Are Spools The Future For Embroidery Threads?

Recently the cross stitch world has been awash with opinions on Anchor Floss’ choice to move to spools in big box stores in North America, and away from the traditional skein. I’ve stayed away from talking about these in the past, as firstly, its North America only for now, and Anchor threads aren’t popular across the world (even if they scored highly in our roundup of the best cross stitch threads). In addition, you either love the idea, or hate it.
 
However whilst the change is an interesting one on the surface, I think it’s likely that this is the future of selling threads…

Anchor Embroidery Thread on spools (Source: Milled.com)
Anchor Embroidery Thread on spools (Source: Milled.com)

So What Is Anchor Doing?

If you weren’t aware up until now, Anchor Threads have started selling their embroidery threads in big-box American and Canadian stores on spools.
They come in two sizes, 10m (10.9 yards) in every color, and 30m (32.8 yards) in 20 colors.
They’re being sold at slightly less per yard than skeins in the USA, but slightly more in Canada (not sure why), however, this may be an introductory price.
Right now you can only get them in these stores, and they aren’t being sold on their own website in spools yet.

Why Are They Doing It?

Anchor Embroidery Thread on spools (Source: Anchorcrafts.com)
Anchor Embroidery Thread on spools (Source: Anchorcrafts.com)
So here we get into the meat of the issue. The benefits are numerous (and we really mean that) for all parts of the chain.
 
We start with the customer. People really do love or hate this idea, and I won’t be picking sides today (sorry for those who wanted me to!), but there are some benefits.
The first is that price point. We don’t know yet if there is an introductory price, or even why Canada seems to be getting the short straw, but price savings from the manufacturer and retailer, will likely find their way to us too.
The second is most people use bobbins to store their threads. By having them on spools, you’re cutting down on all that bobbin work. You also get all the benefits of using bobbins from the get-go.
 
The next winner here is Anchor themselves. It’s clear that this is still in the testing phase, with a full rollout still not clear, but this action wouldn’t have been taken unless there were benefits.
That mostly comes down to cost. Making cross stitch threads requires a lot of work, and special machines are needed just for making skeins. However, making spools is a totally different story. By optimizing the manufacturing process, they save money. And Anchor is used to this type of thing too, their metallic embroidery threads are already on spools.

However, it also allows them to get into more stores. Right now, DMC owns the cross stitch thread market, and Anchor has been losing ground (especially since the “new” DMC threads came out), so they need a way to compete. And spools have allowed them a winning edge.
 
So why are they in more stores? Well, there are benefits to stores too. And this is why we’re seeing these spools in stores right now, especially the big box ones.
The single largest issue to a retailer, for any product, is the rate of return for shelf space. I’m sure you can all recall seeing lines of boxes of DMC threads spreading across yards of shelving? Well that costs the retailer money. And threads, even the expensive ones, aren’t going to bring in a big profit for the space used.
But the new spools allow you to store just as many threads, in a fraction of the size (thanks to optimized space).

Anchor threads on spools in a US store (Source: reddit)
Anchor threads on spools in a US store (Source: reddit)

The second big issue for retailers is upkeep. Those open boxes of threads catch dust like crazy! In addition, they’re open to the elements, including strong store lights that cause discoloration of threads often thought to be dye lot issues. With spools hidden behind others, no thread is shown to the light longer than it needs to be, cutting down on color changes and dust collection.

So Its Here To Stay?

DMC Embroidery Thread on Floor Spinning Rack (Source: grovesltd.co.uk)
DMC Embroidery Thread on Floor Spinning Rack (Source: grovesltd.co.uk)
This is where the speculation comes into play I’m afraid to say. What we know so far is that this is a test, limited reach and Anchor is unsure of the impact right now. The healthy debate online on the positives vs negatives (and there are a few big ones) shows that this isn’t something they can quickly change and roll out without testing the water.
But I believe it will be the future of selling embroidery threads.
 
The first reason for this is cost. For the customer, Anchor, and the retailers, the cost is reduced. In a capitalist society, the cost is always the biggest driving factor.
 
The second is that we’ve seen this kind of change happen before. You can all recall those boxes of threads, but I bet you can also recall those spinning storage units, even though they’ve almost been entirely phased out by DMC (although Anchor still uses them). Actually, Anchor themselves have already been using them for metallic threads with great success for a few years now.
 
Whatever you think of these new spools, it’s likely that this is only the first step, and I think we’re likely to see a lot more in the future.
 
Do you think we’ll be likely to see more of these spools in the future?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan
 
Bonus fun fact: In the 1960s Anchor used to sell their embroidery thread on wooden spools!

