When Cross Stitch And Technology Collide

Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih

Cross stitch has been around for more than 2500 years and whilst it has a rich history the advent of new technology into a fairly historical hobby is few and far between. However, with a recent push in the fashion industry for e-textiles, cross stitch has had its world turned upside down. Now, its future tech.
 
I initially heard about lights and PCBs being used in cross stitch back in 2013 when I was about to speak to Wei Chieh Shih about his work, and an upcoming project, “Adelita”. He’s a fashion designer that focuses on technology, but to work out if something is possible, he turns to cross stitch. There are a whole series of conductive thread kits you can now buy, allowing you to install tech into your clothing, but Wei takes it 10 steps ahead, by intergrating programable tech into complex circuits.

He can then take these ideas, simplfy them and create fantastic works of art, like his 2013 “Adelita” project, combining folk wooden toys from Mexico with high tech clothing.

Adelita by Wei Chieh Shih
Adelita by Wei Chieh Shih

But technology and cross stitch isn’t just for the fancy high end artists. It’s not only possible to make clever art using tech, but you can do it really easily.
Cross stitched circuit by Jade Jenkins
Cross stitched circuit by Jade Jenkins

With more and more cross stitch artists showing their work to the world, it’s clear that kits such as Kitronik or LilyPad, we’re not only going to see more tech cross stitch, but also helping push the e-textile world.
Stranger Things light up cross stitch by raleblanc05
Stranger Things light up cross stitch by raleblanc05

Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih
Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih

Time To Ditch That Old Cross Stitch Needle

gold cross stitch needles

My needle broke!

Oh yeh, we’ve all said that. Its just part of cross stitch… right? Wrong.
 
Needles are a very important art of cross stitch, and they can massively range in complexity, material and price, and so it seems only natural to stick to what you know; and stick to the same old needle. However after speaking with a very well known needle manufacturer last year when I was looking into how cross stitch needles are made, he informed me that cross stitch needles are soft. Not so soft that they can be broken easily, but far softer than say, medical needles.
Medical needles are, in case you hadn’t realised, used only once. And they are made from surgical hardened stainless steel, twice as hard as the gold needles you use. And then he showed me this:
Reused needle
Now on the face of it, that doesn’t look too bad, but when you remember you use a needle 256 times in a square inch. And your needle is half as strong as that one. That’s why I’m suggesting you throw out that old needle.
 
In fact, I’d go one step further and tell you that you need to use a new needle for every project. And no, I’m not a crazy rich person. Every time you use a needle, you damage it. Every bit of damage means you snag on the threads and canvas, you stretch the holes in the aida, you catch threads on other stitches, and frankly, you put your whole project at risk of those tiny little weird bits that stick out for no reason. Sadly, even storing cross stitch needles can damage them too.
 
So that’s why I use a new one for every project. Whatever the size, a new needle comes out. Now, lets be honest, needles can be super expensive, and my prefered needle is a petite full gold number, but I’m not made of gold needles. I get smart. For plastic canvas I use a standard, cheap needle, which can save a lot of money in cross stitch, as my plastic canvas stitches tend to be less than 1000 stitches. For anything with 10,000 stitches I use a fancy one, and anything inbetween, I use whatever I have on hand.
 
But this isn’t just a crazy idea of mine either. Not only is there a difference in how I can stitch, how fast I can cross stitch, and on the ease, but it has a clear effect on the end result. Less puckering, more uniformity, and no stray stitches that just don’t want to sit right. Try ditching that old needle, and see for yourself the improvement. And suffer a lot less broken needles.
cross stitch needle

Frogging Made Easy – Curve Tipped Scissors

lift-n-snip-scissors with close up

I’ve been stitching now for well over 15 years, and in that time I must have frogged a good few hundred meters of thread (I stitch stuff wrong all the time), and frankly, its not been fun. Frogging sucks. It’s the bain of existance for cross stitchers everywhere, not only due to the fact that it takes ages, means the last few hours stitching were a waste, but also opens up all the little holes in aida.
 
It turns out however that one of those problems is now something of the past. Enter these babies:
4andhalf inch snip-a-stitch scissors
Before I get into the meat of things here, if you don’t know what frogging is, check out my previous post where we go into where the term frogging came from. I also want to say that I’ve not been paid for this review; I’m just obsessed with these scissors. In fact, I’m pretty much obsessed with cross stitch scissors in general.
 
But these scissors are a bit different. Firstly, they’re very new to the market, I can find reference to them in 2017, but not before. The second thing, is these scissors are made JUST for frogging. Or as I should actually say; removing sutures and stitches.
 
