All of our posts that offer guides, tips, tricks and reviews to make sure your cross stitch is the best it can be.

How To Cope With More Than One Project At Once

We’re big fans of organization, and in the past we’ve covered everything from organizing fabric to needles, but this post will be slightly different. You see, whilst most of us only stitch one project at a time, that doesn’t mean we only have one project started. Today, we look at how to cope with multiple projects.
 
Depending on who you are, you might think this isn’t a post for you. Maybe you only stitch one thing at once? I was like that once. However then I found this great cross stitch pattern on Etsy, and I just had to buy it. I was excited, I was itching to start, so I had to collect my threads together. That; is where it starts.
 
On average I still only stitch one thing at once, like many of us, but I have a few projects prepped and ready to go. But what’s the best way to actually go about this?

Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)
Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)

Ask Yourself If You’re Actually Going To Stitch It

We’re going to start with a somewhat painful one. The fact of the matter is that all of us horde cross stitch patterns, but many of us fail to actually start most of them (or I do at least. Please tell me I’m not the only one?).
As a result, it’s important to ask; are you going to stitch it. This might even be something you can postpone to later too. Let’s say you’re stitching a massive piece and you know it will take months; wait until at least halfway through before you start thinking about other projects, otherwise you might have a stack by the time you finish!

Pick Out Your Threads

OK, so you’re devoted to stitching up a second project, or at least you want to get ahead on the planning phase. The first step is to pull out some threads.
There are a few things here that are important.
 
The first is something we talk about a lot; picking good threads. And by that I mean make sure they’re all new threads, you have enough, and there are no issues with color variation. This will avoid you having to deal with the whole dye lot issue, and makes sure your project will be perfect.
 
The second one is once again something we shout about a lot; storage. You’ve picked your threads, and now is the time to make sure they’re stored well. Leaving them out on the side for months getting dusty, sun-damaged, and risking spills (it always happens when you least expect it), is not the way to go. We have a whole bunch of ways to store cross stitch threads, but our suggestion is a thread box. These boxes hold a whole bunch of threads (enough for even the largest of epic projects), can hold other things like needles, and keep everything protected.

Full set of DMC threads
My full set of DMC threads ordered by number

Grid It Up

Next, we suggest you grid your fabric. OK, we suggest washing the fabric before you start and then gridding the fabric.
This might seem a little weird at first glance, after all, gridding is only one step before stitching, but we’ve all been there with a new project; we want to get stuck in, not spend an hour gridding it.
 
And that is exactly why we suggest doing it now. Grid it, and forget it. You’ll still be able to get stuck in when you do start the project, but you’ll have a little more enthusiasm for gridding now than you will later in time.
 
There are a whole bunch of ways to grid your cross stitch, but if you plan on putting your project on hold for a while, we would suggest using the non-pen related methods. Washable pens can bleed and disappear over time and whilst this isn’t a permanent issue, it will mean you have to redo the gridding later on. And the only thing worse than gridding is gridding twice.

Cover It

Dirt happens. Cover everything. This might be the threads as we explained about, this might be the pattern, fabric, or anything else. Just make sure it’s covered.

Project Bags

Knowing that you need to cover it, and knowing you need to hold a whole bunch of things together, this is where the project bag comes in.
 
I use to store my “ongoing” projects in a draw. I opened it and I had to fish through the fabric from one project, threads from another, and pattern sheets that you swear shouldn’t even be in there. It was a mess. Sure, they were protected in the draw, but it was an organizational nightmare. Then, a well known online cross stitch store supplied a few to us for free. Game changer.

Cross Stitch Project Bag by BloomTopia (Source: fatquartershop.com)
Cross Stitch Project Bag by BloomTopia (Source: fatquartershop.com)

You can get project bags in a whole raft of different types, sizes, and designs, but the best for us is something clear so we can see which project is which, and comes in multiple sizes. These things hold everything you need, protect it, and keep things together. A real game changer.
 

Pro tip – If you like highlighting patterns; don’t leave your highlighter in the bag. We’ve been burned on this a few times!

