When anyone starts a new project there is one question that plagues cross stitchers everywhere. How many skeins of thread do I need?
What makes this question even harder is it isn’t the same for everyone. You see, people stitch in different ways, and generally that means you can be more or less efficient. So we stitched one color in an efficient and inefficient way to get a scale of how many stitches you can make using a whole 8m skein of thread.
Inefficient vs Efficient Stitches
A few people have asked what make the difference between efficient and inefficient stitches, so to help you stitch more economically, here is what we did.
Inefficient – Stitched in the “English Method”, with knots in the starts of the threads and ends of threads. Shorter lengths of threads were used, and all threads were used till at least 2 inches were left.
Efficient – Stitched in the “Danish Method”, no knots in the start or end (thread ends tucked), long lengths of thread and only 1 inch left before ending the thread.
The first thing to discuss is the possible types of pattern maker you can get: Free – Made using a simple pattern maker without customisation Patterns As A Service – You pay for one pattern at a time Fully Capable – Lots of customisation options, but a big learning curve
So with that in mind, let’s get into when you should pay, and which ones I suggest.
When you want a super realistic outcome
After a few cross stitch kits and patterns from others, its a fairly regular thing to want to stitch a photo you own, however free pattern makers just aren’t capable of making a realistic pattern in most cases (see the discussion on dithering on last weeks post). As a result, in order to get something realistic, you have to pay. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out wads of cash. The patters-as-a-service model is perfect here, offering you the chance to get a pattern made with really good tools, without much effort, for only $10.
A word of warning though, if you want more than 5 patterns a year, we suggest you keep reading!
Our suggestion:thread-bare.com ($10) or patterncreator.com ($7.50)
Whilst pattern creator is cheaper and reviews slightly better overall in our tests, we find thread-bare has some fantasticly realistic outputs so long as you’re willing to experiment with the settings.
When you want something custom
There are a whole load of cross stitch patterns on places like Etsy, but what happens if you want something custom? The only choice is a paid pattern maker. This might take the form of something small, or something massive like the pattern below, but whatever changes you want, you need a robust pattern maker that can handle it.
When you intend to make more than 5 patterns a year
When you want to make more than 5 patterns a year, I would invest in a really good pattern maker. The advantage here is that not only do you get patterns cheaper, but you have ALL the control, meaning you can make anything from a tiny change, to a massive custom piece. If you just want a plug and play pattern, you can do that, but as you progress, or you want to make more changes, all the functionality is built in. The cherry on top? Once you purchase the software, you never had to pay for a pattern again, meaning you save on the first year by $10, and then the following years by $50+.
Our suggestion:WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac)$48
Once again Ursa software offers the best option here, no only as its just under $50 (the price of 5 patterns on a pattern-as-a-service model) but also allows for a more realistic output and gives you access to tools you’ll need as you progress in pattern making.
As a result it often scares people away from purchasing a pattern or downloading software to make patterns. Further to this the confusion about what makes a good pattern maker is rife, and so I regularlly get people asking me if a free pattern maker is better than a paid one. The answer is usually no; paid is better, however the reasons why are quite important; it can mean the difference between a brilliant pattern, and a terrible one.
Color selection in a pattern is super important, and as you progress as a stitcher you’ll find yourself hand picking colors. The reason hand picking colors is so important is that no one actually know what the colors is. Here me out there; thanks to the new DMC threads there are 500 DMC threads in the standard range to choose from, and whilst you can find these colors represented in a lot of places with color blocks, the threads aren’t made up with computer screens in mind. As a result when someone wants to look at an image on a computer they have to guess what the color is. Yes, you heard that right, they guess.
To give you an example, below are two cross stith programs interpretations of the colors in the DMC range. The important thing here is to see how different they are. Even though they’re meant to be the same color.
Free programs use a list they found somewhere online, they haven’t sat down with each color and investigated what the accurate color might be. Paid programs do. In fact, many paid programs make similar graphs to the above just to check their working against others, as a result they have a higher likelihood of getting more accurate color selections.
Dithering is a rather complicated thing, and I’m not going to describe it in detail, but in short, its how boundries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, its simply too complicated to bother and as a result there is no dithering. This sounds OK at first, but if you look at the example below (you can click it to enlarge it) you can see the difference dithering makes to ever part of the pattern. Simply put, dithering makes it look more real.
