Last week we went over the best places to get free cross stitch patterns and we had a great response, but a lot of people were left asking “what about alphabets?
In a world where cross stitch generators are getting easier and easier to use, people are more often turning to making their own patterns. This, coupled with the rise of snarky stitching and phrase-based patterns often leads to people wanting to make text-based patterns. But unless you’re a secret font designer, people are left looking for alphabets and fonts they can use. So today, we round up where to get the best cross stitch alphabets for free, and paid.
Lord Libidan – Free
Yes, that’s right, we offer free cross stitch alphabets! In fact, 53 of them, in a range of sizes and styles to hopefully help you make an awesome pattern! But this post isn’t about what we offer, but about others, so let’s move on to other resources!
Online Generators – Free/Paid
The first place I would personally look are online cross stitch font generators. These awesome little tools allow you to search their font libraries, select a font, and type your words. They do all the work of making the pattern. They all have free and paid options, but if you intend to make loads of patterns, getting a subscription is a great idea.
There are two big ones out there to check out:
CrosStitch.com – Free & Paid
By far the largest is CrossStitch.com’s caption generator, with over 90 patterns and regular updates to add more. Only 6 are free, but at $12 for a year’s access, they’re a great resource.
StitchPoint.com – Free
Another option is StitchPoint.com’s offering, which is just as good but free. The downside is they only offer 7 patterns, so you’re a lot more limited.
Pinterest – Free
But what about something free I hear you say! Well, that’s where Pinterest comes in. Over the last few decades many cross stitch blogs, forums and designers have offered free cross stitch alphabets. These tend to disappear when the blogs/websites stop updating, but thanks to Pinterest, they’re all recorded to everyone to use. You can find specific boards purely saving cross stitch alphabets, or just go searching to find thousands of them for free.
Etsy – Paid
Sadly, whilst Pinterest does have a wealth of free patterns, sometimes they aren’t great quality patterns. This is where websites such as Etsy come in. Many people have lambasted Etsy in the past for its cross stitch copyright infringement, however, when it comes to cross stitch alphabets you’re free of copyright issues (by and large).
Thankfully the world’s cross stitch designers have put together cross stitch fonts on Etsy for you to browse and purchase. A quick search comes up with over 6000 different listings. What makes this even better is that most offer a pack of fonts for less than a few dollars, meaning you can stock up on as many fonts as you want for a low price.
Cross Stitch Generators – Paid
One of the most popular posts on this blog is our review of the best cross stitch software. Its also one of the main reasons we started writing this specific post, but many of the paid cross stitch generators offer free cross stitch fonts from within their apps. You do have to buy them in the first place to get access, but many cross stitchers have these already. You have to dig into the options to find them sometimes, but they all have them.
Our personal favorite is MacStitch and WinStitch’s font converter. It takes any font on your computer and converts it in real-time into a cross stitch pattern. This means you can find any font online you like the look of and it’ll do all the rest. Sometimes tiny fixes are needed, but for the most part, it’s fantastic. The whole cross stitch software is only $35, but the font converter is worth more than that in our eyes.
Wanting to get your hands on a cross stitch pattern for a low cost, or even free is something we all feel. However, getting your hands on both a quality cross stitch pattern, but also a cross stitch pattern that isn’t copyrighted can be very hard when your budget is low. But that doesn’t mean its impossible. So today, we round up the best places to get free cross stitch patterns, and the places you should avoid.
Places To Get Free Patterns:
Finding free patterns really isn’t that hard on the internet, but finding quality free patterns is a different ball game. We reached out to our social media followers for their suggestions and we checked out the quality of the patterns ourselves to make sure they’re the best of the best.
Unlike many other suggestions on this list, we’re being very specific in the place to go here. DMC threads launched a section on their website about 2 years ago now with over 1000 free patterns. They’re a combination of DMC made patterns, designer collaborations, and paid patterns that they are now making available for free. They’re constantly adding more, and they range from small motifs to large cross stitch patterns.
