Everyone knows that you shouldn’t keep your cross stitch in a hoop… but it that actually true?
Over the last 6 months I’ve been testing out different cross stitch frames ad leaving aida in them for seriously long periods of time. Just to see, what happens. And the answer, is actually a little complicated.
Does it leave marks?
When I asked around, the main reason people gave for not wanting to keep cross stitch in the frame/hoop was leaving marks. But does it?
Yes. But also no. Hoops, bar frames, ‘Grip n Clip’ all leave marks. Now, frames and Q snaps don’t, but they can curl the fabric. This really isn’t much of an issue if you wash it, but there are many out there that don’t wash your cross stitch.
But hoops do leave marks. Our tests showed that even loose tension hoops could put marks in aida left for a week. Just one week. Now, they can be dealt with, fairly easy, but the longer you leave the hoop in, the harder it is to get out. We’ve tried, and we still can’t get some hoop marks out.
If you’re looking for more info, I’ve rounded up the results in my post about which cross stitch frame is best.
Does it cause other problems?
So what about other problems? Well, here is where the story gets interesting. Leaving your cross stitch in the frame or hoop, DOES cause other issues. Some of these can be easy to deal with, others, not so much.
Stretching – Frames and hoops stretch your fabric. That’s their point after all. But consistent and long term stretching will permanently keep the stretch. This might change a 14 count into a 12 count (one of our test peices was stretched this much), and whilst that doesn’t seem too bad initially it can have implications. If you’re looking to frame it, it might not fit. It its stretched, all the holes are bigger, letting the background show through. And the biggest thing? Its rarely uniform. There’s nothing worse than having a miss shapen part of your cross stitch that took hours and hours to complete…
Crushing Stitches – In my opinion, this is the biggest issue with leaving cross stitch in a frame, as its unfixable. Lets say you’ve stitched a section and you move your hoop and some of your stitches are under the hoop. Those stitches are being crushed. Even for short periods of time this can be an issue, which is why I use a frame, which is slightly better, but still has the problem. As you crush those stitches, the tension goes, the top stitch can wonder, and you can even pull the threads out if you’re not careful.
Crushed stitches are really obvious in a finished cross stitch, and whilst washing can give them a little rejuvenation, it can’t fix the worse cases.
Dirt – This is actually a fairly big issue. I know you’re thinking you can just wash your cross stitch, but when its in a frame or hoop the aida is pulled apart slightly. If dirt gets into these stretched parts, it gets stuck and you can’t wash it out as easy. A good solution here is a grime guard, but if you’re traveling, always remove it from the frame.
So do you need to remove it from the frame?
Well, it depends.
If you’re traveling, regardless of the frame or hoop you use, REMOVE IT. You’re just asking for trouble, even with a grime guard. But for anyone not travelling, its all about the frame itself. Personally, I would always loosen it when its in a frame (just to remove the tension), but when its in a hoop, remove it. Whilst the hoop marks are fairly easy to get out (see below) its not worth the extra effort, and can damage some of your stitches if you leave the hoop in long enough.
What happens if the worse has already happened?
OK, so you might be reading this after the event, so let me help you if its too late.
Marks/Stretching – If you’ve been left with marks or stretching, wash, dry and iron your cross stitch. It’s important that you follow the drying stage of this guide if you’ve got stretching or hoop marks as the ‘blocking’ as its refered to allows the aida to move back into shape. If you’ve still got marks after one wash, wash it again (before ironing). It can take quite a few cycles to get those annoying hoop marks out.
Dirt – Generally, washing will probably help you here too, but if you’re really struggling to get some of that ingrained dirt out, you can try a few cross stitch stain removal techniques to help you get it out.
Christmas is nearly upon us, and we all know how hard it is to buy gifts for hobbies we don’t know much about. So here’s an updated holiday gift guide on what to buy the cross stitcher in your life. They’re arranged by price lowest to highest.
Christmas is mostly about fun gifts you might not buy yourself, and something many cross stitchers never buy is a fun needle keep. You can get them in thousands of different designs, and there are a lot of custom made ones out there like this 3D printed Pokemon charizard for $6 from Etsy. They’re a little bit fun, and you can combine other things together, so if their other favorite hobby is reading, get a book based one, etc. There are a lot of options here, so we also made a guide on inding the perfect needle minder that you might find helpful!
