All of our posts reviewing the best cross stitch, the best products and tools, and the best tools around the web.

Is Pinterest Bad For The Cross Stitch World?

In the past, I’ve looked into two of the biggest online platforms in the cross stitch world and asked the questions is Etsy good for the cross stitch world? and is AliExpress both saving and ruining cross stitch, but the biggest thing about both of those sites is they both charge for things.
 
However, for almost a decade there has been another player in the cross stitch world which is all about giving things away for free, but also one that struggles with its own issues.
Today we ask the question; is Pinterest bad for the cross stitch world?

What is Pinterest?

The fact of the matter is that Pinterest, for good or bad, is a collection of images. These images come from all over the internet and are collected by anyone who wants to. What makes this slightly more interesting than say, Google Images, is that Pinterest has ‘boards’ you can create. Smaller collections with specific pins YOU want to add.
 
These boards get very, very specific.
Cross stitch patterns? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games from the 80s? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games from the 80s, only tabletop arcades, only male characters and from only one Japan-specific brand? Yep. It has 500 patterns in it.
These boards, despite how specific they are, still have loads of patterns and inspiration.

Good – Inspiration

There sheer volume of content on Pinterest is its best quality in my mind. Not only are there cross stitch and pixel art-related things, but general art too, meaning its perfect for spiking your interest in something new. That’s why we named Pinterest as one of the best places to get cross stitch inspiration.
 

Good – Free Patterns

Let me start with a small caveat here; free patterns that are legally free. This will be important later, but for now, let’s just look at the positives.
 
There are free patterns all over the internet. These might be from well-known designers, up-and-coming designers, or just someone drawing a pattern on paper. The sad thing is that unless those images are hosted on sites with good SEO, Google will never show them to you. This is where Pinterest really shines. Cross stitch patterns are filling up boards at a matter of rates, and most are from the deepest corners of the internet that don’t get any exposure.
 
One of the biggest areas that benefit from this is cross stitch fonts. We’ve spoken in the past about how hard to get hold of they are, and we even offer free cross stitch fonts and alphabets to help, but you might want more options. These images aren’t normally well-tailored to appear on Google, so are often overlooked. But thanks to Pinterest, there are loads of them. In fact, we even suggest Pinterest as one of the best places to get cross stitch alphabets and fonts.

Free Cross Stitch Fonts On Pinterest (Source: Pinterest)
Free Cross Stitch Fonts On Pinterest (Source: Pinterest)

What makes Pinterest even better is that it records things, things that might not be available anymore. Sadly, patterns do get lost over time. One of the most well-known instances are LittleMojo’s cross stitch patterns which were lost for about 10 years before we were able to get these back. Pinterest was instrumental in doing this.

Bad – Copyright

This, sadly, is where the problems start creeping in though. Those free patterns? Aren’t all that they seem. Copyright in cross stitch is a fairly large issue, and sadly, is the biggest detractor from an otherwise great platform.
 
The reason we looked into Pinterest was actually a whole series of Facebook followers approaching us to inform us of how many patterns had copyright issues. And so we looked into it.
We took 500 boards, and took the first 100 pins from each (50,000 total images) and traced every single pattern back to its source.
 

  • 5% We just couldn’t find the source of. These were mostly out print patterns from pre-copyright days.
  • 45% We’re completely copyright free.
  • 5% We’re from recognised designers or sold on Etsy.
  • 45% Had permission issues but weren’t necessarily a copyright issue.

 
Copyright is an odd beast, and we should state that whilst it looks like 50% is fine and 50% have issues, this isn’t actually as cut and dry as it looks.
 
The 5% that were from recognized designers are an issue, for sure. However, Pinterest has a solution for this. As a designer, you can report them. I’ve even had issues of this in the past on my transforming robot cross stitch pattern, and to be fair to Pinterest, they took down the pins within seconds. But my patterns had the included copyright information on them, most don’t.
This also doesn’t look into the issue of how you, a user are meant to know if they’re copyrighted or not.
 