Slightly less specific is our suggestion to go to your favorite designers’ own websites. Whilst you can pick up a branded pattern from a whole host of retailers, designers often give out free patterns on their own websites. The reason for this is that they’re either too small for a chargeable pattern, or they just want to get people onto their website. We could list a whole raft of designers that choose to offer free patterns, but award-winning designers such as Caterpillar Cross Stitch and Tiny Modernist are on the list.
You do need to have a favorite designer for this to work, but if you don’t right now, you can search any of the retailers out there for patterns you like and look up the designer (they should always be listed).
Just because designers offer free patterns on their own websites, that doesn’t mean online stores don’t have free patterns as well though. Major retailers such as Heaven & Earth Designs have free patterns on their site. These patterns are to the same standard as their other patterns, but they have an agreement with the designer to offer them for free.
We should note though, that you need to make sure they’re a quality retailer.
Places To Avoid:
Sadly, for every great place to get free patterns, you can also find ten that are not so great.
The first on our list is Etsy. Whilst we’ve spoken about Etsy in the past and how its a force for good in cross stitch that doesn’t mean its perfect. More often than not Etsy features copyrighted patterns for sale. However, a recent trend is charging a few cents for up to 20-30 patterns, effectively making them ‘almost’ free. These pattern packs are always filled with copyrighted patterns, so stay clear!
Another site with cross stitch pattern copyright issues is Pinterest. Whilst the site does offer many free patterns that are fine to use, it contains lots and lots of patterns that are direct copies of designers works, or in breach of copyright. However, we would say that you can find some great free cross stitch alphabets on the site!
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.
One of the most under-rated cross stitch tools out there, many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting and so don’t buy one themselves. However as something that now lives on my desk, being used at least once a week, I’m a total convert! And at under $5 you can’t go wrong!
Every cross stitcher has had the hell that is frogging invade their life. Not only do you feel a goof for counting incorrectly, but taking the stitches out is painful. That is, until now. We found out about surgical scissors a while ago and they make frogging easy. Trust us on this, get yourself a pair as you’re bound to need them in the future.
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. There are a lot of options here, so we also made a guide on inding the perfect needle minder that you might find helpful!
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 moisturizer that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock available (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.
Cross stitch takes time, and a great place to stitch is on planes and trains, however, with security being tightened all over, ThreadCutterz has come to the rescue with a plane safe alternative to scissors.
They can only currently be brought from ThreadCutterz themselves.
There’s nothing more fancy than covering the sharp ends of your scissors with a nicely made scissor sheath. Not only that, but it has a practical benefit of keeping the scissors sharper much longer, by reducing dust build up. You can pick up a nice cover for under $5, so you might want to combine this with a nice fancy pair of embroidery scissors too.
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.
This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for gifts for cross stitchers, however many stitchers either stitch when they travel, or wish they could. Finding a great, small, cross stitch kit featuring everything they need is a great gift, and probably not something they’d think of (so you get brownie points). You can either buy pre assembled kits, or make one yourself. A pair of Canary mini snips, needle minder, needle tube and a seam ripper are all you need. And you can fit them all into an Altoids tin.
A magnifier might seem like something an old person might want, but when it comes to cross stitch, a magnifier can be a massive help. In fact, we detailed why magnifiers are worth getting a few months ago; we’re big fans. You can get a whole set of different options here, from ones that light up, to ones that click onto your embroidery hoops. I would try to get one with a 2.5x zoom as this is the most useful for cross stitchers.
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 not sure what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.
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-$50 a year.
Nothing is quite like getting a gift in the post month after month, stuffed full of awesome cross stitch prizes. You can pick up a whole load of different monthly subscription boxes that make every month a gift month. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.
Most us of buy thread in skeins, and whilst this is great for 90% of our needs, colors like black and white are constantly on our “to buy” list. But with a DMC cone, you can buy DMC thread like a pro. These cones come in 500g weights and are equal to about 257. If you do the math, thats only 27c a skein, which is a lot cheaper than anywhere in the world. Trust me, we know how much DMC skeins cost across the world.
CXC is a fairly new brand to the world of cross stitch, but they’re making massive moves. They produce threads, which match the DMC colors exactly, however they make them using a polyester blend, meaning they can reduce costs considerably. In fact, you can pick up their full range of 447 threads for under $40, compared to $400 for DMC threads. But don’t let the price fool you, CXC threads are just as good as more expensive brands in our tests.
