How To Put Cross Stitch Threads On A Bobbin

Printable bobbins (Source: Pinterest)

In the past we’ve spoken about how to properly store cross stitch threads and why you should put threads on bobbins, but the question still remains; how?
 
Unlike other storage methods, like chucking skeins in a draw, bobbins take time to wind, and if you have all 500 DMC threads it’s going to take you forever. So today, we’re running down all the ways to put embroidery threads on bobbins, so you can skip the pain, and take the easy route 😀

Hand Wind

Hand-winding a cross stitch thread bobbin (Source: Youtube)
Hand-winding a cross stitch thread bobbin (Source: Youtube)

We start with the standard in bobbin winding, and the one technique that you’ll do regardless of the situation. Sure, later options are faster, but if you only have one or two threads to put on skeins, you’ll do it by hand.
You start by pulling out one end of the skein without it knotting and simply wind around the bobbin.

Bonus: Use A Tin Can

Hand-winding however, really isn’t a foolproof system. Somehow, those threads just always manage to find a way to knot themselves, and believe us when I say its 100x worse when it’s a whole 8m skein knotted up. So we suggest removing your skein’s wraps and putting it over something like a tin can. You can start by either end this way, and it keeps the thread from knotting.
 

Use A Winding Tool

Embroidery bobbin winder (Source: Etsy)
Embroidery bobbin winder (Source: Etsy)

Hand-winding takes ages though; let’s face it, if you have a load of threads to do, you want something faster. So like many, you look towards tools to do the job. You’ve probably all found one of these things before, and brought one, they’re cheap enough after all, but seriously; THESE THINGS SUCK.
If I could give a single bit advise to anyone, it would avoid these like the plague. However, if you’re so inclined, and have the knack for it that I don’t, they can save you time, and a lot of hand ache.
 

Use A Sewing Machine

Winding a bobbin using a sewing machine (Source: lovestitches.blogspot.com)
Winding a bobbin using a sewing machine (Source: lovestitches.blogspot.com)

However, now we’re done with the slow and painful methods, let’s talk about speed. This next technique requires you to have a sewing machine, however, we know a lot of cross stitchers also sew so you might have one. On every sewing machine is a bobbin winder! Sure, it’s not the type of bobbin we use for cross stitch, but with this handy guide on the LoveStitch Blog, you can cannibalize one of those hand winders to help out!
 

Use A Drill

Winding a bobbin using a drill (Source: Pinterest)
Winding a bobbin using a drill (Source: Pinterest)

But if you don’t own a sewing machine (and hope to farm the job out to someone else), try a drill. Without a doubt, this is the fastest and easiest way we’ve found to bobbin threads. Simply grab the bobbin in the drill chuck and spin away. What’s better is that you could probably bully the nearest male into doing it if you’re not bothered (let’s face it, all men are big kids, and we love drills); double win.
 

Labeling

That’s our list of how to bobbin your embroidery threads, however, there is one thing everyone asks; how do you label them?

Write The Number

Simple, right? Not so much. If you have paper bobbins writing the number is easy, but those plastic bobbins (which we would suggest you use) just don’t take pen. You can use a permanent marker, but you need to use a fine tip and write small.

Use The Official Number Stickers

There are official stickers you can get, direct from DMC (although they don’t include the newer 35 threads), but these things are worth ignoring, to be honest. You can get them to stick with some work, I find taping them down works well, but they can fall off.

Place The Label Under The Thread

However, the best way I’ve heard is to place the number label under the thread. You can slip it in there before or after you’ve wound the threads, and the number sticks out, reducing on both the high aount of waste in cross stitch and the effort of trying to write or stick something down.

How To Work Out How Many Skeins You Need

Skein Calculator by Lord Libidan

Working out how many skeins you need for your next project can be hard, and whilst I do see more and more pattern generators adding this feature, pattern designers are rarely using it. So in order to help everyone out, we’ve created a brand new calculator that does all the hard work for you! It uses the data we developed a year ago with our post on how many stitches you can get out of an 8m skein, but with a nice, easy user interface.
 
Just add in your fabric count, threads per stitch, and the number of cross stitches. Hit calculate and it’ll tell you how much if a skein it will use, and how many you need to buy.
 

