. So how did I know about it? Futurama. Yes, the sci-fi cartoon.
 
But I want to go slightly further back to tell this story. Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons and Futurama, has regularly made nods to needlework in the past. In fact, Marge Simpson cross stitches, which we covered in our Celebrities That Cross Stitch post, but it was always something that someone was doing. It was never a main joke itself. But then Futurama comes along.
Futurama Screenshot S01E03 of Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch (Source: Reddit)
Futurama Screenshot S01E03 of Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch (Source: Reddit)

As you can see from the above screenshot, Futurama made a simple joke using the ‘home sweet home’ cross stitch in its first season when Fry and Bender get an apartment. But teenage me, who fell head over heels for Futurama didn’t quite get it. Clearly, it was a joke. Clearly, you were meant to understand. But I didn’t. Until a lot of lewd jokes that might go over your head, this was a joke that was clear as day, begging you to laugh.
 
Well, I looked it up. I saw the cross stitch, but I still didn’t understand. I ended up learning to code from that Futurama code, and now I get the joke, and in fact, I can see the error in the programming now too, but it was the first time I saw cross stitch, and understood it was a thing.
 
I’ve taken on the joke, and I’ve even stitched a Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch in the past, like many cross stitchers and made a free pattern of it too, however not the version that first showed me cross stitch. Some 20 years later, when rewatching Futurama I knew I had to stitch this up.
 
Sadly, despite the many patterns out there for this, none were perfect. This is mostly due to the fact that its a cartoon and pixels mean nothing, so its impossible to make it perfect, but I made my own and tried to be as close as possible without ruining the overall look.

The Best Cross Stitch Gifts Guide (Updated for 2019)

The Best Gifts For Cross Stitchers

Christmas is nearly upon us, and we all know how hard it is to buy gifts for hobbies we don’t know much about. So here’s an updated holiday gift guide on what to buy the cross stitcher in your life. They’re arranged by price lowest to highest.

Cross Stitch Gifts Under 25 Dollars Cross Stitch Gifts Under 40 Dollars Cross Stitch Gifts Under 100 Dollars

Cross Stitch Gifts Under $25/£20

Fun Needle Minders – from $5

Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)
Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)

Christmas is mostly about fun gifts you might not buy yourself, and something many cross stitchers never buy is a fun needle keep. You can get them in thousands of different designs, and there are a lot of custom made ones out there like this 3D printed Pokemon charizard for $6 from Etsy. They’re a little bit fun, and you can combine other things together, so if their other favorite hobby is reading, get a book based one, etc. There are a lot of options here, so we also made a guide on inding the perfect needle minder that you might find helpful!

ThreadHeaven Alternatives – from $5

Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)
Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)

Sadly this year we lost one of the most beloved cross stitch companies, ThreadHeaven. For those who don’t know, they produced a fantastic thread moisturiser that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock avaliable (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)
Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)

We are passionate about scissors, but these micro snips from Canary are super tiny scissors that can fit on your keychain, are super easy to use, and are TSA compliant for plane travel.

ThreadCutterz – $12 to $15

Thread Cutterz (source: threadcutterz.com)
Thread Cutterz (source: threadcutterz.com)

Cross stitch takes time, and a great place to stitch is on planes and trains, however with security being tightened all over, ThreadCutterz have come to the rescue with a plane safe alternative to scissors.
They can only currently be brought from ThreadCutterz themselves.

Thread Shade Chart – $20

We have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, and we know that a lot of people use it on a day to day basis, however on screen images aren’t always that reliable, and having the read threads in your hands are a much better alternative. As a result one of the best tools I’ve ever picked up is a cross stitch thread card. We’ve even detailed why you need a DMC thread card. DMC (the most common thread company) do a version with thread samples ($20) including the new DMC threads, which is far superior. Think about getting a metallic shade card from Kreinik too ($36).

DMC complete thread card (small)
DMC complete thread card

 

Scissor Sheaths – from $5

Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)
Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)

There’s nothing more fancy than covering the sharp ends of your scissors with a nicely made scissor sheath. Not only that, but it has a practical benefit of keeping the scissors sharper much longer, by reducing dust build up. You can pick up a nice cover for under $5, so you might want to combine this with a nice fancy pair of embroidery scissors too.

The Perfect Frame – $12 to $30

Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)
Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)

I know a lot of people thing cross stitch is a bit simple, but in reality RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is a real issue. The best way to solve this is a suitable cross stitch frame. The best one in my mind is a EasyClip frame ($20), but you can see a roundup of cross stitch frames on my recent post about the perfect cross stitch frame.

A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $30

Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)
Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)

This year has seen some of the best cross stitch books ever published, and I would personally buy all of them. However, for the cross stitcher in your life books offer both patterns, and a fresh look at the hobby. We’d personally suggest Criss Crossing Paris ($22) but you can also check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market.