But it’s the 45% that have ‘some’ issues that are the real issue. Copyright only really applies if someone is trying to profit from it. Etsy sells patterns, getting them in hot water, but Pinterest is free. This is where the grey area of copyright exists. In our opinion, you should care about copyright in cross stitch, and you should know to spot the issues. But we also know this is a rose-tinted glasses way of looking at the world.
These patterns have copyright issues, such as using Disney characters, but they aren’t able to be taken down as no one is profiting (Pinterest technically makes money off adverts, but this doesn’t count). But does that mean you should stitch them?

The Verdict

As with all of these posts, finding a verdict isn’t as easy as we’d like. Pinterest is a fantastic resource for inspiration, and it has loads of genuinely free patterns, including many lost to time, meaning it’s a great place to go. However, it does have a dark underbelly.
 
It is annoying for designers, but with Pinterest’s copyright claim function, the 5% are OK as far as we’re concerned. You should be checking things like Pinterest as a designer (it’s tough, but part of the business). But that 45% of patterns that aren’t easy to take down do have issues. But overall, if you follow the rules of finding a quality cross stitch pattern, Pinterest is good for the cross stitch world.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

Finger Gloves For Cross Stitch?

When it comes to reviewing cross stitch tools, normally it’s something made specifically for the industry. Sometimes we might happen to cross into the realms of needlecraft in general, but its rare for a tool to cross into the medical sphere. That was until I happened upon curved tipped scissors, which are my goto tool for frogging. However, I expected that to be the only one. Turns out, there is another medical tool that is perfect for cross stitching.

Finger Gloves (Source: Gesswein.de)
Finger Gloves (Source: Gesswein.de)

Finger gloves sure look funny. They’re somewhat like a thimble but go over your finger a little better. I’ve been asked about them a few times, but it wasn’t until I received an email from a reader who was stitching with silks for the first time that I recommended finger gloves myself!
The fact is, these weird-looking (and weird feeling) gloves are actually a really great addition to your stitching.

Get A Grip

The first thing that grabs me when talking about finger gloves is how handy they are at gripping. We all know that stitching with threads like metallics can be hard and whilst there are many ways to make things easier like thread conditioners you still need a lot of grip on your needle.
 
Finger gloves come with little bobbles on the tips, and thanks to their latex material, grab onto things well. I’m personally always looking to make annoying threads easier to use!

Textured finger gloves (Source: banggood)
Textured finger gloves (Source: banggood)

Keep It Clean

The second advantage of finger gloves is cleanliness. Sure, we can wash our cross stitch, but if you’re using something like silks or DMC satin threads, washing both isn’t as effective, and isn’t as easy. Using finger gloves on these heirloom projects gives another layer of protection to your work, whilst not restricting your hands in any way.

No More Pricked Fingers

Another great advantage of finger gloves is that, much like their heftier thimble brothers, they protect you from pricking your finger. And as much as I think needle injuries are part of the sport of cross stitch, a little protection goes a long way!
Whereas a thimble is hard and doesn’t sit on your fingertip easily, these finger gloves do!

So When Should You Use Them?

So when should you bother with these things? Well, that’s up to you, and honestly, I don’t wear them all the time either, so you really do need to make your own choice.
 
However, when using hard to manage threads like metallics they’re a great hand. When stitching with fancy threads like silks or DMC satins they keep everything clean. However, you can pick up 100 of these things up for a few dollars and have enough to wear day in day out. So why not give them a try?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

Are Satin and Silk Threads Worth Using?

I was recently contacted by a reader and she asked a simple question that I honestly wasn’t sure how to answer. “Is it worth using silk threads for a heritage project?”
 