You’re using:
count fabric with thread strands
 
 
Color Code
Stitches
Skeins Used
Skeins Needed
 

Cross stitch calculator created by LordLibidan.com 


 
The above calculator is an estimate only. Most people will find it correct, however, if you are more or less efficient you may see small differences in how many skeins you may need.
We also have a cross stitch fabric calculator if you need to work out how much fabric to buy!

How To Properly Store Cross Stitch Threads & Why Its Important

Clear Draws for Embroidery Thread Storage (Source: pinterest)

We’re going to tackle a topic that invites a lot of discussion today; storing cross stitch and embroidery threads.
 
This, in itself, doesn’t, seem that crazy, but a lot of people struggle to find a good way to store their cross stitch threads. Much like storage of cross stitch needles, it’s great to put something away, but there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly is appropriate storage, like finished cross stitch storage you need to make sure your threads won’t get damaged, but you also want to get at them easily. In addition, you might want to show them off (especially if you have a full set of DMC threads).
 
So we’re going to look through your options, but to start, we’re going through the reasons its important to think carefully about your options.

DMC Thread Color 318 Old and New (Source: Facebook)
DMC Thread Color 318 Old and New (Source: Facebook)

Why Is It Important?

In our post asking if DMC thread dye lots are an issue, we spoke at length about the rumors surrounding threads. In short, dye lot issues don’t exist. Instead, aging does. Or more specifically poor storage does. You see when storing finished cross stitch, and threads, the biggest killer is sunlight. It bleaches some dyes of out threads meaning you have odd colors forming, and it makes the threads far more fragile. In fact, we even posed the questions if its worth buying second hand threads or not.
 
Sun kills threads. It’s as simple as that. So we need to make sure whatever we use, that our threads are safe.

How To Store

So, with that in mind, what options are there out there to keep your threads at hand, but also nice and safe? Well, there are none. Yes, that’s correct, there are no ways that are both at hand, and going to keep your threads safe. Instead, you need to pick one a few options that are either less handy, or less caring for your needles.

On Display

The first up is the display method. With all those pretty threads, the instant thought is to display them. And you know what, they always look good on display. But just because they’re out, doesn’t mean they’ll be damaged by the sun in seconds. In fact, so long as you think carefully about placement, you can avoid direct sunlight. This will allow you to keep the threads up there longer, but you do need to keep in mind that your threads will get dusty, and should be used quickly, and not chucked up on the wall for years on end.

Cross Stitch Thread Hanging Board (Source: Reddit)
Cross Stitch Thread Hanging Board (Source: Reddit)

Loose In A Drawer

With that in mind, most people think about chucking threads in a drawer. In fact, this is how most people store threads until they look for a better alternative. But it might not have to be. The draw is protected from sunlight (and indoor lights), dust and dirt. It’s a great way to keep your threads all protected.
And just because they’re in a draw, doesn’t mean they have to be a mess; you can keep them in smaller draws (so long as they aren’t clear) in order or in color groups. Just make sure you don’t keep buying the same threads over and over (although we have a DMC thread inventory spreadsheet to help with that). But threads can get tangled.

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

On Bobbins In A Draw

So the draw might be a little problematic but let’s not throw it out yet. If you choose to bobbinate your threads (I know some people don’t like to), you can store the bobbins in a draw. I know you’re thinking they might be a mess too, but 1dogwoof has a great guide on storage using old cereal boxes which allow you to segment the threads up and keep them in order. They might be stuck in that drawer until you can get to them, but they’ll always be neat, tidy, protected from the sun, and dust-free.

Embroidery Thread In A Draw (Source: 1dogwoof)
Embroidery Thread In A Draw (Source: 1dogwoof)

On Bobbins In Boxes

The advantage of this style of storage is that you can put the boxes out and on display, if you want, or you can put them in a draw. You can pull out boxes at your pleasure and they’ll never be tangled. They’ll be in order so you can find them easily, and they pair great with a DMC color chart.
To me, this is the superior way to store threads and its how I’ve stored them since I got a full set of threads back in 2009.

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

So what way do you prefer to store your threads?

In Ziplock Bags

This one actually came in thanks to a reader; ziplock bags, or if you prefer the branded thread-specific versions; Floss-A-Way bags. These bags are airtight plastic bags that no only hold the thread, but are great at holding the long ends of threads you have that are worth keeping. There are two big problems with this approach though; finding a place to store them away from light, but also being able to pick the color you want easily.