Cross Stitch Gifts Under $50/£40

Travel Cross Stitch Kit – $30

Altoids Tin Travel Cross Stitch Kit (Source: red-handledscissors.com)
Altoids Tin Travel Cross Stitch Kit (Source: red-handledscissors.com)

This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for gifts for cross stitchers, however many stitchers either stitch when they travel, or wish they could. Finding a great, small, cross stitch kit featuring everything they need is a great gift, and probably not something they’d think of (so you get brownie points). You can either buy pre assembled kits, or make one yourself. A pair of Canary mini snips, needle minder, needle tube and a seam ripper are all you need. And you can fit them all into an Altoids tin.

Magnifier – $30

Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch

A magnifier might seem like something an old person might want, but when it comes to cross stitch, a magnifier can be a massive help. In fact, we detailed why magnifiers are worth getting a few months ago; we’re big fans. You can get a whole set of different options here, from ones that light up, to ones that click onto your embroidery hoops. I would try to get one with a 2.5x zoom as this is the most useful for cross stitchers.

A Good Pair Of Scissors – $30

Cross Stitch Japanese Style Scissors (source: ebay)
Cross Stitch Japanese Style Scissors (source: ebay)

Scissors might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you send a lot of time snipping things, and frankly, a poor pair of scissors get blunt quickly, fraying ends. Get a nice pair of Fiskars ‘snipping’ scissors, or ones like the image (a Japanese embroidery scissor), or another specific pair for embroidery/cross stitch or cutting fishing line and you’ll see the difference straight away.
You can even get a super awesome pair of frogging scissors, which solves the worst thing about cross stitch (frogging is incorrect stitches that need to be removed).
If you’re not sure what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.

Magazine Subscriptions – $20 to $50 a year

CrossStitcher Magazine Cover Issue 317 (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)
CrossStitcher Magazine Cover Issue 317 (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)

Magazines are fantastic for both giving you patterns, giving you inspiration, finding out about all the new products, and reading up on all the happenings of the cross stitch community. There are frankly a shocking amount out there, so its best to pick one or two you like the most, you can find our cross stitch magazine reviews here, and getting a subscription to those. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.

Monthly Subscriptions – $20 to $50 a month

SnarkBox cross stitch subscription kit (Source: snark-box.com)
SnarkBox cross stitch subscription kit (Source: snark-box.com)

Nothing is quite like getting a gift in the post month after month, stuffed full of awesome cross stitch prizes. You can pick up a whole load of different monthly subscription boxes that make every month a gift month. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.

Full Set of CXC Threads – $40

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)
CXC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

Full Set of CXC Threads – $40

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)
CXC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

CXC is a fairly new brand to the world of cross stitch, but they’re making massive moves. They produce threads, which match the DMC colors exactly, however they make them using a polyester blend, meaning they can reduce costs considerably. In fact, you can pick up their full range of 447 threads for under $40, compared to $400 for DMC threads. But don’t let the price fool you, CXC threads are just as good as more expensive brands in our tests.

DMCs New 35 or Etoile Thread Packs – $40

New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads In Silver Box (source: sewandso.co.uk)
New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads In Silver Box (source: sewandso.co.uk)

This year has been big for DMC threads (the most used cross stitch threads). Not only have the new 35 DMC threads started to be used in commonly found kits and patterns, but they also launched a sweet new set of DMC etoile threads, which are super sparkly threads. You can pick up these new threads in fancy packed sets for under $40.

Great Cross Stitch Software – $50

PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)
PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)

 

The natural progression for a stitcher is to go from kits, to patterns, to making their own patterns. Most choose online programs, but they all have their own limitations, so spend $20-$200 on the perfect one. I would personally suggest KG Chart or PC Stitcher for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.

Cross Stitch Gifts Under $100/£80

Day Light Lamp – $50 – $100

Daylight Slimline Table Lamp (source: Amazon)
Daylight Slimline Table Lamp (source: Amazon)

We can tell you, for sure, that day light lamps do make a difference to cross stitch. Not only do they add a massive amount of light to the area you’re working in, which can be super helpful when working with black or dark aida but they help your eyes deal with the intense focus you’re putting them through. We belive that everyone should have a well lit cross stitch area, and day light lamps, or bulbs are the best way to get that necessary light.

Cross Stitch Gifts Over $100/£80

All The Threads! – $200+

Full set of DMC threads
My full set of DMC threads ordered by number

The only thing better than owning a thread shade card is owning the threads themselves. I always kept using the threads I had on hand, and until I got the whole set, I didn’t realise just how much I was making compromise; my colors have definitely got better. You can see how much a full set of DMC threads has helped us with our blog post about our journey to a complete set of cross stitch threads.
Not the cheapest thing in the world, wait until you can buy a whole set in one go on an offer. The price can drop from $450 to $200. Just don’t be tempted by those cheap Chinese deals to see on ebay.