You see, removing stitches from people have exactly the same issue of opening up the holes, and with humans and animals, you can spread disease like crazy. So the medical profession took to making a perfect pair of scissors for removing sutures.

Removing sutures and stitches drawing
Diagram showing sutures being removed with curve tipped scissors. Source: Nursing textbook

Some clever so and so thought it would be great to move them to cross stitch, and my word where they right. These scissors have a magic tip to them, curving inwards so you can capture a single stitch and snip it without pulling.
lift-n-snip-scissors with close up
I won’t link directly to anyone in particular (it looks like they’re aren’t in mainstream cross stitch stores yet), however if you want to pick up a pair yourself, look online for Snip-A-Stitch, Lift-N-Snip or (if you want the medical ones) littauer stitch scissors. Trust me, these are the new best thing in cross stitch.

Nintendo Switch Micro Console Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Nintendo Switch Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 3 Game: Nintendo Switch, Joycon Controllers
Title: Nintendo Switch Micro Console
Date Completed: June 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: Plastic
Colours: 3
Game: Nintendo Switch, Joycon Controllers
 
With my Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch done, I set about starting creating the pattern for my other Xstitch Mag project, a Micro Cassette Keychain Cross Stitch, however as I tried to get to sleep, all I could think about is how I could stitch the other Gameboys. I ignored it for a while, but as E3 graced us, I started to think; could I create Joy-Con controlers? And how would they work together, and as part of the Switch?
 
Fixed by the size limitations of my Nintendo N64 Micro Console Cross Stitch, I knew the rough size had to be small, smaller than my Gameboy Color even. I created a rough scale of the screen, and set about creating a small Joy-Con. Stitching the sections together I realised that not only would they work, but I could get them to fit into the side of the Switch screen, just like in real life. To finish it off, I added in a spacer so the Joy-Cons could be removed and held like a standard controller. In future I think I would also create a kickstand for the screen, which I can think of how to do easily now. Sadly, I think a game slot would just be too hard at this scale.
 
This project grew in size and before I submitted the idea to the Xstitch Mag, I had created the classic Gameboy, Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch, Gameboy Advance, and the Nintendo DS, all in micro form.
Micro Gameboy Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan

What’s the best alternative for ThreadHeaven?

ThreadHeaven

By this point its probably no longer news that ThreadHeaven is no more, but as you work through your stash, have you wondered what to use as a replacement?
 
ThreadHeaven was fantastic as it was both a wax, and a conditioner, and whilst a lot of people think they’re the same, they have two different purposes. Wax makes the thread stick together, and through the fabric easier, whilst the conditioner stops the thread fraying. We’ve looked at all the different options on the market to see which we prefer, based on these two features, using normal and metallic threads, which are MUCH easier to use with thread conditioner. Note that there are other claims, such as protection from UV rays, but we’ve yet to see the science behind that so we’ve not taken it into account.
 

Our Pick: Thread Magic

cThread Magic
I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not suprised by this. Initially when TheadHeaven was all the rage I thought Thread Magic was the ugly step sister; turns out, I was wrong. So wrong in fact, that I would say Thread Magic works better! Its conditions and waxes like a charm, doesn’t build up over time, and has no scent at all (although one can develop if stored for a long time). The packs it comes in with holes for the thread also make it super user friendly, and whilst it is MUCH more expensive than all the alternatives on the list, it lasts far longer than any of them. A true winner in our eyes.
 

Close Second: White Bees Wax


When it comes to wax, not all are equal. We should note that I’ve said WHITE bees wax here, you can see below for a little bit about why that is. Bees wax is actually a bleeding wax, meaning it penetrates surfaces, such as threads where as other waxes don’t. Therefore it not only waxes the surface, but conditions at the same time. It can get a little waxy after a while of use, but it also smells great, so its worth it! Its worth noting though that bees wax is extreamly flammable; so be careful when ironing if you don’t want to wash your work before hand.
 

Surprise Third: Candlemaker’s Wax/White Unscented Candles


We expected the standard candle to be a out and out flop in our tests, but it turns out, it worked quite well. Unlike bees wax it isn’t conditioning, but it waxes well, and doesn’t build up on your fingers over time, which is a big plus. Thanks to the shape of a candle, its also super easy to wax up your threads.
 

In A Pinch: Water


Yeh, you heard that right; water. So to be more accurate, a damp sponge, however you’re only actually using the water. This idea came from a commenter, and damn is it good. Tried it last night and it worked a treat. However, a few things to remember; don’t use it on speciality threads, they often use metal, which can rust if you’re not careful. And try finding natural or pH neutral sponges to make sure you’re not picking up nasties.
 

