Hate Needle Minders? There is a Solution…

DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)

It’s probably no suprise to regular readers, but I’m a fan of needle minders. I’ve spoken about the weird world of needle minders before, but there’s something you might not know: I don’t put needle minders on my work.
OK, OK, I love them, and I use them, but I keep it next to me on my work table. I’ve spoken before about finding the perfect needle minder as there is a real issue with needle minders; their weight. But there are also people who just don’t like them. So what are the alternatives if you aren’t a needle minder fan?

Magnetic Needle Case

I hate needle storage. In fact, I’ve gone into detail about how to store cross stitch needles, and in that list, I mention magnetic boxes. They’re a great place to store the needles in the long term, but in the short term, they offer a lovely place for needles on the go. Not only can you store needles inside, but most come with a magnetic cover, so you can drop your active needles on the top too. Its another thing you have to keep around you, but if it saves you stepping on a needle, its worth it.

DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)
DMC Magnetic Needle Case (Source: Etsy)


Alright, this is cheating a little bit considering that I just mentioned something magnetic, but you don’t have to have some fancy box to hold your needle. You can buy rolls of magnetic tape, or even just plain old magnets from Etsy and Amazon for super cheap, and you can stick them to anything! I’ve seen them used wonderfully on a cross stitch scroll frame, but pretty much anywhere is game!
If you have an ORT jar you can place a magnet under the lid. The magnet sticks to the metak lid, and the top becomes a great place for needles!

A Small Needle Minder

I actually eluded to this in the intro, but needle minders are cool. There’s no arguing. They are the best. I personally have a miniature cake plate, cos if I’m not thinking about cross stitch, its cake. But they are a bit annoying sometimes. So instead of setting them up on your work, remove the back magnet and just stick them to something metal! I have one on my lamp, my desk leg, and one stuck to the top of my thread box (with glue).
Just because you can’t get along with needle minders on your case, doesn’t mean you have to forego them all together.

chapelviewcrafts polymer cake needle minder by chapelviewcrafts (source: etsy)
Polymer Miniature Cake Needle Ninder by Chapelviewcrafts (Source: Etsy)

A Smaller Needle Minder

Lets get real for a second. One of the biggest reasons people don’t like needle minders is that might damage the work. Now I don’t know this is the case, but they can sag your nicely taught aida if its too heavy. But not all needle minders are created equal. Getting a small needle minder will be less heavy, and it’ll fit nicely on your work without damaging it!

Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)
Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)

The Best Cross Stitch Toys

3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)

My niece LOVES to pick up my cross stitch. Doesn’t matter if its half completed or not, she wants her hands on it. So I thought to myself; maybe there is cross stitch out there, specifically made to be played with. Today, we run down the best cross stitch toys.

Thread Maniac’s Mazes

OK, so I lied already. Thread Maniac hasn’t just created a maze, they’ve created a whole series of cross stitch you can frame and then draw on using dry erase markers. From mazes to tic-tac-toe and the obligatory black board, kids can go nuts drawing and never damage the cross stitch. Very neat idea.

Maze cross stitch by Thread Maniac (Source: threadmaniac.com)
Maze cross stitch by Thread Maniac (Source: threadmaniac.com)

BlackMageHeart’s Farm Playset

What about omething more tactile? Well, we have those in bunches. First up is BlackMageHeart’s Harvest Moon Playset. Complete with 24 crops, a house, farmer, cow, chicken, chick, duck and two ducklings its a full on farming set, that kids would LOVE to get their hands on. The best thing about it however is that the floor, a perfectly stitched farm, is in a frame, meaning it packs up nice and neat once they’re done playing.

3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)
3D Harvest Moon Cross Stitch Playset by BlackMageHeart (Source: Etsy)


Next up we have the figures section. Move over Barbie and Action Man, now we have cross stitch guys. Or more specifically, these two. By stitching simple boxes out of plastic canvas you can make pretty much anything you want. In this instance we both made characters, with my cross stitch being about to transform from robot to truck.