This year has been big for DMC threads (the most used cross stitch threads). Not only have the new 35 DMC threads started to be used in commonly found kits and patterns, but they also launched a sweet new set of DMC etoile threads, which are super sparkly threads. You can pick up these new threads in fancy packed sets for under $40.
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 WinStitch/MacStitch or PCstitch for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.
A tracing pad might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of cross stitch, but there are two great reasons to get one. Firstly, any addition light will help you keep your eyesight while cross stitching, but secondly, and most importantly, it cross stitch on black aida by lighting under your work. You can keep it on your lap or table depending on how you stitch, and they don’t get hot!
We can tell you, for sure, that day light lamps do make a difference to cross stitch. Not only do they add a massive amount of light to the area you’re working in, which can be super helpful when working with black or dark aida but they help your eyes deal with the intense focus you’re putting them through. We belive that everyone should have a well lit cross stitch area, and day light lamps, or bulbs are the best way to get that necessary light.
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 realize 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.
Just one more stitch. Just one more stitch. Just one more stitch.
We’ve all been there before. It’s just a part of being a cross stitcher, and whilst being in the zone is a great thing for how many stitches you can get done, it isn’t always the greatest thing for your health.
When cross stitching we actually put our bodies through a lot of strain, from poor sitting positions and stiff necks to hand and finger strain and eye problems. So we’ve decided to help you out with a few changes to your stitching set up that will keep you stitching for decades to come!
Take a Break
Stop stitching. Not forever! Just 5 minutes will do!
We’re going to go through a whole list of other things you can do to help, but taking a break applies to all of them. Taking breaks is hard when your deep into a cross stitch but taking a break will give your eyes a rest, your wrist rest, it gives you a chance to reset your posture, get a drink and gives you a little bit of clarity. Its also been proven that taking breaks means you make fewer mistakes, and I’ll do anything to reduce the amount of frogging I have to do…
Stretch your Wrist
Some of the most reported injuries in cross stitch are wrist related. From repetitive strain injury to torn ligaments and even breaks. This might not happen to all of us or even most of us, but it does happen, and once it does, you’ll suffer for a long time to come. The solution to this is actually pretty obvious; stretch it out.
Sure, your cross stitching isn’t going to make you sweat like a workout, but its the same basic principle. Do circles with your wrist every so often to make sure there’s a good range of motion. If you do get some strain and pain, try out wearing a wrist brace while stitching; it’ll help a lot!
Keep Threads Short
Another way to help your wrist, arms, and shoulder is by using the right length of thread. I must admit, I’m terrible for using long pieces of floss, but every time I do it for a few hours I start getting shoulder and neck pain. The right length should be from the tip of your middle finger to the point of your elbow. By keeping your threads short you’ll reduce the stress on your shoulder and associated muscles. It also helps with your posture.
Watch your Posture
There is a whole load of ways to sit while cross stitching depending on your chosen way of stitching and what frame you use, so I’m not going to go into specifics here, but let’s just say, I know, with an almost 100% certainty, that you’re slouching. We do it all the time. It’s just the way your body tries to sit (even though it’s bad for it) so I won’t tell you off or anything, but when you stitch, unmoving for hours, is slouching really the way to go?
We suggest investing in a good chair, lumbar support or just trying to sit up correctly while stitching. So long as your threads aren’t too long you’ll feel the same. However thanks to a better posture you’re saving your spin from compressing in weird ways, your shoulders from overworking and your neck from hanging forward.
We also suggest using magnifiers if you need to do detailed work. Straining your eyes to see those tiny stitches is just going to end badly long term. Help yourself out and magnify that cross stitch!
It might seem an obvious one, but taking a break to get a brew or drink is super important. It’s easy to lose track of time and end up stitching for hours without any breaks or hydration. By enforcing you get up to drink not only do you force a break on yourself, helping both eyesight and posture issues, but you keep yourself hydrated and healthy. Also, its always time for a brew.
