Cross Stitch Christmas Gift Guide (Updated for 2018)

Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)

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.

Fun Needle Keeps – from $5

charizard needle keeper
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.

ThreadHeaven Alternatives – from $5

ThreadMagic cross stitch thread moisturiser
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.

ThreadCutterz – $12 to $15

thread cutterz
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, however on screen images aren’t always that reliable. As a result one of the best tools I’ve ever picked up is a cross stitch thread card. DMC (the most common thread company) do a version with thread samples ($20) including the new DMC threads, which is far superior.
DMC thread card

The Perfect Frame – $12 to $30


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 cross stitch book cover
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.
If you’re still struggling on what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.

A Good Pair Of Scissors – $30

cross stitch scissors
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 still struggling on what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.

Magazine Subscriptions – $20 to $60 a year

just cross stitch magazine christmas cover
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-$60 a year.

Great Cross Stitch Software – $50 to $200

pcstitch cross stitch software
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.

All The Threads!

Full set of DMC threads
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.

New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads

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

It’s been a busy few months for the DMC thread company, with the addition of 35 new threads back in September, and now, a whole new set of specialist threads for October.
 
These 35 new threads dubbed the “DMC Mouline Etoile” (star mill) series are 35 new six strand threads with the slightest sparkle added to them. They still work in the standard way a 6 strand thread would, but they offer a smaller amount of interest than the standard threads. I’ve actually been able to get hands on with a small section and confirm they’re rather smooth and stitch well, something which speciality threads have struggled with in the past. They come in these standard colors:
(C)ECRU, (C)BLANC, C310, C318, C321, C415, C433, C436, C444, C471, C519, C550, C554, C600, C603, C666, C699, C725, C738, C740, C798, C814, C816, C820, C823, C840, C890, C900, C907, C915, C938, C972, C995, C3371, C3799

New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads In Silver Box
New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads In Silver Box

Unlike the 35 non-sparkly threads that came out in September, not much is being made of these new threads, which I personally find interesting. I think timing is probably one issue. I know that September and October is filled with stitching up Halloween and Christmas stitches, so they might have missed the boat slightly when it comes to timing. It’s clear that these threads probably won’t be used outside of specialist occassions, and Christmas and Halloween were the time to use them. Sadly, thanks to this I think the Mouline Etoile range might struggle to sell.
New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads Compared
New DMC Mouline Etoile Threads Compared

But there is a second, and slightly more interesting reason I think DMC have kept a bit quiet is due to competition, specifically with Anchor, DMC’s traditional rival. Anchor have a small set of Pearl Metallic threads which for all purposes are identical threads. Whilst Anhcor have no where near as many threads in the range as DMC do now (only 6), with cheaper Chinese brands such as CXC gaining traction, DMC are starting to feel the pinch, and they want to be seen as the one brand pushing thread boundries, the ‘top dog’. In fact, the Coloris range from DMC released in early 2018 was for exactly the same reason.
 
Its clear that this year DMC have gone out of their way to match and exceed Anchor’s threads, and now they have a larger set of classic threads, and speciality. However cheaper brands are really getting some steam at the moment, so I wouldn’t be suprised if 2019 had some new threads too.

Does the back of your cross stitch matter?

Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)

I’ve heard a shocking amount of people talk about the backs of the cross stitch, including some of my stitching friends. And honestly; no one cares. At all.
Here’s the thing; the back of your cross stitch CAN be neat, but sometimes it just CAN’T. The reason is all about the pattern.
 
Let’s explain with some examples. Here, we have a fantastic Mew cross stitch by The Celtic Crafter. Its a pattern made up of about 4 colors and they’re all nicely placed, so the back is nice and neat.

Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter
Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter

However lets take another example, of a highly skilled cross stitcher, My Poppet Makes, who’s back looks a little less clean. Now this back HAS to be like that, with small stitches all around and colors on both sides of the work, the threads have to jump on the back, with its small size making them look much less neat. But lets be clear; its not better or worse. Just less neat.
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes

So I should never care about the back of my work?

