There are different plastic canvases – and you’re probably using the wrong one.

The different types of plastic canvas cross stitch fabric (source: thesprucecrafts.com)

Right now you probably have a quizical look on your face, afterall, you know what plastic canvas looks like, how can there be different types? Well, actually there are three different types, used for three different purposes, and most of the time, people use the wrong one. I stitch a lot of things in plastic canvas, and I’ve sold patterns and kits all over the world, however I regularly get asked about the type of plastic canvas. In reality, there is only one cross stitch plastic canvas.
This isn’t due to stupiditiy or anything, but more a case of cheap fakes. In fact, ever since 1973 when plastic canvas first came to market, people have been ripping it off. You see, plastic canvas is super easy to fake and as a result most stores hold ’14 count cross stitch plastic canvas’ which are actually, not cross stitch plastic canvas. Confused? Let me explain…

The different types of plastic canvas cross stitch fabric (source: thesprucecrafts.com)
The different types of plastic canvas cross stitch fabric (source: thesprucecrafts.com)

Needlepoint Plastic Canvas

Needlepoint Plastic Canvas - stiff (source: marymaxim.com)
Needlepoint Plastic Canvas – stiff (source: marymaxim.com)

The most common type of plastic canvas people see has small squares in it, similar to the above image, and mostly comes in 5, 7 and 10 count. I say mostly, as the most common producer, Darice, ONLY produces those sizes. The reason is that needle point yarn can’t go any lower than 10 or 12 count. But when fake canvas makers come in, they copy this style, and make it 14 count.
 
In itself, this isn’t massively problematic, however due to the shape of the cut-outs, your cross stitch will have holes in it where the stitches don’t fully meet. Instead, you should be looking for actual cross stitch plastic canvas, which is slightly different.
 

Cross Stitch Plastic Canvas

Cross Stitch Plastic Canvas - ultra stiff (source: marymaxim.com)
Cross Stitch Plastic Canvas – ultra stiff (source: marymaxim.com)

Cross stitch plastic canvas has one main difference; circular holes. It emulates aida and looks a lot like perforated card, and comes in loads of stiffnesses. This is the stuff that you should be cross stitching with as it makes sure your cross stitches lie in the correct way, filling the whole space without letting massive areas be uncovered. It also has shaped holes meaning your thread won’t catch, the count is actually 14 count, and unlike any fakes, comes in a variety of colors.
 

Perforated Plastic Canvas

Perforated Plastic Canvas (source: grainger.com)
Perforated Plastic Canvas (source: grainger.com)

If you want to get really fancy with your plastic canvas, you can also look into perforated plastic canvas. It works in exactly the same way as perforated card, however the varied types of plastic mean not only can you get a massive variance of stiffness, but you can also get custom shapes made. We’re not just talking about cirles here either, you can get a series of weird and wonderful shapes like purses and wallets.
 

Plastic Aida Canvas

14 count plastic aida (source: aliexpress.com)
14 count plastic aida (source: aliexpress.com)

There is also another type of plastic canvas. I mention this as its essentially aida, and sometimes sold as that, but NEVER use it as plastic canvas. Not only does it look like fabric, but acts like it too. if you want a waterproof aida, you can use it, but it won’t hold a shape and won’t work in any 3D projects.

What are those dots on DMC thread labels?

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

In our deep dive into threads, we’ve covered two points, how DMC threads are made and why some DMC threads were discontinued. The reason we’ve covered those two points first, is the answer to this weeks query; what are those dots and marks after thread numbers?
 
You may have noticed when picking colors, or using them, that there are a variety of dots and marks before and after some cross stitch numbers. These are those marks if you’re unsure what we mean:

DMC threads with dots after numbers

Thanks to the new DMC color chart that came out thanks to the 35 new DMC threads, DMC make more of these dots, and if you have a keen eye, you’ll notice the pre-2018 color card has different dots to the pre-2018 color card.
 
So what are they? Basically, they’re changes in formula to avoid using nasty chemicals. In the EU dye usage is highly monitored and as a result they’ve required suppliers of threads to make sure they use only friendly dyes. This has happened in two stages; firstly in 1994 when a lot of greys were changed to fit in with new laws, and again in late 2017 when lots of the reds were affected.
 