Well, with all that water in your system, you’re going to need to use the loo. However many cross stitchers don’t get up to pee when they should. Instead, they repeat that mantra “Just one more stitch. Just one more stitch. Just one more stitch.” and before you know it you’re bursting. Take it from me, just go to the loo. If you keep holding it you can develop kidney stones and infections, which for some can even be life-threatening.
So there it is. Take good care of yourself while cross stitching!
Everyone has a stash of cross stitch stuff, and its tempting to keep on buying fabric with the intention of stitching that particular pattern, but it ends up in a pile somewhere, and you really don’t know what’s in it. Not only that but it’s getting dirty, it’s getting sun-bleached and it’s getting a bit of a menace. This isn’t to mention that fact that you simply can’t face sorting through it for that bit of fabric that might be in there, but might not, especially when yo can just get a new bit on your favorite online cross stitch store.
What Do You Need To Consider?
If it’s important then, what do you need to consider when looking at storage options?
Sun is the death of all things cross stitch. I’ve mentioned it many times before, particularly when I rounded up how to store finished cross stitch. Sunlight damages things by breaking down the color particles. If you have colored fabrics, this means it’ll break down the color where ever sun hits regularly. If you check your curtains, it’s likely that one edge will be sun-bleached. Don’t let that happen to your fabric.
The second big concern for fabric is damage through the dirt. We’ve also included dust, staining, and bugs into this category, as so long as you fix one of these issues, they all get solved together. Like many homes, dust is an issue, and fabric, particularly ones you don’t use often, makes a great place for bugs of all types. Let’s face it, when did you last dust your cross stitch stash? This is made even more of a problem if you keep your fabric in longer-term storage in a place like your garage or loft.
Moths in particular love fabric, but just regular dirt can stain fabric over time, and no amount of cross stitch washing will get that out.
The biggest issue for fabric may be sun damage, and bugs are never something you want to think about, however, one of the biggest problems with fabric storage is actually folds. For most fabrics this isn’t a great deal, you can iron them out without an issue, however, cross stitch fabrics like aida are starch heavy, meaning ironing out folds can be hard. I’ve seen many ways of storing fabric in the past, however, I always wonder what they’re going to do about the folds one they need to use the fabric.
How To Store Them
So with that in mind, what are the best ways to store fabric? Well, there are hundreds of ideas out there, from storing them on shelves to binders and even filing cabinets. However, there are two main ways we’d suggest (but we’d love to hear your ideas too!):
The simple storage tube. This idea actually came from a sewing school I worked with once; they stored all of their fabric in storage tubes. Whilst I don’t expect you to have this many, they have enough to fill a whole wall stacked on top of each other. But storage tubes are our preferred way to store fabric.
Unlike many other ways of storage, tubes allow you to roll the fabric instead of the fold, they’re enclosed in a dust-free area, they avoid the sun, and they’re cheap. They can also be stored somewhere long term (think garage or loft) without concern that something might get to them. Finally, if you get the cardboard type, you can write on them to say what’s inside.
Plastic Storage Boxes
This is the way we stored our fabric for a long time, before moving onto storage tubes. That said, there isn’t a lot of issues with storage boxes, so long as you don’t start drowning in fabric like we were.
They’re mostly flat.
They protect the fabric so no threats of bugs.
They’re naturally sun bleach proof.
They’re easy to store (so long as you don’t have too many).
In short, so long as you can cope with the sheer size of storage boxes, and you keep track of how much fabric your amassing (more on that below) then they’re a great way to store stuff. You can slip them under a bed, or put them in a loft or garage, or just place the storage box in a draw (we prefer the flatter ones for this reason). You can even roll your fabric in them instead of folding and stacking to avoid folds!
There is one concern though; don’t overfill them. If you need to push the lid down, there are too many in the box, and you’re going to be forcing fold lines into the aida.
Finally, and arguably the most important thing you need to do is keeping track of what you have. More times than I can recall I’ve brought another bit of aida before realizing I already have three meters of the stuff. That is why keeping track is important.
Sometimes, regardless of how fancy you want to do, a good old fashioned list is just the best choice. Keep it brief, but include important bits of info like brand, color, count and size. Once you’ve broken your stash up into a simple way to store them, you can start making a code too. Box 3 has 14 count, tube 2 has linen, etc.