Sadly this year we lost one of the most beloved cross stitch companies, ThreadHeaven. For those who don’t know, they produced a fantastic thread moisturiser that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock avaliable (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.
Cross stitch takes time, and a great place to stitch is on planes and trains, however with security being tightened all over, ThreadCutterz have come to the rescue with a plane safe alternative to scissors.
They can only currently be brought from ThreadCutterz themselves.
There’s nothing more fancy than covering the sharp ends of your scissors with a nicely made scissor sheath. Not only that, but it has a practical benefit of keeping the scissors sharper much longer, by reducing dust build up. You can pick up a nice cover for under $5, so you might want to combine this with a nice fancy pair of embroidery scissors too.
I know a lot of people thing cross stitch is a bit simple, but in reality RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is a real issue. The best way to solve this is a suitable cross stitch frame. The best one in my mind is a EasyClip frame ($20), but you can see a roundup of cross stitch frames on my recent post about the perfect cross stitch frame.
This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for gifts for cross stitchers, however many stitchers either stitch when they travel, or wish they could. Finding a great, small, cross stitch kit featuring everything they need is a great gift, and probably not something they’d think of (so you get brownie points). You can either buy pre assembled kits, or make one yourself. A pair of Canary mini snips, needle minder, needle tube and a seam ripper are all you need. And you can fit them all into an Altoids tin.
A magnifier might seem like something an old person might want, but when it comes to cross stitch, a magnifier can be a massive help. In fact, we detailed why magnifiers are worth getting a few months ago; we’re big fans. You can get a whole set of different options here, from ones that light up, to ones that click onto your embroidery hoops. I would try to get one with a 2.5x zoom as this is the most useful for cross stitchers.
Scissors might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you send a lot of time snipping things, and frankly, a poor pair of scissors get blunt quickly, fraying ends. Get a nice pair of Fiskars ‘snipping’ scissors, or ones like the image (a Japanese embroidery scissor), or another specific pair for embroidery/cross stitch or cutting fishing line and you’ll see the difference straight away.
You can even get a super awesome pair of frogging scissors, which solves the worst thing about cross stitch (frogging is incorrect stitches that need to be removed).
If you’re not sure what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.
Magazines are fantastic for both giving you patterns, giving you inspiration, finding out about all the new products, and reading up on all the happenings of the cross stitch community. There are frankly a shocking amount out there, so its best to pick one or two you like the most, you can find our cross stitch magazine reviews here, and getting a subscription to those. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.
Nothing is quite like getting a gift in the post month after month, stuffed full of awesome cross stitch prizes. You can pick up a whole load of different monthly subscription boxes that make every month a gift month. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.
CXC is a fairly new brand to the world of cross stitch, but they’re making massive moves. They produce threads, which match the DMC colors exactly, however they make them using a polyester blend, meaning they can reduce costs considerably. In fact, you can pick up their full range of 447 threads for under $40, compared to $400 for DMC threads. But don’t let the price fool you, CXC threads are just as good as more expensive brands in our tests.
This year has been big for DMC threads (the most used cross stitch threads). Not only have the new 35 DMC threads started to be used in commonly found kits and patterns, but they also launched a sweet new set of DMC etoile threads, which are super sparkly threads. You can pick up these new threads in fancy packed sets for under $40.
The natural progression for a stitcher is to go from kits, to patterns, to making their own patterns. Most choose online programs, but they all have their own limitations, so spend $20-$200 on the perfect one. I would personally suggest KG Chart or PC Stitcher for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.
We can tell you, for sure, that day light lamps do make a difference to cross stitch. Not only do they add a massive amount of light to the area you’re working in, which can be super helpful when working with black or dark aida but they help your eyes deal with the intense focus you’re putting them through. We belive that everyone should have a well lit cross stitch area, and day light lamps, or bulbs are the best way to get that necessary light.
The only thing better than owning a thread shade card is owning the threads themselves. I always kept using the threads I had on hand, and until I got the whole set, I didn’t realise just how much I was making compromise; my colors have definitely got better. You can see how much a full set of DMC threads has helped us with our blog post about our journey to a complete set of cross stitch threads.
Not the cheapest thing in the world, wait until you can buy a whole set in one go on an offer. The price can drop from $450 to $200. Just don’t be tempted by those cheap Chinese deals to see on ebay.
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.
ALL THE MAGNETS!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Soon, the cotton gin was exported all over the world, where it became the most cost effective tool for making thread.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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
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.
– 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.