How To Tackle Epic Cross Stitch Patterns

Epic Pokemon Perler by mininete by mininete (Nete Hangel) (source: dailydot.com)

When it comes to epic cross stitch patterns, we have you covered. From the slightly smaller, but still epic Pokemon cross stitch pattern to the insanely huge Epic All Generations Pokemon cross stitch pattern. It should, therefore, be no surprise that we are often asked about how to tackle these behemoths. Be that how to prepare, how long they take, or just keeping up the energy to keep stitching. So we’ve decided to help you out, and guide you through the trials and tribulations of tackling an epic cross stitch pattern.

pokemon epic all generations cross stitch by samarin6 (source: spritestitch.com)
Pokemon epic all generations cross stitch by samarin6 (source: spritestitch.com)

Be Realistic

Lets hit this guide with a hammer early on. Everyone has seen an epic pattern and thought “yes, I NEED to stitch that”, but actually taking the plunge is a tough thing to do. There are three main reasons its so hard.

Time

Epic cross stitch patterns will take time. There is no question in that. Some of the ones on my site can be stitched in 9 months, others take years and years (I know of one that has so far taken 4 years) so time is a big factor. Now if that idea of giving time to a cross stitch pattern seems OK to you, I’d ask you a simple question; did you work out how much time?
In most cases people try to rationalize the pattern in their head, working out that if they want to finish in a year they need to stitch 2 hours a day. Now, that’s great, but can you keep that kind of stitching up? 2 hours, every day, without stitching anything else, come rain or shine, holiday or work? The answer is probably no.
But don’t give up hope. You just need to be realistic. It might take you a year, but if it takes 2 years, that’s OK. Don’t feel like its a race against yourself to get it finished, or you’ll take all the fun out of it.

Cost

Yes. It will cost you. Epics are, considerably most expensive than normal cross stitch. However, if you’re clever, they can be far more cost-efficient than smaller projects. We’ll get into it later on, but just because you’re starting a new project, doesn’t mean you need to buy everything upfront. With a project that will take you a year, you can split the cost periodically over the whole year, meaning its much more manageable.

Is It Worth It?

The final thing to work out, is a hard one. Is it worth it? Now, as someone that loves cross stitch, yes, its probably a great project, and you’ll have fun, no doubt. But epics take time, a LONG time, and as a result you need to work out if it’s worth it to you to keep on stitching with one project for what seems like forever.
Later in this guide we talk about keeping up enthusiasm whilst stitching, and one of those things is stitching smaller projects, but if the epic you want to stitch isn’t perfect in your eyes, is it worth the effort?

Epic Pokemon Cross Stitch by Eponases (source: eponases.com)
Epic Pokemon Cross Stitch by Eponases (source: eponases.com)

Gather Your Materials

If you’re willing to take the plunge, bravo! You’re onto a great project. But you need to get some supplies. As I eluded to above, you don’t need to get all of these things at once, you can split them up across the whole year, especially threads, but be ready to get yourself a serious stash over that year.

Aida

You’re going to need something to stitch on. This is by far, the biggest initial outlay for any epic cross stitch pattern, and sometimes can be hard to find. We even made a separate guide on how to find super-sized aida, but the long and short, is that you can get some. And if you can’t you can make one out of smaller pieces.
But as the single thing that will hold together your project, we really suggest investing in a good brand of aida.

Threads

It’s no surprise that most epic patterns use a lot of thread. Most use almost the whole range of DMC threads too, with a lot, and we mean a lot, of 310 black. Therefore, we have two suggestions on picking up threads.
The first is a simple one; cheap threads. We asked recently if cheap cross stitch threads are worth it and to our amazement they were. Sure, they aren’t as good as DMC threads in our eyes, but considering they’re a tiny fraction of the cost, they are a great way to save money on a big cross stitch pattern with lots of color changes.
Secondly, we suggest DMC thread cones. Or more specifically, a black cone. They cost about $12, but with over 1000 to 2100 meters of thread that’s a fantastic saving for just one color. Thankfully black and white are the most commonly used colors, so you can use them with this project, and beyond.

DMC Six Strand Cross Stitch Cotton 500g Black Cone (Source: DMC.com)
DMC Six Strand Cross Stitch Cotton 500g Black Cone (Source: DMC.com)

Finally, we suggest working out how many skeins you might need on this journey. We’ve detailed how many stitches you can get out of an 8m skein on the site before, which does need a little practice to work out, but can give you a super accurate idea of how much thread you’re going to need.

