Title: Rorschach Ink Blot Test Panels 1 to 6
Date Completed: October 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Noir
I design patterns for the Xstitch magazine, and this issue the theme was noir. I know the themes are based on general terms to help promote a more varied selection, but I also write for the magazine, and in this issue, I spoke about black. So of course, my mind went to black for the stitch too.
But I couldn’t find anything I liked. I tend to stitch on black a lot, but making a dark black stitch is hard, and frankly, not very interesting. But then I happened across a set of ink blot tests in a toy store. They were full of color, but I loved the idea of a Rorschach ink blot test. Not only were they (mostly) black, but they were a pseudoscience that was very of the noir movie aesthetic and time period. It just worked.
The patterns didn’t really work though. My first idea was to pick just one and make it huge, but as you guessed, it was a lot of black. So I cut it down in size. But this meant it was not only non-symmetrical, a key feature of the ink blots, but it was full of shades. These shades were OK, but the way the DMC colors work, the dark colors were hued. They had blues in, or purples and they looked wrong. Finally, I made them all, pixel by pixel to get it perfect. I had to make a decision early on, with ink blot 2, as it had red in. Whilst this still fitted with the theme, I just felt it was better as black.
You can get cross stitch inspiration pretty much anywhere, but after hitting a few dozen massive projects, you sometimes want a change. And whilst looking for unique cross stitch ideas I came across people who mixed cross stitch with interior design.
Unlike other projects, which are destined to go into cross stitch storage, by making something to do in your house, you’ll always be able to enjoy it.
The easiest way to get into interior design cross stitch, or super massive cross stitch for that matter, is peg board. It comes in loads of different sizes and its rather cheap. You can paint it, stain it, or cross stitch on it. It might not be the most traditional cross stitch fabric, but it sure works for a great addition to any room. You can also turn it into things like stools for an added factor.
If you don’t want to make something the the wall however, you could always pop down to your local Ikea. Not only is it stocked full of items with regular holes in them (think chairs, floor mats, lamps, etc), but there are items made from peg board, meaning you can have a functioning bit of furnature with a sweet cross stitch edge.
How about something a little more refined? By ditching the needle and thread and picking up a paint brush you can add a cross stitch design to literally anything that takes paint. You can find a great guide from homeheartcraft if you’re interested.
But just because the inside of your home can be cross stitched up, doesn’t mean it has to stop there. By using gardeners yard you can use things like fences to add cross stitch characters. It’s actually been seen in big cities before with the illegal cross stitch movement. Maybe its safer to stick to your own garden though.
Cross Stitch On Anything!
However, let’s be honest here, you can actually cross stitch on anything, and we mean anything. Cross stitching can be done with something called waste canvas, or you can even cross stitch without waste canvas by drilling holes. The great thing about this is that you aren’t limited by size or count, you can do your own thing.
We however, quite like the old fashioned framed cross stitch. You can get really inventive with framing with bright matting and frames, and as it goes up in your own home, it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes it or not. You could even not put glass in your cross stitch frame.
On of the most googled questions about cross stitch is still about taking it traveling. And whilst there are a whole host of people giving advice on taking cross stitch needles on planes, actually taking it is a whole different thing.
You have to think about size of project, stuff to bring, how much space you’re going to have, how to keep your work from getting dirty, and making sure you don’t loose your needle! So we’ve decided to give you a run down on the best tips for travelling with your cross stitch.
Can You Take Cross Stitch Supplies On A Plane?
Let’s get the biggie out the way first; yes, you can take your cross stitch supplies on a plane.
You may place your knitting needles and needlepoint tools in carry-on or checked baggage.
TSA Official Guidelines
That said, you should still consider taking something like snip scissors as sharp and pointed scissors can cause delays at the airport.
So, what tips can I give you?