I’ve known of both silk and stain threads (DMCs answer to silk threads, that are actually cotton) for a long time, but I only recently got my hands on them when I was completing my journey to owning all of the DMC embroidery threads. I started asking around, and my story was somewhat the common theme; everyone knew about them but didn’t use them.
 
So I picked up my needles, tested them out, and today, we’ll deep dive into these rate threads, and ask if you should use them too.

DMC satin threads (Source: DMC.com)
DMC satin threads (Source: DMC.com)

Luster

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of silks is their luster or shininess. And the thought is 100% founded. These things are really shiny, and they ooze quality. However, as much as I tried to photograph them, I just couldn’t get the shine to show. I then tried framing the work and realized that once again, it lost its shine. Annoyingly, the shine only really works if the fabric is moving (or the light source).
 
Whilst I loved the look when it was in my hands, the shine disappears unless it’s handled. For me, this is a big thing. Why would you go through the effort, and cost of using silks or satin threads to lose the main selling feature by putting it up on the wall? If you’re going to sew on something like a throw, yes, 100% worth it, but for something framed? It’s just not worth it.

Price

So that said, let’s also talk about the biggest negative about these threads; price. The price of DMC threads varies massively anyway, but their satin range is twice the price for most. Then the actual silk threads are up to 4 times as much (although the price for different brands varies). So is it worth it?
 
I honestly think so. Yes, the price is high, and there are further issues which we’ll get to in a minute, but you don’t use silks all the time. It’s for those specific projects, those projects you want to use the best of the best for. The things that you want to last for decades. As an everyday thread, they aren’t going to win prizes for their cost, and the benefits are massively outweighed by their flaws, but for those special times; it’s worth it.

6 Purple Silk Threads from DeVere Yarns (Source: devereyarns.co.uk)
6 Purple Silk Threads from DeVere Yarns (Source: devereyarns.co.uk)

Availability

The next thing you need to think about is the availability, and in turn, range. In the DMC satins range, there are only 36 colors, a significant difference from the 500 standard cottons, so you’ll have to pick your pattern and colors carefully. For brands other than DMC, ranges vary, but many only stock less than 30 colors, and just like mixing normal thread brands; we advise mixing and matching.
Then, is getting your hands on them. Yes, most of the best online cross stitch stores have them, but finding them in stores can be a tough ask.

Care & Sew Quality

Finally, what about care? Turns out most silks and satin threads can put up with a lot of washing, but they tend to be weaker than cotton threads. This leads to both broken threads whilst stitching, but also damage to well-worn stitches. You do need to take a little more care than your normal stitches.

So, When Should You Use Them?

Now we have our analysis out of the way, when should you use them?
This, as ever, is a personal choice, but for us, it’s only those special projects that get silks and satins. Even then, picking specific projects that don’t have too many colors, gets handled, and aren’t subject to too much dirt. That seems like a pretty small list, but any heritage project, like throws and pillows, is perfect. You touch them, so the luster shows, you don’t put them through too much wear, and you keep them for decades.
 
But, we sent a few samples out to our stitchy readers and asked them for their feedback. It turns out, that silks and satins are a bit hit and miss. I personally fall in that middle group of “OK-ers”. So we suggest next time you see some, pick up a single skein. Just throw some cross stitches down and see how it feels. Maybe you’re a lover, maybe you’re a hater, or maybe you’re a bit like me.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

Why you NEED a tracing pad

There aren’t many items that I would say that you need to have. At a push, I would say you probably you need to have a good pair of scissors, but there is one other item I would suggest for every cross stitcher. A tracing pad.

Tracing pad (source: Amazon)
Tracing pad (source: Amazon)

They might not be the most obviously needed tool in cross stitch and are often overlooked, but they actually solve a lot of problems people have with cross stitch. Considering the price point is from $20 to $50 they’re also budget-friendly.