Well that’s interesting, but why do I care?

I’m glad you asked. Dye lots. And its actually quite a problem. You see, they couldn’t just change the color fomulation and keep the colors perfect, and as a result we now need to monitor which version of the threads we’re using; old or new. An example of how different they can be is below on some of the 1994 color changes:

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

In fact, DMC even carry the warning on their color charts:

Do not mix with the original colours without the dot.

That’s just how serious this problem might be, so from now on, keep your eye out for those dots of colors 304, 321, 498, 815 and 816.
 
My thanks to DMC and Sidar who supplied information, along with Martha Beth.

Cross Stitch Christmas Gift Guide (Updated for 2018)

Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)

Christmas is nearly upon us, and we all know how hard it is to buy gifts for hobbies we don’t know much about. So here’s an updated holiday gift guide on what to buy the cross stitcher in your life. They’re arranged by price lowest to highest.

Fun Needle Keeps – from $5

Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)
Charizard Needle Keeper by MyWifesAVelociraptor (source: Etsy)

Christmas is mostly about fun gifts you might not buy yourself, and something many cross stitchers never buy is a fun needle keep. You can get them in thousands of different designs, and there are a lot of custom made ones out there like this 3D printed Pokemon charizard for $6 from Etsy. They’re a little bit fun, and you can combine other things together, so if their other favorite hobby is reading, get a book based one, etc.

ThreadHeaven Alternatives – from $5

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

Sadly this year we lost one of the most beloved cross stitch companies, ThreadHeaven. For those who don’t know, they produced a fantastic thread moisturiser that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock avaliable (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.

ThreadCutterz – $12 to $15

Thread Cutterz (source: threadcutterz.com)
Thread Cutterz (source: threadcutterz.com)

Cross stitch takes time, and a great place to stitch is on planes and trains, however with security being tightened all over, ThreadCutterz have come to the rescue with a plane safe alternative to scissors.
They can only currently be brought from ThreadCutterz themselves.

Thread Shade Chart – $20

We have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, however on screen images aren’t always that reliable. As a result one of the best tools I’ve ever picked up is a cross stitch thread card. DMC (the most common thread company) do a version with thread samples ($20) including the new DMC threads, which is far superior. Think about getting a metallic shade card from Kreinik too ($36).

DMC complete thread card (small)
DMC complete thread card (small)

The Perfect Frame – $12 to $30

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

I know a lot of people thing cross stitch is a bit simple, but in reality RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is a real issue. The best way to solve this is a suitable cross stitch frame. The best one in my mind is a EasyClip frame ($20), but you can see a roundup of cross stitch frames on my recent post about the perfect cross stitch frame.

A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $30

Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)
Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)

This year has seen some of the best cross stitch books ever published, and I would personally buy all of them. However, for the cross stitcher in your life books offer both patterns, and a fresh look at the hobby. We’d personally suggest Criss Crossing Paris ($22) but you can also check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market.
If you’re still struggling on what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.

A Good Pair Of Scissors – $30

Cross Stitch Japanese Style Scissors (source: ebay)
Cross Stitch Japanese Style Scissors (source: ebay)

Scissors might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you send a lot of time snipping things, and frankly, a poor pair of scissors get blunt quickly, fraying ends. Get a nice pair of Fiskars ‘snipping’ scissors, or ones like the image (a Japanese embroidery scissor), or another specific pair for embroidery/cross stitch or cutting fishing line and you’ll see the difference straight away.
You can even get a super awesome pair of frogging scissors, which solves the worst thing about cross stitch (frogging is incorrect stitches that need to be removed).
If you’re still struggling on what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.

Magazine Subscriptions – $20 to $60 a year

CrossStitcher Magazine Cover Issue 317 (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)
CrossStitcher Magazine Cover Issue 317 (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)

Magazines are fantastic for both giving you patterns, giving you inspiration, finding out about all the new products, and reading up on all the happenings of the cross stitch community. There are frankly a shocking amount out there, so its best to pick one or two you like the most, you can find our cross stitch magazine reviews here, and getting a subscription to those. Prices vary, $20-$60 a year.