Don’t Take Something You’ll Miss
Let’s start with a tip that’ll probably put you on a downer right away; don’t take something you care about. Being super realistic, taking cross stitch travelling increases the likelihood of it getting dirty, damaged or even lost, by a considerable amount. Don’t take that heirloom piece that’s been in your family for 30 years; you’re asking for trouble.
Take A Smaller Project
That said, I would also suggest taking something small. This actually has three points to it. The first reflects the point above, take a small travel project, that isn’t your main piece, but one that’ll keep up your interest during travel.
Secondly, depending on your method of travel, space might be an issue. On planes, you rarely have enough space to reach out your arm, and no one will appreciate you trying it with a needle hanging off the end, even if it is a tapesty needle.
Thirdly; how are you going to take it with you? The is simply no way you can fit the 2 meters long epic Pokemon generations cross stitch with you. Smaller will help you here.
Pack A Project Bag
Now that you’ve picked a smaller project, let’s think about actually taking it somewhere. So you need a place to store it. The first thing I would suggest is getting a cross stitch travel kit. As per our cross stitch gift guide you can pick one up for about $30, including all needles, snip scissors, a couple of bobbins, magnet, etc.
Secondly, you need a project bag. This can pretty much come in any form, from a resealable food bag to a handbag, but so long as its clean, and tan store your cross stitch; it’s worth it. Just make sure you don’t chuck the rest of your travel gear in the bag too; it’s for cross stitch only.
Put Your Hoop On Backwards
This is where we get onto the slightly weird things; we’re going to suggest you put your cross stitch in the hoop backwards. Yes, backwards. Normally you place the cross stitch on the outside, however when traveling this area will rub on the bag, possibly getting your work dirty. But by flipping the cross stitch to the inside of the hoop, you save yourself the possibility of dirt and damage.
Take A Reading Light
Finally, we suggest taking a light. It doesn’t have to be a fancy day light bulb or anything, but taking an additional light, even if its a cheap reading light, will help you in the darker moments of travel…
Cross stitchers buy threads in their ever reaching aim to own all 500 DMC threads, we buy aida and other cross stitch fabrics through the year, but the little things that don’t cost the earth and are super useful never seem to get purchased. So why not spend a little on yourself ($25 or £20) and improve your cross stitch game.
Aida Identification Cards – from $5
When it comes to sheer usefulness of cross stitch tools, an aida identification card, or aida gauge is right up there. Many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting and so don’t buy one themselves, even though they are frankly one of the most used things in my cross stitch kit.
Frogging Scissors – from $5
Making a mistake in cross stitch sucks, but its a pain that cross stitcher knows. However, there is a tool that makes frogging easy. It might not be the most glamorus pair of embroidery scissors, but it sure is one of the most useful.
Scissor Sheaths – from $5
From scissors to scissor sheaths. Every single cross stitcher probably owns multiple sets of embroidery scissors and like most, one is always kept handy, out on display, getting stuck into things/people all the time. So to keep them safe, and sharp, scissor sheaths were invented. Coming in a whole host of designs, they’re sure to brighten anyone’s cross stitch kit.
Easy Guide Needles – from $7
Not much happens in the world of cross stitch and tapestry needles, however one recent new addition, the easy guide needle, is like a breath of fresh air. By adding a small ball to the tip of a sharp needle, you keep the blent edge, but get a better point for more controlled stitching.
Canary Micro Snips – from $7
Stepping up the price slightly, we reviewed these micro snips from Canary that are a fantastic pair of finger scissors, which are not only fast and easy to use, but are fully TSA compliant for plane travel and can even be attached to your keys, so you’re never away from a pair of scissors!
Thread Shade Chart – $20
We simply cannot advise every cross stitcher out there to get a shade card enough. They are a super valuable tool. Sure, we have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, but there is nothing like seeing the real threads sat next to each other, to get the best out of your threads, and mae the best patterns. Still aren’t convinced? Check out our post on why you need a DMC thread card.