Light

First up is the obvious advantage of a light pad; it gives you more light. Most cross stitchers do try to light their areas up as much as possible, and with more and more people looking at getting a daylight bulb for their cross stitch (which can cost a lot more than you realize) people overlook the more practical options. A tracing pad can either sit on your table, or lap, without getting hot, and provide targeted light right at your work.
In addition, any extra light you can muster will always help you keep your eyesight while cross stitching.

Working with Black fabric

Another advantage of the pad is actually the type of light that it brings, specifically from below. We suggested tracing pads back when we wrote about how to cross stitch with black fabric and it’s still our go-to option. Due to the backlighting, it lights up all the holes in your fabric showing you exactly where to place the needle.

Pattern Making

But what about less obvious advantages? Pattern making. Now, exactly how it will help you here depends on how you make patterns, so I’ve broken this one out.
 
Paper pattern makers – If you choose to make patterns on paper rather than a digital way, a tracing pad allows you to make patterns MUCH easier. Thanks to its original tracing pad purpose you open your world up to being able to make a pattern out of anything!
 
Everyone – This one is my personal bugbear; picking colors is hard. Whilst cross stitch pattern software does a good job at picking colors, there is nothing quite like your own eye. That’s one reason why we’re a fan of using a DMC color card but picking accurate colors depends on a good light source.

Cross stitch pattern making on a Tracing Pad (Source: reddit)
Cross stitch pattern making on a Tracing Pad (Source: reddit)

Health

We’ve already lightly touched on keeping your eyes healthy, however, a tracing pad also helps with back issues too. It’s actually really easy to get back issues when cross stitching, mostly thanks to the posture we take to get light. However uplighting means you tend not to slouch in your chair causing some of the most problematic issues.

The Little things

And finally, we come to the little things. The things that whilst the tracing pad doesn’t help with directly, having it there greatly improves.
 
Threading your needle – Threading needles can be a pain for some people, and even with the best needle threaders or self-threading needles it can still be hard for some. But the addition of a light source that you can use to help you see the thread, but not blind you in the process, it a great thing.
 
Frogging – Let’s face it, frogging sucks, even with scissors that make frogging easier anything helps. The light pad allows you to light your area up much more, and see those pesky threads to rip.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

The Best Cross Stitch Accessories & Notions

When it comes to cross stitch and tools, there are a whole bunch. From random laying tools to something as simple and widespread as a thread shade chart. As a result, many cross stitchers ignore news of new accessories and notions, expecting them to be worthless.
 
However, this isn’t always the case! It is sometimes though. As a result we scoured online cross stitch stores, forums and facebook pages to find the best accessories and notions for cross stitch.
We’ve not included anything you might already have, like needle threaders, needle minders or anything like that. We’ve also only included things under $20 in price, so why not treat yourself?
 

Fray Check – from $5

Sealing Evenweave Fabric Edges with Fray Check (Source: thesprucecrafts.com)
Sealing Evenweave Fabric Edges with Fray Check (Source: thesprucecrafts.com)

Fray check is one of those odd brand names you’ve heard of in cross stitch, but never bothered with. And why would you? After all, if you’ve not had issues with your fabric fraying, there is no need for it, right?
I would argue, that’s not correct. Whilst Fray check does stop your cross stitch fabric from fraying, there are other reasons to use it. By adding it to the edge of your fabric it forces it to hold its shape much better than without, meaning when you wash and iron your work, it should be nice and square.
 

Aida Identification Cards – from $5

Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)
Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)

Can you recognize 18 count aida from a 24 count hardanger just by eye? Most people can’t, and whilst this seems like an insult, why would you be able to? That’s where cross stitch identification cards come in. These handy little fellers allow you to check your fabric counts or needle sizes. And whilst we belive aida gauges are worth getting there are many people who *shudder* don’t store their cross stitch fabric well. If you’ve ever found yourself questioning fabric count, this is a great little tool to pop in your kit.
 