You often hear people talk about the back of your work in terms of two things; framing and skill. So let’s address both.

Framing

I’ve heard a few people mention this, even really experianced stitchers, however the back has no impact on the framing of cross stitch. The issue comes from home framing and people not using the correct framing system. You can check out a great guide on framing cross stitch, in which we mention the use of foam board. This foam; super important. It means that any of those little messy blemishes on the back are hidden, and can’t be seen when framing.

Skill

Here’s where those nay sayers are slightly right. When stitching the lack of mess on the back of your works usually means you’re more econmical. Some take this to mean skill. However we circle back around to the original statement; sometimes you can’t make a clean back. I know people might be nervous about their work, so I’ve taken an example from shutterstock that shows the back is sometimes just messy, and its all thanks to the pattern. This pattern has colors all over it, with floating confetti stitch a plenty, meaning you just won’t be able to make it neat.

Shutterstock cross stitch back side example

If you’re still bothered by the comments though, be rest assured that your back will be cleaner as time goes on and you learn those little secrets about cross stitch. But don’t be suprised when sometimes your back is a mess! It happens.

So where does the rumor come from?

When the Japanese first came across cross stitch when a samurai accidently brought cross stitch to Japan we started seeing neat backs. Backs that were far neater than European examples, and the idea that the backs should be similar to the fronts came with it. However, that’s simply down to culture. Japanese people have a rich history with embroidery, and in particular sashiko, which includes a stitch called ‘cross stitch’. You can see what when counted cross stitch came to Japan is was obvious that they would follow the same rules they did for their sashiko. One of these rules in particular is that the front should look like the back. This is mostly down to how they stitch sashiko, but when the European’s started seeing Asian cross stitch the rumor came about that they were far more skilled and everyone should try to make their backs neat.

Hitomezashi sashiko
Hitomezashi sashiko

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book Cover by Lord Libidan (source: amazon)

Once again, I have awesome news to tell you all! I’ve got another kit book out!

Fine Art Cross Stitch Box Cover

This time we delve into the classic paintings of the past, with a Fine Art Cross Stitch kit, complete with 12 patterns from Mondrian to Da Vinci.

Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art turns your needlework from a craft to fine art by showing you how to recreate the classic masters’ finest works.
Take your needle art to the next level and recreate some of the finest masterpieces in history! Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art presents to you a myriad of patterns which will channel the master artist in you. From van Gogh to Klimt to Munch, the projects and artists found in Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art represent a wide range of art movements in the painting world as a whole. The clear, step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs for the 12 included projects allow you to decorate your walls with the master’s most iconic works of art in the classic medium of cross stitch!
Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art includes a 64-pg instruction book which shows you how to create works originally painted by van Gogh, Klimt, Matisse, Hokusai, and many others.

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book Cover 1

You can get your copy from Quatro (the publisher) now!

I’ll be posting some of the completed peices over the next week, so keep your eyes out for them!
 
I’ve now been published quite a few times. Check me out in:
Fine Art Cross Stitch Kit
Emoji Cross Stitch Kit
Star Wars Cross Stitch Kit
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting Book
Disney Classic Cross Stitch Kit
Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch book
CrossStitcher Magazine (twice)
CrossStitcher Designer Stitches Magazine
CrossStitchCrazy Magazine
& XStitch Magazine

Emoji Cross Stitch Book

Emoji Cross Stitch Book Cover by Lord Libidan (source: amazon)

Two bits of news in one day? Yep! I’ve got two kit books out this month!

Emoji Cross Stitch Box Cover

12 fun and simple emojis to stitch your heart away at, with enough thread in the kit to stitch up to 4 emojis (but definately at least 2)!