 

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The Lost Art Of The Cross Stitch Sampler

Your next project should be a cross stitch sampler. Not only do I think that, but I’m 100% convinced that if you do, you’ll not only improve your cross stitch game but also find it fun and rewarding in a way no other cross stitch project can. Today, I hope to convince you to try one.
 
I’m a big fan of samplers, in fact, I’ve made a whole host of samplers from tiny 32 count pirate samplers to officially licensed Disney cross stitch samplers, but the traditional art of a sampler has been lost.
What do I mean by that?
You can go out and buy a whole host of samplers on Etsy that have been meticulously designed and look perfect. But this isn’t really what samplers are.

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)

Why A Sampler?

In a recent post we defined a cross stitch sampler and the short version is simple; a sample of stitches. It’s something to look fancy or neat, it’s something that’s meant to be ugly. It’s meant to be a hodgepodge of stitches, designs, counts, threads, and it’s even meant to be a mess of designs. It’s about experimenting, it’s about being a tool, not a project.
I think that you should start a sampler, a traditional sampler, not to make something pretty, but to learn.

Star Trek Sampler Cross Stitch by samapictures (source: samapictures.com)
Star Trek Sampler Cross Stitch by samapictures (source: samapictures.com)

Giving Things A Try

In cross stitch, there are interesting things out there, things that you might like the sound of, but don’t come across. We mean things like metallic threads, glow-in-the-dark threads, the (rightfully) hated French knots. But actually using them is a whole different thing.
 
Many cross stitch patterns don’t feature complicated threads or threads that you might not have to hand. When was the last time you saw a pattern asking for a variation thread or DMC Etoile? It just doesn’t happen. They do this for mass appeal, but that isn’t to say that the pattern you’re currently stitching wouldn’t look ace with one of these.
But do you want to risk it? The answer is normally no. I don’t blame you, I even have the same thought. But if you don’t try, you won’t know.
 
The first time I tried glow-in-the-dark threads was my Assassins Creed Abstergo poster. It was a huge project, and it looked OK, not my best work, but OK. But I also learned so much about the threads in this project. Had I just tried out a simple design somewhere else first, I could have improved it tenfold. And this is where the sampler comes in.
The sampler is there to test on, to try, even to fail. A simple 10 by 10 stitch using a new thread tells you how it works, helps you avoid failure in the future, or gives you ideas of where it would be perfect.

Assassins Creed Sampler Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Assassins Creed Sampler Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

To Test Yourself

Once you have some simple stitches down on your sampler in fancy threads, then comes testing, trying, and ultimately learning. This is where the real meat of a sampler is to be had. And you can take different approaches here too. Maybe you just need to master petit point, or you want to try your hand at 1-over-2 stitches. This is the place to try.
 
The first sampler I made was an Assassins Creed inspired design. It was nice. But it’s also the first time I stitched a font. We all know how insanely hard it is to find cross stitch alphabets, but by stitching this design, I learned how cross stitch fonts work. How they needed to work. Thanks to this sampler, I made over 50 free cross stitch fonts for people to use! Now, I don’t expect you all to be suddenly flooding the market with alphabets (but would like that), but I didn’t go out of my way to make fonts, that wasn’t my aim. I tested something out of my wheelhouse and thanks to it improved my cross stitch ability.
What will you learn?

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)

Designing Patterns

Then we get to pattern designing. I know most of you out there aren’t designers, and you might not want to be, but maybe you dabble in changing a skin tone or would like to make minor changes to patterns to make it fit you better?
One of my most loved cross stitch works is from Major Alexis Casdagli, a POW in World War 2. The likes of Etsy weren’t around then, but cross stitch patterns were still how most stitched. But when stuck in a prison camp, he found cross stitch. And he had to design it from the ground up. The thing I like the most about his work is that you can see he started with one piece, and it evolved, became something else, he looked at what he had, and what he could do next. Sure, he also hid some awesome messages of solidarity in there too, but he could only see a place to add those thanks to making this pattern. The first one he ever made.
Is it perfect? No, there are loads of errors, in fact, the whole thing is riddled with mistakes, but that’s OK. It was a sampler, it was made not to be a designed work, but to be a learning activity. It was stupidly taken as a designed piece of work by his captors, and that’s why it’s now famous, but I hope you won’t have the same issues!

19th Century Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: PicClick.com)
19th Century Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: PicClick.com)

Tradition

Finally, we look at tradition. Cross stitch samplers have been around for a very long time, and there are even histories of very specific samplers like the home sweet home sampler, but by picking up a needle and stitching a traditional sampler, filled with tests, mistakes, mini projects and all kinds of odds and sods; you’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of years work of cross stitchers from all over the world.
 