 
As I said earlier, this might not be something you initially think is relevant to you based on your current stitching trends, but with the above advice, if you do ever prep for another project early, or even have multiple cross stitch projects on the go at once, this should help avoid any pitfalls!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

How many strands of thread should you use?

I get this question a lot. Whilst most patterns do have a guide, depending on the fabric you use, if you stitch 1 over 1 and the overall look you want, the amount of strands you use can vary.
 

Fabric Strands (Light Fabric) Strands (Dark Fabric)
11 Count (1 over 1) 4 Strands 6 Strands
14 Count (1 over 1) 2 or 3 Strands 3 or 4 Strands
16 Count (1 over 1) 2 Strands 3 Strands
18 Count (1 over 1) 2 Strands 3 Strands
20 Count (1 over 1) 1 or 2 Strands 2 or 3 Strands
22 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
22 Count (1 over 2) 4 Strands 6 Strands
24 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
24 Count (1 over 2) 4 Strands 6 Strands
25 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
25 Count (1 over 2) 3 Strands 4 Strands
28 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
28 Count (1 over 2) 2 or 3 Strands 4 Strands


 
Cross stitches with different amounts of strands of threads on 18 count aida, 14 count aida, 11 count aida and 9 count aida (Source: better-cross-stitch-patterns.com)
Cross stitches with different amounts of strands of threads on 18 count aida, 14 count aida, 11 count aida and 9 count aida (Source: better-cross-stitch-patterns.com)

When You Should Ignore The Table

Yep, sometimes you should ignore me! 😀 Whilst this post does show you the standard strands to use, there are actually 3 different situations when you should ignore the table up above.
 

Style

The first is simply a case of prefered style. It might be that you like the fuller stitch look, or you’re going for more of a pencil drawing style, or whatever. There are actually a whole load of reasons why you might want to change it up based on your prefered style, and better-cross stitch patterns have an excellent post on why floss coverage matters, but when it comes to anything in cross stitch, it’s all about your prefernce.
 

Creating Detail

The next reason you might want to ignore the normal strand guide is detail. The best way of thinking of this is much like a drawing with thick and thin pens. You might want the outline to be in a thick pen to draw the eye, the light lines on someone’s face might be in a thin marker. This can be replicated in cross stitch and embroidery.
&nsbp;
For an example, look at my Star Trek Voyager Blueprint cross stitch or the larger Enterprise. When you stand and look at it in real life (I’ll admit the effect isn’t as good online), you see the thick white outline of the ship. As you take a step forward you see the pink floors and as you take a step further you see the tables and chairs in every room. Here I’ve combined 3 strands for the outline, 2 strands for the floors and 1 strand for the mini details. It means that when you stand back you’re not bombarded with detail that ruins the overall design, but if you get closer you see more and more detail.

Star Trek Voyager Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Zoomed in Section of ship
Star Trek Voyager Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Zoomed in Section of ship

Creating Distance/Importance

The final thing is actually distance. We tend to think of cross stitch as very one dimensional, but by changing up the strands, you can create a false sense of distance.
 
Taking my Enterprise again (sorry, I don’t mean to plug myself so much!), if you look at the small white ships they look like they sit on top of the purple lines. This effect was made by making the purple lines only 1 strand. Your eye naturally thinks that lines of the same thickness are on the same level, but thicker lines pull forward, and thin lines push back.
 
I know that’s very embroidery focused, but by doing the same with whole cross stitches, you put some parts in the foreground, and others in the background. This is similar to how photos look, with the background slightly out of focus, bringing your eye to the subject you want.

Star Trek Enterprise LCARS Ship Schematic Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan (Right Detail)
Star Trek Enterprise LCARS Ship Schematic Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan (Right Detail)

Check The Brand

This isn’t actually so much of a reason to change the strand count you use, but it’s worth noting that different cross stitch thread brands, and even different types of thread within a company can give different coverage.
This doesn’t play out as you’d expect either, with cheap embroidery threads sometimes covering better than the more expensive ones.
Our table above is suitable for most brands.
 
Have you tried playing with stands within a project? We’d love to have a look!
 