Needles

Yeh, needles. Not something you initially think about when tackling an epic, but there are a lot of stitches there, and it will play havoc with your needle. We recently went over why it might be time to time to ditch that old cross stitch needle, and in it, we talk about how damaging the needle can be to your cross stitch project after a while, so you need to take it easy on that guy. Instead, look at picking up a nice set of needles, which you change through the project. If you’re interested we’ve rounded up the best cross stitch needle brands for you to pick from.

Grid, Grid, Grid

This one is simple; grid. Counting on a small project can be a pain, but when you’re talking epics, it’s all too easy to screw something up and really ruin your project. The last thing you want is to find out after a year of stitching that you missed a few stitches months ago and now you can’t complete it. Considering there are many ways to grid for cross stitch its just worth doing so much. It might take a day just to grid, but it’s worth investing the time in. Trust us.

Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapestry needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapestry needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)

Prepare

So now you have your materials is there anything else? Well, yes. You need to prepare the pattern, and work out what frame you’re going to use.

Get a Good Frame

The frame will hold your cross stitch for the whole time you’re stitching. You can go with something like a hoop, but using cross stitch hoops leaves marks, so we would go with a Q snap frame or something similar. However, there are loads of options we’ve rounded up in our post about which cross stitch frame is best.

The Pattern

You’re going to actually need the pattern. And you need to understand it. Take some time to get to grips with the pattern, and plan how you want to tackle it. I would suggest printing off the pattern, especially if you have the best printer for cross stitch. You might also want a markup app, or digital pattern, but sometimes using a paper pattern safeguards you against accidents.

How To Stitch

Finally, we get to stitching. You have everything ready, you have needle in hand, and… uh… how do you go about this?
Yes, there are lots of different ways to stitch cross stitch, and we aren’t going to tell you how to stitch, but when it comes to epics, there are only three ways to do it. Now, before I get onto the ways to do it, let me warn you off one day. Block stitching. This is where you stitch block by block, sometimes 10×10, using a parking method. Now, parking is actually a good idea, but try to avoid block stitching for anything less than a page. Once you finish you might see block lines all over the work, which can be hard to wash out.

Parking

I’ve never really got on with parking, but some people swear by it. In short, you have lots of active threads on the go at once. It means that instead of block stitching you slowly work your way across the whole pattern bit by bit, completing as you go. Its a great boost as you can see the whole thing coming together under your very eyes, but needs you to keep track of lots of threads at once.

Cross Country

Stitch one color, across the whole piece. And then do the next color. This is a great idea to start a cross stitch, using black as the first color. It will outline almost everything for you, give you stitching across the whole cross stitch pattern and will mean you no longer need grid lines/need to count. I would even suggest using this method to start, regardless of how you want to finish the other colors.

Mix And Match

This is how I stitch. It’s kind of like both parking and cross country, but I stitch large blocks of one color. I might do a quarter of it in black, then do blue for a bit, then do red, then go back to black, etc. It breaks up using one color forever, and is a good middle ground way to stitch. But there is a problem with this; tracking. You need to make sure that you keep an eye on where you’ve stitched, and what’s yet to stitch. Try using a cross stitch mark up app.

Epic Pokemon perler being constructed by mininete (Nete Hangel) (source: dailydot.com)
Epic Pokemon perler being constructed by mininete (Nete Hangel) (source: dailydot.com)

Keep Up The Enthusiasm

This, is by far, the hardest part of any epic cross stitch pattern. Keeping up motivation when cross stitching can be hard at the best of times, but with a project that takes years, it’s going to be much worse. But there are things you can do.

Take Breaks

Let’s get this straight right away; you don’t need to stitch and stitch and stitch. Take breaks. We said earlier about working out how long you’d have to stitch a day, and things like that are always going to fail. You just can’t stitch for 2 hours every single day. Take a break once in a while. Play a game, read a book, go out or:

Stitch Something Else

You don’t have to be chained to this thing. An epic cross stitch pattern is great and all, but you can stitch something else whenever you like!

Celebrate Small Victories

Epics are huge. And that means there is only one completion. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the small stuff. Celebrate every time you’ve finished a page, or with a color, or maybe just every X hours you’ve spent stitching.