Have I convinced you to take up a traditional sampler? Or maybe you already have one! Drop us a message below, we’d love to hear your sampler stories (and even see a few)!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Should you cross stitch without a hoop?

People often ask me if you can stitch without a hoop. It’s a question that comes up a lot on cross stitch forums and social groups all over the place, however, no one ever seems to ask why.
 
This at first seems like an obvious question, but many of you reading this instantly answered the question of “can you”, but most wouldn’t be able to say they’ve tried it. And that, in my mind, is an issue.
Stitching without a hoop may just be the easiest, but least tried cross stitch skill out there. But it’s also a fantastic skill to utilize in your stitching!
 
So I plan to tell you why you should try this underrated skill!

Can you cross stitch without a hoop?

Yes, you can cross stitch without a hoop, using the “sewing” method, where you stab the needle into the work, and stab it back out of the work before you pull the thread.

 

The Myth Of Issues

The main reason behind not trying out the sewing method is the myths behind it. Most of these are actually subconscious, but in all cases, aren’t actually valid reasons.

Tension

The first, and arguably biggest is tension. The concept of a hoop is to make tension so your stitches are perfectly placed. The theory goes that if you take away the hoop, you take away the tension. And whilst this does initially hold up, the way that you “sew” cross stitches changes how tension is applied.
Instead of keeping the fabric taught, you instead keep the thread taught.

It Looks Different

The second main concern is that it looks different. This one is arguably a big turn-off for many, as no one wants to try something and then be able to see it sticking out like a sore thumb for the rest of time! But once again, this isn’t the case.
Yes, your stitching method is different, the way you tension is different, and even the way you go about stitching it might be different, but in the end, your cross stitch will look the same.
 
It should be noted though that the sewing method is required for the “Danish way” and swapping between the “English way” and the “Danish way” will cause your work to look slightly different.

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration
How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

You Can’t Stitch The Whole Thing

The final point is actually an interesting one. Many people think that the sewing method works well for large singular blocks of color (and it does), but many people think that’s the only thing it’s good for.
I do understand this one, of all the reasons it does make the most sense, and in my mind, it’s kind of true. But actually, that’s the benefit!
 
There are people out there that do stitch the whole thing ‘in the hand’, but in my mind using this technique on large blocks of color is the perfect excuse. It doesn’t look different when finished, it makes stitching blocks of color easier, and there is one other big selling point too…

Darth Vader Star Wars Cross Stitch by VelvetPonyDesign (source: Etsy)
Darth Vader Star Wars Cross Stitch by VelvetPonyDesign (source: Etsy)

So Why Try It?

Speed!
 
A lot of us want to learn how to cross stitch faster, and there are loads of techniques and tools specifically for it, but one often overlooked is the sewing method. What makes this crazier is that the sewing method is 50% faster than the “stab” method.
 
Everyone has been in the position before of sitting with one color over a massive length of time, wondering to yourself just when it’ll be finished, just when you can move on. Well; try the sewing method and you’ve just halved the time!
 
Got any techniques you think people ignore? Drop us a comment below and we’ll give them a try!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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8 Bad Cross Stitching Habits We All Need To Stop

I know some people refer to me as a “cross stitch master” but I don’t. I class myself as a cross stitcher with some terrible habits. And it’s those habits I wanted to speak about today.
 
I know talking about habits seems negative, but the reason I’m speaking about them is that by changing these habits, we’ll massively improve our cross stitch.

Living In Mess

The first habit is one I feel strongly about; mess. With more and more cross stitch accessories hitting the market, we end up with a whole bunch of stuff in our “hand reach” area.
These favored tools are all great, but do they really need to be everywhere? By making our cross stitch space chocked full of stuff we leave ourselves feeling cramped and less creative. Cross stitch is meant to be about feeling the joy of it after all.
 
Another bugbear is storing things too. I love interesting fabrics, and whilst I hardly ever stitch with them (I know, I know), I need to store them somewhere. I used to stack them up on a table, but then it started exploding and toppling over. I had to organize my cross stitch fabric in the end.
And don’t get my started on threads! Its super important to store your cross stitch threads properly, otherwise you’ll get sun damage, dust, stains or even discoloration!
 
How to fix it: Start organising. Sure, it’ll take a while to set up, but once done, you never have to think about it again.
 

Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)
Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)

Trying To Stitch In The Dark

It doesn’t matter how many carrots you eat, you can’t see in the dark. But many of us either sit down without proper light or like me, sit down with natural light and forget the sunsets.
 
