Where to Find Super Sized Aida

Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)

We like epic cross stitch patterns here, and we’ve helped on how to tackle epic cross stitch projects, but one big thing is getting the aida. With epic cross stitch patterns covering meters and meters, finding someone that sells good quality aida, that is huge, can be a struggle. Until now…

Simplify What You Need

First thing first, what do you actually need? Now, I know the obvious response here is a big piece of aida, but if you’re attempting an epic cross stitch project, you’ll need to work out two things. The first is color, and the second is count. And once you’ve done that, we have some bad news.
High count (higher than 14 count) aida doesn’t hold together as well as lower count aida. In short, its about the levels of starch in the fabric, but it means that in very large sizes high count aida breaks apart. This means that you’re going to need to stick to 14m or 11 count aida.
Secondly, finding large sections of aida in one color can be hard. The reason is a consistent dye. When a manufacturer supplies “pewter grey” it needs to always be that one shade. When the size of the aida gets larger and larger, its harder to keep the color the same as the other pieces. So you probably want to buy a white piece.

If Needed; Dye The Aida

But what if you want a different color I hear you say! Well, dye it. In fact, dying aida really isn’t hard at all. Unless it’s ironed, you can use any normal fabric dye to change the color of your aida to whatever you want. Buy it white, and make it whatever color you want.

Black aida (Source: Etsy)
Black aida (Source: Etsy)

Look For Fabric Stores

So now you know that you’re probably looking for 14 count white aida, its time to get your hands on some. The fact that you’re reading this means you might be struggling to find someone selling some large enough. Well, I have the answer for you! Fabric stores.
Yes, we mean brick and mortar stores selling fabric to sewing enthusiasts. It turns out that aida, sometimes called “Java Cloth” (its original name) is a common fabric used for stitching in curtains and upholstery. Because of this, fabric stores often hold stock of white aida you can buy by the meter. The usual brand they hold is Zweigart too, meaning its good quality.

Contact The Manufacturers Direct

It might seem a little odd, but you can contact manufacturers of aida directly. Sure, it’s not a mainstay of their business, but I’ve heard of many people getting large sections of aida direct from the manufacturer. It costs a little more money than you would buy from a store, but you can get MASSIVE bits of aida this way.
Worst case, manufacturers can help find a reseller who can supply it for you.

Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)
Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)

Do You NEED A Massive Piece?

Ha, I know, this seems similar to the first point; but it’s not. You see, if you can’t get that huge piece you need, you can actually use smaller pieces. Before I tell you how, I will advise that there is an issue with this, and you should only use it in the worst of situations; always try to find a single bit first.
You can’t frame it. Yes, that’s right. Once you try to frame joined aida, it will open up in a way that will be obvious. So as long as the thing your creating won’t be stretched, made into a throw for example, you can attach aida.

So how do you do it?

Well, in short, you place two bits on top of each other. So long as you line up the holes in aida, you can stitch through both pieces at once and the cross stitches will naturally hold the two bits together. So long as you have a full coverage pattern, it will be fine.

What Other Hobbies Can A Cross Stitcher Do?

Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

I am, without a doubt, a cross stitcher. It’s my thing. But it isn’t the hobby I have. Sometimes, taking a break from cross stitch can be a great way of getting back your cross stitch inspiration. However, there are also other times, like injury, or simply bad eyesight that you might have to change up your hobby for a short period.
With January being National Hobby Month, we thought we’d go over some of the other hobbies that any cross stitcher would also be great at!