A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $25
With cross stitch patterns being found online in their masses in places like Etsy, however that doesn’t mean those are where the best patterns are. In fact, cross stitch pattern books are still on the rise, and are normally the only places you can get official patterns from people Like Disney. You check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market to find one for you.
I have a secret I must share with you all. Whenever someone shows me a cross stitch, I ALWAYS take a peek at their cross stitch kit. In fairness, this has helped me in the past, without it I wouldn’t be using snip scissors or a cross stitch magnifier, and after all, its hardly like a ladies handbag.
But today, I don’t want to talk about someone new, I want to talk about the thing everyone overlooks; pliers and tweezers.
Now those who have one of these in their kits will probably be nodding away at just the slightest mention of them, but those people are also the ones that never talk about them. The rest of you are probably reading this in sheer confusion at what seems to be an electrician’s tool, but trust me when I say this; I think pliers and tweezers are the most underrated tools in a cross stitcher’s arsenal.
Let me start by saying that these aren’t your run of the mill beefy pliers used to bend metal stakes or whatever (can you tell I don’t do DIY?) these are more petite. In fact, there are loads and loads of craft pliers out there for specific purposes. I personally choose a pair of round-nosed jewelry pliers (more on why later), but you can also get tweezers, in metal or plastic, and in fact, there are pairs of tweezers with magnifying glasses too!
What Are They Used For?
So let’s finally let those confused readers in on the secret. Cross stitchers can use pliers and tweezers in three main ways. The biggest thing for me is pushing through threads.
The way I was taught to end a thread, like many of you, was by pushing the needle through the back of the stitched threads. Once done, you pull it out and snip the end off. Or at least, that’s how most guides SAY it should be. In reality, the force of getting that thread out is probably the most strenuous thing any cross stitcher will do in the hobby. This is multiplied about one million times when using plastic canvas too.
This is where these tools come in really handy. By gripping the end of the needle you can reduce the overall force you need to apply and the needle will pop right out. We suggest round nosed pliers, or plastic tweezers if you’re going to do this, as the sharp edges of metal tweezers and straight pliers can damage the needles. And whilst I do say you should throw out that old needle I don’t think you should throw needles away all the time…
The second use for these is frogging. Yes, the dreaded frog. I’ve previously spoken about tools that make frogging easier, but tools like tweezers are a good alternative. Unlike a pair of scissors or seam ripper, you can unpick the threads without cutting them.
Equally, they are good at picking out stray pieces of threads that might have developed (I swear some threads fluff more than others), alongside picking out any dirt that might get on your work.
Should You Get Them?
Well, if you haven’t already; yes! I know they might not be the fanciest of cross stitch tools, and they sure don’t make things more fun, but they will make things easier for you.
Title: The Orville Blueprint
Date Completed: May 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: The Orville
Like many people, my favorite cross stitch changes a lot. It tends to be the last one I’ve stitched or the last big one at least. However for some time now, it remained as just one. My Star Trek Voyager Blueprint/LCARS cross stitch completed over a year ago. I think there were a few reasons for this. I’d worked on LCARS cross stitch before for both my Star Trek cross stitch book and my LCARS what happens on the holodeck cross stitch however I was never really sold on either of them. So when I was able to do another LCARS cross stitch, with a realistic screen, I really felt I’d captured its essence. It felt like I’d managed to complete it in a way that really looked right.
I think part of this was I was able to take a real screen (or my impersonation of one anyway). What I didn’t realize at the time is that I liked the UX (user interface) of the LCARS system, and liked the actual screens themselves. When I started stitching my matrix code cross stitch I really understood this and wanted to do more. This is where the Orville project started. I was watching the most recent Star Trek and had heard of The Orville is Star Trek-like, and thought, why not? I gave it a try, and frankly, I think it’s better than Star Trek Discovery. But there was a screen that kept coming up. I won’t spoil why, but a main character is often shown, and he’s a science officer. His screen on the deck is in front of him and clearly visible from the camera angle. Normally I would ignore this, but it had an element at the bottom that looked a lot like a macOS dock. Needless to say, I wanted to do something with it.