Some success: Silicone Ear Plugs

silicone ear plugs
Before I begin with this one, not all silicone-like earplugs are made from silicone; get the pure silicon ones. However, if you find them, silicone can be a good idea. The one thing to say is silicone cannot be washed out. At all. It stays permanently on the thread. Whilst this can be great (it protects the thread long term), it means any dust caught in there, or sweat from hands can’t be washed out. I would use this with some caution for now. We’ll do more tests.
 

JUST DON’T BOTHER: ‘Natural’ Bees Wax


We mentioned above that white bees wax is fantastic for threads, however don’t be tempted to get DIY or ‘natural’ bees wax. Theses aren’t the same. The DIY ones can include some seriously iffy colorants (and could actually be toxic), however even the natural ones aren’t that good for threads. In natural bees wax they often don’t filter off the impurities. Whilst most are perfectly fine, you don’t know what chemicals are hidden away, and you don’t want your work ruined.

Nintendo DS Micro Console Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Nintendo DS Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 3 Game: Nintendo Gameboy DS
Title: Nintendo DS Micro Console
Date Completed: June 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: Plastic
Colours: 3
Game: Nintendo Gameboy DS
 
Having created every handheld by Nintendo since the Gameboy, I figured it was time to finish the job, and create a Nintendo DS. Creating the design initially wasn’t hard, as the scale was set by my Nintendo N64 Micro Console Cross Stitch and previous Gameboys, however up to this point all Gameboys used the same cartridges. The Gameboy cartridge and the Gameboy Advanced cartridge, which was a shorter version. The Nintendo DS however had a slot for both of these, AND a DS game, which was very small.
 
I created the game to start, which was a simple 2×2 black square (which shows how tiny these things are), where I could then make the cut out on the inside pieces. What became quickly obvious was the insides had to be made of 4 seperate peices, with a fifth to plug the ‘hole’ created by the Gameboy game socket, like the original. Once that hurdle was over, I then had to work out how to get the joint working, so it opened and closed. In the end, it came together well, with a small Nintendo DS game, the ability to use Gameboy and Gameboy Advance games, a small ‘filler’ slot, and a working open close mechanism.
 
This project grew in size and before I submitted the idea to the Xstitch Mag, I had created the classic Gameboy, Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch, Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo Switch, all in micro form.
Micro Gameboy Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan

Did You Know You Can Print On Aida?

adventure time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange

Aida selections generally come in white, black, grey or every pale shade of pastel under the sun. But what if you want something that’ll pop? What about something with a design on it? Well saddle up, cos we’re about to go on a ride. It turns out, your average home color printer can create awesome aida in no time flat!
 
WonderStrange worked out all the hard work for us, but the technique is actually pretty simple. Cut your plain aida (you should use white) down to A4 size, put some freezer paper on the back (its sticky on one side) and put it in your printer. Print whatever you want and you have yourself a epic, custom but of aida.
 
Wondering why you need the freezer paper? Turns out those holes make a serious mess unless something is behind it!

Source: WonderStrange

Finally, if you want a pure color for aida, you can also try painting it.
adventure time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange
Adventure Time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange

Gameboy Advance Micro Console Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Gameboy Advance Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 4 Game: Nintendo Gameboy Advance

Title: Gameboy Advance Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 4 Game: Nintendo Gameboy Advance
Title: Gameboy Advance Micro Console
Date Completed: June 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: Plastic
Colours: 4
Game: Nintendo Gameboy Advance
 
The best place to start with this project is how it came about. I had created a Nintendo N64 Micro Console Cross Stitch and had intended to create a classic Gameboy in the same scale (which I later did), however instead created the Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch as it was more visually interesting. However my memory of the Gameboy was firmly set on the Gameboy Advance.
 
This new challenge was actually more interesting that it sounds, as along with creating a smaller Gameboy, a Gameboy on a different orientation, and a Gameboy with shoulder buttons, I also had to create smaller games that would still play the larger variants. Choosing the launch purple, I created something that works well, but not perfectly. In future I think an additional ‘step’ on the back will allow you to get Gameboy Advance games out easier.
 
This project grew in size and before I submitted the idea to the Xstitch Mag, I had created the classic Gameboy, Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch, Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Switch, all in micro form.
Micro Gameboy Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan

The Best Cross Stitch Books

With so many cross stitch books out there, I’ve read my way through a library just to give you a run down of the best cross stitch books, categorised by difficulty.