Blackwork

In our next year in cross stitch post from a few weeks back, we spoke about some of the biggest trends in cross stitch in the next year, and blackwork was right up there. Sharing many similarities with cross stitch, and being stitched on aida and linen, blackwork takes a very similar form but makes up images using repeating patterns of backstitch, rather than cross stitches. It might not be great if you’re suffering from injuries, but blackwork is sure to make its way into cross stitch patterns over the next few months, so you might want to get into it now.
Blackwork (link back to next year in cross stitch) https://lordlibidan.com/next-year-in-cross-stitch-2020/

Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)
Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

In addition to blackwork, we also want to give a quick note to sashiko. Whilst it is very different to blackwork, its another embroidery that is really hitting it off at the moment, and worth checking out too!
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)

Diamond Painting/5D Cross Stitch

5D cross stitch is a great example of a hobby similar to cross stitch, hence the name. Despite being called cross stitch, its actually just diamond painting. Using cross stitch patterns, or diamond painting kits, you place small beads or crystals on a grid. It looks very similar to cross stitch when completed, but doesn’t require as much movement from the wrist, which is great if you have a repetative strain injury!

5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)
5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)

Knitting & Crochet

Knitting, or its slightly more complicated sibling, crochet, is a fantastic hobby. It requires a fair bit of hand-eye coordination, but once you’ve picked up the first few stitches, its a simple case of repeating it. You can make real products using one color, or you can go fancy and make patterns in things. I personally knit hats for winter and something simple to pick up on a winter evening like knitting to while away as you watch TV is a great way of taking a break from cross stitch, whilst not straying too far away from needles and thread!

Frogging is also a term used in knitting for the same issue! (source: google images)
Knitting (source: google images)

Sewing

Finally, I want to hit on sewing. I don’t mean embroidery here either, I mean sewing clothes or other objects. It might seem super far away from the world of cross stitch, but it really isn’t. You follow a pattern, use a needle, thread and cloth, and you have to think about spacing and placement of threads. It’s more hands-on, there is a steep learning curve, and you need a sewing machine (which isn’t cheap), but you can go on courses that give you the basics and get you ready to stitch up everything you can imagine! And while its no where near as stress free as cross stitch, its a fantastic hobby. The feeling of being about to use your sew clothes in the real world is something you just don’t get with cross stitch.

User Submitted Hobbies:

Water Colors/Painting – You can also paint onto your aida, which works a lot like printing on aida, giving you a great selection of fabric to use.
Weaving – A great way to start making textiles of your own!
Bobbin Lace – A super intricate lace technique that involves you swapping over ‘bobbins’ in different orders to build up a design.
Macrame – A knot based technique that looks a lot like lace once finished, but made out of standard string.
Redwork/Candlewicking – Similar to blackwork, but using just red threads, or pale thread with French knots.
Punched Needlework/Rug Hooking – You can use cross stitch patterns to make rugs.
Felted Wool – If you’re a fan of the stabbing method of cross stitch, this is similar, but you stab felt onto fabric to built up a 3D design.
 
Are there any hobbies you think we’ve missed? We’d love to hear what you think cross stitchers would be great at if they’d give it a go! Drop us a line below.

Which direction should cross stitches lie?

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

Having been a cross stitcher for over a decade and a half, not much surprises me anymore however, I recently saw a poll on a facebook group that had me speechless.

Facebook poll - Which way do you guys cross your stitches
Facebook poll – Which way do you guys cross your stitches

It turns out, that not only do people have a preference on which way to cross their stitches, but there is a massive 73% who do it one specific way. A way, which is basically irrelevant, yet has somehow permeated as the main way of doing your stitches.

Why do it that way?

The first question I had was a simple one; why did everyone pick that specific way, from bottom left to top right first? Well, I did some research. And it comes down to two points. The first is that most people learn cross stitch from a pattern, or from an online guide. You can see that even our own animated gif uses the same direction as the poll:

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration
How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

The second is that when printing, at least in English, you right left to right, which is why so many people designed their cross stitch instructions in that order.
Looking at the data, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that people stitch this way. Or should it?

Is it the right way?

I guess the second thing that shocked me was that people had a preference that they stuck to. For me, I always do it specific to the pattern. If there is something in a corner I want to draw attention to, I tend to make the top stitch point towards it. Does it make a difference? Well, that’s up for debate, to be honest. In most cases, once you wash and iron your work you can’t tell. However, I also found out recently that a lot of people don’t wash their cross stitch at all, so for them; I guess it would make a difference.
I guess, for the first time ever, I’m going to have to leave this one open. I’m not sure that changing your stitch direction has a big impact for those who wash and iron their work, however for that 73 % of people that stitch that way; try changing it. Just because you do something a specific way in the past, doesn’t make it the best way. In fact, the direction seems terrible for a left-handed stitcher…

Where should you start your cross stitch?