The second thing I noticed about the computer screen was the big old starship blueprint right in the center. It was VERY similar to my Star Trek one, and I just had to take that element as well, after all, I love blueprints. As you can probably tell from my lightsaber blueprint, ZF-1 Blueprint and Metroid Suit blueprint. But all of those are real blueprints. I wondered how a science officer would look at the ship, and wondered if I could make it more… real. I threw some ideas around, but the original image formed most of my plan, with overlays and more detail on science elements, and little in the way of room detail.
This also allowed me to do the same thing I had with my Star Trek cross stitch, and that was backstitch variance. What do I mean by that? Well, basically the number of threads when doing backstitch. By using three sometimes, 2 others and 1 for fine detail you can create a design that looks fairly plain from a distance, but then as you come closer gives you more and more detail. Unlike the Star Trek blueprint, the Orville’s computers mostly use blue, so this became really important.
So, I started making a pattern. It wasn’t a cross stitch pattern that took me 100 hours, but it sure took a long time. I tried adding the original MacOS dock style thing, but it just didn’t work. However, I came up with about 30 inspiration shots from the show, including this one, and knew there were elements I could add. I put everything together, and finally got stitching.
This is where I would normally stop, showing you the complete thing. But as I stitched, the less sold on the idea I was. Looking back, the whole reason I wanted to stitch this was the macOS style screen, that I failed to make in the pattern. Then, on top of this, is the fact that I had just completed my Futurama ship blueprint embroidery and was about to start on another one (more on that once I’ve finished it). This pattern just didn’t click in the way those did. So I changed the pattern while stitching to remove the outside, leaving just the ship itself.
With the Last Of Us 2 coming out soon, we’ve decided to give away another pattern! This time, its the fireflies logo.
We’ve not stipulated the color as it appears to change within the Last Of Us, but we think DMC666 is the best.
Looking for something else? Check out our list of free cross stitch patterns for more.
If you’ve ever wanted to dabble in cross stitch on plastic canvas you probably did exactly the same as me, and countless others; you started it. So long as you’ve not thrown it at the wall in hatred, you then get to the end of the project, and a simple question is asked: “How do I finish this thing?”
Turns out there are actually a few ways, and you can turn your creations into keyrings, pendants, needle minders, magnets, badges, pins, earrings and more! So we’ve going to round up the best ways to finish off your plastic canvas so you can make the most of your cross stitch, regardless of what type of plastic canvas you’ve used.
Back Stitch The Edges
- Needle Minders/Magnets
In my mind, this is the way I like to finish off plastic canvas. The main reason is that it avoids the issues that overcasting the edges can bring (we’ll get onto that later), and depending on your project, its probably the easiest way to finish it. In short, you need to backstitch around the edges. This, in essence, is all it is, but by combining it with a few other things you can make some really awesome projects.
The first thing to do is back it with the same cross stitch. You need to swap the pattern over (if it’s not symmetrical) but by doing this you can make keyrings, earrings, tags and more as both sides might be seen. A good example of this is my Bioshock Infinite Bird Cage cross stitch where I took the idea a little further and changed each side ever so slightly.
However, if you don’t see the back (like a magnet, pendant or needle minder) you can simply backstitch an unstitched piece of plastic canvas to it. The advantage here is that the back of your work doesn’t get damaged, and you can slip in a magnet. This means the magnet never touches your work (if you’re making a needle minder) or the fridge itself, which is good as neodymium magnets can stain aida.
Overcast The Edges
The other alternative for finishing plastic canvas is overcasting the edges of your work. This protects the raw edge of the plastic canvas, but in turn, also adds another layer of thread (roughly the same width as a whole stitch) along the edge. You can work this into your design if you need a black edge, but can sometimes cause the great cross stitch to be lost.