We hope this helps you keep track of your stash and avoid you having to buy more and more cross stitch fabric that you need. If you have a special way to store and track your fabric, we’d love to hear it! Drop us a comment on here or our social accounts!
Every one of you has seen a completed cross stitch, even on this site, which is still in a hoop. There might be a fair few stitchers out there that really really want to take a photo of it before removing it from the frame, but the vast majority are already framed; in their hoops.
Sure, plain hoops look good sometimes, but for a more varied look, you can decorate. Today we look at the best ways to decorate your hoop for a fresh new look.
Pick Your Frame
The first, and most important thing to work out, is what type of hoop you want to use. You have three main choices and they all have different impacts.
Wooden Embroidery Hoops
The standard wooden embroidery hoop, made from anything from bamboo to pine (always softwoods) are great for stitching with as they have natural spring in them thanks to the wood fibers, but this spring gives way to splintering on the outside layers, easy damage and accidental staining (from finger oils). So whilst this is the best embroidery hoop to use for stitching, you may want to only use these hoops when covering the wood entirely, as splintering can still happen if they’re painted/finished.
Plastic Embroidery Hoops
Plastic embroidery hoops are also great for framing, but unlike wooden frames, they are usually colored. It might be that all you need to do is pick a nice color and you’re done! But the other side of the coin is that in order to paint these you need to rub them down, and prime them; so stay away from painting.
Aged Embroidery Hoops
The two other hoops we’ve mentioned are great places to start, but if you plan to frame your cross stitch in the hoop, we prefer ‘aged’ embroidery hoops. What we mean here is actually hardwood hoops. Unlike the standard wooden hoops and plastic hoops, these have no form of screw, and are just one solid hardwood hoop. The advantages are these are that they don’t splinter, you can paint them, stain them, even just varnish them, and they’ll look a dream. If you want to completely cover the hoop (we talk about that in a minute), then they’ll keep shape better than standard embroidery hoops too.
However, be warned that they are 3-6 times more expensive than the standard embroidery hoop.
OK, so now we have that out of the way, let’s talk painting. If anyone talks about decorating embroidery hoops, this is where most people go to, and for fair reason. Painting hoops, in either complementary colors (even matching the fabric to hide them) or converse colors can really make a project. In the two examples below we show a bright yellow, matching the writing, and dark black to make the colors stand out more.
The real advantage of painting though is you can’t go wrong. Matt paints, gloss paints, emulsions, or watercolors, or stain or varnish, painting a hoop is fair game, however, you want to do it.
Next up we have washi tape, which to those who don’t know, is basically scotch tape with pretty patterns on it. Coming from Japan where its a seriously big deal, you can get washi tapes in patterns, colors, styles (including glow-in-the-dark), and even printed characters. All you have to do is wrap the outside ring. You can do this like our example with long straight stretches, or you can coil it around the hoop too. It gives you a slight bit of interest in what would normally be a boring old hoop.
You could also try decoupage, which is a very similar effect, but with paper instead!
Finally, we suggest looking into fabric wrapping. This one is slightly more difficult, as not only do you need to find an appropriate fabric (we suggest thin patterned cotton) you need to wrap your fabric in a way that doesn’t show fraying edges.
But, what a way to finish a hoop, than to use either the same fabric, hiding the hoop completely, or even wrapping the hoop in something truly unique.
How To Frame An Embroidery Hoop
So once you’ve picked your design and decorated it, how do you frame your embroidery hoop?
Recently we rounded up the best places to find DMC thread deals, and our first suggestion was thread cones. However, a lot of people started asking questions about these deals, and with a little digging, I found that a lot of cross stitchers didn’t even know they existed. So today, we’re talking nothing but thread cones.
What Are They?
Let’s start off simple; what exactly is a thread cone?