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)

I saw a facebook poll recently. Its principle was sound; it was just asking where people start their cross stitch. But actually, this brings up an interesting point. Is there a best place to start your cross stitch from?

Facebook poll - Where do you start your cross stitch
Facebook poll – Where do you start your cross stitch

Dead Center

The dead center was the out and out winner in this poll, and for the best part, is where most patterns tell you to start. The reason is pretty simple; you can move in any direction and it normally means you can start with any color you choose.
However, there are issues. In fact, there is one big one; what happens if you don’t get the dead center? I’ve regularly stitched from the center to find out I was off, meaning my cross stitch got really close to the edge of the fabric. Its clear this happens to a lot of you guys too. In fact, that’s why I created a great free aida dimensions calculator. I now add a lot more fabric than is actually needed to avoid this problem, however, I still find myself being slightly off-center. I’ve never been in a position that this has been a massive problem, but I’ve seen people online having to restart their own pattern due to this before, and the worst thing, is that you can’t find out until you’ve almost hit the end.

Top/Bottom Corners

I personally like starting in a corner. It’s absolute, it gives you a place to work out from, and you can make sure to place it exactly where you want on the fabric.
But there lies the problem. By starting on a corner, you’re not thinking about the other corner, and you might find out late on that you won’t have enough space (although sooner than starting at the center)

Center Upper Left/Right

These options kinda surprised me at first. I was trying to work out why someone would combine the issues of both starting in a corner and starting in the center. However, that’s when it struck me that they’re trying to solve the problems caused by both.
I thought about this, and then I even tried it out, and personally; I think this is an OK way to start. However, it still means that if you’re counting is off, you might run out of fabric. I think it’s better to start in a corner.

Varies

This is crazy. ๐Ÿ˜› I just can’t bear with the random nature of why you would start in one place instead of another on a whim, but not everyone is like me it seems! The problems starting are going to plague these people as they’ll constantly be changing, however, if they can count like a dream, then I’m all in favor of the anarchy!

So which is the best place to start?

It seems like there is no best option out there, however, it’s actually all of these. I know doesn’t make sense, but you can actually start anywhere and it not be a problem at all. So long as you grid. There are loads of gridding techniques for cross stitch, but so long as you grid, you’ll never have a problem running out of fabric or miss-counting!

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)

When Should You Give Up A Cross Stitch Project?

mass effect cross stitch gift

I’m a big believer in sticking with a project and seeing it through, but I, like every cross stitcher, have asked the question “should I just give up?” before. And you know what, sometimes giving up is the best thing to do. Sticking with a project you’re just not in love with can drain on you, and make you lose your inspiration for cross stitch. But when exactly is it OK to give up?

You’ve stitched it wrong

This is probably the biggest reason people want to give up a cross stitch project; however its normally unlikely to result in giving up your project. Whilst stitching something wrong can be hell, there is always something you can do about it, so you might not have to give up

You can pull it out

No one likes to frog cross stitches out, and whilst there are a few tools that make frogging easier, it can seem like it’s just not worth it, but sometimes it is. For my New Moon on Tokyo Tower cross stitch for the XStitch magazine, I stitched a massive section in the wrong color. There was no fixing it, so I had to make the choice between giving up or frogging it. In the end, I pulled out over 1200 stitches and redid them. And you know what; it made the cover of the magazine. It went from being a pain in my ass to being one of my best cross stitches ever. Just cos it seems bad now, doesn’t mean it will once you’ve restitched it.