I know I talk about this a lot, so I’ll keep it short, but our eyesight is one of the most important parts of cross stitch, and whilst we can stitch in relative darkness, it’s doing long-term damage to our eyesight. By adding in more light we can see better, stitch easier, and we keep our eyesight to cross stitch at a later date.
My nan taught me to stitch and thanks to deteriating eyesight, now she can’t. Keep care of your eyes as long as possible people!
 
We feel we should add that here that whilst there are fancy lighting options like daylight bulbs for cross stitch, any light is better than no light.
 
How to fix it: Get some more light. It could be a fancy bulb, a tracing pad, or just a lamp.

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

Slumping In Your Seat

I slump in my seat. A lot. And honestly, it’s a habit I’ve tried (and struggled) to stop for a long time, so I can tell you how hard it is to break a habit, but your sitting position is just as important as light.
 
You can, and most likely will, get back problems from cross stitch by sitting poorly. I hurt my back from rugby when a teen, so maybe I’m more suseptable than most, but trust me; back issues are no joke.
 
How to fix it: Assess your stitching position. You might need a pillow, a better chair, or maybe a desk to help you sit better.

Ikea desk chair cross stitch hack (Source: Pinterest)
Ikea desk chair cross stitch hack (Source: Pinterest)

Stitching With Dirty Hands

I’m speaking from experience here; wash your hands. I never licked my threads, but I did use to just pick up my cross stitch after work and get to it. I didn’t realize the oils on my hands were seeping into my cross stitch. I never realized it was a thing, let alone a thing that could ruin my cross stitch. And I mean that; look at the design below and see the brown stains. Ruined!
 
Now, you can alleviate this somewhat by washing your cross stitch, but there are many people out there that prefer not to wash their cross stitch, and in those situations, this habit really starts becoming an issue.
 
How to fix it: Wash your hands before stitching.

Brown Spots on Cross Stitch
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

Losing Needles

Stepped on a needle before? Sat on a needle? Managed to get one stuck in your hand whilst on your hands and knees desperately trying to find a needle on the ground knowing that you need to find it or the dog will get it?
 
Losing needles and dropping needles happens; there’s no way around that, but you can make it less likely. Using a needle minder or even needle minder alternatives you’ll stop it happening so often. I personally use a needle minder, but I keep it in my kit instead, removing the needle after every stitching session.
 
How to fix it: Think about getting a needle minder, or needle case, and store your cross stitch needles when not in use.

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

Using Scissors For Other Things

Scissors get blunt. Blunt scissors are REALLY bad at cutting.
 
I have a pair of ‘house scissors’, a pair of thread scissors, and a pair of fabric scissors. Sure, this is a little overkill, but once you’ve found the right cross stitch scissors for you we implore you, to keep them for cross stitch.
You’ve not experienced the hell of trying to cut aida with blunt scissors and ending up with warped and unsightly edges. And don’t get my started on threads; if you use blunt scissors you’ll pull threads, end up with choppy ends that somehow unravel themselves!
 
How to fix it: Only use your cross stitch scissors for cross stitch.

Premax 4 inch weavers scissors (source: kreinik.com)
Premax 4 inch weavers scissors (source: kreinik.com)

Letting The Little Stuff Get To You

This one is a tough one. When you make a mistake in cross stitch it feels horrid. You have the choice to rip it all out, work around the error, or just give up. All valid options, but sometimes we forget about that other choice; live with it.
 
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:

I’ve made a mistake in every cross stitch I’ve completed.

And that’s not a joke, every single one. And sometimes these aren’t small. Take my Saturn V blueprint cross stitch I made for the Xstitch Magazine. A major part of it was the labels. And I spelled one wrong. The one right at the top, right in the center. Can’t avoid it; you see it. But I left it. It went to print. And to be honest, I’m happy. It shows that it’s mine. And it shows I can’t spell (let’s face it, you’ve read my posts, you know that)!
 
Sometimes it’s OK to accept the mistake.
 
How to fix it: Just accept the mistakes. And if you’re ever in doubt; just remember that I have mistakes in every single project I’ve completed.

Giving Up Just Before You Finish

I’m not guilty of this one; the only one on the list, but I see it a lot. It’s OK to give up on a cross stitch project, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, but sometimes we’re all guilty of wanting to move on a bit too quick.
 
With more and more patterns on places like Etsy that drives us on, and seemingly larger and larger projects to take up our time, we often find ourselves hoarding cross stitch patterns. But some of us start a new one without finishing the old one. Once again; that’s OK, but don’t forget about the old one!
 
There was once a time when you wanted more than anything to finish the project you were on so you could stitch the one you’re giving up. You’ve spent untold hours on it and maybe a fair wack of money too. So why forget about the poor guy?
 