Hate Needle Minders? There is a Solution…

DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)

It’s probably no suprise to regular readers, but I’m a fan of needle minders. I’ve spoken about the weird world of needle minders before, but there’s something you might not know: I don’t put needle minders on my work.
OK, OK, I love them, and I use them, but I keep it next to me on my work table. I’ve spoken before about finding the perfect needle minder as there is a real issue with needle minders; their weight. But there are also people who just don’t like them. So what are the alternatives if you aren’t a needle minder fan?

Magnetic Needle Case

I hate needle storage. In fact, I’ve gone into detail about how to store cross stitch needles, and in that list, I mention magnetic boxes. They’re a great place to store the needles in the long term, but in the short term, they offer a lovely place for needles on the go. Not only can you store needles inside, but most come with a magnetic cover, so you can drop your active needles on the top too. Its another thing you have to keep around you, but if it saves you stepping on a needle, its worth it.

DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)
DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)

Magnets

ALL THE MAGNETS!
Alright, this is cheating a little bit considering that I just mentioned something magnetic, but you don’t have to have some fancy box to hold your needle. You can buy rolls of magnetic tape, or even just plain old magnets from Etsy and Amazon for super cheap, and you can stick them to anything! I’ve seen them used wonderfully on a cross stitch scroll frame, but pretty much anywhere is game!
If you have an ORT jar you can place a magnet under the lid. The magnet sticks to the metak lid, and the top becomes a great place for needles!

A Small Needle Minder

I actually eluded to this in the intro, but needle minders are cool. There’s no arguing. They are the best. I personally have a miniature cake plate, cos if I’m not thinking about cross stitch, its cake. But they are a bit annoying sometimes. So instead of setting them up on your work, remove the back magnet and just stick them to something metal! I have one on my lamp, my desk leg, and one stuck to the top of my thread box (with glue).
Just because you can’t get along with needle minders on your case, doesn’t mean you have to forego them all together.

chapelviewcrafts polymer cake needle minder by chapelviewcrafts (source: etsy)
Polymer Miniature Cake Needle Ninder by Chapelviewcrafts (Source: Etsy)

A Smaller Needle Minder

Lets get real for a second. One of the biggest reasons people don’t like needle minders is that might damage the work. Now I don’t know this is the case, but they can sag your nicely taught aida if its too heavy. But not all needle minders are created equal. Getting a small needle minder will be less heavy, and it’ll fit nicely on your work without damaging it!

Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)
Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)

The Best Cross Stitch Toys

3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)

My niece LOVES to pick up my cross stitch. Doesn’t matter if its half completed or not, she wants her hands on it. So I thought to myself; maybe there is cross stitch out there, specifically made to be played with. Today, we run down the best cross stitch toys.

Thread Maniac’s Mazes

OK, so I lied already. Thread Maniac hasn’t just created a maze, they’ve created a whole series of cross stitch you can frame and then draw on using dry erase markers. From mazes to tic-tac-toe and the obligatory black board, kids can go nuts drawing and never damage the cross stitch. Very neat idea.

Maze cross stitch by Thread Maniac (Source: threadmaniac.com)
Maze cross stitch by Thread Maniac (Source: threadmaniac.com)

BlackMageHeart’s Farm Playset

What about omething more tactile? Well, we have those in bunches. First up is BlackMageHeart’s Harvest Moon Playset. Complete with 24 crops, a house, farmer, cow, chicken, chick, duck and two ducklings its a full on farming set, that kids would LOVE to get their hands on. The best thing about it however is that the floor, a perfectly stitched farm, is in a frame, meaning it packs up nice and neat once they’re done playing.

3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)
3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)

Figurines

Next up we have the figures section. Move over Barbie and Action Man, now we have cross stitch guys. Or more specifically, these two. By stitching simple boxes out of plastic canvas you can make pretty much anything you want. In this instance we both made characters, with my cross stitch being about to transform from robot to truck.

3D Minecraft Cross Stitch by an anonymous user (Source: reddit)
3D Minecraft Cross Stitch by an anonymous user (Source: reddit)

Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form
Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form

RobinsDesigns 3D Cross Stitch

Robin’s Design is one of our all time favorite cross stitch designers. We’ve highlighted her work loads of times in the past including using it as the posterboy of our best 3D cross stitch and even trying to copy the style with my own Harry Potter golden snitch cross stitch. As you can probably tell then, we’re in love with her 3D work, which includes everything from dice to people, to animals, and planets. Best of all, its all made from traditional aida, so is soft like a cuddly toy.

Earth and Moon sphere cross stitches by robinsdesign (source: Etsy)
Earth and Moon sphere cross stitches by robinsdesign (source: Etsy)