Great Cross Stitch Software – $50 to $200

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

The natural progression for a stitcher is to go from kits, to patterns, to making their own patterns. Most choose online programs, but they all have their own limitations, so spend $20-$200 on the perfect one. I would personally suggest KG Chart or PC Stitcher for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.

All The Threads!

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

The only thing better than owning a thread shade card is owning the threads themselves. I always kept using the threads I had on hand, and until I got the whole set, I didn’t realise just how much I was making compromise; my colors have definitely got better. You can see how much a full set of DMC threads has helped us with our blog post about our journey to a complete set of cross stitch threads.
Not the cheapest thing in the world, wait until you can buy a whole set in one go on an offer. The price can drop from $450 to $200. Just don’t be tempted by those cheap Chinese deals to see on ebay.

Does the back of your cross stitch matter?

Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)

I’ve heard a shocking amount of people talk about the backs of the cross stitch, including some of my stitching friends. And honestly; no one cares. At all.
Here’s the thing; the back of your cross stitch CAN be neat, but sometimes it just CAN’T. The reason is all about the pattern.
 
Let’s explain with some examples. Here, we have a fantastic Mew cross stitch by The Celtic Crafter. Its a pattern made up of about 4 colors and they’re all nicely placed, so the back is nice and neat.

Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter (source: thecelticcrafter.blogspot.com)
Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter (source: thecelticcrafter.blogspot.com)

However lets take another example, of a highly skilled cross stitcher, My Poppet Makes, who’s back looks a little less clean. Now this back HAS to be like that, with small stitches all around and colors on both sides of the work, the threads have to jump on the back, with its small size making them look much less neat. But lets be clear; its not better or worse. Just less neat.
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)

So I should never care about the back of my work?

You often hear people talk about the back of your work in terms of two things; framing and skill. So let’s address both.

Framing

I’ve heard a few people mention this, even really experianced stitchers, however the back has no impact on the framing of cross stitch. The issue comes from home framing and people not using the correct framing system. You can check out a great guide on framing cross stitch, in which we mention the use of foam board. This foam; super important. It means that any of those little messy blemishes on the back are hidden, and can’t be seen when framing.

Skill

Here’s where those nay sayers are slightly right. When stitching the lack of mess on the back of your works usually means you’re more econmical. Some take this to mean skill. However we circle back around to the original statement; sometimes you can’t make a clean back. I know people might be nervous about their work, so I’ve taken an example from shutterstock that shows the back is sometimes just messy, and its all thanks to the pattern. This pattern has colors all over it, with floating confetti stitch a plenty, meaning you just won’t be able to make it neat.

Shutterstock cross stitch back side example (source: shutterstock)
Shutterstock cross stitch back side example (source: shutterstock)

If you’re still bothered by the comments though, be rest assured that your back will be cleaner as time goes on and you learn those little secrets about cross stitch. But don’t be suprised when sometimes your back is a mess! It happens.

So where does the rumor come from?

When the Japanese first came across cross stitch when a samurai accidently brought cross stitch to Japan we started seeing neat backs. Backs that were far neater than European examples, and the idea that the backs should be similar to the fronts came with it. However, that’s simply down to culture. Japanese people have a rich history with embroidery, and in particular sashiko, which includes a stitch called ‘cross stitch’. You can see what when counted cross stitch came to Japan is was obvious that they would follow the same rules they did for their sashiko. One of these rules in particular is that the front should look like the back. This is mostly down to how they stitch sashiko, but when the European’s started seeing Asian cross stitch the rumor came about that they were far more skilled and everyone should try to make their backs neat.

Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)

Cross Stitch Gridding Techniques

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

Gridding isn’t often talked about in cross stitch, its often seen as a ‘if you want to’ kind of task, however gridding is actually one of the best things you can do.
Simply put, counted cross stitch requires (you guessed it) counting. The time you take to count can not only be massive, but you can, and often do, miss count requiring mass unpicking. Gridding stops all of that. In fact one of the products we’ll talk about says it can cut stitching time by one third!
 