Break Up The Boring Bits

Finally, let’s talk about boring bits. In every cross stitch project, there is that bit. The bit that has one color and is a massive section. You just can’t avoid it sometimes. And we’re not going to tell you to. Instead, we’re going to help you avoid it. The first way is thinking about the background. If the “boring bit” is the background, have you considered using a colored aida, or dying it?
Now, if you can’t avoid it altogether, you can avoid it being boring. By breaking it up. Stitch it first, or stitch it in sections. The urge is to leave it right till the end, just when its the most boring, but by stitching it bit by bit, you can stop the boring parts becoming the bane of your life.

Are DMC Thread Dye Lots Really An Issue?

DMC Thread Color 318 Old and New (Source: Facebook)

You’ve heard the horror stories, everyone has, and you wish upon wish that it just won’t happen to you as you grab a handful of threads from the store. You hope and pray they there aren’t any of those dreaded dye lot issues…
But is that actually an issue?
 
Today, we look into the rumors of dye lot issues that effect threads and find out once and for all if it’s true or not.
 
To start, we should say that we spoke with both store owners, thread manufacturers, and cross stitchers who have found threads afflicted with the issue. However, we even went out of our way to try to find these threads, and actually, once you know why it happens, you can find them everywhere!

Are the stories true?

Kind of. You see, the stories of different colored threads despite being the same color, does exist. But that doesn’t mean that dye lots are the issue.
 
The common thought behind the issue is a fair one; its the same thread, same color code, it should be the same color. However, people do find threads that don’t match up. But in all the examples I could find after I scoured the internet, every single one had a caveat. In most cases, they were old threads. Some were decades old, like the one in the image below that has a paper wrapper, some were only a year or so.

DMC Thread Color 318 Old and New (Source: Facebook)
DMC Thread Color 318 Old and New (Source: Facebook)

In addition to the age thing, there were also some with dubious origins. And by that, we mean they were fake threads. The wrappings didn’t match, they were part of an odd set, or they were clearly suspect.
But in every single case, there was something that was said before they mentioned dye lots. Having spoken to the store owners and manufacturers, they hardly ever see issues in the threads themselves. But they do see it happening…

So why does it happen?

Well, in short, age is the issue, combined with storage. We’ve mentioned how to store finished cross stitch before, and we even mentioned one of the major issues is light damage. However, most people don’t think about the fact that light damage happens to the threads all the time, and not just after you’ve finished stitching something.
Light, especially sunlight, bleaches the colors in threads and changes the colors over time. In most cases, this tends to make it lighter, but in some cases, the lighter colors go first, making threads look darker. In really old threads, it’s somewhat expected, but even newer threads, ones that are maybe only a year old, can still have the issue. This is due to big stores having them on display under bright lights all day (and in some cases nights too).
 
Of course, there are also fakes out there. With eBay and Alibaba becoming larger in the cross stitch world, you do find fakes. These are poor quality threads though, so there’s no guarantee on their quality.

DMC 3861 dye lot differences (source: Cindi Csraze)
DMC thread 3861 color differences (source: Cindi Csraze)

What can you do about it?

So now you know that dye lots aren’t the issue, but color changes do happen, how do you avoid picking up an incorrect color?

Buy them from a reputable source

First off, buy them from a source you know what you’re getting is actually a branded thread. If you choose to buy them from eBay, or Alibaba, the chances are they aren’t genuine. Those sweet deals like to seem like a great way to get a complete set of DMC threads, but they’re too good to be true.
However, just because you can see the threads in store, doesn’t mean they are the best bet either:

Don’t buy them from the big brick and mortar stores

Now, we don’t want to have a go at all stores here, but larger ‘big box’ stores that don’t specialize in crafts are the real issue. They don’t sell as many threads, meaning the threads that are out, and probably been there a long time. These threads are bombarded all day, and usually all night, with bright bulbs, sapping the color out of the threads. Don’t bother going to those stores.
Other stores that sell just cross stitch stuff, or just craft stuff, tend to have a similar issue, but they do have a better turn over, which means you’re more likely to get a better color. Also, avoid any store that puts the thread near a window.

Store them well

So now you have the threads, is there anything you can do to avoid the color seeping out? Well, yes. Store them well, or more specifically, out of direct light (be that sunlight or indoor lighting). So long as you keep your threads in a drawer, box or cabinet, this should be fine, however, be aware that if you keep threads out on display you need to be careful of light sources.