Happy stitching,
Lord Libidan

Wood Hoops? Plastic Hoops? Spring Hoops? Which is best!?!

As one of the main tools in cross stitch, it’s no surprise that we’ve spoken about hoops before, at length. We even suggest them as one of the best cross stitch frame types, but there is a fairly constant discussion in the cross stitch world; if you use hoops, are wood, plastic, or spring hoops best?
 
Today, we hope to answer that. Or at least help. Or maybe just fuel the discussion, who knows. But we’ll give our take at least!

The Options

When it comes to cross stitch hoops, most people instantly think of bamboo ones. The reason for this, is they are normally included in kits as production is actually the cheapest for all the hoop types. As a result, the concept of a hoop is defined by those bamboo ones, but there are actually a whole bunch of options out there.
 
We’ll discuss each type, making note of their ease of use, ability to be decorated, cost, and any other considerations.

Plastic Hoops

We’re going to start with one of the alternatives to wooden hoops; plastic. By this, we mean straight-up, plastic copies of wooden hoops. For many years plastic hoops had a bad wrap, being often thought of as prone to snapping, however, with more modern manufacturing processes, this is mostly a thing of the past (you can still get plastic hoops from places like aliexpress that will break in seconds). Therefore these are now worth thinking about. From a user perspective they’re pretty much identical to wooden hoops, but unlike their wooden brothers, won’t splinter, can get wet, won’t warp over time, and won’t stain your work if you accidentally leave your cross stitch in the hoop.
 
So what about decoration? Well actually, there are options here too. Unlike wooden hoops that come in wood, wood, or wood, plastic hoops come in a variety of colors, including funky ones, textures, and even shapes (oval, square, stars, and beyond). But even if you’re bored with those options, you can also cover them in fabric, or washi tape. There really is no limit to the creativity on offer here.

Washi Tape Embroidery Hoop by sewpinata (Source: Instagram)
Washi Tape Embroidery Hoop by sewpinata (Source: Instagram)

Now comes the cost. In the past, plastic hoops have always been more expensive than bamboo hoops, mainly due to manufacturing costs, however, prices have dropped recently, and getting your hands on a plastic hoop will likely cost you the same as a good quality bamboo hoop.
Finally, we come to other considerations. This is a simple one too; environmental impact. Now, we know not everyone is bothered by the environmental impact of cross stitch, but using a plastic hoop is something to think about. By and large, the impact of a plastic hoop is 20 to 30 times as bad as a bamboo hoop (although other wooden hoops can be worse). Just something to think about.

Plastic Spring Hoops

spring tension embroidery hoops (source: 123stitch.com)
spring tension embroidery hoops (source: 123stitch.com)
Next up, we have the weird alternative in cross stitch hoops, the part plastic, part metal hoop. Unlike the other hoops on this list, these hoops are spring-loaded. This does have the advantage of holding the fabric very very tightly, however, the impact of this is that you may get marks on your work when you don’t want them. They also tend to lose their spring after a while, meaning we’re not a big fan.
 
When it comes to decoration, these are all but useless. In fact, spring hoops are only to be used when stitching, and not for decoration.
 
The final nail in the coffin for these hoops however is the cost, and we really mean cost too. Spring hoops can be two or three times more expensive than the best quality wooden hoops. For a product that isn’t as good as its wooden counterparts, the cost is just too much to handle.

Wood Hoops – Hard Wood

Hard Wood Cross Stitch Hoops (Source: ebay)
Hard Wood Cross Stitch Hoops (Source: ebay)
So finally, we get to wooden hoops, however its not quite that simple. You see, there are two types of wooden hoops; hardwood, and bamboo (softwood can’t be used for hoops as it snaps).
 
Hardwood hoops, look fantastic, truly they have class written all over them. However, as a cross stitch tool, they aren’t that great. They do work, and in many situations will do fine, but as the wood is steam bent, it doesn’t have the same force bamboo hoops do. They also tend to be slipperier thanks to the smoother wooden surface.
 