So with that in mind, what exactly is the best way to grid your cross stitch? Well, its all a matter of choice. We’ve taken the most popular ways and detailed them out so you can give them a shot.

Easy Count Guideline

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)

You’ve probably seen gridded cross stitch on the internet, with red lines crossing. The likelihood is that its Easy Count Guideline, which works as a thread, but instead of being made from cotton is a thin wire. The advantage of this is that is doesn’t get caught up in your stitches and when you’re done you can simply pull it out. It is, by far, the most common gridding technique and I personally use it myself. However, its also the most expensive with costs of about $6 for 10m. It’s also technically a ‘secure object’ in the EU, so you must be 18+ to buy it.

Single Threads

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

I hear you all saying to yourselves “so why can’t I just use thread instead?” well, you could, I just wouldn’t suggest it. The issue with single threads is that you can stitch through them, meaning when you go to pull out your thread; you can’t. Not only that but as its part of the stitch now, you can’t cut it out easily. This means that your guideline, which is normally a bright color can’t be removed, ruining your stitch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, in fact, for backstitching projects its a fantastic idea!

Fishing Line

“Fine, but are there cheaper options? I’ve heard people use fishing line?” True, you can use fishing line, and fishing line is often cheaper than the official stitching alternative. I’ll even let you into a secret; Easy Count Guidleine is actually just fishing wire. The different however omes in thickness of wire. There are a lot of fishing wires that would work OK, but the thinner, the better. Look for wire rated less than 8 pounds.

Easy Count Pre Grided Aida

Zweigart Easy Count Grid (source: sewandso.co.uk)
Zweigart Easy Count Grid (source: sewandso.co.uk)

Easy Count aida, is made by Zweigart and simply has lines built into the fabric. This line is when washed away once you’re finished. It is more expensive than standard aida, and doesn’t come in as many colors. To make things a little worse, the lines take up the space of a stitch, and not inbetween the lines like patterns are marked.

Magic Count Pre Grided Aida

Very simlar to Easy Count, DMC make their own, called Magic Count, which has the advantage of being a little easier to see, but holds the DMC price tag to boot.

Erasable Pens

Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread (source: pulltheotherthread.blogspot.com)
Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread (source: pulltheotherthread.blogspot.com)

Finally, there are erasable pens. Whilst erasable pens were my first stab at gridding, you soon realise there are a few issues. The first is that they don’t wash out as easy as you’d like, meaning you sometimes need to give your cross stitch a hot bath once you’re finished which does impact the threads, especially metallics. Secondly, much like the pre-printed aida, you can’t stitch on the lines, meaning you have to take up a line of stitching, which could possibly throw your count off.
 
Once you’ve decided on your gridding technique check out this video from Peakcock & Fig on how to grid:

The Eco Cross Stitcher!

cross stitch thread waste (source: reddit)

I recently made a post about needles and how its time to ditch those old cross stitch needles, and in it I said about using new needles every project. This has played on my mind recently, and whilst I would still strongly suggest starting a new project with a new needle, it does create waste. And that’s what we’re talking about today; how to make cross stitch more eco friendly.
 
Its been just over 6 months since I was approached at a fair and someone asked me what did I do with my clippings of threads. I answered, but it got me thinking, we talk about those little snipped bits often, but just how much other rubbish does cross stitch create, and how can we minimize that? So I went on a journey. Today, I can tell you that actually, you can do a lot more to help the environment that you currently are; but the fixes are easy. Lets start simple.

cross stitch thread waste (source: reddit)
cross stitch thread waste (source: reddit)

ORTs: Thread ends

The biggest source of rubbish for cross stitch is a small snippet of thread, however these threads multiply. Like, seriously; so many. I started my journey here, and the good news is that there are some clever ways to help you. The first; make an ORT jar. Ort is actually a really old term for ‘waste of any type’, however more commonly known as Old Raggety Threads, making a jar to store old snipped threads has two fantastic effects. The first, is you realised just how much thread you’re wasting. It’s a lot more than you think, and a few econmical ways to stitch will save meters of the stuff. Secondly, once you’re done, you can use it. Now, you can use them a whole load of ways, but in my mind, the best is fire starters. Threads burn really well, and if you place them inside an old loo roll (and you can add tumble dryer lint too) you can create fantastic fire starters, which not only work better than the ones from a store, but they aren’t covered in hellish chemicals.
Word of warning though, do this with cotton only threads, some brands such as CXC use plastics in their thread production.