In short, they are the same DMC 6 strand thread you normally use, but around a cone, usually in 100g or 500g weights (which is 51 and 257 skeins worth). We spoke in our post about why do DMC threads vary in cost so much about where the threads we use are made. For DMC, all the 6 strand threads are still made in their French factory. In order to reduce the costs of sending threads to the US, they put this thread on cones and send them. The US factory then cuts the cones up into skeins to sell. However, DMC US also wanted to make these cones available to kit makers. This is where we come in; we purchase the cone before it’s been converted to skeins, saving us money.
They don’t come in the full range of colors, they officially only come in 22 colors now, but you can find a range of 35 online too. However, as you’ll see later, we’re only really interested in 3 colors.
Why Use Them?
I feel I might have just given the whole reason for buying cones away already there; you can save money. However, it has other uses too.
Firstly, let’s talk cash. A standard skein of thread can cost you anywhere from 50c to a dollar (on average, worldwide. It can be higher or lower depending on where you live). Cones cost, from the DMC US website, $70 for a 500g cone. To put that into perspective, that works out at 27c per skein. You just saved yourself a boatload. However, it gets better! Whilst the DMC website does sell the 500g cones for $70 if you search online, you can get them for anything from $20 to $50, making the saving even better. Sure, these cones are second-hand threads, but thanks to the cone having so much thread on it, you don’t have to be concerned with dye lot issues.
How To use Them?
This may seem a little confusing at first, after all, you know exactly how to use thread. But cones have one big limiting feature; they don’t come in the full range. However, if you had to buy all 500 threads at $70 a pop, it would be a long time before you collected a whole set of DMC threads.
So, how do we suggest you use cones? Simple; black and white.
In the last 5 years, I’ve only stitched one project (that’s one out of about 50) that hasn’t contained either 310 black, or B5200/Blanc white. As a result, with the exception of large blocks of color, you may have to stitch for a special project, black and white will be your most used colors. These are the ones we suggest you buy in cones.
However, let’s say you need a specific color, and you’ll need at least 20 skeins (you can use our skein calculator if you’re unsure), it makes more sense to buy a 100g cone (of 51 skeins) rather than buying the skeins separately. Sometimes, they won’t have the color you need, in fact, most of the time, but that one time they do; you can save yourself a lot.
I own 310 black, blanc, B5200 white, and 792 purple-blue.
Where To Get Them?
This, dear reader, is where things get a little complicated. As we said above, cones are actually meant for shipping between DMC outlets in different countries. Therefore; getting your hands on them can be difficult. If you live outside of the US that is.
The US DMC sells thread cones in all 22 colors, but only directly from their website. If you need one of the other threads in the range of 35, you need to look on eBay.
For those of us outside of the US, we only really have eBay to use. I personally also see them on Etsy from time to time as well. But I would strongly suggest avoiding Aliexpress to buy anything cross-stitch related, as its almost always fake. The good news, however, is that the stores on eBay usually sell for the same price as the US and include shipping, meaning you get just as good, if not a better, deal.
The first of those is more complicated. Unlike my Saturn V Blueprint Cross Stitch, where the official blueprints had been released, for many space-based vehicles they haven’t (and for good reason). However, SpaceX is a little unlike NASA and other government-based space agencies. They are looking to bring back the enthusiasm of Space in the 1950s. As a result, there are loads of images and information, from inside and outside of the ship, meaning finding information was a breeze.
The second reason I’ve avoided creating more space blueprints is a disappointment. The SpaceX Falcon 9 is someone that gets requested on a weekly basis by my fans, and letting them down would suck. However, following my NASA Space Shuttle Blueprint Cross Stitch I knew I could do it justice, even if the Falcon 9 is a lot slimmer and simple than other rockets.
A few months ago we asked the question is Etsy a good thing for the cross stitch world? And whilst we found that it was in principle good, we got a lot of people asking about Aliexpress. So we’ve broken down the main areas AliExpress operates in, and deep-dived into how it impacts cross stitch.
What Is AliExpress?
Many of you might not know what AliExpress is, so let’s start with a crash course. AliExpress is like Amazon but based in China. The big difference is that instead of stores selling products, like Amazon does (or even Amazon itself), AliExpress gets rid of the middle man; you buy direct from the factory.
This means that prices are often MUCH cheaper, but come with the downside of you have no quality control, and postage takes a very long time (weeks to months).