You can decorate these hoops if you want, however, the cost of these hoops is a big factor in their lack of success, and if you intend to cover the hoop, you might as well go for a cheaper option. On the cost point, this varies heavily depending on quality, wood type, and size, but they tend to be much more expensive than their bamboo alternatives. As a purely decorative hoop, they’re great, but not so much as anything else.

Wood Hoops – Bamboo

Embroidery Hoops of Various Sizes (source: sewandso.com)
Embroidery Hoops of Various Sizes (source: sewandso.com)
Now we’re going to talk about the hoops you had in mind when reading this; the standard bamboo hoop. The fact of the matter is, these hoops are cheap, do the job, and can be found anywhere. They are the hoop you use to compare the other hoops, they are basic but work. And that’s pretty much it. With a hoop that ‘just works’, many wonder why anyone would go for an alternative.
 
In addition to their basic but useful function as a cross stitch tool, you also have a massive wealth of decoration options too. Want to cover it in fabric, cover it in tape, paint it, or stain it; you can do it all. Depending on the quality you can leave some out as they’re frankly beautiful sometimes too.
Kreuzstich heart cross stitch (source: twitter)
Kreuzstich heart cross stitch (source: twitter)
Fallout 3 Home Sweet Home Sampler Cross Stitch (source: reddit)
Fallout 3 Home Sweet Home Sampler Cross Stitch (source: reddit)

This is when we start talking about cost, or more specifically, what people think the cost is. You can pick up a 6-inch hoop for 20c if you wanted to. And you know what, it’ll do the job. But you can also pick up a different 6-inch hoop for $30. Both hoops work, both are made from bamboo and both are initially fine, but the cheapest hoops are actually likely to have problems. These might be from breaks, pealing of the wood edge, or rusting and stripping of the poor quality metal used on the screw.
 
The above said, one of the biggest factors in bamboo hoops is quality. In our mind it worth spending a little more to get the middle-range hoop, but we wouldn’t fall into the trap of spending big bucks for a brand name, as it’s usually just paying for the brand name (looking at you DMC). Another consideration is actually a positive; bamboo grows fast, it doesn’t take up much space or water, and thanks to its structure, hoops use very little of it. Of all the options on this list, bamboo hoops are the most environmentally friendly.

Verdict

So with all that in mind, in our eyes, there are only two real options; bamboo or pure plastic hoops.
 
Picking between the two of them is mostly a point of personal preference, however in our mind, bamboo hoops win out narrowly. The fact that you can decorate them easier, and you can pick up a whole set of sizes for the price of one plastic one means they’re our pick, and they’re the most environmentally friendly too!
 
 
Interested in other cross stitch hoop fun? You might want to check out our double hoop cross stitch ring donut.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

How To Label Your Cross Stitch Threads

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

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

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)

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).

Are Online Cross Stitch Courses Worth It?

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

You should wash your aida BEFORE you use it

I’m a big believer in washing my cross stitch after I’m finished, and whilst I know there are people out there that don’t wash their cross stitch, I recently started washing my aida before I cross stitch.
 
I know this initially sounds crazy, however there is a method to my madness, and washing your aida (or any fabric) before you start your cross stitch has one major benefit.

Why you should you wash it?

I short, dyes. Unlike problems with thread dye lot issues, this is a dye problem that goes under the eyes of many of us cross stitchers. In fact, it took a decade before I actually started to think about what was happening.
 
When you wash your fabric, the dye leaks out. And I don’t just mean a bit of leakage, I mean loads. And its not just black aida that has this either. We tested all of the best cross stitch aida brands using an inch by inch square in a pint of cold water for 10 minutes.

Water samples from colored aida.
Left to right; Cream Aida, Black Aida, Navy Aida, Moss Green Aida, Christmas Red Aida, Red Aida
Water samples from 1 inch squared colored aida in a pint of cold water. 
Left to right; Cream Aida, Black Aida, Navy Aida, Moss Green Aida, Christmas Red Aida, Red Aida

This dye on its own might not seem that problematic considering it’s only a little bit, but our test was using a 1 inch by 1 inch square in a pint of water. If you scale this up, its like stitching a 12 by 12 inch bit of aida in a whole bath of water. I imagine there are only a few of us out there willing to use a whole bath of water to wash our cross stitch, even if you aren’t an eco cross stitcher.
 