Know they don’t last forever

But even if you do store them well, just be aware that they might not last forever. The older the threads get, the more chance there is for color to seep out of them. Even if you store them well, it’s worth checking some colors (especially greys) against a color card or a newer thread to check before you use them on a big project.

Buy cheaper threads

Yeh, that doesn’t seem like an obvious thing, does it? But one brand of cheap threads, CXC, make threads with polyester in them. Similar to a t-shirt, these tend to keep their color much longer, meaning they’re more likely to keep.
 
So there you have it, our investigation, and solutions to not getting the dreaded incorrect color thread.
 
TL;DR No, dye lots really aren’t an issue, but lights from stores and old threads do change color over time.

Whats The Best Cross Stitch Aida Brand?

Black aida (Source: Etsy)

Since I started stitching I’ve only really used two brands of aida. A no-name brand that came free with a magazine (and was TERRIBLE quality) and a well-known brand. However thanks to my local sewing store being shut, I picked up someone else’s aida. The problem was the aida was completely different. In the past, we rounded up the best cross stitch needle brands and we decided its time to round up the best aida brands too thanks to me having to try them all out!
Over the last 4 months, we tried 180 aida sheets from a variety of brands, with a selection of colors to see who has the best! We chose a series of factors to test including how starched they are, the uniformity of batches, the range, price, and overall quality. We also ignored things like the uniformity of color and possible bleed; if we found any of these things (and we did) we’ve chosen to not even review them here.
 

Big Box Store Aida

Finally, the next brand we have on our list is the big box store. What do we mean by that? Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Hobbycraft, Joann’s, Michael’s, etc. These are the own brand aida that lots of stores sell. We actually know they all come from the same factory and we do know the brand name, but it’d just confuse things, so far now, we’ll call them “big box store” aida.
I’ll start with the positives here; the price is great. Its dirt cheap, and frankly for the price, you get a good product, even if the quality itself it’s super. In addition, the range is basically white or black, meaning so long as you don’t want anything fancy, they have you covered. In addition, the volume they produce aida means that you’re likely to get the same aida for a good 6 months which all comes from the same batch; however, the black does differ wildly from batch to batch. That, it’s all there is to say about this aida. It’s cheap, and it’s OK. Sure, it’s not the best (by far), but it’s a great place to start, and by no means worthless. Just maybe not the nicest.
 

Starch – 3/5
Quality – 2/5
Batch consistency – 2/5
Price – 5/5
Range – 1/5
Total – 2.5/5

 

DMC Aida

DMC aida is generally a brand most have used at least once. It’s a good aida, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise, however, there are some downsides. The first is that DMC aida is stiff; which isn’t too big of an issue, but makes it less pleasant to use. They also suffer from issues with batch consistency (specifically with their pale blue and cream aida). But they are good! However, as one of the most expensive options on this list, I’m not sure they’re the best choice.
 

Starch – 2/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 3/5
Price – 3/5
Range – 3/5
Total – 3/5

 

Permin Aida

Permin aida is fantastic, let’s get that’s straight from the outset. However, there are two important things to know. The first is that Permin aida is very soft; which can be great, but for those who freehand stitch (without a hoop) it can be a pain. The second is that whilst Permin used to have a massive selection of aida, they’ve reduced their colors drastically in the last few years with their range mostly being made up of pale colors.
 

Starch – 1/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 2/5
Range – 3/5
Total – 3/5

 

Zweigart Aida

Zweigart is the brand of choice for me. It’s a medium amount stiff, which for most is good, it’s extremely consistent with its batch colors and its a good price. It might not be as nice to use as brands such as Permin, but its consistency, its range and the fact that it’s everywhere make it the best to pick up. They also include a red stripe along the border, meaning you always know when you get Zweigart aida.
 

Starch – 4/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5
Total – 4.5/5

 

Charles Craft Aida

Charles Craft Gold Standard aida is a brand most people tend to ignore. I think they’re hard to get hold of most of the time, however, if you ever get a chance to use some; give it a go. Without a doubt, they are the best quality aida on this list. Its starch level is stiff but smooth, they have fantastically bold colors, a great range, and a nice price tag. The price is on the expensive side, but its far from prohibitive. They also take a lot more risks with their colors than other brands, giving you a great choice like grasshopper (which is just gorgeous)!
 