ORT thread jar (source: reddit)
ORT thread jar (source: reddit)
homemade firestarters (source: thethingswellmake.com)
homemade firestarters (source: thethingswellmake.com)

Thread Wraps

Whilst we’re talking about threads, the next biggest thing we waste is the little wraps threads come in. Now, I know not all of these wraps are plastic, but the vast majority are, meaning the biggest concern we have is; is it recyclable? It took a VERY long time for me to find the answer, but the DMC wraps are made from Polypropylene. Not only is this a plastic that can be recycled and reused, but its one of the best as it can be reused for food stuffs too, meaning that its the one plastic people like to recycle. Just make sure you put it out with your recycling waste!

thread plastic rings (source: DMC)
thread plastic rings (source: DMC)

Emboridery hoops

Embroidery Hoops of Various Sizes (source: sewandso.com)
Embroidery Hoops of Various Sizes (source: sewandso.com)
I won’t bore you with the numbers here, however I worked out that the next biggest waste item in cross stitch; was hoops. Yeh, it shocked me too. Turns out however that kg for kg, the hoops are seriously wasteful. You can help this by buying wooden frames, which while not recyclable (they’re made with lots of glues), they can burn them, and they do biodegrade. The only problem is that the metal components don’t. So instead of throwing broken hoops, you could try using them as frames where they don’t need to be as strong, or even choosing to buy less in the first place (a wooden cross stitch frame is always a better choice).

Canvas

Now we start talking about things that require a little more effort on our part. Canvas initially seems super recyclable, and it can always biodegrade, right? Wrong. In fact, most aida canvas has loads of starch. This effectively stops the biodegration, and means it can’t be burnt off. But you can fix this. Wash it. Yep, a simple wash will remove these starch fibers enough that you can throw it away without thinking too much about it. Your local refuse center will either bury it (where it will biodegrade) or burn it (which is now safe to do). Go you, eco warrior!

Plastic canvas

How about something much harder? Plastic canvas, waste canvas and ‘training’ canvas all come in two types; recyclable or not recyclable. If you get the right one, you’re in the clear, but picking the right one isn’t always that easy. For waste canvas, get the plastic looking sheets, which are actually starch and are washed away into treatment plants (which can biodegrade it). For plastic cavas, look for the stuff which wobbles, not the stiffer stuff. They might be harder to use, but they save the environment.

Needles

And so we go full circle. I’m sad to say, needles aren’t anywhere near reusable. You can’t recycle them, you can’t reuse them, they don’t biodegrade and there is no natural alternative. However, there is a small silver lining. In an old post about how cross stitch needles are made we found out that the process for making needles is super precise, meaning there’s next to no industrial waste. I guess for now, that’ll have to do.
 
Finally, lets talk about thread dyes. If you buy natural threads, such as DMC, they use natural dyes. I hope you all the best in reducing cross stitch waste.

Time To Ditch That Old Cross Stitch Needle

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

My needle broke!

Oh yeh, we’ve all said that. Its just part of cross stitch… right? Wrong.
 
Needles are a very important art of cross stitch, and they can massively range in complexity, material and price, and so it seems only natural to stick to what you know; and stick to the same old needle. However after speaking with a very well known needle manufacturer last year when I was looking into how cross stitch needles are made, he informed me that cross stitch needles are soft. Not so soft that they can be broken easily, but far softer than say, medical needles.
Medical needles are, in case you hadn’t realised, used only once. And they are made from surgical hardened stainless steel, twice as hard as the gold needles you use. And then he showed me this:

Reused needle (source: reddit)
Reused needle (source: reddit)

Now on the face of it, that doesn’t look too bad, but when you remember you use a needle 256 times in a square inch. And your needle is half as strong as that one. That’s why I’m suggesting you throw out that old needle.
 