You might not think that any cross stitch pattern has ‘extras’ however things like per page thread usage, a preview image, page ‘cross over’ marks, amount of thread needed, and other things all come with patterns from paid pattern creators, however they don’t with free ones. In fact, with most, you’ll only get the bare bones of a pattern,.
It should also be noted that with every free pattern, there are limits. This is normally size and how many colors a pattern can have, most are limited to 200×200 and 30 colors, but there can also be other limits, such as only exporting in an image, or forced to have a weblink on the pdf.
Why They’re Free
Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realise; nothing is free. By offering a free program, what they mean, is they don’t think they can charge, as they know their program isn’t good enough to charge. But that doesn’t mean you should never use free cross stitch pattern makers. In fact, there is definitely a time and place for them. We’ll discuss when you should pay for a pattern maker next week.
Although online programs like StitchFiddle make free programs super accessible, the ability of paid programs, such as the online Thread-Bare and the downloadable WinStitch make the paid alternatives much better.
Everyone knows that needle minders are meant to hold needles for you, but a needle minder can be so much more. I’ve seen loads of different uses, from magnifiers to and the ever popular needle threaders, some of which we covered in last weeks needle threaders. By adding in something that you’re going to use anyway, you can stop that ever painful moment scrabbling around the floor trying to find one of those small tools.
However in my mind, there’s something much more important to look out for with needle minders. Size. When you’re stitching up a massive cross stitch, this isn’t so important, afterall, you have the space. But when you’re working on a smaller project, or even worse, travelling, the need for a needle minder is even higher! Yet large needle minders are frankly unwieldy. That’s why I use a super small needle minder when I can, such as these tiny 1cm kittens!
But this of course opens up another thing to consider, weight. You see, whilst some needle minders can be small and as a result work better for smaller projects, a lot of needle minders are metal, meaning they’re heavy. This not only causes more pressure for the frame/hoop, but can even warp your aida depending on what frame you use. As a result its a good idea to have a light weight needle minder in your collection too.
We personally love the idea of combining some of these options, like this awesome 2cm tiny needle minder made from lightweight plastic by FandomCrossStitchery.
We’ve been focusing on cross stitch tools a lot lately, however there’s one in particular that I personally don’t use; the needle threader. The reason I don’t use them? They break. A lot.
This is actually an accepted reason to shun needle threaders, even though they’re helpful, and the first thing that came to your head, if you use them or not, was breakages. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are a whole slew of needle threader types out there, and there’s only one that breaks.
The one that breaks
It would be remiss of me to start this list without mentioning the elephant in the room; the threader that everyone knows, and loathes. Let’s start with the positives, as afterall, they do work well as needle threaders. They’re also dirt cheap, and easy to find. More often than not you can get them free in a hotel sewing kit or by 100 of them for a few dollars.
But that’s kinda where it ends. You see, these things are effectively a small wire, and as a result, break often. Way too often. The wire might break, bend, or come free from the handle part. They’re also super hard to hold (especially the cheaper metal handle ones)
Clover Needle Threader
But fear not! Someone has improved the design. Clover was the first, so we’ve shown them here, but essentially they’ve taken the flimsy wire and made it a thin flat bit of metal. They work exactly the same other than that, however thanks to their thickenss are only really useful for cross stitch (which lets face it, you love). But this all comes at a price which is kinda over the top for what it is. Considering the other options on our list (like the one below) are often cheaper, it feels like these are better, but still not great.
LoRan Needle Threader
So now we look at the better alternatives. The LoRan needle threader as its come to be known is a new take on a needle threader, which is loaded on the side, and hooked through the eye. They’re a simple sheet of metal, so still super cheap (its worth getting them online where they’re a few cents each, rather than store where they can be a shocking $5 or more), but they’re also better in every way.
The hooks on both sides give you options for smaller and larger needles (or eyes), and are super sturdy. They can also be combined into needle minders like the one above by NeedleKeep Emporium. And finally, its the easiest one on our list to actually thread.
But there are things to be careful about. The hooks are kinda large, so it you use really small needles, such as petites you might not be able to fit them, and you need to be careful not to bend the hooks when they’re in your kit, or threading the needles will become SUPER hard.
I personally really rate these needle minders, I now use them myself. I rate them so much that we’re even offering one in our free giveaway this month!