Stitch 12 Iconic Patterns to Communicate with Your World!
Even when you can’t find the right words, you can always find the right emoji! Frame these sweet and sassy little symbols as art or embellish clothing, linens or a throw pillow!
Emoji Cross Stitch includes the patterns to craft twelve of the most popular emoji, along with all the materials to make to finished projects. The 64-page book offers clear step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs, suitable for beginners and experienced stitchers alike.

Emoji Cross Stitch Book Cover 1
 
I’ve now been published quite a few times. Check me out in:
Fine Art Cross Stitch Kit
Emoji Cross Stitch Kit
Star Wars Cross Stitch Kit
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting Book
Disney Classic Cross Stitch Kit
Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch book
CrossStitcher Magazine (twice)
CrossStitcher Designer Stitches Magazine
CrossStitchCrazy Magazine
& XStitch Magazine

Cross Stitch Gridding Techniques

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)

Gridding isn’t often talked about in cross stitch, its often seen as a ‘if you want to’ kind of task, however gridding is actually one of the best things you can do.
Simply put, counted cross stitch requires (you guessed it) counting. The time you take to count can not only be massive, but you can, and often do, miss count requiring mass unpicking. Gridding stops all of that. In fact one of the products we’ll talk about says it can cut stitching time by one third!
 
So with that in mind, what exactly is the best way to grid your cross stitch? Well, its all a matter of choice. We’ve taken the most popular ways and detailed them out so you can give them a shot.

Easy Count Guideline

Cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A Satisfied Spirit
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit

You’ve probably seen gridded cross stitch on the internet, with red lines crossing. The likelihood is that its Easy Count Guideline, which works as a thread, but instead of being made from cotton is a thin wire. The advantage of this is that is doesn’t get caught up in your stitches and when you’re done you can simply pull it out. It is, by far, the most common gridding technique and I personally use it myself. However, its also the most expensive with costs of about $6 for 10m. It’s also technically a ‘secure object’ in the EU, so you must be 18+ to buy it.

Single Threads

Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint

I hear you all saying to yourselves “so why can’t I just use thread instead?” well, you could, I just wouldn’t suggest it. The issue with single threads is that you can stitch through them, meaning when you go to pull out your thread; you can’t. Not only that but as its part of the stitch now, you can’t cut it out easily. This means that your guideline, which is normally a bright color can’t be removed, ruining your stitch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, in fact, for backstitching projects its a fantastic idea!

Fishing Line

“Fine, but are there cheaper options? I’ve heard people use fishing line?” True, you can use fishing line, and fishing line is often cheaper than the official stitching alternative. I’ll even let you into a secret; Easy Count Guidleine is actually just fishing wire. The different however omes in thickness of wire. There are a lot of fishing wires that would work OK, but the thinner, the better. Look for wire rated less than 8 pounds.

Easy Count Pre Grided Aida

Zweigart Easy Count Grid
Zweigart Easy Count Grid

Easy Count aida, is made by Zweigart and simply has lines built into the fabric. This line is when washed away once you’re finished. It is more expensive than standard aida, and doesn’t come in as many colors. To make things a little worse, the lines take up the space of a stitch, and not inbetween the lines like patterns are marked.

Magic Count Pre Grided Aida

Very simlar to Easy Count, DMC make their own, called Magic Count, which has the advantage of being a little easier to see, but holds the DMC price tag to boot.

Erasable Pens

Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread
Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread

Finally, there are erasable pens. Whilst erasable pens were my first stab at gridding, you soon realise there are a few issues. The first is that they don’t wash out as easy as you’d like, meaning you sometimes need to give your cross stitch a hot bath once you’re finished which does impact the threads, especially metallics. Secondly, much like the pre-printed aida, you can’t stitch on the lines, meaning you have to take up a line of stitching, which could possibly throw your count off.
 
Once you’ve decided on your gridding technique check out this video from Peakcock & Fig on how to grid:

The Robots That Cross Stitch

cross stitch machine (source: youtube)

I write for the XStitch Magazine, and in issue 4 I talk about the rise of Artificial Intelligence in art, and just how close we are to a robot creating a masterpiece. I mention the rise of a series of robots capable of creating something close to art, but there is one robot in particular that is making waves in cross stitch, and not the good kind.