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

You can’t pull it out

Let’s face it, we’ve all been in a position where we couldn’t pull out the threads, you kept on stitching without noticing it, and now more than 50% of the piece is a few stitches to the right. It happens, following patterns is a pain at the best of times. Now, if this is you, I’d suggest investing in a markup app for cross stitch but that doesn’t solve the here and now.
This isn’t a rare mistake. In fact, it’s pretty common. So common that one of the first blog posts I wrote was on how to fix common cross stitch mistakes like this, so you can fix it! You don’t need to give up.
However, if any of the other issues below are also present, I think its time you gave that pattern up.

Its just no fun

Yeh, we’ve all been here too. “The pattern looked so good online” or “I didn’t realize how much backstitch there was”. Yeh, sometimes the stitching just doesn’t go how you want to. It might be that the pattern sucks, or you might not be into it right now. And you know what; if it isn’t fun give up. This is a simple cut and dry case.
BUT! Don’t throw it. I’ve been in this situation a few times and I’ve given up, most notably on my Portal cake reveal cross stitch, which I had placed in a box for over 6 years. But I did, eventually, pick it back up, and I loved stitching it then. So don’t throw out your cross stitch; just place it in storage.

Its for someone else

I hear this a lot I’m afraid. Stitching for others can be a fantastically rewarding experience, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. Cross stitch takes time, and I often hear of people who started stitching something, then fell out with the person who would get it; do they continue? Well, I guess that is impacted by two things.
First off, is it still fun? Stitching something for someone who you no longer want to receive the gift probably means there are some negative feelings attached. Can you separate these from the actual stitching?
And secondly, do you want to keep it? If the pattern is frankly great anyway, you might want to keep it, but if it’s super personal, it isn’t something you want to continue with…

mass effect cross stitch gift
Ethan Jones first cross stitch for his friend Alex, proving that guys cross stitch too.

You love to start

I guess this one goes out to a few of you, who just love to start. I follow a whole raft of flosstube channels and some of them just love to start stitching. In fact, there is one who currently has over 80 starts; and only 1 finish in the year. For some people, it’s all about starting; and that’s OK! Cross stitch is there to be fun, so if you can’t be bothered to finish; don’t finish! It’s your hobby after all!
 
Finally, it should be noted that these are the reasons I found on an online poll for giving up. If you want to give up earlier; go ahead! I won’t tell ๐Ÿ˜€

How to pull a skein of thread without it knotting

DMC 743 thread with labels marked

The vast majority of threads for embroidery come in skeins, or more accurately, ‘pull-skeins’. However, not many people know that, as a result, people often ask me how to make sure they can get the thread out, without it knotting. Now, I know Christmas is a time when a lot of people gift and receive threads, in fact, we even mentioned it in our Christmas gift guide, and so now is a great time to finally put this to bed.
The thing is, there IS a way to remove the thread without it knotting.

The clue is in the name; Pull Skeins

Every skein and thread you pick up for embroidery has two labels. These labels are there to hold each loose end of the thread down. Normally, you’ll see one thread is covered by the brand label (DMC and Anchor threads are like this) meaning one end is ‘loose’ down at the other end, by the number and barcode label.

DMC 743 thread with labels marked
DMC 743 thread with labels marked

Well, as the name ‘pull skein’ suggests, pull your thread from that side. Skeins come off the packing machine in a set order, meaning if you pull from one end, you’ll unravel the thread, which is what you want, but if you pull from the other side it’ll knot!
DMC thread 3820 with ends of the threads marked (Source: reddit)
DMC thread 3820 with ends of the threads marked (Source: Reddit)

Is it really that simple?

Well, sadly not. You see, DMC threads have the long end by their number and barcode label, but this isn’t the case for other brands. Both Anchor and Cosmo have the “perfect end” on the brand label side.
Thankfully though, CXC and Sublime stitching following DMC’s way.

What’s the Best Cross Stitch Needle For You?

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

A few weeks ago we listed out some of the best-known cross stitch needle brands and gave them reviews based on a lot of factors. However, despite allowing us to work out who the best cross stitch needles were made by, we got a few people asking about different types of needles. In that post, we only focused on your standard needles, and we made comment on their range but didn’t go into why you would want a specific type of needle.
Well, in the same way, we helped to find the best cross stitch scissors for you we’re doing the same with needles!