Dritz Looped Needle Threaders
Whilst the LoRan needle threader is my go to, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. We already discussed above how petite needle users will struggle, and the possibility of hook bending might ruin your day, and so Dritz (who also came up with the LoRan needle threader) came up with something that might help; the looped needle threader.
You need to think of this as a ring of wire, however they make it in such a way that there is no join, and the wire has been pressed into a long spike. You feed the thread into the ring and then you use the wire to thread the needle. In my mind this kinda defeats the point as the wire is just as hard to thread, but it can be a life saver on sewing machines.
That doesn’t mean they’re all bad though, as these are cheap, super hardy, come in a multipack and we couldn’t break them; and we tried really hard.
Hummingbird Needle Threader
And now we come to the final, the true ‘best’ of the list. The hummingbird. Ignoring the fun shape for a second, its a hooked wire which you thread the needle onto, and then the thread. It’s been created to fix everyone’s needs. It has a cover so it doesn’t break, its cheap, its small so will go through any needle, it has a hook system so you don’t need to look too closely to hook it on, and it’s user friendly. However the fact that it tried to fix all these problems at once, for me, means it doesn’t really fix any. There are cheaper ones out there, there are ones that break less often, there are ones more suited to smaller needles, there are easier ones to work, and there are simpler forms. Sadly, for me, it falls short.
Automatic Needle Threaders
What about automatic needle threaders I hear you say! Well, there are some out there that do a good job. I’m not going to pretend otherwise either, as some work on magic I swear. However there is one big thing that gets me about automatic needle threaders. They’ve been around for about 50 years and in that time have been tried by countless thousands of embroidery fans, however I don’t know a single one that uses theirs. Instead they use a manual one. I don’t know why, and maybe that will be a future blog, but for now, I’ll still with the experts and choose the manual ones.
If you’re interested in how to use any of the above needle threaders, our friend Peacock & Fig have a super video.
We know that a lot of people take up new hobbies around new year, so we thought we’d give a run down on what you need to start cross stitching. Whilst most cross stitchers probably know whats needed, there are some things that can totally change your hobby that you only learn years after starting; so we’re giving you a leg up.
A Cross Stitch Kit/Pattern
The first thing any cross stitcher needs is a kit or pattern. This is the thing you work from allowing you to make the design. Most starters go for a kit, as this gives you the pattern, the fabric, the thread, and a needle. Some might even include a hoop to go with it, which as you can see from below, are also needed.
The fabric you stitch on will be called ‘aida’, there are other types of fabric for cross stitch, such as evenweave, but for a starter is best to use aida. It has a simple repeating pattern with little holes so you know exactly where to stitch. You’ll want to look for a ’14 count’ aida. This means there you can stitch 14 little crosses within an inch. It’s the standard size, however if you want you can choose a higher number (harder) or a lower number (easier), which might be good for getting kids involved.
I would also advise you to purchase more than you need. To start, you’ll want to add 4 inches around the edge of your design. So if your design is 2 inches square, you’ll want an 10 inch square bit of fabric. This might seem excessive, but the way you hold the fabric, and how you might frame it change the fabric requirements. As you start cross stitching more often you can change up the sizes to fit you better.
Needles! But specifically tapestry needles. I made this mistake myself when I started, in short, tapestry needles have a bigger eye (the bit at the end you thread) which can allow for embroidery thread, and it doesn’t have a sharp end. If you’ve chosen a 14 count aida fabric you’ll want a size 24 needle (confusing, right?) however if you’ve gone for a different count fabric you can check our handly guide on what size cross stitch needle you need.
You might also want to consider getting yourself a needle threader. They’re super cheap, and can make threading the needle a breeze.
The next thing you’ll need is embroidery thread. This is a very specific thread used by embroidery fans. It comes in 8m long lengths and is actually 6 different threads wound together. You’ll need to split these up to stitch, but your kit or pattern guide should tell you more about this. DMC is the most used brand, however you can also get more expensive threads such as Anchor, or cheaper ones like CXC. At the moment you really don’t need expensive threads, however price is something to consider going forward. A full set of DMC threads might cost you $400, where as a full set of CXC threads, which are the same colors, might cost you $60. There is also hardly any difference between expensive and cheap embroidery threads.