This dye isn’t going to totally change the color of your threads, however it will take that shine off, leaving you with something with a little less pop. This can be a serious problem with cross stitches of bright colors on black aida like my recent Star Trek Enterprise LCARS cross stitch, but it’ll even have impacts on smaller projects too.

How to wash it

Now we have the “why” sorted out, the solution is simple, wash your aida. And we don’t mean you have to go fancy like how you wash your cross stitch. No, you can just chuck the whole thing in a bowl of water for half an hour. Rinse once your done (just to make sure none of the dye is left on the fabric and dry). You don’t have to iron, blot or stretch the fabric either, as the cross stitch frame or hoop will do the work for you.

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

How To Mount Your Cross Stitch On Canvas

We’ve explored the blurred line between cross stitch as art or craft before, and wherever you stand on that issue, there is one thing that can elevate anyone’s cross stitch; framing.
 
We’re also no stranger to framing cross stitch either, we have a great guide on how to frame cross stitch. But this isn’t the only way to frame cross stitch, you can also mount them to canvas.

Cross stitch stapled to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)
Cross stitch stapled to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)

The Benefits

There are many advantages to mounting cross stitch to canvas instead of framing them normally. Firstly, you don’t have to concern yourself with framing with or without glass, which is a headache on its own. The framing can all be done at home, is super easy and cheap and the results arguably look better than standard framing.
However, there are downsides too. The two main ones are that the cross stitch is exposed to the elements, meaning you have to be careful where you store it to keep it looking its best. Therefore, before you read any further, we suggest you go and wash and iron your cross stitch. But also, and this is a big one; its a permanent framing technique. Once mounted to canvas, removal can cause serious issues with your cross stitch, and stop you from framing it in the future.

How to Mount Your Cross Stitch

OK, so you got this far, you’ve heard the negatives, but you still want in? Great, now you need a canvas.
 
There are loads of types of canvases out there, and frankly, it doesn’t really matter which one you get. Just be aware that your cross stitch needs to have enough fabric around it to cover the front, sides and an inch or two of the back. If you’re really committed to having it mounted to canvas, but can only just cover the sides, that’s OK too, but you’ll need some type of cover for the sides to make them look nice once you’re done.
 
Next up, you need to position your cross stitch on the aida. This is a super important step, as, I repeat, this is a permanent thing. If you put it in the wrong place, fixing it is a real pain. There are loads of ways to do this, from simple measuring to using fancy middle finding rulers. I’m going to gloss over this though; as you’ve got this, whatever way works for you.

Back of cross stitch stapled to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)
Back of cross stitch stapled to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)

Then, we staple. Start by taking a stapler and stapling the top center of the work (on the back). Then pull the aida tightly up from the bottom and staple there too. You should aim to get a nice tight bit of aida, but not distorting your cross stitch. This is, by far, the hardest part of the whole thing. I keep flipping from front to back to make sure its perfectly placed before I staple it. All that effort now will help it look perfect.
 
Once you have those staples in, repeat this process for all-around your work.
Folding aida corners on cross stitch mounted to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)
Folding aida corners on cross stitch mounted to canvas (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)

Then comes the corners. For a lot of people, the corners pose a concern, but honestly, they’re easy to deal with. The first bit of advice I’ll give you is, do not follow a guide on how to make corners on canvas. These guides are specifically for creating the canvas you’re mounting to, and require the canvas to be stretched. Your aida won’t like you if you try to stretch it like that.
However, exactly how you want to do it, is up to you. I like Hannah Hand Make’s approach to tuck as much in as you can with your nail, pull the excess around the back, and stick a staple in that sucker.
Finished cross stitch mounted to canvas on display (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)
Finished cross stitch mounted to canvas on display (Source: hannahhandmakes.com)

Once done, flip your work around, stand back and admire. You might also want to think about signing your cross stitch too.