But, it has lots of advantages too. Namely, you can back your work. I would suggest felt as it’s easy to cut, soft to the touch and easy to sew. You can cut out hole and mount a pin behind it too allowing you to change your project into a badge or pin.
Title: Old Bessie Futurama Blueprint
Date Completed: April 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Futurama
When it comes to blueprints, I’m sold. I’ve made a light saber blueprint cross stitch, a fifth element gun blueprint cross stitch and loads of others. So when I started watching Futurama again (the best cartoon ever by the way) I started getting itchy to do a cross stitch. Then, when watching an episode where the ship gets dismantled (screenshot below), I knew I had to do a blueprint of the ship.
The thing that makes it so perfect is that the ship is constantly changing, you see in almost every room, yet there aren’t any plans. Others have put things together in the past, but I wanted to do my own take. In my previous blueprints, I had only shown the inside or the outside, but with the ship, I really wanted to combine the two, so I have a cutaway style blueprint.
In my research I found a great poster by Volpin Props, and whilst the image was rather small (the quality below is the best I could find), I based my blueprint on it. I also threw in loads of little details the Volpin Props one didn’t have, things that you only pick up on if you’re a Futurama fan, much like the Star Trek Voyager Blueprint cross stitch did. What makes this even better is that much like Volpin props I’ve hidden most of these details away in a Futurama language you need to translate.
This wasn’t as easy as I had planned, however. Much like my Matrix code cross stitch I needed to recreate a whole language in tiny form. The original alien language that Volpin props used was way too hard to convert, so I changed it for the newer alien language Futurama uses (which is much more complicated to translate).
Sometimes you’re on eBay, sometimes you’re at a craft fair, maybe a car boot sale, and you see it; threads. Hundreds and hundreds of threads. You eagerly walk over and find out they’re going cheap. Probably from someone’s Grandmother who can’t stitch anymore, or excess threads someone is cutting down. And the simple thought goes through your head “Is it worth buying these second-hand threads?”
The idea of second-hand threads is a great one, they’re cheap, they’re the brand you like and it can get you far along on your journey to a complete set of DMC threads. But actually, there are things to consider, and sometimes that deal can actually be more effort than its worth.
The first, and usually biggest issue, is the age of threads like these. In most cases the threads are being sold as they are either passed onto someone who doesn’t stitch (and very old) or are excess threads that someone is cutting down on (and are old). Old threads aren’t an issue in themselves, in fact, far from it. But threads can discolor over time. Most people think this is actually thread dye lot issues, but its actually more likely to how the threads have been stored.
Regardless of who is selling the threads, it’s always worth asking if the threads have been stored correctly. At first, looking at the threads will look OK, even discolored threads look OK, but once you get them home, you might have a nasty shock. A quick tip is to make sure DMC threads have plastic labels on the top and bottom; if one is paper, its at least 18 years old.
We would also ask if the threads are from a smoke-free home too, as it’s hard to tell tar-covered threads from normal ones at first glance.
The second issue, and probably the biggest in my mind, is that its rare to get threads sorted nicely into boxes. More often than not, it’s in a big old bag of threads.
This might be a blessing in disguise; it could put less serious buyers off, but the fact remains that unless there is a nice little label on the threads, you basically have no way of knowing what color it is.
Not one brand
In addition, that bag of threads has another issue; if there are no labels on the threads, do you actually know you’re getting the brand you want? With cheap embroidery threads entering the market, they could easily pass their threads off as well known brands. I don’t think people intentionally do this in person (they do online for sure), but someone that doesn’t know about cross stitching might just assume.
So is it a good deal?
I have no idea. Unless you can see the threads, know their condition, see how they’re labeled and trust the provider, it’s hard to tell. In most cases, if it sounds too good to be true and it’s online, it’s too good to be true. But in person, you can get some great deals. You just need to take a breath, stop seeing the low price, and think about what you’re actually buying.