You’ll also want an embroidery hoop. This isn’t super important for something less than 2 inches, but for anything larger, its a requirement. It holds the fabric taught so you can see the holes easier. You can pick up a small 4 inch embroidery hoop from Etsy for a few dollars. You can invest in a bigger and better cross stitch frame if you want to later, we have a guide on finding the best cross stitch frame for you, however a hoop is cheap, effective and used by a lot of cross stitchers by preference.
Once again, we want to be specific here; you need EMBROIDERY scissors, but just your regular table scissors. So what’s the difference? The tips. Unliek normal scissors, embroidery scissors are short, and super sharp, and have a fine point. They allow you to get right in there with the tips to cut only the thread you want. I would start off with something like a 1 inch embroidery scissors, however you can also check out our guide on finding the right cross stitch scissors for you.
The Knowledge That It Might Not Be Perfect
One of the biggest things stopping people taking up cross stitch is the fear of getting it wrong. The fear that it might be mocked by other cross stitchers. Well, I’m here to tell you thats BS. Not only is the cross stitch community super nice, especially to beginners, but there are so many ways of doing things that you basically can’t do it ‘wrong’. So long as there are crosses, you’ve done it. You might have also heard about keeping the back of your work neat, and I’m not going to lie; the back of your work will probably look terrible, but I can also tell you that it doesn’t matter what the back of your cross stitch looks like. And if you have to pull stitches out, don’t worry, EVERYONE frogs.
&nsbp; Finally, know that if you ever have questions, just drop me an email, check reddit, or even a cross stitch facebook group.
Title: 3D Printed Cross Stitch Ring
Date Completed: December 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Canvas: 3D printed ring
Size: US 8 (UK P)
For my last cross stitch of 2018, I knew I wanted to do something small, but as it happens, I was FINALLY able to complete a project I’d been working on for the last 5 years.
nbsp; I’d always loved the idea of 3D printing, and I think many of my 3D cross stitches, such as my Transforming cross stitch were routed in, however I recently got the ability to print accurately on a 3D printer in high detail. I used this excuse to pull a simple ring design, and then edited it to work with a line of cross stitch, in 14 count.
In order to do this I had to pull a small interior ring to hold the back of the threads (so they don’t stick into your finger), and align the holes in a specific orientation to ensure the needle would fit through. You can see these changes in the below image a bit clearer.
However the hard work didn’t finish there. I had originally made two ring ideas, one with a 18 count, and one with 14. Whilst I was able to stitch both, the 18 count one simply didn’t work (the holes were too big). This however, wasn’t something I count fix. The size of the holes needed to be large enough that the smallest needles I could find (size 10 sharps) would fit through using a sewing thread (not embroidery).
However, all that work done, it was a simple case of stitching it up, and wearing it. I might actually offer a limited run of these on my Etsy if anyone is interested…
Over the last 10 years of cross stitch blogging I’ve seen a lot happen to the craft, and for the last few years I’ve created posts based on what I think is going to happen in 2017 and (with a little help from my cross stitchy friends) 2018. I’m normally pretty correct, so without further ado, lets look at what might happen in 2019.
Cross Stitch Magazines
This one was actually on last years plan, however with the loss of Cross Stitch Collection in 2017, the cross stitch magazine market has had a bit of a hard time. Originally I had forseen magazines becoming more persona focused, and with magazines such as The XStitch Mag coming out for a more modern market, I think we’ve seen that. But it also means something else.
Advertising. You see, the magazines are really feeling the pinch right now with advertisers loosing trust in magazines. As a result even in the biggest of mags we see more local and Etsy style shops advertising instead of the big companies. I think we might see another big cross stitch magazine go bust this year.
The Rise Of The Small Store Owner
One of the main impacts of big stores no longer advertising is that they start getting undercut by smaller stores that can stock the same things, but offer better service. I hear more and more that smaller stores are being selected over larger retailers, and I think 2019 will see a big change in the way people buy cross stitch supplies.
This is another one I focused on last year, and I’m glad to say my prediction was spot on. We saw quite a few cross stitch generator programs go bust, and in their place lots of ‘point and click’ online creators. This has two big effects; the first is that those point and clicks are going paid; and the costs are really high for what they offer ($10 a pattern anyone?) and so I forsee a big increase in people investing in downloaded software. In fact, we’ve even seen an increase in clicks on our review of the best cross stitch software.
