If you choose to wash your cross stitch there is a need to dry it. This drying gives you a chance to block out your cross stitch (or pinning as its sometimes called) and ensures no stretching, warping, or folds can be seen in your finished project. But it also sucks. You have to get our your rulers, find a suitable surface to do it on, stretch and pin always trying to keep it straight, not really being sure if you’re actually putting a warp in it or not.
But there is an alternative. And its from the world of quilting.
The Cushioned Quilters Square n Blocker is a dream. In short, its a blocking board, combined with a few nifty features that make it a serious upgrade from the weird foam floor mats you’re currently using.
Why its great
Let’s start by saying what we’re talking about is a fancy foam cushion. At first, that seems a little… well, a little worthless. But its no ordinary foam cushion! Made from a tough fabric it allows you to pin, pin, and pin again without damaging it. For a sheer length of use this gives it, its already a serious contender, however, its build quality really isn’t the star feature.
The board has a blocking pattern printed on it showing you a series of straight lines, at right angles, meaning no more rulers, no more “is that straight?” moments. You can simply throw down your work and know that it’ll be pinned down in a nice orderly, warp free way. But that’s also not its star feature.
So what’s the star feature? You can iron it. Yes, directly on it. This has two massive advantages. Firstly, you can iron on your cross stitch, while its pinned, meaning no accidental ironing in of creases (we’ve all been there), but also, you don’t have to get the ironing board out.
Is it worth getting?
Well…maybe. I’m a great lover, and it’s a great product for sure, however, that doesn’t mean you should go out right now and buy one. There are two fairly large issues we also need to discuss.
Firstly, is the size. Whilst the 14” x 20” grid is plenty big enough for a lot of projects, it’s not for all projects. If you solely stitch smaller things, then it’s great, but with the alternative being something like foam floor mats, which you can connect together to make frankly massive areas, you might be better off investing in the mats.
Secondly is the cost, or should I say high cost? One of these will set you back about $45. As previously mentioned, the go-to alternative is foam floor mats, even if you get fancy here and add in a long ruler, a center finding ruler and a few right angles, you’re only going to hit half of that cost.
But, it does have its benefits. So if you have the money, I would think about getting one. But I’d still not consider it a wonder product you must go out and get. In fact, I still use floor mats. Whilst they aren’t as fancy and don’t have a nice pattern on them to ensure I’m always pinning them squarely, I’m used to them. I also stitch ever-increasing large cross stitches, so the adaptability of floor mats that can connect together means I’m always going to pull out the mats.
However, there is one thing that stopped me from talking about those things. It was the term Orient. You see, the term isn’t actually firm in its definition. Originally it described the ‘near East’, modern-day Egypt, Turkey, and surrounding countries. Then it became the ‘Middle East’, modern India, and surrounding countries. Then the ‘far East’, modern-day China and surrounding countries. Then the term ‘far East’ changed to include countries down to modern-day Indonesia. However, regardless of what countries and areas the term include, there is one constant; it’s along the Silk Road.
To many, the Silk Road is just a way to transport goods, and yes, its exact purpose was that but it carried far more importance than just the movement of goods. In fact, the silk road, the modern term for a series of transport routes from 200BC to the 1340s AD, also had another important purpose. The trade of ideas, skills, and art.
Whilst most regard movement of anything to be pretty boring logistics, and in most cases, I do too, the Silk Road is one of paramount importance to us as, without it, we wouldn’t have cross stitch. It’s an often-forgotten part of cross stitch history, however without this trade route, and the world’s love affair with oriental stuff, we wouldn’t have any of the vital parts that came together to create cross stitch.
It all starts with another route, and that’s a theme here, the Steppe Route, which allowed trade during a rather tumultuous time in the world. This trade saw many things, notably wild silks, probably from Europe, being moved across the world back in 1040 BC. This trade route allowed Alexander the Great to expand from Egypt to Turkey (near East) some 500 years later and laid the first part of the Silk Road.
Whilst silks had made their way through this trade route, the quality was seen as poor, being wild silk a course fiber, this is when China enters the picture. Having long cultivated silkworms to produce thin fibers, the silk they produced was nothing the rest of Europe had seen before. But this didn’t make it popular.
When the Roman Empire was in swing, they traded across their entire landmass, and thanks to their conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, found the Steppe Route. This wasn’t the Steppe Route from 500 BC though, whilst most of Europe was in flux, the Chinese dynasties had developed heavily used trade routes to Egypt connecting the previously mentioned route to the Middle East and beyond. This trade was mostly that of spices and food, however, the Romans, with their love of decadency, wanted more.
This is where the Silk Road starts. Romans of wealth traded spices, perfumes, glassware, and jade, convinced that the gifts of the Orient were precious. However, it was in silk, that they really relished. Seeing silk as the epitome of immorality, showing every curve of the body, the Roman Empire prohibited the wearing of the silk. And as we all know, if I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, you think of one, and so the Romans thought only of silk.
As the Roman Empire fell and the Byzantine Empire took over, Empires along the length of the Silk Road were also flourishing. These Empires conspired, fought, and allied, and with it, traded secrets. These sometimes took the form of recipes, but sometimes took the form of silkworm larvae. This allowed Empires to grow their own silk and whilst it wasn’t the best of quality, opened up a new market, silk strands.
During the Islamic era in the 8th century, silk dresses were no longer admired in the same way, being commonplace throughout the route. The far East states responded quickly, making ornate silk embroideries but during this time the city of Baghdad was built and quickly became the most important trading point along the silk road. The route, no longer strong-armed by the Orient or Europe changed its requirements. Islamic repeating patterns became the new standard, with silk being the main thread type. But to cut costs, the fabric stitched onto was cheapened to a hessian, a pre-curser to aida.
This is when cross stitch was invented. Many overlook this history, instead thinking that cross stitch is a traditionally English pursuit. This is also completely false, Catherine of Braganza, of Portugal, brought both tea and cross stitch over to England in 1662. Instead, cross stitch is a little bit Egyptian, a little bit Chinese, a little bit Roman, and a little but Islamic. So next time you stitch, just think of how far cross stitch has come, and be thankful to the Silk Road.
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…
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?
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).
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?
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?
Bonus fun fact: In the 1960s Anchor used to sell their embroidery thread on wooden spools!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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)!
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.
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.
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…
So Why Try It?
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!
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! It’s 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.
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 deteriorating eyesight, now she can’t. Keep care of your eyes as long as possible people!
How to fix it: Get some more light. It could be a fancy bulb, a tracing pad, or just a lamp.
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 susceptible 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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.
Got any other life-saving cross stitch organization tips? We’re kind of obsessed, so send them our way!
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 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.”
Urban cross stitch graffiti is hardly new, however rarely is the artist approaching levels of famous as Ana Martins (often going as “Aheneah”).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
What unique ways have your framed your cross stitch? We’d love to add to the list, so drop us a note below!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?