How to fix it: Make a note and don’t forget about the old cross stitches (or just resign yourself to never finishing it).
 
Are there any cross stitch habits you have that you need to fix?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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PSA: How To Store Cross Stitch Needle Tubes

We talk about storage a lot, however when it comes to cross stitch needle storage we like to get serious. We’ve gone over storage at length, but in short, we’re strong advocates of one method of storage in particular; needle tubes.
 

Needle storage tubes (source: alibaba.com)
Needle storage tubes (source: alibaba.com)

These things are great, not only do they allow you to store your needles away from the air (that’ll rust or oxidize them), but you can separate them by size or type with ease. However, I received a lot of comments from readers about where to store the tubes. After all, having tubes hanging around is a pain in itself, especially if they chose the glass tubes from makers like Tulip. However recently I saw a post by NeedleNThread about storing needles tubes and its life-changing! Well, OK, maybe it’s cross stitch needle thread changing…
 
Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)
Tulip Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)

Her idea was simple; find a box that fits them. Simple in theory, but hard in practice. That was until she let us in on a little secret; cotton bud boxes. Depending on the style of box you get, these might be in a case similar to the below, or a tub style, however, cotton buds are almost exactly the same size as needle tubes, so you can simply drop them in the box and keep them nice and organized.
 
Needle Tubes In Cotton Bud Box (Source: needlenthread)
Needle Tubes In Cotton Bud Box (Source: needlenthread)

 
Got any other life-saving cross stitch organization tips? We’re kind of obsessed, so send them our way!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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The Cross Stitch Artists Championing Our Craft

A few months back I was part of an interview with Mr X Stitch and we spoke briefly about cross stitch and how it’s classified by people. Now, the discussion is still out on whether cross stitch is art or craft however today we wanted to look at those artists out there that are pushing cross stitch as an art medium, and helping to champion our craft.
And I don’t just mean things like the fine art cross stitch book!
 

Jordan Nassar

Jordan Nassar uses his Palestinian heritage to stitch most of his works in tatreez (Palestinian cross stitch). Historically motifs didn’t come from patterns but were passed down through families on the mother’s side, meaning every piece of work has the family signature. Using these cultural traditions and key modern elements from his upbringing in New York, he stitches works that help people to connect to their own heritage
 

“Palestinian embroidery really has it all, geometry, superstition and magic, social cues, family and village associations, embellishment and more.”

Check out an interview with Jordan Nassar for more.

A Stream Is Singing Under The Youthful Grass, 2020 by Jordan Nassar (Source: jamescohan.com)
A Stream Is Singing Under The Youthful Grass, 2020 by Jordan Nassar (Source: jamescohan.com)

Ana Martins

Urban cross stitch graffiti is hardly new, however rarely is the artist approaching levels of famous as Ana Martins (often going as “Aheneah”).

Switch Over by Ana Martins viewed by bystander (Source: DesignBoom)
Switch Over by Ana Martins viewed by bystander (Source: DesignBoom)

This Lisbonian artist quickly established herself with large and modern street murals made to actively deconstruct, decontextualize and transform the traditional technique of cross stitch into a modern graphic medium.
 
Check out an interview with Ana Martins for more.

Installation by Ana Martins (Source: DesignBoom)
Installation by Ana Martins (Source: DesignBoom)

Nils Viga Hausken

Norwegian artist Nils Viga Hausken has worked in a variety of mediums, but in the last decade, much of his work has been cross stitch.
 
Nordic cross stitch has a long and illustrious history, so Nils tries to play with his designs, taking cues from the traditional past, whilst taking mundane and humorous items to stitch.
 
Check out an interview with Nils Viga Hausken for more.

Nils Viga Hausken Cross Stitched Lego (Source: collabcubed)
Nils Viga Hausken Cross Stitched Lego (Source: collabcubed)

Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene

Lithuanian artist Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene has been mentioned many times before on our site, as her work has always inspired us, but don’t let that take away from her art, which not only stitches on found objects in an effort to subvert traditional embroidery culture but brings to attention often serious messages.

broderie-objet-metal-16 by Severija Incirauskaite (source: mrxstitch.com)
broderie-objet-metal-16 by Severija Incirauskaite (source: mrxstitch.com)

Check out an interview with Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene for more.

Cross Stitch- Helmets by Severija (source: mrxstitch.com
Cross Stitch- Helmets by Severija (source: mrxstitch.com

Know of any other cross stitch artists? We’d love to feature them, so drop us a line below!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Framing Cross Stitch With Francy Frames…

So you’ve finished your cross stitch; great. However, depending on who you are, the next bit might fill you with joy, or fill you with dread. Do you frame it?
 