In fact, I’d go one step further and tell you that you need to use a new needle for every project. And no, I’m not a crazy rich person. Every time you use a needle, you damage it. Every bit of damage means you snag on the threads and canvas, you stretch the holes in the aida, you catch threads on other stitches, and frankly, you put your whole project at risk of those tiny little weird bits that stick out for no reason. Sadly, even storing cross stitch needles can damage them too.
 
So that’s why I use a new one for every project. Whatever the size, a new needle comes out. Now, lets be honest, needles can be super expensive, and my prefered needle is a petite full gold number, but I’m not made of gold needles. I get smart. For plastic canvas I use a standard, cheap needle, which can save a lot of money in cross stitch, as my plastic canvas stitches tend to be less than 1000 stitches. For anything with 10,000 stitches I use a fancy one, and anything inbetween, I use whatever I have on hand.
 
But this isn’t just a crazy idea of mine either. Not only is there a difference in how I can stitch, how fast I can cross stitch, and on the ease, but it has a clear effect on the end result. Less puckering, more uniformity, and no stray stitches that just don’t want to sit right. Try ditching that old needle, and see for yourself the improvement. And suffer a lot less broken needles.
cross stitch needle (source: cross-stitching.com)
cross stitch needle (source: cross-stitching.com)

Frogging Made Easy – Curve Tipped Scissors

lift-n-snip-scissors with close up (source: amazon)

I’ve been stitching now for well over 15 years, and in that time I must have frogged a good few hundred meters of thread (I stitch stuff wrong all the time), and frankly, its not been fun. Frogging sucks. It’s the bain of existance for cross stitchers everywhere, not only due to the fact that it takes ages, means the last few hours stitching were a waste, but also opens up all the little holes in aida.
 
It turns out however that one of those problems is now something of the past. Enter these babies:

4andhalf inch snip-a-stitch scissors (source: amazon)
4andhalf inch snip-a-stitch scissors (source: amazon)

Before I get into the meat of things here, if you don’t know what frogging is, check out my previous post where we go into where the term frogging came from. I also want to say that I’ve not been paid for this review; I’m just obsessed with these scissors. In fact, I’m pretty much obsessed with cross stitch scissors in general.
 
But these scissors are a bit different. Firstly, they’re very new to the market, I can find reference to them in 2017, but not before. The second thing, is these scissors are made JUST for frogging. Or as I should actually say; removing sutures and stitches.
 
You see, removing stitches from people have exactly the same issue of opening up the holes, and with humans and animals, you can spread disease like crazy. So the medical profession took to making a perfect pair of scissors for removing sutures.
Diagram showing sutures being removed with curve tipped scissors (source: Nursing textbook)
Diagram showing sutures being removed with curve tipped scissors (source: Nursing textbook)

Some clever so and so thought it would be great to move them to cross stitch, and my word where they right. These scissors have a magic tip to them, curving inwards so you can capture a single stitch and snip it without pulling.
lift-n-snip-scissors with close up (source: amazon)
lift-n-snip-scissors with close up (source: amazon)

I won’t link directly to anyone in particular (it looks like they’re aren’t in mainstream cross stitch stores yet), however if you want to pick up a pair yourself, look online for Snip-A-Stitch, Lift-N-Snip or (if you want the medical ones) littauer stitch scissors. Trust me, these are the new best thing in cross stitch.

What’s the best alternative for ThreadHeaven?

ThreadHeaven (source: ThreadHeaven.com)

By this point its probably no longer news that ThreadHeaven is no more, but as you work through your stash, have you wondered what to use as a replacement?
 
ThreadHeaven was fantastic as it was both a wax, and a conditioner, and whilst a lot of people think they’re the same, they have two different purposes. Wax makes the thread stick together, and through the fabric easier, whilst the conditioner stops the thread fraying. We’ve looked at all the different options on the market to see which we prefer, based on these two features, using normal and metallic threads, which are MUCH easier to use with thread conditioner. Note that there are other claims, such as protection from UV rays, but we’ve yet to see the science behind that so we’ve not taken it into account.
 