How close are we to a robot cross stitch artist?

Really close. Really really really close.
 
Sewing machines have been around a long time, and the fact that they can complete a whole slew of stitches makes the art of patch embroidery possible, such as the awesome work of NAME.
However in the last 5 years sewing machines have been able to cross stitch too.

Last week we looked at the iconic IKEA cross stitch mail out. The point of the marketing campaign was to appear handmade, however they produced 40,000 of the letters, on machines. It kind of missed the point in my eye, however it just goes to show, that cross stitch isn’t just a handmade craft anymore.
cross stitch machine
The one good side? The cost. These machines are at the lowest $1000 and you just don’t see that many around. Thankfully, for now at least, cross stitch will remain wholly in the handmade.
And for any of those who want to know if it’s handmade or not, the machines can’t stitch on aida properly, so they normally stitch on linen.
 
Interested in more companion pieces? Check out my blog on the time cross stitch almost made it to space or why glow-in-the-dark thread is green.

The Story Of The Iconic IKEA Cross Stitch

Ikea Lida cross stitched email close up (source: Lida)

The IKEA cross stitch mailout is fairly well known in our community, however whilst researching another story, this old chestnut came back with an rather interesting video, as seen below, and I wondered just how many of you knew the story of the mailout in the first place.

It all starts with a brief, and in this instance IKEA wanted to collect email addresses of high purchase buyers that hadn’t yet given it. The marketing agency LIDA took up the call, and looked into IKEAs brand promises. The one that stood out the most? Handmade. The second? Craft.

Ikea Lida cross stitched email
Source: Lida

To all of you reading this, that should scream cross stitch, and with good reason too. Cross stitch has always been a craft that uses the hand, and for a very long time, something that only the hand could do, machines just weren’t able. However as the above video shows, new embroidery machines can match the cross stitch action, and whilst they can’t hit the holes in aida very well, they can make a very good facsimile.
Machined and sent out to 40,000 IKEA family members, the marketing campaign was the best the company had ever produced, and sparked a follow up campaign using a printed cross stitch postcode, which won a whole slew of awards.
Ikea Lida cross stitched email close up
Source: Lida

Jonathan Goodman, Managing Director at LIDA says “The Handcrafted campaign is IKEA through and through. It engages their customers by showing them appreciation and the message is delivered with craft and care. It was a pleasure to be given the brief to ‘send an email without an email address’ and to be given the freedom to create a something that will demonstrate both the effectiveness of high value DM, as well as the relevance of email communications.”
 
Whilst for most the IKEA mailout was a fun marketing idea, for us cross stitchers I think we need to look at just what our craft represents. We are handmade.
 
If you want to know more about how robots can cross stitch, we’ve looked at that.

Book Review: Criss Crossing Paris

Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover (source: amazon)

I’ve done a few cross stitch book reviews in the past, however I tend to stay away from them, and there is a very simple reason for this; they’re all the same. Cross stitch books stitch to a hard and fast formula. The reason is that for the vast majority; it works.
 
There are exceptions though, such as the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch which put cross stitch in a new light. However for the first time ever (as far as I could tell), Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes have created a cross stitch book that goes totally off the ‘golden rules’ of cross stitch books and they’ve made something truly amazing.
 