Normal Needles

The standard cross stitch needle for anyone who picks up a cross stitch kit, and for everyone that follows standard cross stitch needle size for aida count tables. The normal needle works well. It’s been perfected for literally hundreds of years (in fact, we covered this in our history of the cross stitch needle). However, it doesn’t mean its the perfect needle for you.
Yes, it works fine, it’s easy to pick up in a variety of materials, and you can pick them up for pennies if you’re looking to save money in cross stitch. In reality, needles like this tend to wear heavily, which was why we wrote about getting rid of your old needles.
 
So why would it be perfect? Well, simply put, you either want an easy needle that you don’t have to think too hard about, or you prefer a longer needle.

cross stitch needle (source: cross-stitching.com)
Cross stitch needles; rounded and sharp (source: cross-stitching.com)

Petite/Small Needles

Of course, petite needles are basically the same as a normal needle, but they’re smaller. This isn’t much of a bonus if you want a longer needle, however, petite needles allow you to move through the aida fabric with much more ease. In reality, a size 24 needle (standard for 14 count aida) is slightly larger than the whole it goes into. With a petite needle, you can drop it through the hole with ease.
However petite needles give you a lot more variety with stitching too. I prefer to use a smaller needle, rather than a petite. I use a size 26 for 14 count fabric. It has the same impact as using a petite but is much easier to get hold of, and usually cheaper.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want a smoother stitching experience.

Gold Needle

The next set of needles to look out for are gold needles. Now, most people expect that to mean a whole needle in gold, and sometimes that is the case, but you can also get gold eyes. The reason some only have gold eyes is to put the price down. The widest part of the needle is the eye, so if you want to make that area slip through the material better, it improves the whole needle experience. Essentially, that’s the purpose of a gold needle. Gold is slightly smoother than nickel, so moves through the fabric better. Now, gold does come off. In fact, the reason to stop using gold needles is the plating has come off, and that means gold needles rarely have a long life span, however, they do move smoothly through the fabric, and so can be a good idea if you can’t find a petite.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want a smoother stitching experience, but like a larger needle.

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

Easy Guide Needles

Next up, we have a little needle that not that many people know about. Instead of a rounded tip of a normal cross stitch or tapestry needle, easy guide needles have a small ball. This allows you to get a lot better control over your tip but still allows you to traverse the fabric without puncturing it. For many, control isn’t much of an issue, however, those with a slight shake can find a massive benefit in using easy guide needles.
They do have a small downside though; they are very hard to get hold of, and don’t come in many sizes. We pick ours up from Etsy.com however even then they can be hard to find.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want greater control.

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

Self Threading Needles

For many, the worst part of cross stitch, is trying to get the dang needle threaded. I know many people who use needle threaders however the same issue always comes up; they break. They break ALL the time. There are needle threaders that don’t break, but for many, a needle threader is something else to loose in their cross stitch kit. So instead, there are self threading needles.
Now, there are loads of different self-threading needle types, and due to this, they can cause you issues in your cross stitch experience. For many self-threading needles aren’t worth it, but for those that struggle with threading the needle, they can be a lifesaver (if an expensive one).
 
So why would it be perfect? You struggle to thread the needle.

Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)
Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)

Double Needles

Finally, we have the double-needle. Many don’t even know it exists, and when they see one, they often think its a crazy needle for a machine or something. Now, you do have to change the way to cross stitch with a double-needle, but it allows you to cross stitch faster.
They are fairly hard to come by, and they don’t come in gold. They break often, and they’re weird to use. But they increase your speed by an insane amount. If you value speed; these are the needles for you.
 
So why would it be perfect? You want to speed up your cross stitching.

Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)
Double ended cross stitch needle (source: reddit)

Who Makes The Best Cross Stitch Needles?

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

We love cross stitch needles here at Lord Libidan. In the past we’ve covered the suprising history of the cross stitch needle and how cross stitch needles are made in length, but a recent post about time to ditch your cross stitch needle led us into interesting territory; some cross stitch needles last longer than others. And that got us thinking, what’s the best cross stitch needle manufacturer out there?
 