Our Pick: Thread Magic

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

I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not suprised by this. Initially when TheadHeaven was all the rage I thought Thread Magic was the ugly step sister; turns out, I was wrong. So wrong in fact, that I would say Thread Magic works better! Its conditions and waxes like a charm, doesn’t build up over time, and has no scent at all (although one can develop if stored for a long time). The packs it comes in with holes for the thread also make it super user friendly, and whilst it is MUCH more expensive than all the alternatives on the list, it lasts far longer than any of them. A true winner in our eyes.
 

Close Second: White Bees Wax

bees wax thread conditioner (source: etsy)
bees wax thread conditioner (source: etsy)

When it comes to wax, not all are equal. We should note that I’ve said WHITE bees wax here, you can see below for a little bit about why that is. Bees wax is actually a bleeding wax, meaning it penetrates surfaces, such as threads where as other waxes don’t. Therefore it not only waxes the surface, but conditions at the same time. It can get a little waxy after a while of use, but it also smells great, so its worth it! Its worth noting though that bees wax is extreamly flammable; so be careful when ironing if you don’t want to wash your work before hand.
 

Surprise Third: Candlemaker’s Wax/White Unscented Candles

white candle (source: amazon)
white candle (source: amazon)

We expected the standard candle to be a out and out flop in our tests, but it turns out, it worked quite well. Unlike bees wax it isn’t conditioning, but it waxes well, and doesn’t build up on your fingers over time, which is a big plus. Thanks to the shape of a candle, its also super easy to wax up your threads.
 

In A Pinch: Water

damp sponge (source: google images)
damp sponge (source: google images)

Yeh, you heard that right; water. So to be more accurate, a damp sponge, however you’re only actually using the water. This idea came from a commenter, and damn is it good. Tried it last night and it worked a treat. However, a few things to remember; don’t use it on speciality threads, they often use metal, which can rust if you’re not careful. And try finding natural or pH neutral sponges to make sure you’re not picking up nasties.
 

Some success: Silicone Ear Plugs

silicone ear plugs (source: amazon)
silicone ear plugs (source: amazon)

Before I begin with this one, not all silicone-like earplugs are made from silicone; get the pure silicon ones. However, if you find them, silicone can be a good idea. The one thing to say is silicone cannot be washed out. At all. It stays permanently on the thread. Whilst this can be great (it protects the thread long term), it means any dust caught in there, or sweat from hands can’t be washed out. I would use this with some caution for now. We’ll do more tests.
 

JUST DON’T BOTHER: ‘Natural’ Bees Wax

diy bees wax (source: etsy)
diy bees wax (source: etsy)

We mentioned above that white bees wax is fantastic for threads, however don’t be tempted to get DIY or ‘natural’ bees wax. Theses aren’t the same. The DIY ones can include some seriously iffy colorants (and could actually be toxic), however even the natural ones aren’t that good for threads. In natural bees wax they often don’t filter off the impurities. Whilst most are perfectly fine, you don’t know what chemicals are hidden away, and you don’t want your work ruined.

Did You Know You Can Print On Aida?

adventure time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange (source: wonderstrange.com)

Aida selections generally come in white, black, grey or every pale shade of pastel under the sun. But what if you want something that’ll pop? What about something with a design on it? Well saddle up, cos we’re about to go on a ride. It turns out, your average home color printer can create awesome aida in no time flat!
 
WonderStrange worked out all the hard work for us, but the technique is actually pretty simple. Cut your plain aida (you should use white) down to A4 size, put some freezer paper on the back (its sticky on one side) and put it in your printer. Print whatever you want and you have yourself a epic, custom but of aida.
 
Wondering why you need the freezer paper? Turns out those holes make a serious mess unless something is behind it!

Finally, if you want a pure color for aida, you can also try painting it.

adventure time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange (source: wonderstrange.com)
adventure time cross stitches with printed aida background by WonderStrange (source: wonderstrange.com)