This is a question we ask ourselves every time we finish a cross stitch, and depending on your opinions of framing cross stitch, the options are basically frame or don’t frame. But that’s not exactly true. In fact, there are a whole bunch of different ways you can frame your cross stitch, without the boring square you might be thinking…

We’ll start with one of the most simple methods. Out there, mostly on Etsy, there are specific frames made for cross stitch. They do make framing cross stitch simple thanks to how they’re made, but the real selling point is actually that they aren’t what you expect.

Autumn Cross Stitch in Wooden Cross Stitch Frame (Source: Etsy)
Autumn Cross Stitch in Wooden Cross Stitch Frame (Source: Etsy StitchLifeStudio)

They do have some really nice circle frames in a variety of finishes, but they also have different ones, like hexagons, flowers, or even mandalas!
 

Hoop It Up

But what if you’re a hoop purist? We’ve got you covered!

Decorate Your Own

Our first port of call would be decorating your own hoop as it gives you so much more freedom to do as you want. You can paint them, cover them in fabric, use washi tape, or pretty much anything! In fact, there are so many opinions we have to write a guide on how to decorate cross stitch hoops!

Washi Tape Embroidery Hoop by sewpinata (Source: Instagram)
Washi Tape Embroidery Hoop by sewpinata (Source: Instagram)

Unique Hoops

Don’t fancy decorating your hoop? Well, you can buy pre-decorated hoops, unusual shapes, and even hoops that are made to be used to stitch your work, and frame it without having to remove it from the hoop!
 

Make It Fine Art

Still, nothing standing out? Well how about bringing a little bit of class to your cross stitch by framing it on canvas?
Framing cross stitch on canvas is actually super simple, and unlike a normal frame the canvas method is super cheap, but super unique. You can also stand your work up on its own, or on an easel for a different look!

Finished cross stitch mounted to canvas on display (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)
Finished cross stitch mounted to canvas on display (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)

 

Think Outside The Frame

But don’t just think about frames. What about a wall hanging instead? By putting your work up as a hanging, it gives the work a little bit of movement when you pass it, adding to the effect.
Caterpillar Cross Stitch has a great video on how to hang your cross stitch if you want to do this!

Deck The Halls Cross Stitch by Caterpillar Cross Stitch Wall Hanging (Source: Caterpillar Cross Stitch)
Deck The Halls Cross Stitch by Caterpillar Cross Stitch Wall Hanging (Source: Caterpillar Cross Stitch)

 
What unique ways have your framed your cross stitch? We’d love to add to the list, so drop us a note below!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Let’s Talk About… French Knots

I’ve avoided speaking about French Knots for years. If people ask I simply say people aren’t bothered; it’s either something you want to do or something you want to avoid. But that’s not actually correct. In reality; I just suck at them!
I was recently doing a lesson, trying to get kids into cross stitch, and one kid asked me to show them how to do one. Inside I was screaming. Here I was, pretending to know what I’m doing, and I had just been thrown down a challenge by someone half my height.
That’s when I decided; it would no longer beat me. Today, we look into French Knots and what all the fuss is about.

Why Do People Hate Them?

So let’s start with the facts; people hate French Knots. There are two basic camps here, those that have tried once and failed, and those that have tried and tried again and still fail. The similarity there; everyone fails. And that’s why French Knots suck.
Unlike cross stitches, which fit into set widths and lengths (assuming you’re using an evenweave), French Knots are wild beasts that sometimes come out huge, sometimes tiny, sometimes loose, and sometimes tight. French Knots are…messy. But that doesn’t mean that isn’t OK. Sometimes, this can be why you stitch with French Knots.

Cherry Blossom Cross Ctitch by Peakcock & Fig (source: peacockandfig.com)
Cherry Blossom Cross Stitch by Peacock & Fig (source: peacockandfig.com)

When To Use French Knots

In the example above Peacock & Fig have used French Knots to populate blossoms on a tree. Well, look out the window (or google one depending on the time of year you’re reading this), cherry blossoms aren’t all equal. Some are big, some are small, some are loose and some are tight. By picking the right time to use a French Knot you can actually use the knot’s unorganized nature to your advantage.
Many patterns often ask for French Knots here and there as finishing touches. And whilst we all want everything to be perfect, designers know that French Knots are like this. They only place them where they can be messy, where it works for them to be like that. So next time a pattern calls for a French Knot; give it a try. A messy French Knot might be exactly what the doctor designer ordered.

How To Do A French Knot

I’m not going to beat around the bush here; I’m not the best person to be telling you how to do a French Knot. But youtube is our friend!