Best Books For Beginners

The Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch

mr x stitch guide to cross stitch Cover
Difficulty: X to XX

By Jamie Chalmers
Perfect for the beginner, it doesn’t get too technical, and everything it written with an entertaining edge. Its fun, chatty and includes some awesome modern patterns. We have a full review here.
 

The New Cross Stitcher’s Bible

the new cross stitchers bible
Difficulty: X to XXXX

By Jane Greenoff
A staple in many cross stitchers collections, the Jane Greenoff Cross Stitch bible has been updated a series of times over the years, and covers everything from the very basics, so complex theories and stitches. It can be a great learning resource, but is a bit hard to get into.
 

Cross Stitch: A beginner’s step-by-step guide

cross stitch beginners book cover
Difficulty: X to XX

By Charlotte Gerlings
A general beginners book with a slant on smaller projects, this book offers clear and concise advice without going off topic. Small at only 48 pages.
 
 
 

Best Intermediate Books

Mega Mini Cross Stitch

mega mini cross stitch book cover
Difficulty: XX to XXX

By Makoto Oozu
A compendium of small cross stitches by Japanese cross stitch master Makoto Oozu, over 900 simple patterns and some basic instructions. The diffuculty comes from the language; the whole book is in Japanese.
 

Cross-Stitch to Calm: Stitch and De-Stress

Cross-Stitch to Calm- Stitch and De-Stress book cover
Difficulty: XX to XXX

By Leah Lintz
These simple patterns, mostly using less than 5 colors are great practice, but offer little in the way of very complicated designs. The 40 patterns included are all well created however, making each pattern a worth while stitch.
 

The Cross-Stitch Garden

the cross stitch garden book cover
Difficulty: XX to XXX

By Kazuko Aoki
A great selection of delicate patterns and designs make this a book intermediate book, capable of stretching newer and more advanced stitchers alike.
 
 
 

Best Advanced Books

Storyland Cross Stitch


Difficulty: XX to XXXX

By Sophie Simpson
A great book with a series of interesting patterns ranging from fairly simple to advanced, with each pattern having its own kit items attached; ready for stitching.
 

Subversive Cross Stitch

subversive cross stitch book cover
Difficulty: XXX to XXXX

By Julie Jackson
Rude and lude, but a great set of patterns, made specifically to make you chuckle. Whilst the book does have basic instructions, its patterns are far from simple.
 

Do-It-Yourself Stitch People


Difficulty: XXX to XXXX

By Elizabeth Dabczynski-Bean
A book with no guide at all seems like a bad idea, however this fantastic resource allows you to create your own cross stitch people by picking hair, faces, bodies, legs and accessories. As a result there is no pattern to follow, meaning you have to work it out yourself.

Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Gameboy Color Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 8 Game: Nintendo Gameboy, Pokemon Red, Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Yellow, Harvest Moon

Title: Gameboy Color Micro Console Date Completed: June 2018 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 8 Game: Nintendo Gameboy, Pokemon Red, Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Yellow, Harvest Moon
Title: Gameboy Color Micro Console
Date Completed: June 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 14
Canvas: Plastic
Colours: 8
Game: Nintendo Gameboy, Pokemon Red, Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Yellow, Harvest Moon
 
I had this project on the back burner since my Nintendo N64 Micro Console Cross Stitch back in June of 2017. In that time I’ve been working on my largest ever project, but also stitching some secret projects. By now I can say that I create cross stitch patterns for the Xstitch Mag, which has taken up some time, but also two books, and a third and fourth book proposal, which I can say a little more about in the coming weeks. However, with the newest Xstitch Mag project done, it was announced that the next issue was goign to be a ‘mixtape’ issue. In short, this meant I could stitch anythign I wanted, so long as it fit in the mag. I threw this idea back in the mix along with a Micro Cassette Keychain Cross Stitch.
 
My initial idea was to copy the size requirements of the micro Nintendo N64 console I stitched, but make a classic gameboy. Whilst I did go onto make a Classic Gameboy Micro Console Cross Stitch as part of the project, I initially shelved the idea, instead going for a Gameboy Color, as it looked a little more interesting.
 
Picking the launch color, lime green, I created a micro Gameboy color, with a slot at the back for games to go in and out. In addition I created a cartridge of Harvest Moon 2 (my favorite Gameboy game) and Pokemon Blue, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Yellow.
 
This project grew in size and before I submitted the idea to the Xstitch Mag, I had created the classic Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Switch, all in micro form.
Micro Gameboy Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan

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