This will also start the big players (WinStitch and PCStitch) looking to develop simpler, user friendly options at a cut down price.
This is the first thing that happened in 2018 that I simply didn’t see coming. Books came out. Loads. And unlike previous years, this year has been chocked full of fantastic books, such as Criss Crossing Paris (you can check out some of the others on our review of the best cross stitch books).
However, a year of big cross stitch book releases normally means the next year will have none. In fact, I’m expecting kits to be light on the shelves this year too, as more and more people turn to pattern only online purchases.
The next big shock of this year was the loss of ThreadHeaven. A staple in the cross stitch world for decades, it was a big shame to see its loss. Whilst there are some great ThreadHeaven alternatives out there, we forsee a new player coming to the market to try and take ThreadHeaven’s crown.
My final forsight for 2019 is tech in cross stitch. This is more a general one. We’ve seen a lot of technology amd lights in cross stitch this year, but I forsee more and more kits coming out with integrated electronics. I’m also forseeing more and more robotic cross stitch as the sewing machine market develops further. Expect to see cross stitching on mass produced cheap goods this year.
And that’s what we’re expecting to see in 2019. Is there something you’re looking for?
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone following my stitches that in the most recent Xstitch magazine, when allowed to “do anything” I chose something 3D. After all, a lot of people reading this know about me thanks to my 3D transforming cross stitch, and so for my companion piece this quarter, I thought I’d do something a little different. I thought I’d do a round up of the best 3D cross stitch out there (other than my own that is).
The best for play
I like to make 3D cross stitch for two main reasons; its complexity and its tactileness. As a result whenever I look at others 3D cross stitch, I think of actually using it. BlackMageHeart has taken this to another step all together though, with her minature Harvest Moon playset, created for a friend’s kid. It not only includes the barn (a staple for many 3D cross stitches) but the farmer, animals, and various crops at different stages of completion. To top the whole thing off its set within a frame with a cross stitched field. A fantastic playset regardless of being in stitches.
The most complicated
That second reason I like 3D cross stitch so much? It’s complexity. I’m far from the first to make a complex 3D stitch, and in fact, the most well known of 3D cross stitchers, The Nutmeg Company, beat me to the post by a whole year with their stunningly detailed 18 count Windsor Castle cross stitch for the Queen’s jubilee in 2002. Sadly despite its fantastic design, we don’t have any better pictures, but it comes complete with the entire grounds, to scale, with fun details like corgis running around the outside!
So what about something a little more exotic? I’ve been cross stitching for more than a decade now, and in that time I’ve always tried to push boundries, but when I think of impossible cross stitch, I always think of globes. Not only does a circle barely work in cross stitch, but making a globe is surely impossible, and how on Earth you’d cross stitch the sides to make up anything is beyond me. However, RobinsDesign has been doing the impossible all along. In fact, I recently had a go myself using her techniques to make my 3D Harry Potter Snitch cross stitch so I can give testiment to how hard it is, but RobinsDesigns carry off the impossible with such ease, making fantastic looking planets. They also do a series of amazing dolls and animals too!
I personally belive that plastic canvas can make anything, however somethings fit better than others. The most obvious though, is minecraft. With simple lines and easy movements minecraft is a perfect 3D cross stitch companion. There are boat load of 3D minecraft cross stitches out there as a result, but this recent stitch by BenBrookerB from reddit is amazing. Not only does it capture the design aesthetic perfecty, but the little steve has magnets hidden in him, meaning he can pick up tools just the game! If you’re interested in stitching with plastic canvas to make 3D cross stitch, you might want to check out our post on the different types of plastic canvas and when to use them.
Title: Micro Cassette Keychains
Date Completed: June & August 2018
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: 80s Tape Cassettes
I’ve written about how I create designs for the Xstitch Mag before, however in the most recent issue, the theme was ‘Mixtape’. This in essence meant I could stitch anything I wanted. I actually created a series of Gameboys based on a Gameboy Color Micro Console Cross Stitch, however I knew the editorial team liked litteral things, so I thought I would also submit a litteral mixtape.
This was the mock up of the designs to test viability, and I randomly picked one of 9 different styles. At this stage it was taken up for the cover for the Xstitch Mag! I designed a further 3 styles so there were 12 in total and stitched them up.