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover
We’ll start with what the book does have; the normal instructiions which are slightly more in depth than normal featuring things that aren’t in the book but help embelish, such as the dreaded french knot or beads, a fanastic selection of stitched up patterns, a guide on making things out of your finished cross stitch and a whole raft of standard thread lists and methods to accompany each pattern. That’s where things start getting special. The first thing you see when opening the book is an introduction to the authors, something that I normally flip past, however if you read on it gives you hints on how this book came to be, and where the ideas came from.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 1
Pulling across the page you see Paris in all its stitched glory; or a map of it anyway. See, the special thing about this book is that is about Paris, and stitching the sights Paris is famous for. I don’t mean the Eiffel Tower and other iconic sights; I mean the real Paris. Pictures include art being sold on the street, adorned windows above a shop, a fancy Parisian door, and other unusual sights that make up Paris. This in itself is a great idea for a book, to take something slightly less well known, but still truly Parisian and making a cross stitch about it.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 2
They really could have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead, they took a step I’ve never seen before in a cross stitch book; a loose pattern. OK, it’s still a pattern at the end of the day, but they have fun with it, and want you to as well. The grid sits over an image of cross stitches of random sizes and placements, allowing you to pick your own destiny in stitching it. You can follow the blocks, you can free hand it, you can even drop some points all together; this book is about cross stitch creativity. They then take this idea and show you just what you can do with it. I’ve attached images of their Eiffel Tower stitch, their most typically Parisian, and they’ve shown how you can chop the pattern up, stitch only a section, stitch it freehand or copy the pattern stitch for stitch.
 

In more geometric designs, the charts are easy to follow as the grids are carefully aligned with the illustrations. For designs with more organic elements – curves, foliage, sky – the design doesn’t adhere to a grid line. This is where you need to become creative.

Everything about this cross stitch book screams creativity; the choice you the stitcher make when stitching, and how every time you pick this book up and stitch a pattern, regardless of how many times you’ve stitched it before, it will always be different. Is it for the beginner? Well, I don’t see why not; this is a book for people who want to create, to make something truly unique, and Fiona and Sally-Anne give you a helping hand to get there.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 3
 

You can pick up a copy from amazon or your local book store.

A pdf copy of the book was supplied free of charge by the authors for this review. The opinions are totally my own and no effort was made to appease or appeal to the authors or publishers of this book.

Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Title: Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda
Date Completed: August 2017
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 18
Canvas: Cream
Colours: 15
Pop Culture: Japan
 
After the success of my Pokemon Great Wave cross stitch I knew I had to create another. Looking back on my previous works, its clear that Japanese art inspires me, and I’ve attempted many Japanese woodblock print style pieces before, such as my Japanese Gengar cross stitch. I wanted to continue this theme of adding a Pokemon addition into a traditional print, so went looking at famous Japanese woodblock prints.
 
This is when I came across the work of Asano Takeji. Whilst many of his later prints were humorous or risqué his earlier pieces blew my mind. His approach was to take urban landscapes in Kyoto (a city with traditional architecture) and create prints using interesting angles. Arguably one of his most famous works is Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda, where he uses an angle which cannot be met in real life. Having been to this Kyoto landmark I felt a real connection to it. In fact, the Yasaka Pagoda was a primary inspiration for my Minature Ecruteak City cross stitch.

moon light in yasaka pagoda inspiration
Inspiration: Asano Takeji’s Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda (left), Pokemon Tin Tower (middle top), Ho-Oh in Pokemon anime (top right), Tin Tower over Ecruteak City (bottom right)

In the same way as I created the great wave cross stitch pattern, I recreated the print using the style of the artist (which unlike the Great Wave does not have black lines seperating the different colours) in the same size as the original in 1951 was. I then took this and added a Pokemon element.
 
As I mentioned earlier, I always thought Yasaka Pagoda looked very similar to the Ecruteak City Tin/Bell Tower. The Pokemon fable is that the legendary Ho-oh sat on top of the golden tower. In addition to this in the Pokemon anime, Ash, the main character, searches out for Ho-Oh, convinced of his existance (when the rest of the world doubts him). I remember watching the very first epidode and seeing Ho-Oh, and telling all my friends about it, to also be shot down. I felt it would be a perfect connection to add in Ho-Oh in the same way Ash sees him in the first episode.
 
However, as I stitched what was the largest project I’ve undertaken (in size and stitches) I fell in love with the original print, and just couldn’t bring myself to add Ho-oh. Instead, I went for a faithful recreation.
Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda cross stitch by Lord Libidan comparison