Easy Guide Needles – from $7

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

You already have needles in your kit, I know. You might have even checked out our guide on the best cross stitch needles so you might even have a favorite brand (kudos if you did by the way), however these needles are different.
Imagine mixing a tapestry needle and a sewing needle together, then you have easy guide needles. Their long tip gives you greater accuracy, but their ball tip allows you to carry across the fabric just as easily as a tapestry needle. Now, I will say, these aren’t cheap, and I wouldn’t even suggest using them for every cross stitch. But in those times when you’re using a smaller count than normal, or you need to do petit point, or maybe your eyes are aching (there are ways to avoid eye strain in cross stitch btw), these needles will help you keep your cross stitching edge.
 

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)
Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)

I have a near-obsession with cross stitch scissors, but trust me with this; these are awesome!
As small scissors go, these are fine, but their real worth comes in two points. Firstly, these things are the easiest scissors to hold ever! Drag them with a finger and thumb and you’re golden, no shoving your fingers into the loops and inevitably getting them stuck (it happens, admit it), just easy cutting. They’re also some of the only cross stitch scissors allowed on planes so go traveling with ease!
 

Thread Conditioner – from $2

beeswax thread conditioner (source: etsy)
Beeswax thread conditioner (source: Etsy)

From beeswax to specialist thread conditioners like Thread Magic, there are loads of little pots out there that most class as “Thread Heaven alternaitves“, and whilst Thread Heaven is the best known of the conditioners, that doesn’t mean the loss of the company should mean no longer using thread conditioners.
I personally hate thread conditioners, I know, it’s still on my list, bear with me, but I ALWAYS use them with metallic threads. Thread conditioner helps make things go a lot smoother when using using specialty threads and is our number one tip on how to make stitching with these threads a breeze.
 

Center Finding Rulers – from $9

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)
Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

I know a ruler might seem like the weirdest object to include in this list, however since we found out about center finding rulers, we’ve fallen in love. In short, it helps find the center of your fabric. This might seem a little basic, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been in the situation where we’ve managed to stitch something in the wrong place and uh-oh, you’ve run out of fabric. That is no longer a problem.
 

Quilters Square n Blocker – from $20

June Tailor Cushioned Quilters Square n Blocker (Source: Walmart)
June Tailor Cushioned Quilters Square n Blocker (Source: Walmart)
We’re jumping up with the price here, and its right at the top end of our price limit, but a Quilters block, or ironing block, its a foam block you can iron on. However, the reason I’ve included it here isn’t its ironing prowess (although it does mean I don’t have to get the ironing board out), instead I’ve included it, as you can use it to pin your work on when it drys. Let’s face it, no one wants a warped cross stitch, and this baby will let you wash, block and iron your work all in one. Now hows that for handy?

The Better Alternative To Finding The Center Of Your Fabric

I love a random tool I didn’t know I needed but ends up being the best thing since sliced bread. Odds are, you probably do to, which is why I’ve reviewed everything from cross stitch travel scissors to cross stitch identification cards and scissors that make frogging easy. However, all of those have something in common; they’re all tools for cross stitch. Today, I want to review a tool that is a fantastic addition to a cross stitchers arsenal, but one that wasn’t make for cross stitch; one that was made for woodwork.

The Center Finding Ruler

It’s not often that the worlds of cross stitch combine with the worlds of any heavy production and tooling, but quality woodwork is all about finesse, something every cross stitcher can relate to. Sadly, due to the nature of both, tools can rarely be shared, but this one can. Enter the world of a center finding ruler.
This little baby can be metal (and usually is for woodwork) but also comes in a handy floppy clear plastic. It works like a ruler, but the zero is right in the center, meaning you can measure out, and find the center of anything your measuring.

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)
Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

So why would I want one?

In a word; to find the center. Cleverly named product, right? But seriously, finding the center of your fabric is something everyone does when starting a new project, and the ruler is a great alternative to the typical folding technique (or the less clever, guesstimate technique). However, it’s not just an alternative. I would argue, it’s superior.
 