3D Minecraft Cross Stitch by an anonymous user (Source: reddit)
3D Minecraft Cross Stitch by an anonymous user (Source: reddit)

Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form
Optimus Prime Transforming 3D Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan in robot form

RobinsDesigns 3D Cross Stitch

Robin’s Design is one of our all time favorite cross stitch designers. We’ve highlighted her work loads of times in the past including using it as the posterboy of our best 3D cross stitch and even trying to copy the style with my own Harry Potter golden snitch cross stitch. As you can probably tell then, we’re in love with her 3D work, which includes everything from dice to people, to animals, and planets. Best of all, its all made from traditional aida, so is soft like a cuddly toy.

Earth and Moon sphere cross stitches by robinsdesign (source: Etsy)
Earth and Moon sphere cross stitches by robinsdesign (source: Etsy)

Ever wondered why embroidery threads are cotton?

Undyed Silk Threads (Source: beautifulsilks.com)

In this quarters XStitch Magazine I wrote about the Silk Road, and how an often ignored part of Asian history had a vital impact on the origins of cross stitch.
In the peice I often talk about silk, hence the Silk Road name, and talk about how it threads migrated along the route, eventually ending in the round city of Baghdad, where cross stitch was invented. Here not only did they invent the stitch itself, but hessian, an early form of aida. You can find out more in our definitive history of cross stitch. However, my XStitch piece ends there, with silk fibers on a hessian back. So how come we now stitch using cotton fibers?

So why did we change from silk to cotton threads?

It should be noted that whilst cotton has always been used as a threads, it was a luxury product. Silk, was the cheaper alternative. The reason for this was simple, whilst there was more cotton avaliable, the processing of cotton took a very long time. Unlike silk strands; literally taken from silk worm cocoons in a long strand, cotton had to be cleaned, split, pulled, standed, woven and washed again. This took a long time, and meant that cotton production wasn’t a viable alternative to silk production.

But things did start to change. In India in the 5th century they invented a rolling cotton gin. This allowed them to clean and split the cotton fibers very quickly. It was reported that one man and one woman, without using a cotton gin could clean half a pound of cotton a day, but with the cotton gin, they could clean 28 pounds, and if an oxen was put to work, they could make 750 pounds a day. They soon started production large scale and cotton became a rewarding, but niche industry. The reason it was so niche was thanks to India’s specific climate. The climate allowed for gorwth of long-staple cotton, which, apart from a few other locations, only grew in India.

Therefore, whilst India enjoyed the advances of cotton, much of the world went without. That was, until 1793, and Eli Whitney.

Undyed Silk Threads (Source: beautifulsilks.com)
Undyed Silk Threads (Source: beautifulsilks.com)

Who’s Eli Whitney?

Eli Whitney, to most, is known as one of the many key figures in starting the American Civil War. This is all due to slavery. When America got its independance in 1776, slavery was a trade, but not a booming one. Slaves had their uses, but in most instances their cost outweighed their use. By the mid 1700s, rice, tobacco, and indigo were all losing value, and slavery started to dwindle. This is where Eli’s new cotton gin comes in. Eli, who was against slave ownership, wanted to invest in the future of the United States and created a tool that could be used with the US short-staple cotton, much in the same way India had used it, with livestock.
Whilst this was a noble pursuit, it turned out that the new cotton grew fantastically well in Georgia state. Slavery not only became profitable, but took the US by storm, in part resulting in the start of the American Civil war. Eli actually worked with the North to abolish slavery, however his invention, the cotton gin, was a tool that revolutionised the fabric trade.

Eli Whitney's original cotton gin patent, dated March 14, 1794 (Source: Wikipedia)
Eli Whitney’s original cotton gin patent, dated March 14, 1794 (Source: Wikipedia)

Soon, the cotton gin was exported all over the world, where it became the most cost effective tool for making thread.

Futurama Cross Stitch Pattern Spotlight

Futurama Cross Stitch Pattern by PatternArtCollection (Source: Etsy)

It’s really important to us that we use non copyrighted images for our cross stitch pattern spotlight, so when we were given the task of finding a killer Futurama pattern, we thought we’d have a struggle on our hands. However in our search we found some really great patterns, with no copyright, but still, clearly Futurama.

Futurama Cross Stitch Pattern by PatternArtCollection

Futurama Cross Stitch Pattern by PatternArtCollection (Source: Etsy)
Futurama Cross Stitch Pattern by PatternArtCollection (Source: Etsy)

We’ve decided to post two patterns this week. Its actually the same pattern, but in different colors, something that the designer, PatternArtCollection does a lot. It’s in the designers typical style, which at the moment is super in; a silhouette front with a detailed, but small color palette. I’m a massive fan of their work, having stitched up three of their patterns myself, so I know that they’re great to stitch, as well as great looking in the flesh.
The funky colors, day and night feel, with Fry under Bender’s legs gives a real feeling of how Bender thinks of himself in the Futurama episode ‘Obsoletely Fabulous’ whilst the forest background also plays off the Forbidden Planet; a massive influence of the series. Truly a great pattern.
This pattern was found on Etsy.

Do you really NEED to wash your cross stitch?

Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

When it comes to washing cross stitch you’re either in the “always wash it” camp, or the “do I really NEED to wash it?” camp. Today, we’re going to try and answer that question, and see if washing cross stitch is a requirement, or just a good idea.

The case for NEVER washing it

Washing and drying cross stitch is a bit of a pain, however that isn’t the reason people don’t want to do it. Its mostly fear. Fear of threads bleeding, or the piece reshaping. These are founded fears as well; threads do occassionally bleed, and threads of poor quality will bleed a lot more. Aida returns to its original shape when washing, and can sometimes tighten threads (again, mostly those of poor quality). As a result, washing can seem like a crazy thing to do if you’ve just stitched for 100 hours.
The thing is, you’ll find loads of people online who have never washed their cross stitch, and they’ve been doing it for 40 years. I’m yet to see any proof, but I honestly belive them. If your hands are well washed, you come from a smoke and pet free home, and you only work with high quality materials, there is no reason to suggest your cross stitch is dirty.
Does that mean you shouldn’t wash it though?

The case for ALWAYS washing it

Fingers are dirty. The air is dusty. Accident’s happen. There are loads of reasons why your cross stitch might be dirty, and as a result, washing it removes all of that. Not only that, but ironing it afterwards will stop the dirt getting worse.
I personally, always wash my cross stitch. And that is a direct result of two cross stitches I did when I was learning, when I didn’t wash them.
The first is a retro trio cross stitch that I have simply never washed. I was worried that the threads might bleed (I’ve since checked, and even cheap threads don’t bleed). As time went on, and sun took its toll, brown spots appeared. I’ve tried washing these out, but I can’t, these are perminent.

Brown Spots on Cross Stitch
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

The second horror story, is my second ever cross stitch, my Fire ‘n’ Ice cross stitch. In this one, I made a different mistake; I didn’t clean my hands when stitching. There are now, LOADS of brownspots..
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch
Brown Spots on Cross Stitch

OK, both of these could have been improved had I framed my cross stitch properly, but the marks would come eventually. I’ve since learnt my lesson on why you should both wash your hands, and your cross stitch, but even if you do, stains might come afterwards.
I’ve tried to remove cross stitch stains before, and I can tell you it is a LOT easier when its been ironed.

Wash or not wash?

So, I guess the answer is a “probably”. Washing your cross stitch will significatly help reduce issues, and will mean its easier to clean in the future. However, if you’re 100% sure your hands were clean, and you aren’t too invested in keeping your cross stitches for the future, you don’t have to wash them.
But from personal experience; I always do.

The Best Cross Stitch Travel Scissors

Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)

As an independent website, we don’t promote one brand over another, however today we’re making a slight exception. Not due the fact that one brand is better, but there only appears to be one brand. In fact, it appears the tool I want to talk about today seems to be very niche; however I think they’re one of the best things any cross stitcher can get.
Without beating around the bush anymore, I want to talk about Canary mini snips. These little things are super tiny scissors, which you use with the tips of your fingers, instead of pushing your fingers through the hoop handles of a standard pair of scissors.

Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)
Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)

You may know that I’m a big fan of getting the perfect scissors for you however these little scissors might just be my all time favorites. As small snips, they are perfect for thread cutting, they don’t take up much space, you don’t have to fiddle with finding the hoops and getting the proper control. You can pick these up and make a snip and put them back before even getting a normal pair of scissors ready. However, their excelence doesn’t end there. They’re round tipped, meaning you won’t stab yourself, they can be attached to keychains or put into a travel cross stitch kit, and as the blades are super tiny, they’re fully safe scissors to fly with.
It also helps that you can pick them up for under $10.
You can pick up a pair on Etsy.com in a variety of styles
Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)
Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)

New Moon on Tokyo Tower Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

New Moon on Tokyo Tower Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

New Moon on Tokyo Tower Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
New Moon on Tokyo Tower Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: New Moon on Tokyo Tower
Date Completed: June 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 18
Canvas: Navy
Colours: 19
Pop Culture: Japan
When the editor of the Xstitch Mag announced the new theme for issue 9 was going to be orient; I knew exactly why. A few months before I have shown him a preview of my Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch (just before I decided to remove the Pokemon from it), and showed him what an awesome theme it could make.
However, that turned out to be a little problematic. The piece of art I used to make that cross stitch was still under copyright, meaning I couldn’t give the pattern to the Editor. Instead, I had to make my own. Now, I loved Asano Takeji’s work, and thought I could riff on his style, whilst bringing it slightly more modern. To do this I researched when the ukiyo-e style went out of fashion. It was roughly the 1870’s. That meant that none of the modern Japanese buildings would be captured in the form.
Having visited Tokyo a few years prior, I also felt that the new Tokyo Skytree overshadowed Tokyo’s previous iconic tower; The Tokyo Tower. Following the American occupation of Japan, in the 1950’s, Japan wanted to celebrate is new found freedom with a new and audacious tower. Based on the Eiffel Tower they constructed a new tower, which was originally planned to be painted Bronze, but due to height regulations at the time had to have a red and white candy stripe paint job.
The tower, when completed would have been a becon to all of Japan that they were back in charge, and were once again, ready to enter the world stage. However, at the time, modernisation hadn’t come to a lot of Japan, meaning a lot of streets were traditional in design. I really wanted to combine this design to show both the new Japan, and traditional Japan side by side.
To do this I combined images of Tokyo Tower, and a preserved traditional street in Tokyo, ironically next to Yasaka Pagoda, Sannen Zaka Street. I then lowered the tone of color to show a deep night sky, free of moon light, to differentiate it from my previous Asano Takeji piece.

How to Make Sure You Buy a Cross Stitch Pattern That Isn’t Copyrighted

copyright defintion Image (source: wikipedia)

With sites like Etsy pumping out cross stitch patterns by the thousands, finding a quality cross stitch pattern can be hard. We helpfully went over a few tips for making sure you get a good pattern, however one of those points was about copyright. Copyright in cross stitch is a massive issue, and if you haven’t yet been involved in something to do with copyright, you’re lucky. However the biggest issue, is with selling patterns.

Why Should You Care?