The first thing we need to talk about is threads. And there is a reason this is first; by and large, the reason people come to AliExpress is the threads. Brands like CXC and Royal Broderie are only available through AliExpress at the moment but are picking up a lot of interest amongst cross stitchers due to their price, and their perfect color match to DMC threads.
This has a good side and a bad side. In the past, we’ve looked into if cheap embroidery threads are worth buying and we put some rumors to bed about their quality. We used CXC threads for most examples and they came out looking great, they don’t bleed, don’t melt, they hold their color, they are nice to use, and with a price point at less than 10 cents per skein, they are a fantastic price. But we picked CXC threads as we knew they were the best of the cheap thread brands. There are others that don’t even have brand names, which are frankly the worst things I’ve used in my life. They do bleed, they do melt, they do break, they do knot. In fact, you can even see fake threads on AliExpress as well as there is no regulation. In those cases, you often see people reselling them and getting reports of DMC dye lot issues (when they’re actually just fake).
So you need to be careful when buying threads, as you can get really screwed over. But that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the issues. You have to wait weeks or months for your threads to arrive, and if there is an issue, it takes more weeks to sort out. This isn’t a quick process (and buying them can be a pain too).
Let’s move onto the next thing people tend to buy on AliExpress; aida. Thanks to the likes of SewandSo going out of business last year, finding aida other than black and white can be hard. And even then, if you’re looking for super sized aida it can still be hard. This is where AliExpress starts to shine.
Yes, there are loads of bad quality aidas out there, but as per our list of the best cross stitch aida brands, aida doesn’t actually need to be of that high of a quality. Essentially it needs to be gridded, and starched, which most aida supplies. The fact that it’s super cheap just makes this a better deal.
There are still pitfalls though. There are some aidas out there that aren’t correctly made up, so you get something more like 13 count or 15 count instead of your 14 count. This isn’t a super big thing most of the time, but if you’ve purchased just enough aida for your project, or you want to frame it, you start to get into tough situations.
There’s also next to no variations here either; you get a set of 10 basic colors, and you’re done. No pre-gridded, no waste canvas, etc.
And now we get to patterns. One of the biggest things about Etsy was its copyright issues, and whilst this does exist with AliExpress to a MUCH smaller impact, poor quality patterns abound. It’s hard to find a good cross stitch pattern on AliExpress, and we even suggest avoiding pattern shopping on there at all. However, this is somewhat unfair to AliExpress.
You see, there are massive markets for cross stitch outside of English speaking countries. And patterns from these areas can’t sell in traditional markets due to the language barrier. However, as an experienced cross stitcher, you don’t need the text at all, meaning you can pick up some awesome patterns that you can’t see anywhere else in the English speaking world. These patterns tend to be larger, tend to prefer silks (although there are always embroidery thread conversion tables) and tend to look fantastic. These are the gems of AliExpress, but be prepared to pick a lot of bad apples before you find gold.
But it’s not all doom and gloom!
Price is the biggest thing with AliExpress. Thanks to being manufactured in China, purchased directly from the factory, and normally super slow mail, you can get everything super cheap. Yes, the quality stuff is more expensive, but even that is considerably cheaper than more established Western brands like DMC or Anchor. The upshot of this is that people with lower incomes can get into cross stitch. This might be younger people, people from less economically developed countries, people on lower pay, or even just those not willing to spend a load of money on something they might not like.
It also has the added benefit that over time it will probably lower the price of all cross stitch goods, meaning things like DMC threads will be cheaper. But there is a downside here as well. By reaching for something cheaper and cheaper, quality falls. So far we know the like of CXC threads are good quality, but others are starting to try to make cheaper threads. If this continues CXC will go the same way, meaning AliExpress may soon only deliver poor quality products. Although this might be years off.
But what about legacy? By this I mean what impact will AliExpress have on the legacy of cross stitch. Let’s run an example. Let’s say a new cross stitcher comes to AliExpress, picks up some threads, aida, and pattern for a great price. They feel let down by the quality of all of them, and then never cross stitch again. This will impact how cross stitch is seen in general.