In short, French Knots are actually a twist in a thread that can’t come unraveled. Twist it around the needle twice, stick it into the fabric, and you’re done!

Tips

But that doesn’t mean it’s actually that simple.
Shout out to Mary of Needle’nThread for her excellent resource on French Knot tips, as we delve into some tips on how to actually make a successful French Knot.

Number of Wraps

Firstly, consider the number of wraps.
In short, the higher the number of wraps you use, the bigger the knot will be. This seems simple, but if you use a throwaway bit of fabric to test the knot before you stitch it, you can see how your knots are coming out today. Too tight and small? Do some more wraps! Too loose? Fewer wraps. This way you can adjust your French Knots on a day-to-day basis.

French Knot Tip – Loops (Source: needlenthread.com)
French Knot Tip – Loops (Source: needlenthread.com)

Leave A Space

Next, think about the space. By his we mean the amount of space between the ‘up’ thread and the ‘down’ thread. Make sure it’s as tight as possible without being in the same hole. By reducing this space you’ll make sure you’re French Knot holds close to the fabric, and doesn’t flop around everywhere!

French Knot Tip – Keep The Space (Source: needlenthread.com)
French Knot Tip – Keep The Space (Source: needlenthread.com)

Tension

Finally, let’s talk about tension. This is by far the hardest thing to talk about, as it’s all about feeling. Those of us who knit as well as cross stitch, might find this part a little easier, but the tension is very important.
But don’t get hung up on it. The first thing people do when they’re worried about tension is tighten right up. This is actually going to cause you issues.
 
Instead, think about the two rules of tension:
1 – It has to be tight enough that the wraps don’t come loose
2 – It has to be tight enough that the thread doesn’t knot when you don’t want it to (especially when pushing back in)
Those rules actually give you a lot of leeways, it’s not about making it super loose, or super tight, it’s about having it taught enough to not come loose or knot up. If you’re worried, you can always be too loose, and retry the knot.

French Knot Tip – Tension (Source: needlenthread.com)
French Knot Tip – Tension (Source: needlenthread.com)

Use A Different Needle!

If you’re still struggling, and you intend to do a lot of French Knots, a new needle might be what you’re after. Milliner needles are sharps, with eyes the same size as their shank. This means the “tug” you have to give just before the knot gets set doesn’t happen anymore. That tug, is often where the issues occur, messing up your tension and making the knot too tight/loose.
You will have to get a specific size for your thread, but variation packs cost a few dollars and will have the one you need 99.9% of the time.

The Easier Alternative: Colonial Knot

Still stuck? Then let me welcome you to the Colonial Knot. This initially seems very similar to a French Knot, but the whole problem of tension goes way, making this a MUCH easier knot.
They don’t look the same, it must be said, but they look very similar. Where a French Knot is more circular, a Colonial Knot is a little more oval. This means that if you want to do pupils on an eye, the Colonial Knot might not be suitable, but it’s perfect in every other situation!

 
Still hate French and Colonial Knots? Well, we don’t blame you. Maybe think about buying some beads instead as a replacement?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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What Is Petit Point Anyway? And Should You Try It?

I’m a cross stitch purist. I like full stitches and that’s it. I hate backstitch, French Knots fill me with fear, and quarter stitches aren’t my thing. But what about tent stitch?
Ha! I know, tent stitch isn’t real cross stitch. Wait… It is?
 
Today I wanted to talk about Petit Point, or Petite Point as it’s sometimes called, which is technically a tent stitch, but closer to cross stitch than it is needlepoint.

What is it?

So let’s start simple. A standard cross stitch makes the shape of an X. A tent stitch is effectively like a half-finished cross stitch, it makes the shape of a / or \.
Petit point is a tent stitch, so only takes up the space of a / or \, but unlike a tent stitch is stitched in the continental style. This means the back of your work has long threads on it.
But, because of the way you stitch this has a different look, basically making it smaller. In the image below you can see normal cross stitch (row 1), petit point (row 2), cross stitch and petit point together (row 3) and quarter cross stitch and petit point together (row 4). I short, the petit point makes up roughly the same space as a quarter stitch.

Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)
Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)

Why Use it?

So, why would you use this rather odd stitch? Well, there are a few reasons. Unlike normal embroidery stitches that can look out of place in a cross stitch, petit point looks right at home, meaning you can stitch with it on its own, or combine it with normal cross stitch.

Better Coverage

The first advantage is coverage. We’ve mentioned this in the past, but whenever you select a count of fabric, you need to think about the coverage look you’re going for. The larger the count, the worse the coverage will be. You can avoid this by adding more strands to your work, but this makes it bulky.
This is where petit point comes in. The stitch itself makes the whole work fuller-looking, but the back of your work that might be seen also adds to the fullness of your stitches, bulking up the whole thing.