Starch – 4/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 5/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5
Total – 4.5/5

 
And there you have it, our round-up of the best-known cross stitch aida brands out there which will hopefully help you pick out your next fabric supplier! We should say though that there are lots of smaller brands out there which we haven’t included, but are great. 123stitch.com has a great supply for example.
 
If you wanted to know, our choice is Zweigart aida. Its great quality, but thanks to its fancy orange border, we’re always 100% sure we’ve got the right brand, and someone isn’t trying to pass a poorer quality aida off to us.

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

What is a SAL (Stitch-A-Long) and Should You Join One?

Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)
SAL
noun

  1. A cross stitch activity called a stitch-a-long.
  2. A cross stitch pattern that is slowly revealed week by week that large groups of people stitch seperately, but at the same time.

 
Through out the year, people on cross stitch blogs, cross stitch forums and reddit always seem to be talking about SALs. At this time of year people seem to be talking more and more about them as many start in the first quarter of the year. But for those of us that haven’t been part of one; no one seems to know what anyone is talking about! And why you would join one.

So, What is a Stitch-A-Long?

In short, a SAL, or Stitch-A-Long is a single cross stitch pattern that is broken up and given to you week by week. The idea is that you stitch it at the same time as other stitchers and you can all guess at what it is, little details, etc.
Almost all SALs have a community group somewhere that only talks about that pattern, and you usually have to join within a few weeks of it starting (although there are some that you can join at any time).

How long does a Stitch-A-Long last?

So with a single pattern broken up, SALs usually take some time to get through. That said, most are fairly large patterns, so you shouldn’t be rushing to stitch your bit before the next one comes out.
Due to this, most give you parts of the pattern weekly, or monthly, and they tend to run for 6 months to a year depending on the size of the finished pattern. But there are a few out there that last less than 2 months.

How does a Stitch-A-Long work?

Well first off, you have to join a SAL. They’re usually advertised on mail lists for pattern designers, social media and cross stitch groups. They tend to give you about a month’s notice and ask you to sign up. Depending on the type, these can be free, or charge you for the full price of the pattern upfront. A few pattern makers also sell a kit of all the supplies you need to complete it too, but once again, payment is upfront.
You’ll then be given parts of the pattern week by week and a way to communicate with everyone else stitching too!
 
One thing you might have noticed there is that you haven’t looked at the pattern. You see, with a SAL, you don’t see the pattern. So you need to pick a designer you like the style of.

Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)
Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)

Why should you join a Stitch-A-Long?

So with all that in mind; why would you even want to enter a Stitch-A-Long?

The Community

The biggest thing about a Stitch-A-Long is the community. There are whole subreddits, flosstubes and communities that spring up around SALs, with people talking about the pattern, the designer, their general cross stitch likes, and even life in general. But everyone is there, to talk about their stitching together. It’s not about who can stitch the fastest, or who can guess the pattern first. It’s all about being together. If you’re a little unsure about joining a larger community (which can be intimidating), SALs make a great place to enter into the world and get a few great stitchy friends.

To Get Better Knowledge On The Pattern

Another big thing about the SAL, is that the designer is a major part of the community. They answer direct questions, they tell you about the decisions they’ve made with the pattern, the ideas that formed it, tiny details you might have picked up on, and even hints about future projects. It’s rare to get the insight of a cross stitch designer, but with a SAL you get lots of 1 on 1 time.

Mini Satisfaction

Another reason to enter SALs is actually the weird satisfaction that comes with it. Unlike most patterns, where you get page after page and you have to stitch through it to the end. But in a SAL you get a small amount that is achievable. You stitch your mini part, and you’re complete! You get the satisfaction every single week, instead of at the end like you would in a normal pattern. Because of this it’s easy to keep motivated. And that’s not including the community that’ll keep you going too.
In addition, you only ever get small parts, meaning not only is it easy to catch up if you have a busy week, but you can normally stitch other projects on the side too, meaning you aren’t bound into this one massive project all at once.

For The Suprise!

For me, the biggest thing about SALs is that you don’t know what the pattern is. Sometimes, you might get a hint, maybe a theme, but other than that, nothing. With the sheer wealth of cross stitch patterns online it can be hell trying to work out what to stitch. But with a SAL, that choice is taken away from you. All you need to do is pick a designer you like the style of, and start stitching!
Usually, the patterns for SALs are limited to the SAL itself too, meaning you might not be able to get the pattern at any other time!

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, it’s 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 a specific color can be hard. 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…