5 Cross Stitch Tips It Took Us A Decade To Learn

We’ve always tried to stay away from blogs on cross stitch tips here on Lord Libidan. If you want those kinds of things, there are post all over the internet with the same basic tips repeated. But that’s the thing; they’re basic tips. What about the tips that it takes a decade to learn?
Today we’re looking into the tips and tricks we’ve seen online and in-person, hundreds of times, but ones we only actually took stock of after a decade of cross stitching.

Gridding

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)

We start with something I actively avoided in the past. Gridding just looked like a load of effort, that I frankly, couldn’t be bothered with; I wanted to get into the cross stitching. However, miscounts happen, there is no way to avoid that. So for a while, I used cross stitch counting pins, which work, and I still use them for smaller projects, but there is nothing quite like having to frog out a whole section as you counted wrong 6 hours of stitching ago.
This is where gridding comes in. I had always thought gridding was a painful experience but with loads of different cross stitch gridding techniques its actually a breeze. It doesn’t take that long, and I can confirm that I have NEVER had to frog on projects I’ve gridded. Lifesaver.

Buy Cross Stitch Cones

DMC Thread Cones (Source: DMC.com)
DMC Thread Cones (Source: DMC.com)

Our second tip is actually about buying. Getting a great cross stitch thread deal is such a rush, and always helps us get closer to our journey to the complete DMC thread selection, but there is a better way to buy thread; DMC cones.
 
These cones are the way professionals by DMC thread, and there is a good reason; the sheer saving. Cones are either 100g or 500g weights (which is 51 and 257 skeins worth) but you can pick them up for as little as $20 a cone, which works out to 59c a skein, which is a price that none of the best online cross stitch stores can match.

The Drill Bobbin Trick

No one likes bobbin winders; no one. But with a lot of people choosing to store their cross stitch threads on bobbins, you have to know how to put cross stitch threads on a bobbin. This is where the drill technique comes in. You can actually use a sewing machine in the same way, we’re aware many cross stitchers also sew so you might have one of those too. This trick will save you hours and hours of effort and wrist ache – trust us!

Taking Care Of Your Stash

Clear Draws for Embroidery Thread Storage (Source: pinterest)
Clear Draws for Embroidery Thread Storage (Source: pinterest)

Next up we have storage. We’re mentioned in the past (more than a few times), that its important to properly store cross stitch threads and we’re firm belivers in this. You might choose to put your threads on bobbins, in bags, put them on show or whatever, but there is no reason to not take care of them. Threads really get effected by the sun, so much that we’re suggest not buying second hand threads, and there is good evidence to suggest the DMC dye lot issues people talk about are just due to poor storage. Its that important.
 
We would also include storage of completed cross stitch, storage of aida fabric and properly storing cross stitch needles as a trick definately worth learning too.

Finding The Perfect Pair Of Scissors

Premax Carnival Embroidery Scissors (source: kreinik.com)
Premax Carnival Embroidery Scissors (source: kreinik.com)

Let me tell you; there is nothing quite like finding the perfect pair of scissors. A tool that most of us don’t really think about, but a tool that we all use, all the time, is the humble scissors. I’m sure most of us started out using a random pair of semi-blunt scissors we found around the house and maybe upgraded to a fairly cheap pair of sewing scissors along the way. But if I were to ask you “do you love your scissors?” and the answer was no, then you need a new pair.
We spend ages with our scissors, from snipping threads to (annoyingly) frogging, our scissors journey with us through project after project. So why shouldn’t they be perfect?
 
I’ve written in the past about finding the perfect pair of cross stitch scissors in the past, and since then, I’ve still managed to find better and better scissors for me, like the amazing finger snip travel scissors. However, a great pair of scissors for me isn’t a great one for you. My trusted friend MrXStitch uses a rather stylish pair of scissors that I just cannot abide; but for him, they work. You deserve to find a pair for you.
 
I would actually go one step further here too. I love my thread scissors, but I also love my aida scissors. Yes, I have multiple pairs for different things. My aida scissors are big fabric cutting scissors with a diamond coating so they never get blunt (extreme overkill, I know), but they work for aida perfectly. But they would suck for cutting threads.