Pattern, Cross Stitch and Petite Point Geocaching Bug (Source: pinterest)
Pattern, Cross Stitch and Petite Point Geocaching Bug (Source: pinterest)

Smaller Work

Next up is a simple one; size. By stitching in petit point, you effectively half the size of the work. Now I say effectively, as whilst is if half the size, it’s not a perfect miniature. Instead, the stitch gives the whole thing a slightly different feel.
The design above, stitched in cross stitch (14 count) and petit point (14 count) almost look like different patterns. Still very similar, but the petit point version looks fuller. This is in part due to the better coverage petit point will give you, so you do need to be careful
 
A good example of this is my Spring in Daigoji temple miniature cross stitch. The design is full coverage, so if I had chosen to stitch in petit point, would look exactly the same. Sometimes you do need to be careful when using this stitch!

Speed

Next comes speed. Cross stitch isn’t the fastest thing in the world, and there are ways to speed up cross stitch, and one of those is stitching in half stitches. However, unlike petit point, half stitches also have negative drawbacks, such as poor coverage. With your new stitch you might be able to work through all those cross stitch patterns you’re hording.

Cross stitch and petit point in one pattern (Source: youtube)
Cross stitch and petit point in one pattern (Source: youtube)

Combining Stitches

Next, we’re going to look at combining both petit point and cross stitch. This is, by far, a lot rarer. However, is also why I started looking into petit point in the first place. By adding petit point into your standard patterns, you can create a new dimension; litterely.
 
Distance
That dimension is distance. By adding in petit point to something that should be in the foreground, it looks exactly like it should be; in the foreground. Look out of the window and you’ll see that things in the distance are smaller, and things in the far distance are blurry. Petit point is fine and detailed, with normal cross stitch looking blocky and out of focus in comparison.
 
Detail
Perversely, you can also use petit point to draw your attention to other objects. In the image above the youtuber is stitching a face in petit point. By doing this the eye picks up on the difference and focuses on the face. You do have to be careful here though, as you only want one section of petit point per pattern in order to make sure everyone is looking in the right place. You often find this in HAED patterns for this exact reason!
 
Shout out to Sirithre who has a great post on how petit point can be used to great effect!
 
Have you ever tried petit point before? If so, tell us why, we’d love to hear if there are other great uses!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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How To Make A Needle Minder

There are a lot of advantages to using a needle minder, from saving you losing needles and keeping things tiny to just adding a bit of interest to your stitching space. But do you really need to buy a needle minder?
We don’t think so. In fact, you can make a whole variety of needle minders, and all you need are a few magnets…
 

Stitch One

So for the first idea, we suggest stitching one! After all, it’s great to be able to use your cross stitch for something useful.
We suggest using plastic canvas, as you can finish plastic canvas in a way that makes a little envelope. Drop a single neodymium magnet into the space, and all you need to do is place another magnet on the back of your work, and you’re done! But we do suggest a smaller cross stitch like my cassette cross stitches.
 

Use A Pin

Another idea, and one that a lot of people selling needle minders use, is using pins. There are a whole bunch of pins out there from tiny to massive, from brash to refined and everything in between. You will need a specific tool for this one though; wire clippers. Simply snip the spike off the back of the pin, and add a magnet with some hot glue (some pins are already magnetic, but many aren’t, so check first).

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

 

Use Doll House Items

My personal suggestion, however, is to use dollhouse items. Dolls house items are super small, well built, and don’t need anything adapting; you simply add the magnet. You can go with dollhouse food (I have a ramen noodle needle minder), dollhouse books (use your favorite book and you have a super personalized minder), or even furniture. I’ve even seen 32 count cross stitch turned into a dollhouse artwork, turned into a needle minder!

coffee cups needle minders (source: pinterest)
coffee cups needle minders (source: pinterest)

 

Craft One From Clay

Feeling a little more crafty? How about making one from polymer clay? This works very similarly to the dollhouse example, but you have the freedom to make anything you want out of clay. Simply craft your design, then bake it in the oven. You could even get the kids involved and get them to make you something special!

chapelviewcrafts polymer cake needle minder by chapelviewcrafts (source: etsy)
Polymer cake needle minder by ChapelViewCrafts (source: etsy)

 

Combine It With a Needle Threader

More of a utilitarian stitcher? How about combining it with your favorite needle threader?
Most needle threaders are metal-based, and you can simply add a magnet to the back of your work and you’re set! No gluing needed 😀

Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)
Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)

 
We’d love to see some examples of your needle minders, and especially so if you’re not a fan of needle minders!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan