How To Label Your Cross Stitch Threads

DMC bobbins labeled with stickers (Source: DMC)

We’re big fans of collecting threads here, and on our journey to ever DMC thread we’ve had to work out a few things, like making an inventory spreadsheet for tracking threads and looking at the best way to store threads. But one thing has always bugged us, regardless of what way you store your threads; identification.
 
Threads on their own do have a set order, numbers, but these numbers jump around all over the place, they aren’t in color order, and they aren’t even sequential. Therefore, if you choose to put your threads on bobbins, in bags, boxes, or any other means, you need a way to label them. But we’ve all heard about the pitfalls of trying to write numbers on those DMC bobbins, so what is the best way?
 
The examples we give below use bobbins as that’s the most popular way of storing threads, but all examples apply to all ways of storage.

DMC bobbins labeled with stickers (Source: DMC)
DMC bobbins labeled with stickers (Source: DMC)

Stickers

DMC thread on bobbin labeled with DMC number stickers
DMC thread on bobbin labeled with a sticker
The first method of labeling, is actually the one you’re meant to use. We say meant here as this is the solution supplied by brands like DMC. However it isn’t perfect.
You can buy DMC labels for attaching to their bobbins. Thankfully these do contain the 35 new DMC threads (but you need to be sure to pick up a new set) but they don’t include some threads thought disconunted, etc. Not only that, but the stickers aren’t the best quality and often come off the bobbins.
 
The upside of these stickers though is the speed and uniformity. They are quick to place, easy to read, and every single bobbin is nicely uniform. No miss reading of numbers or messy writing to deal with.

Pen

DMC thread on bobbin labeled with pen
DMC thread on bobbin labeled with pen
If you choose not to get the stickers, pen is an option, and for most, is where they start. However, this is also slightly problematic.
Whilst the pen does work so long as it’s permanent, the writing is often messy, too large (don’t do the same as us and use a normal sharpie, use a thin one instead), and it can sometimes come off. We’ve never actually seen it come off onto the threads, but the regular picking up of the bobbins can rub it off.
 
There is nothing wrong with this method, but considering how pretty all those threads look, it would be a shame to mess it up with uneven handwriting.

Tuck Technique

DMC thread on bobbin labeled with the tuck method
DMC thread on bobbin labeled with the tuck method
Now we’ve spoken about the obvious methods, we move onto the less obvious, but actually rather genious. Use the label the threads come with. Not only does this look nice and neat, but it cuts down on all the rubbish cross stitchers make, so is a win from us.
With this method, you keep the nice neatness of the stickers, but it requires effort. In fact, quite a bit. The idea here is you cut the number off the label, and tape it down onto the bobbin. You then have to cut away the excess tape.
 
This is a blessing and a curse though. The tape edges aren’t always perfectly cut (the image above shows the best one we have), and can sometimes stick to the threads, or gain fluff and discolor. At first, it looks great, but the stickers would be a far faster solution here. In addition, we’re aware that all brands of threads, but particularly DMC, have varied styles of numbers on their labels, so they might not be uniform either.

Under Tuck Technique

DMC thread on bobbin labeled with the under tuck method
DMC thread on bobbin labeled with the under tuck method
But there is a solution similar to the tuck method.
 
The exact method here changes slightly depending on what cross stitch thread brand you’re using, but as a standard, the numbers are on the bottom of the label. This means you can simply slot the label into the space between the thread and the bobbin. If you want a more permanent fix, tape it down. It really is as simple as that.
 
Not only does this method have all the advantages of the standard tuck method, but it also requires a whole lot less work to put together. But there is also a downside; the numbers are on the bottom. For some, this won’t be a problem, however, anyone storing threads in a box (in either orientation) will struggle to read the numbers. So maybe this is a solution for some, but not all.

Which Method Is Best?

This is hard to tell and is mostly up to your personal situation. However, we can say that we use the stickers, and those without stickers get numbers (like number 01 in the image below). They’re quick, they all match, and they’re easy to read. For us, it’s a win.
 
We should also say that if you display your threads, it might be worth labeling the back of the threads. The number will still be there, but the fronts will look a lot nicer without the numbers on them.

Different DMC thread labels on bobbins
Different DMC thread labels on bobbins

Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

The Best Cross Stitch Accessories & Notions

Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)

When it comes to cross stitch and tools, there are a whole bunch. From random laying tools to something as simple and widespread as a thread shade chart. As a result, many cross stitchers ignore news of new accessories and notions, expecting them to be worthless.
 
However, this isn’t always the case! It is sometimes though. As a result we scoured online cross stitch stores, forums and facebook pages to find the best accessories and notions for cross stitch.
We’ve not included anything you might already have, like needle threaders, needle minders or anything like that. We’ve also only included things under $20 in price, so why not treat yourself?
 

Fray Check – from $5

Sealing Evenweave Fabric Edges with Fray Check (Source: thesprucecrafts.com)
Sealing Evenweave Fabric Edges with Fray Check (Source: thesprucecrafts.com)

Fray check is one of those odd brand names you’ve heard of in cross stitch, but never bothered with. And why would you? After all, if you’ve not had issues with your fabric fraying, there is no need for it, right?
I would argue, that’s not correct. Whilst Fray check does stop your cross stitch fabric from fraying, there are other reasons to use it. By adding it to the edge of your fabric it forces it to hold its shape much better than without, meaning when you wash and iron your work, it should be nice and square.
 

Aida Identification Cards – from $5

Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)
Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)

Can you recognize 18 count aida from a 24 count hardanger just by eye? Most people can’t, and whilst this seems like an insult, why would you be able to? That’s where cross stitch identification cards come in. These handy little fellers allow you to check your fabric counts or needle sizes. And whilst we belive aida gauges are worth getting there are many people who *shudder* don’t store their cross stitch fabric well. If you’ve ever found yourself questioning fabric count, this is a great little tool to pop in your kit.
 

Easy Guide Needles – from $7

Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)
Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)

You already have needles in your kit, I know. You might have even checked out our guide on the best cross stitch needles so you might even have a favorite brand (kudos if you did by the way), however these needles are different.
Imagine mixing a tapestry needle and a sewing needle together, then you have easy guide needles. Their long tip gives you greater accuracy, but their ball tip allows you to carry across the fabric just as easily as a tapestry needle. Now, I will say, these aren’t cheap, and I wouldn’t even suggest using them for every cross stitch. But in those times when you’re using a smaller count than normal, or you need to do petit point, or maybe your eyes are aching (there are ways to avoid eye strain in cross stitch btw), these needles will help you keep your cross stitching edge.
 

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

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

I have a near-obsession with cross stitch scissors, but trust me with this; these are awesome!
As small scissors go, these are fine, but their real worth comes in two points. Firstly, these things are the easiest scissors to hold ever! Drag them with a finger and thumb and you’re golden, no shoving your fingers into the loops and inevitably getting them stuck (it happens, admit it), just easy cutting. They’re also some of the only cross stitch scissors allowed on planes so go traveling with ease!
 

Thread Conditioner – from $2

beeswax thread conditioner (source: etsy)
Beeswax thread conditioner (source: Etsy)

From beeswax to specialist thread conditioners like Thread Magic, there are loads of little pots out there that most class as “Thread Heaven alternaitves“, and whilst Thread Heaven is the best known of the conditioners, that doesn’t mean the loss of the company should mean no longer using thread conditioners.
I personally hate thread conditioners, I know, it’s still on my list, bear with me, but I ALWAYS use them with metallic threads. Thread conditioner helps make things go a lot smoother when using using specialty threads and is our number one tip on how to make stitching with these threads a breeze.
 

Center Finding Rulers – from $9

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)
Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

I know a ruler might seem like the weirdest object to include in this list, however since we found out about center finding rulers, we’ve fallen in love. In short, it helps find the center of your fabric. This might seem a little basic, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve managed to stitch something in the wrong place and uh-oh, you’ve run out of fabric. That is no longer a problem.
 

Quilters Square n Blocker – from $20

June Tailor Cushioned Quilters Square n Blocker (Source: Walmart)
June Tailor Cushioned Quilters Square n Blocker (Source: Walmart)
We’re jumping up with the price here, and its right at the top end of our price limit, but a Quilters block, or ironing block, its a foam block you can iron on. However, the reason I’ve included it here isn’t its ironing prowess (although it does mean I don’t have to get the ironing board out), instead I’ve included it, as you can use it to pin your work on when it drys. Let’s face it, no one wants a warped cross stitch, and this baby will let you wash, block and iron your work all in one. Now hows that for handy?

The Cross Stitch Love-Meter

Make Arcade mini love cross stitch kit (Source: clothkits.co.uk)

This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 7: Love, and has been adapted.
 
When you look up love in the dictionary you can get a whole series of definitions, however, at its core, love is an intense feeling of pleasure in someone or something. However, if you look up the definition of similar words, appreciation, devotion, passion, and fondness, you come up with very similar definitions. Instead, love becomes a word to signify an absolute commitment to something.
 
Yet people, myself included, state they love this or love that. Maybe it means something different in different circumstances. Maybe it’s just a psychological stimulus or plain and simple unadulterated joy. Or maybe it’s deeper than that. When I say “I love cross stitch!”, does that mean I’m in love with cross stitch, or does it mean I have a passion for cross stitch, a commitment to it?
 
I would initially say yes. I elect to cross stitch over almost every other hobby, pastime, or event. I’m sure most of you do too. But does that mean I have a relationship with cross stitch? Do I have to start looking at stitching as a third wheel in the relationship? Or even worse; is it just a fling?
 
I would argue that anyone who states they love cross stitch is probably exactly that; in love with cross stitch. But love has come in many, many different forms. Love can be enduring, passionate, or sometimes even fleeting. So, when it comes to cross stitch, what type of love is it?

Make Arcade mini love cross stitch kit (Source: clothkits.co.uk)
Make Arcade mini love cross stitch kit (Source: clothkits.co.uk)

There are actually a well-accepted seven stages of love, and I’m far from a love doctor, so I’m happy to say I’m generalizing here, but they fit perfectly on almost everyone’s cross stitch journey. Infatuation, understanding, disturbance, obsession, experimentation, passion, and devotion.

Infatuation

For many, love starts quickly. This is the crush stage, needing to know every single detail about some TV or music star. And whilst age tends to dull the enthusiasm in which infatuation takes form, that rush when you see someone winking from across the bar is the driver. It’s the thing that gives you the push to walk over and start talking to someone. Someone cross stitching that is. For many of us, we found stitching through another person, we asked questions, we wondered, we maybe put it at the back of our heads for months, even years. But that time when you walked through a haberdashery; saw a tiny inch square highland cow, and you took the plunge.

Understanding

You’ve done it! You brought your first kit. Yeh, it’s a random tiny and frankly overcute cow, but who cares? You pull open the packaging, you pull out the threads, you find your needles, threads, scissors, hoop and you get good light… and then you see the book that came with it. Yeh, the instructions.
 
Our glorious editor, states that you can learn cross stitch in 10 minutes, and frankly, I agree. But when you’re five the instructions, your mind races, you look with quizzical panic as you see different stitches! Quarter stitches? Backstitch? French knots!? But then you realize; they aren’t in the pattern, so that’s a lesson for another day.
 
You start your stitch and you learn your craft. You see how crossed thread makes something wonderful on mass. You learn the correct way of laying, the right length of thread, you learn about sizes of needles, and before you know it you have literal piles of kits surrounding you.

(Source: Pexels.com)

Disturbance

Or as I like to call it ‘beginners’ frustration’. Everyone’s first kit goes well, and even if it doesn’t you probably don’t know what you did wrong. But as you take more and more steps into the cross stitch world, you start making slip-ups, you realize halfway through a Wallace and Gromit pattern that their legs are 10 stitches too short, you get knots on the back of your work that are just impossible to untie, you stitch something in the wrong color, maybe counted wrong and found the wonderful world of frogging.
 
This is make or break. Some will give up, some just don’t have the heart, and I don’t mind saying that I thought about it too, but others will knuckle down, they’ll push through, they’ll frog the whole dang Gromit leg if they have to. If you push through, this is where you can truly call yourself a cross stitcher. Not because you stuck with it, not because you learned how to not make those mistakes, it’s because you learned to accept them. I still frog, I still get weird unsolvable knot puzzles, I still botch patterns. But I know it’s not the end of the world.

Obsession

Just one more stitch, just one more stitch. Let’s face it, almost everyone reading this article has been in a situation similar to this, when they’re up at 3 am stitching when they promised themselves an early night. It happens. I’m definitely not going to blame you. But this is a super important part of love. Everyone reading has likely got to at least this state. The point where they want to know it all, they want to learn about what others are doing, and how others are pushing the craft.

Experimentation

But watching others push the craft isn’t enough. For me, I want everyone reading this to take up their needle and keep on pushing cross stitch. I want people to look at my work and see something they can build on. I’m probably best known for my transforming robot cross stitches, but the story behind them was probably very similar to the one you’re taking right now. I saw a transformer pattern, it looked cool, it looked doable! But I wondered, couldn’t those arms move? And what about that head, if it just sent down a bit and that went there and boom, transforms to a semi-truck. I honestly started that project not knowing how it would end. I truly and honestly thought it would fail. But it didn’t. In fact, it went so well that other people have now started creating their own things in a similar style. That is what being part of a cross stitch community is all about; the pushing of boundaries and the passing of experience. I would argue that until you push yourself beyond what you know you can do, you haven’t yet got past this stage, but you brought this mag, so you’re thinking about it already.

(Source: Unsplash.com)

Passion

And so comes passion. Those pattern failures or experiments that go wrong just slip off your back like water. You don’t mind the ups and the downs, you’re in it for the long run.

Devotion

The final step. The marriage to cross stitch. In my mind, I hit this a while ago. In fact, when asked what would happen if I couldn’t cross stitch ever again, I truly didn’t know what I would do. It is my everything.
 
And so I wonder, when did you start saying that you ‘love cross stitch’? Because whilst I truly believe you love cross stitch, sometimes it’s good to look back and see where we’ve come, what we’ve been through, where we are now, and how everyone in the Xstitch Magazine family was right there with you.

There are Two Eyes to Every Needle

Stages of cross stitch needle eyes during production

Cross stitch needles have two different eyes. And we don’t just mean those double eyed cross stitch needles either, one side of the cross stitch needle is slightly more open than the other. Let us explain.

Close up of DMC tapestry needles (Source: DMC)
Close up of DMC tapestry needles (Source: DMC)

How They’re Made

We’re not going to go into a lot of detail here, but we will talk about how cross stitch needles are made. You start with a length of wire and sharpen one end. The eye isn’t so easy to deal with though, and this is where the interest comes for us.
 
In order to create the needle eye, they stamp the shape, and hole into the wire. This stamping is important as the ‘upper die’ pushes the needles against a smaller ‘lower die’. This means that the side of the needle against the lower die gets opened up slightly more than the other, and the opening is slightly more rounded.

Stages of cross stitch needle eyes during production
Stages of cross stitch needle eyes during production

The Solution

So let’s say you’re struggling to thread your needle, you think you might have the wrong side; flip it.
 
The fact of the matter is, the differences that make the threading of the needle so much easier for one side is so small to see, that you can’t actually see it. The thread knows its there though, so simply spin the needle and thread the other side.
 
If your still struggling to thread your needle, you should check out our guide on the best needle threaders, or try out gold plated needles or even self threading needles

So What Exactly Is ECRU?

DMC threads B5200 BLANC ECRU and 310 (Source: theembroiderer.co.nz)

When I first started amassing threads in an effort to collect all 500 DMC threads, I came across the three threads that weren’t numbered like the others. These threads had special names, specifically BLANC/WHITE, B5200, and ECRU.
 
It’s that last one that interests me the most now as, despite the fact that I’ve had it in my collection for years, I’ve not once picked it up, not once used it. This is in part due to its lack of inclusion in patterns online, even though it’s always one of the first threads in thread inventories. So why does this thread, a thread that no one tends to use, have its own name?
 
I actually explored this ever so slightly in the ultimate cross stitch quiz but don’t spoil it just yet and take the quiz after you read through this post!

DMC threads B5200 BLANC ECRU and 310 (Source: theembroiderer.co.nz)
DMC threads B5200 BLANC ECRU and 310 (Source: theembroiderer.co.nz)

ECRU

So let’s start with what color ECRU is, or more importantly, what it was. ECRU comes from the French word “écru” which means raw or unbleached. This is a massive clue. Cotton is taken from the fields and turned into threads, the color those threads start, before they are processed to add color, is ECRU. Due to this its very close to the color of unbleached linen or silk as well, meaning it used to be a very popular thread color back in the history of cross stitch samplers.
 
However, this isn’t the case anymore. ECRU is still that odd fawn color, but now it comes from a dye process, which results in it being darker than the previous, unbleached ECRU. We first found out about this when researching vintage threads for our posts on dye lot issues and buying second hand threads and its clear the color has changed.
“Why?” I hear you ask. Well, the quality of the cotton improved. Cotton is collected and packed into large blocks. In the past, these blocks were extremely expensive so you needed to get everything you could out of the block, but now with modern machinery, those cotton blocks are comparatively cheap. Now, machines pull these blocks apart and pick only the freshest, cleanest cotton to be turned into threads, which naturally has a lighter, whiter color. Therefore, dyes are now needed to put the ECRU color back in.
If you were wondering, the ‘dirty’ cotton gets sold to be turned into mattress stuffing.
 
Knowing this, you’re probably wondering why it isn’t used in many cross stitch patterns. Well, the honest answer is the color is a little…odd. It’s not cream, it’s not beige, it’s not brown, it’s just an unusual color. As a result, it’s rarely picked by pattern designers as there are many other preferred colors in the over 500 DMC threads that probably do better.

BLANC/WHITE

That does explain what ECRU is, but what about the other named threads? We start with BLANC/WHITE, a thread that is white, but everyone ignores and uses B5200 instead. Well, this thread is the next step in thread creation. Once the ECRU is made, it’s then bleached to produce a white thread, this is what we call white. However many people thought this wasn’t quite white enough, so produced B5200.

B5200 & All Other Threads

Once the bleached threads are created the dyeing process starts, and whilst B5200 is designated differently, its much like any other thread dyed. Unlike threads that are given strong colors, B5200 is dyed using titanium white, creating an even brighter white color than BLANC/WHITE.

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

Those US Threads

Inevitably, this brings us onto the question of ‘those US threads’ often described as discontinued threads. These are threads across the color spectrum that were banned in the EU due to the dyes they used is harmful to the environment.

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)
Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

If you’re interested in how DMC threads are made we have an awesome video with a factory tour!

The Better Alternative To Finding The Center Of Your Fabric

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

I love a random tool I didn’t know I needed but ends up being the best thing since sliced bread. Odds are, you probably do to, which is why I’ve reviewed everything from cross stitch travel scissors to cross stitch identification cards and scissors that make frogging easy. However, all of those have something in common; they’re all tools for cross stitch. Today, I want to review a tool that is a fantastic addition to a cross stitchers arsenal, but one that wasn’t make for cross stitch; one that was made for woodwork.

The Center Finding Ruler

It’s not often that the worlds of cross stitch combine with the worlds of any heavy production and tooling, but quality woodwork is all about finesse, something every cross stitcher can relate to. Sadly, due to the nature of both, tools can rarely be shared, but this one can. Enter the world of a center finding ruler.
This little baby can be metal (and usually is for woodwork) but also comes in a handy floppy clear plastic. It works like a ruler, but the zero is right in the center, meaning you can measure out, and find the center of anything your measuring.

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)
Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

So why would I want one?

In a word; to find the center. Cleverly named product, right? But seriously, finding the center of your fabric is something everyone does when starting a new project, and the ruler is a great alternative to the typical folding technique (or the less clever, guesstimate technique). However, it’s not just an alternative. I would argue, it’s superior.
 
I like the folding technique, it’s simple and it gets the job done, but there’s one thing that really annoys me about it. The folds stay there, especially if you’re using a stiff aida. Now I know I could just iron it once finshed but sometimes this just doesn’t get them out, especially if they’ve been folded a long time (which is why you should store your fabric in tubes). You can push down harder, but no one wants to damage their work, and there are people that don’t wash or iron their cross stitch at all.
 
And so, a simple ruler comes to the rescue. Instead of folding your fabric, just place the ruler on, measure and you have the perfect center, without any folds or marks.

Center finding ruler in use (Source: Amazon)
Center finding ruler in use (Source: Amazon)

Where to get one

As its a non-cross stitch product, the best place to pick one of these up is Amazon, where they go for about $4. As I said earlier, I would get the floppy clear kind as it hugs the fabric better and means you can work with weird geometries if you have any.

6 Tips for Stitching with Glow-In-The-Dark-Thread

kreinik glow in the dark threads (source: kreinik.com)

When it comes to annoying threads, metallics take the first spot. They plain suck, well, before we put together a list of how to make cross stitching with metallic threads easy that is. However there is one thread type that’s a close second, and whilst it doesn’t get as much focus, it has its own special elements that mean you can’t just pretend it’s like a metallic. We’re talking about glow-in-the-dark threads.

kreinik glow in the dark threads (source: kreinik.com)
kreinik glow in the dark threads (source: kreinik.com)

Condition, Condition, Condition

diy bees wax (source: etsy)
diy bees wax (source: etsy)
We really can’t state this enough. Conditioning your thread, will, without a doubt, help you. Unlike cotton thread glow-in-the-dark threads aren’t anywhere near as smooth. As a result, they catch on your fabric constantly. By conditioning the thread, using something like beeswax, you can solve most of your problems in one go. If you’ve not conditioned threads before, we round up the best thread conditioners.

Use Short Lengths

This one might be fairly simple, but reducing the lengths of your threads will help on a whole bunch of issues with specialty threads of all types. We’d even suggest using 6-inch threads when it comes to glow-in-the-dark, as the threads often get messy after this point. It might be a pain to keep threading your needle, and cutting new pieces, but I promise you, this will help.

Remove The Curl

The weird glow of glow-in-the-dark threads is the selling point. But it’s also the problem. Whilst the reason behind the green glow is rather interesting, for now, we’re just going to concentrate on the actual product; zinc sulfide. This chemical, which gives it the glow, has to be unfused into plastic then added to the thread. The problem with this process is that the plastic is now brittle to sheer forces. These forces come in the form of curls.
 
When you stitch on average you add a quarter turn to your needle, slowly winding up the thread. With normal cotton, this can lead to knots, but it’s otherwise not too problematic. Glow-in-the-dark thread, however, snaps. Not the whole thing, there is still cotton in there, but the fibers infused with the glow powder snap meaning the threads look torn and messy. By making sure you let the curls fall out every few stitches, you can stop this from happening, leaving you with nice, smooth stitches.

Double Eye Needles

Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)
Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)
One way of avoiding curling the threads is actually to change your needle. A double-needle can help with cross stitching faster, but it also stops the threads twisting. It’s a little love or hate to use long term, but for a short bit of glow-in-the-dark stitching, it makes things a lot easier.

Use The Right Needle

However, if you don’t like a double-needle, it might help to change your needle anyway. One of the biggest problems with specialty threads is the eye of the needle putting stress on the thread. By upsizing your needle (to give a bigger eye to use), or even using a gold cross stitch needle you can avoid the stress on the thread and save yourself a lot of ripping/catching.
Another tip is to make sure you thread the needle well. Using a needle threader makes sure that threads are always placed correctly in the eye.

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)
gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

Use A Railroading Tool

I’m not the biggest fan of railroading, but I have to admit, sometimes a laying tool is just what you need. By using a laying tool, you can allow the thread to lay better, but you also stop it curling, stop it fraying and stop it from catching. It should be noted that while you are using the railroading technique, thanks to the way the fibers make up glow-in-the-dark threads, you won’t get as neat a finish as if you were railroading cotton threads.

Rosewood Laying Tools (Source: Pinterest)
Rosewood Laying Tools (Source: Pinterest)

How To Hand Dye Aida (And Why You Should Try It)

Various Hand Dyed Aida Pieces (Source: Etsy)

There are a lot of cross stitch fabrics out there, and there are a whole bunch of cross stitch fabric brands, however, the color selections are a little… lacking. You might want something with a bright color, you might want something a little more patterned, or just something fun, but you can’t find any.
Thankfully, you can hand dye aida, and once you do, you’ll see that its something you just have to try!

Various Hand Dyed Aida Pieces (Source: Etsy)
Various Hand Dyed Aida Pieces (Source: Etsy)

Why Should You Try Hand Dying Aida?

There are two main advantages to hand-dying aida (or any cross stitch fabric for that matter); color choice, and color variation.
 
We’ll start simple with color choice. Companies like Zweigart and DMC do a large selection of counts and colors, but they all mostly focus on pale or light colors. And whilst they do have the occasional black aida their selection of deep colors, or unusual colors is limited. Ever wanted a bright orange piece of aida? Not going to happen. Purple? Nope. Not even bright yellows, pinks or greens outside of those deep Christmas colors. So what happens if your background is meant to be grass? Well, hand dye your aida.
 
Next comes color variation, and what we mean by that is not something a solid color. Now, you can buy some basic patterned fabrics, and you can even print on aida using a home printer, but sometimes you just want it to look organic. Below we have a photo of a mermaid on hand-dyed aida, which thanks to its undulating blues and greens make a fantastic, and realistic sea. This is how to upgrade your cross stitch.

Cross Stitch Mermaid on Hand Dyed Aida by pacrislopa (Source: reddit)
Cross Stitch Mermaid on Hand Dyed Aida by pacrislopa (Source: reddit)

How To Hand Dye Aida

Enough of the talk! Let’s see about dying this stuff. We do need to say that there are a few ways to dye fabrics and its dependant on the dye you use, but most fabric dyes are very similar.
 
What you need:
White aida cloth (make sure its white!)
Fabric dye (Rit dye is a common brand in the US, and Dylon in the UK)
Hot water
Salt
Gloves
Stirring tool
Bowl (the bowl may be permanently dyed and should never be used for food)
 
There are two really important things in the guide above. Firstly, the aida should be white to start. It might seem like a cool idea to use a colored aida and then dye it for funky results, but the dye won’t bond and you’ll end up ruining your project. The second is the bowl. It needs to be big enough for you to move the water around (without spilling any dye, trust us, you don’t want that) and it should NEVER be used for food preparation as fabric dyes are often toxic, harmful to health or just generally not something you want to consume.
 
So, fill your bowl with enough hot water to cover the fabric entirely (if you want a partially dyed effect you should have only enough water to cover 50% of the fabric), and then throw in salt. The salt actually helps the cotton bond to the dye and leaves you with a stronger color, and will bleed less. How much really depends on the amount of water you’re using, but we suggest half a cup for every 8 liters of water (the size of a washing up bowl).
 
Throw your aida in the water to get it wet. Then set it on the side. This might seem like an odd step, but the dye won’t absorb unless the aida is wet.
 
Add your dye to whatever recipe the dye bottle says. Many brands, like the ones we mentioned, have mixes on their website showing you colors you can achieve, but mixing them up yourself is half the fun in my book! Make sure to mix the dyes well, and shake the bottles if you’re only using one color to ensure its mixed (fabric dyes can split over time). It might seem like you’re using a lot of dye for your small amount of water and fabric, but you do need this much.
 
Now is the fun part. Add your fabric, and stir for 10-20 minutes. Regularly check the color by taking it out, you may find that a quick dip is enough to dye it to your liking (we once dyed aida for 30 seconds and it was the perfect color we wanted).
 
Remove your fabric and wash it a lot. You need to make sure there is no color runoff, and we suggest starting with warm water, but once there is no runoff, use cold for a few seconds. Hang your fabric up to dry (you don’t have to block your fabric). Some people like to use a dryer, and this can be fine, but we find the color tends to lighten a little this way. Once dry, give it an iron, and get stitching!
 
We’ve also found this great Flosstube video guide on how to hand dye aida which is worth checking out. She also shows you how to get funky dye patterns.

Want To Buy Hand Dye Aida Instead?

Hand dying aida might not be for everyone, and we know that. Luckily, cross stitchers are a wonderful lot and you can pick up some amazing hand dyed aida from Etsy.

How To Care For Hand Dyed Aida

Whilst it is super awesome, hand-dyed aida is also something you need to be a little warier of. We strongly suggest washing your aida before you use it as sometimes dyed can bleed out a little bit. You should be fine if you don’t, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
 
Other than that just make sure if you choose to wash your cross stitch once complete, you use cold water (warm water increases the chances of bleeding).

Next Year In Cross Stitch – 2021

Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan

In our now annual post about the world of cross stitch in the past and coming year, we look at last years 2020 cross stitch and see just how accurate we were, and look into 2021 and see what might be in store.
 
Its been somewhat of a crazy year, and whilst we didn’t foresee anything like a virus shutting the world down, we were oddly accurate on our guesses. However, the lockdown across the world made things happen a little faster, and have changed the cross stitch world for good.

Cross Stitch Magazines & Books

cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)
cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)

For the last few years we’ve mentioned cross stitch magazines and books, and every year, something has happened to prove us right. At first, we thought magazines would become more and more specialized, and with the rise of magazines like XStitch Magazine that came about. Then we foresaw issues with major cross stitch magazines and thought some would be sold off, like the Cross Stitcher was in 2019. But we still thought something was going to happen.
 
For the last few years, the marketing world has been talking about diminishing advertising return and the lack of investment. However the traditional magazine model relies on advertising, so we thought we would loose magazines this year. And we did. It started off with Cross Stitch Favourites going bust in January, however, the lockdown showed us just how fragile the cross stitch magazine arena is, with both Cross Stitch Crazy and Cross Stitch Gold shutting. We were so sure something like this was going to happen that we managed to break the news before the magazines themselves did.
 
So what does this mean for 2021? Well, not a great deal. Now that the less stable cross stitch magazines have been forced to end, the rest should be staying with us for the long run. However, the loss of nearly 30,000 readers from popular cross stitch magazines means smaller magazines have a great chance to start showing that they have. I would expect we might hear more about niche magazines, and see larger magazines trying to push the boundaries a little more.

The Rise Of The Small Store Owner

Small store owners have had a really good year. Big box stores and hobby stores have struggled in the lockdown to bring people in, but small store owners, particularly those online have been able to offer their wares out to anyone in the world. In addition, people were bored and went back to hobbies like cross stitch meaning more people than ever wanted their products. We even had to make a list of the best online cross stitch stores at the request of our Facebook followers.
We honestly expect the service that small stores give to become the gold standard in cross stitch, with people sticking with local and small stores for the future.
 
This, in turn, has given rise to new cross stitch designers. With cross stitch pattern software more accessible than ever and some great resources online, we’ve seen a big increase in new designers coming to platforms like Etsy, giving traditional cross stitch designers a run for their money.

Inclusive Patterns

Another big feature this year were the Black Lives Matter protests. At first this might seem totally unconnected to cross stitch, but patterns featuring people are mostly white. Thanks to resources like our skin tone thread colors and hair color threads, we expect to see more and more inclusive patterns, with alternative designs given as standard to include all skin tones.

Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan
Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan

Software

PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)
PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)

My estimates on cross stitch software were probably a little too eager. Whilst I still fully think that cross stitch generators will move to online and app forms rather than traditional downloads, I think I was a year early. I think in 2021 we’ll see some seriously good cross stitch apps come out, or at least some forward movement here.
Sadly I think this might come at the cost of some smaller software companies, and as such we’ve seen a steady reduction in them since 2018.

ThreadHeaven

Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)
Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)

We’ve spoke about ThreadHeaven every year since 2019’s post and the reason for that was its shock exit from the cross stitch world. However, that loss opened up the market, but in an interesting way. Last year we said we thought we’d see less and less people using thread conditioners, and by and large we were right. With the loss of a major brand, we’ve seen people go back to threads without conditioners. This wasn’t quite the same though, and in the last year we’ve seen suggestions that people are starting to look towards the quality of their products.
 
Our own posts about the best cross stitch needle brands and the best cross stitch fabric brands are now some of the most popular on the site. This trend suggests that people want quality products. This doesn’t necessarily mean high price either, and we pointed out that cheap embroidery threads from brands like CXC are really good quality thanks to their cotton and polyester mix. Its new inventions like this that we think we’ll see more of (although not until 2022), and big brands really trying to get us on their key selling points.
We’ve already seen DMC increase their offering to include the new 35 threads in 2016 and the Etoile threads in 2018 and we expect other brands to try and play catch up.
 
So that’s what we thought of our 2020 guesses, and our 2021 predictions. Is there something you think we’ll see next year?

Are Online Cross Stitch Courses Worth It?

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

There are frankly, hundreds of courses online, and with many aimed at cross stitchers, both beginner and advanced, I often get asked a fairly simple question: “Are they worth it?”
The question might be simple, but the answer isn’t. In short; it depends on what type of course is being offered.
 
We tried out 95 cross stitch courses and rated them all so we can tell you if they’re worth it or not. We broke them down into 4 separate categories (with rough price guides) to help you out!

Cheap Online Videos – Less than $30

Whilst we’re calling these “cheap” videos, we want to be clear that the production value is rarely cheap. In fact, of all the online courses we were most surprised by the quality of the lowest price offering.
These online courses are usually part of online repositories like SkillShare, Coursera, or the like. They tend to be about 10 videos long and are aimed at beginners. Nothing is particularly new about these videos, in fact, you can find most of the content of these videos on youtube videos, in books, or even on blogs like our how to cross stitch guide. However, as videos go, they are by far superior in quality. Therefore, if you are learning cross stitch, these are a great resource.
 
Verdict – WORTH IT
 

Cheap Online Courses – $30 to $300

The second category for courses is actually the most common one we get asked about. They tend to be online still, but are usually run by companies claiming to be accredited. We tried 30 of these courses, from a range of providers and we can say, without a doubt, we learned nothing more than we would have on the cheaper online videos. The content here is usually slightly poorer quality than those online videos, and they’re mostly built by people that don’t cross stitch. In fact, we found them hard to follow and we can only pray for those beginner cross stitchers who take these courses.
 
The higher price point of these courses is usually given thanks to the words “Certified Course” and “Accredited Course”. These are warning signs, not selling points. Starting with the certificate, you can, in most cases get a certificate, however, this is always an optional paid extra, which ranges from $15 to $100 depending on the course. However in order to get one of these certificates, you don’t have to prove your knowledge, you just have to pay. As a result, it offers nothing. Officially you can use the hours as CPD points, however, most CPD needs to be in a relevant field, so it’s irrelevant. Finally, “accredited” means that someone said its good. That’s it. There is no ruling to say who can and can’t accredit a course and in most cases, it’s shell companies that are set up just to slap their name on a course somewhere.
Another warning sign is terminology like “Chinese cross stitch”, which has just been made up. These aren’t intermediate or advance cross stitch techniques.
 
That might all sound like doom and gloom, but there are some courses of this type out there that are fantastic. The Royal School of Needlework has a series on non-cross stitch embroidery that we love. However, we weren’t able to find one cross stitch specific course that was any good. Be wary of spending your money here.
 
Verdict – NOT WORTH IT
 

Expensive Online Courses – $300 – $1000

Thankfully, we didn’t find many of these when we searched, but there are a few out there. Very similar to the lesser-priced online courses, these courses can range in price up to $1000 or more. Unlike their cheaper counterparts, they often have coursework and exams to take. That is, sadly, where the differences end. They are total scams. They’re just like the cheaper courses in their quality, they have the same content, and they’re just as hollow as the others. They’re often sold as “foundation courses” for universities but are offered online. The big warning light here is that foundation courses are put on by universities; if it’s not a well-known university; it’s worthless.
 
Verdict – NOT WORTH IT
 

Degree Level Courses – $1000+

Finally, we come to the degree level courses. There really aren’t many of these out there, and they’re usually embroidery courses as opposed to cross stitch courses. These are genuine degree level courses, these will add letters to the end of your name. As a result, they are actually accredited, they have more than a cheap certificate, and are well worth it as you’ll be spending years on them and learning things that only a degree level graduate would know.
But please be aware of what you’re buying here. If anyone offers you this type of course online, its probably a scam; these are courses that require in-person teaching, exams, and coursework.
 
Verdict – WORTH IT