This is probably the big question we need to look at first, after all, why should you care about copyright in cross stitch? and I’m not going to say you should (even if I think it). Instead, I’m telling you its in your best interest. If the pattern you’re looking at is copyrighted, its either going to be bad quality, putting the real designer out of buisness (and stopping them creating more patterns you love) or its a trap.
What do I mean by trap? PDFs are a great way of spreading malware and viruses on your computer. Downloading a pattern that abuses your desire to get a cross stitch pattern is just one way of giving you a virus.

Does It Only Matter When Its A Known Character/Theme?

Whilst the vast majority of copyright infringement happens on well known characters, etc, this advice is actually a good tool generally. By following it you know you’re going to get a good pattern, and aren’t going to get the stiff end of the deal.

The Advice:

– Is it a well known Character?

As we said above, well known characters are a big issue, and if you’re seeing things like Disney characters on sites like Etsy or Ebay; its copyrighted.
There are outlets for well known characters, but these are sold in legitimate shops, or are turned into books. I even wrote one myself for Disney, Star Wars, Star Trek and Hello Kitty. However all of these books cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase the rights. Etsy stores just don’t have the capital to afford that.
disney classic cross stitch book by Lord Libidan cover (source: amazon)Star Wars Cross Stitch Book by Lord Libidan Alternative Cover (source: Amazon)
Disney Classic Cross Stitch Book Kit & Star Wars Book Kits by Lord Libidan

– Are there loads and loads of patterns in different styles?

One of the first things designers work out, is their signature style. If you see a website with loads of different styles, its a dead giveaway that there isn’t one designer involved. The source of these patterns, is probably stolen.

– Are the cross stitch patterns super cheap?

Price is an interesting point for cross stitch patterns. Places like HAED can charge a big sum for patterns, however you can pick up some for less than $10. However, if you ever see a pattern for less than $5; buyer beware. These margins make it almost impossible for sellers to make money, so if they’re charging for less than that, then you know selling quality cross stitch patterns isn’t their goal.

– Is there licensing information?

If someone is using a great looking piece of art to make a pattern, they need to say who did the original art. Now, if a pattern doesn’t say any licensing info, then the likelihood is that its being used without the original artists consent. From the artist’s point of view, this is annoying, but for the buyer, it means the pattern designer is willing to cut corners, and give you a cut rate cross stitch pattern.

“Octopus” counted cross stitch pattern. Designed by Vik Dollin.

– Is it clearly scanned/photocopied?

You actually find a lot of these type of patterns spread across sites like Pinterest and eBay, and yes, the patterns are probably good, they come from great designers. However the photocopied version is not only an illegal copy, but its putting the designer out of buisness. If you like their pattern; buy it from them. Otherwise they’ll have to stop making awesome patterns.

– Is it from a questionable website?

The last tip is probably the biggest one. There are loads of websites out there that just deal with a lot of copyrighted patterns. Only use the ones that are well know, and other cross stitchers use.
Places like eBay, Etsy, AliExpress and Amazon have MASSIVE issues with copyright. That isn’t to say every pattern on there is bad, but you need to be careful. Checking to see that sellers are well known, they have good ratings on the sites, and they aren’t breaking any of the other rules above means they’re probably OK. But you need to be careful when purchasing from these places.
In addition, you can find massive online stores that look to be from China or Russia selling super super cheap cross stitch patterns. Its a good chance that these are built to spread malware. Whilst that is a very general term, I am yet to find a website like this that isn’t just spreading malware. If you’re ever unsure; check with other cross stitchers on Facebook groups, or cross stitch forums.

How To Use A DMC Color Card

DMC Embroidery Floss Color Card (Source: stitchedmodern.com)

A month ago we gave reasons why you need a DMC color card and since then we’ve received a lot of emails and comments about how to use one properly. There can be quite a knack to it, but once you get it, its super simple!

Understanding color runs

The biggest thing to get your head around on a color card is the colors runs (sometimes called color families). In the example below you can see 20 rows of colors; these are the basic color runs, split from red to grey, and everything inbetween.

DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan
DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan

However in addition to these rows are smaller runs. Below we’ve broken out the smaller color runs within row 1 of the DMC color card; red. In it, we can see each color run goes from light to dark, however each smaller run changes in color slightly too. The first run is more pinky, the second more christmas red, the third blood red, and the last dark red. Now; here’s the biggest tip I can give you; never choose colors from more than one run. If you pick colors, you need to choose colors from the same run. And that’s it!
DMC Threads on row 1 of the color card
DMC Threads on row 1 of the color card

How to find a color by its number

Lets say you want to look up a thread. Due to the way the color card is set up, in color runs, the numbers are all out of order. So you have to look on the table in the back to check the row. In the image below er can see thread 3840 is on row 6.

Finding colors by number on a DMC color card (Source: stitchedmodern.com)
Finding colors by number on a DMC color card (Source: stitchedmodern.com)

Other information on a thread card

There’s actually a whole wealth of other information on color cards too, which can be super helpful if you want to know it; however its only on a need to know basis. If you don’t care; you can easily ignore it!

Thread Types

The first of these is the types the threads are sold in. For example, on the image below we can see that the new DMC threads 14, 15 & 16 come in ‘117’ only. This is the basic 6 strand floss you stitch with normally, however 704 and 703 come in a whole range of other types, like pearl cottons.

Row 11 close up of DMC shade card
Row 11 close up of DMC shade card

Speciality threads

Then you have speciality threads. Unlike the standard threads, these aren’t arranged in color runs, but are instead just shown in number order. It allows you to see what makes up a variegated thread, or what the metallics look like.

Dots on DMC labels

We’ve written about the purpose of those dots on DMC labels and the dots are also in the shade book, meaning you know which threads are which.

Care information

Finally, on the back page are care instructions. These are pretty standard for most threads at the moment, but these are a great tool to refer to if you have a stubborn cross stitch stain you can’t get out, and need to know how to give them a good wash.

Spring In Daigoji Temple Miniature Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Miniature Spring In Daigoji Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Miniature Spring In Daigoji Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Miniature Spring In Daigoji Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Spring In Daigoji Temple
Date Completed: August 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 32
Canvas: Antique White
Colours: 16
Pop Culture: Japan
The idea for this project was a simple one, but as always, wiht simple projects, it turns out much more complicated than you first had in mind. To go back to the start of this project, we need to talk about my Miniature Pirate Sampler Cross Stitches. I was asked to do a ‘heroes and villans’ themed pattern for the XStitch magazine, and to match the nature of the theme, and magazine itself, I wanted to do two things. But with a standard sampler, it was going to be too big. So I changed the count to 32.
It was the first time I’d ever stitched on anything smaller than 18 count, and whist it was a great task, I wasn’t convinced to change my standard 16/18 count preference. The mag went out, the patterns were liked, however almost exactly when I got them back I was able to submit something for the National Needlecraft Awards 2019. I submitted them, and I won.
mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)
mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)

This was a super pleasant suprise and I thought to myself, it was easy enough, how about I make something for next year? So I decided to bring out the 32 count again. But this time, I wanted something a little harder. I’m in a big Japanese print kick at the moment, with my Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch and my New Moon on Tokyo Tower Cross Stitch, so I thought it would be good to do something similar. But with this, comes full coverage and changing colors a lot. I new it wasn’t going to be too easy, so I stitched up a Miniature Pokemon Card Cross Stitch to try it out.
I then wanted to do something a little more special, so decided to do the whole piece using cut offs (meaning I had to delay this project while I got enough of them stored up). But, finally, I was ready to make the pattern. This, also caused issues.
Unlike smaller counts, the 32 count requires a fairly simplified pattern to work. This means any Japanese print I could find had details removed from it. So, after a lot of back and forth and false starts, I finally picked Spring at Daigoji Temple by Asano Takeji (the same artist as the previous Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda cross stitch).