Thankfully, over the last 6 months, we’ve tested over 130 needles from the 6 biggest brands to rate needles. We chose to include durability, plating, quality, range, and price as factors but chose not to include availability (although we do make comment on this in the reviews). We chose to ignore stuff like self-threading needles, so we’re looking at purely common cross stitch needles.
 

DMC Needles

Most of the time, when we hear of issues with needles, it turns out to be a DMC needle. This is probably due to many picking them up in kits, however, our testers rated DMC needles the worst in durability and how fast the plating comes off across all the brands we’ve tested, normally with the eye breaking. However, DMC needles do have something going for them. Firstly, they are easy to pick up, they come in a massive (but not exhaustive) range, and they are really cheap. As a way of testing out needles like petites and gold plated, they are a great place to start, but I wouldn’t use them as a standard needle.
 

Durability – 2/5
Plating – 2/5
Quality – 2/5
Range – 4/5
Price – 5/5
Total – 3/5

 

John James Needles

For most, John James needles seem to be the standard in the cross stitch world. And this is due to the fact that they’re a great all-round needle. Yes, they do break, but they last a good amount of time, and with a strong eye, the main issue is losing its plating. Yes, the plating does come off, in gold needles particularly fast, however you can easily use a single needle for 2 or 3 projects before needing to replace it. They do have a whole range, including golds and petites, however finding anything other than the standard count needles can be very hard, and the price jumps as a result.

Durability – 3/5
Plating – 4/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 4/5
Price – 4/5
Total – 3.5/5

 

Hemline Needles

Hemline produces some OK needles. They last a long time, the plating tends to stay on for a long period of time, they don’t go blunt often either. However, there are two big issues with Hemline. The first is the range; they have standards, but no petites, and if you want gold plated, the price jumps a very long way, making them some of the most expensive needles on the list. This makes them a little too much effort for their price, and we’d suggest others on the list that can be quite cost-effective.

Durability – 3/5
Plating – 3/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 1/5
Price – 2/5
Total – 2.5/5

 

Milward Needles

A lot of people know of Milward needles thanks to sewing, and honestly, they make great sharps, however, their tapestry needles seem to suffer from a few manufacturing issues. They tend to have a weak eye (at least in our tests) and the plating doesn’t last as long as the likes of John James needles. However, the price and overall quality of the needles are OK. For a single project needle, Milward does a good job. Once again though, the range is an issue. No gold needles, no petite needles, and you usually have to buy in packs of multiple sizes. Milward gets a big thumbs down from us.

Durability – 2/5
Plating – 2/5
Quality – 3/5
Range – 1/5
Price – 3/5
Total – 2/5

 

Clover Needles

Our tests with Clover needles came back very positive. They had a fantastic life span, they kept their plating longer than any other needle on the test (including gold needles, which is shocking), and the range is rather large. The issues we had were twofold, firstly, finding these needles (outside of Japan) can be hard, meaning you often have to get packs with other needles you don’t need/want, and price. They are very expensive needles. This might just be down to the import costs, however, our testers all over the world reported high costs.

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 5/5
Quality – 4/5
Range – 3/5
Price – 2/5
Total – 4/5

 

Bohin Needles

Bohin needles rock. They’re very well made, the plating doesn’t come off for anything, and they just don’t break. They also have a good price point considering how well they’re made. However, Bohin needles are a problem in two ways. Firstly, getting your hands on them, anywhere in the world, is always tough. For some reason Bohin isn’t in many retailers, even online, making picking up a pack hard. This usually comes with a large postage cost from a different continent and so the price rockets up quickly. The second issue is the range. Whilst they have a full set of sizes, they only have one size of petites, and no gold plated needles. But they do have a double eye needle, and a self threading needle too.
 

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 5/5
Quality – 5/5
Range – 3/5
Price – 3/5
Total – 4/5

 

Tulip Needles

Let me start by saying just how much I love Tulip needles. They were so nice to use it was shocking, they never seem to break, they keep their point well, and whilst the gold does come off, it isn’t quick. The range is full, with packs of a variety and single sizes. Not only that but getting hold of them wasn’t that hard either. But let’s talk about the big issue here; cost. Tulip needles are VERY expensive, and whilst you do get a quality needle for the price, we’re just not sure we can devote that kind of price to a needle. There are perks that make up for this, like little glass vials they come in, but once you have a few of these you want to change to plastic ones, and packs without the vial are just as expensive.

Durability – 5/5
Plating – 4/5
Quality – 5/5
Range – 5/5
Price – 1/5
Total – 4/5

 
There you have it, our round-up of the best-known cross stitch needle brands out there. Hopefully, this test will help you pick out your next needle supplier, however, we should say that storing your cross stitch needles well and using a needle minder will increase the lifespan of your needles.
 
So, what’s our choice? Whilst they are expensive, Tuplip needles were the nicest to use, and if you can afford them, go nuts, however, the cheaper and just as good needles from Clover Needles are the best for us.

Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)
Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)

Are magnifiers worth it for cross stitch?

I recently won the best miniature cross stitch in the National Needlecraft Awards this year with my miniature traditional pirate samplers and as a result I won a fancy magnifying light. This was the first one I ever got, and whilst it gave me loads of ideas for miniature cross stitch, I didn’t realize the problems it would have.

mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)
mini pirate cross stitch samplers by Lord Libidan (source: xstitchmag.com)

The Positives

I initially planned on using my magnifier on a few small count projects, think 32 count, however before I got to that point I ended up pulling it out to check something on my cross stitch project using 14 count. I would normally have squinted or pulled it close to my face, but for the first time ever, I could just use a magnifier to see it with ease!
Not only that, but cross stitching on black aida has been made considerably easier with the massive light source the magnifier has brought me. I actually use my magnifier a lot, far more than I thought I would, and whilst the super magnification area gets a lot less use, it being there means I have something to use a back up if I still can’t get that dang stitch to lie properly.

Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch
Clip-on magnifier by 123stitch

The Negatives

So what exactly are the negatives I’ve refered to?
Well, whilst it’s great having a tool at your disposal, relying on a magnifier is a whole different thing. Its bright lighted area and magnification cause havoc with your eyes. And stitching with daylight lamps when it’s not daylight can cause problems with sleep cycles too.
However, the biggest issue is that magnification requires a lot of eye use, and it’s very common for people to get involved in what they’re doing and not taking regular breaks. For those with good eyesight, this can have long term effects on your eye health, and for those who already have eye issues, it can make is substantially worse. That doesn’t mean you have to give up cross stitch if you rely on one though; magnifiers are great to use non-regularly, so consider stitching less, lighting your stitching area better, or reducing the count of your fabric so its easier on the eyes.

Is it worth it?

All in all, I think magnifiers are a fantastic tool for a cross stitcher, even those without issues seeing things in detail (why strain your eyes when you don’t have to) however they should be used as a tool in your armory, rather than something to rely on all the time.
If you are one of those who need it regularly, try reducing your aida count, or using a smaller magnification, taking regular breaks and lighting up your stitching area as much as possible with natural light.

Do You Actually Need To Remove Your Cross Stitch From The Hoop?

Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)

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.

Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)
Hoop Marks in Cross Stitch (Source: Handmade by Hannah)

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 pieces 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. If it’s stretched, all the holes are bigger, letting the background show through. And the biggest thing? It’s 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. Let’s 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 traveling, it’s all about the frame itself. Personally, I would always loosen it when it’s in a frame (just to remove the tension), but when it’s in a hoop, remove it. Whilst the hoop marks are fairly easy to get out (see below) it’s not worth the extra effort, and can damage some of your stitches if you leave the hoop in long enough.

Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)
Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)

What happens if the worse has already happened?

OK, so you might be reading this after the event, so let me help you if it’s 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 it’s referred 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.

Washing cross stitch (source: peacockandfig.com)
Washing cross stitch (source: peacockandfig.com)