Thankfully, AliExpress isn’t particularly well known at this time, meaning new cross stitchers probably won’t go there first, but with the increasing knowledge of the store, this will start happening soon. But there is something else too. Resellers. You can buy poor quality fake threads on AliExpress and then sell them on online stores elsewhere, which people will buy and then, in turn, will assume the real brand is to blame. A good example of this is the DMC dye lot issue, and selling second hand threads. Whilst fake threads aren’t the main issue here, people really fear dye lot issues and stay clear from CXC due to them. In reality, it’s about storage of embroidery threads, but that doesn’t stop people who aren’t in the know from making an incorrect assumption.
So Is It A Force For Good?
Unlike Etsy, which we can see is for the better, it gets a little harder with AliExpress. There are many pitfalls to the AliExpress model, but its size and power allow for high quality, cheaper products to be made available to cross stitchers across the world. I think AliExpress will continue to rise but will fall short of overtaking the likes of Amazon and more specialist stores. Therefore, these cheaper brands will be made available in other places, but the bad quality items won’t.
Therefore, I would say; AliExpress is ruining cross stitch.
“My mum/nan used to do that” is a phrase almost all of us have heard before. Its the response people give when you say you cross stitch. However, that answer has always bothered me. Not due to their lack of knowledge, the idea that cross stitch isn’t hip, or how throw away it is. No, the thing I have an issue with is “used to”.
I go around a lot of conventions and cross stitching events and I’ve slowly been collecting up reasons why people stop cross stitching. And almost without fault, it appears to be their vision. To us cross stitchers our vision is one of the most important things to us (even if we don’t know it), however, it’s also one of the biggest reasons why we might have to give up cross stitching. So to help all of us, I’ve spoken to some opticians to get the best information to ensure we keep our eyesight as long as possible and keep on stitching.
Let’s just get this straight out of the way; if you need glasses, wear them.
I’m always surprised at the number of people that have glasses but choose not to wear them while cross stitching. Trust us on this one and wear them. Not wearing your glasses will cause you compounded problems.
That said, you also need to make sure you’re wearing the right glasses. This might be as simple as getting your eyes checked often, but also choosing to have a pair of cross stitch/reading glasses instead of varifocals, or getting uncoated lenses.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about what to do to help. We went through some of the best ways to work with black aida, and whilst that was more specific to a problem many people have, the advice there is great here also. The one big thing; light. An area without a lot of light will cause your eyes to strain, which over time damages them. If you want to really make a great place to cross stitch, find somewhere with lots of natural light.
Even More Light
But natural light isn’t the only thing you need. No, I’m going to suggest you not only have natural light, but also get a separate light. This could be something like a table lamp, with or without a daylight bulb, or work light, under light or headlamp. All of these options will not only allow you to see your cross stitch creation come to life better but will help your eyes work on the details.
The biggest bit of advice that our optician experts gave us, was take breaks. This seems simple enough, but when we actually got thinking about it, we stitch, and we stitch, and we stitch, and before you know it its been 4 hours and your bursting for a pee. But the suggestion of taking breaks is the same, if you’re cross stitching or using a computer (arguably more so with the detailed work of cross stitch). The 20, 20, 20 rule suggests taking a break of at least 20 seconds, every 20 minutes and to look at least 20 feet away. However, a longer 5-10 minute break is best (and allows you to make a brew!).
This one is a little harder to muster. We’re going to suggest you change the way you cross stitch, but only slightly!
It might be worth mixing up what hobbies you do, so you’re not cross stitching all the time. Or it might be worth staying away from those crazy 32 count miniature cross stitches in favor of the standard 14/16/18.
This idea does seem hard to take, and honestly, I’ve done my fair share of 32 count projects, like my Spring In Daigoji Temple miniature cross stitch, but thinking about the projects we choose, or more specifically the counts we use, can help us cross stitch for decades to come.
However, if you really need to, use a magnifier; just don’t rely on it. We’ve investigated the pros and cons of using a magnifier for cross stitch before, and whilst they are a great tool to use when you need it, it’s not something you should always use. If you find yourself needing it all the time, try reducing the count of your projects, or get a check-up in the opticians.