I like the folding technique, it’s simple and it gets the job done, but there’s one thing that really annoys me about it. The folds stay there, especially if you’re using a stiff aida. Now I know I could just iron it once finshed but sometimes this just doesn’t get them out, especially if they’ve been folded a long time (which is why you should store your fabric in tubes). You can push down harder, but no one wants to damage their work, and there are people that don’t wash or iron their cross stitch at all.
 
And so, a simple ruler comes to the rescue. Instead of folding your fabric, just place the ruler on, measure and you have the perfect center, without any folds or marks.

Center finding ruler in use (Source: Amazon)
Center finding ruler in use (Source: Amazon)

Where to get one

As its a non-cross stitch product, the best place to pick one of these up is Amazon, where they go for about $4. As I said earlier, I would get the floppy clear kind as it hugs the fabric better and means you can work with weird geometries if you have any.

Next Year In Cross Stitch – 2021

In our now annual post about the world of cross stitch in the past and coming year, we look at last years 2020 cross stitch and see just how accurate we were, and look into 2021 and see what might be in store.
 
Its been somewhat of a crazy year, and whilst we didn’t foresee anything like a virus shutting the world down, we were oddly accurate on our guesses. However, the lockdown across the world made things happen a little faster, and have changed the cross stitch world for good.

Cross Stitch Magazines & Books

cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)
cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)

For the last few years we’ve mentioned cross stitch magazines and books, and every year, something has happened to prove us right. At first, we thought magazines would become more and more specialized, and with the rise of magazines like XStitch Magazine that came about. Then we foresaw issues with major cross stitch magazines and thought some would be sold off, like the Cross Stitcher was in 2019. But we still thought something was going to happen.
 
For the last few years, the marketing world has been talking about diminishing advertising return and the lack of investment. However the traditional magazine model relies on advertising, so we thought we would loose magazines this year. And we did. It started off with Cross Stitch Favourites going bust in January, however, the lockdown showed us just how fragile the cross stitch magazine arena is, with both Cross Stitch Crazy and Cross Stitch Gold shutting. We were so sure something like this was going to happen that we managed to break the news before the magazines themselves did.
 
So what does this mean for 2021? Well, not a great deal. Now that the less stable cross stitch magazines have been forced to end, the rest should be staying with us for the long run. However, the loss of nearly 30,000 readers from popular cross stitch magazines means smaller magazines have a great chance to start showing that they have. I would expect we might hear more about niche magazines, and see larger magazines trying to push the boundaries a little more.

The Rise Of The Small Store Owner

Small store owners have had a really good year. Big box stores and hobby stores have struggled in the lockdown to bring people in, but small store owners, particularly those online have been able to offer their wares out to anyone in the world. In addition, people were bored and went back to hobbies like cross stitch meaning more people than ever wanted their products. We even had to make a list of the best online cross stitch stores at the request of our Facebook followers.
We honestly expect the service that small stores give to become the gold standard in cross stitch, with people sticking with local and small stores for the future.
 
This, in turn, has given rise to new cross stitch designers. With cross stitch pattern software more accessible than ever and some great resources online, we’ve seen a big increase in new designers coming to platforms like Etsy, giving traditional cross stitch designers a run for their money.

Inclusive Patterns

Another big feature this year were the Black Lives Matter protests. At first this might seem totally unconnected to cross stitch, but patterns featuring people are mostly white. Thanks to resources like our skin tone thread colors and hair color threads, we expect to see more and more inclusive patterns, with alternative designs given as standard to include all skin tones.

Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan
Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan

Software

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

My estimates on cross stitch software were probably a little too eager. Whilst I still fully think that cross stitch generators will move to online and app forms rather than traditional downloads, I think I was a year early. I think in 2021 we’ll see some seriously good cross stitch apps come out, or at least some forward movement here.
Sadly I think this might come at the cost of some smaller software companies, and as such we’ve seen a steady reduction in them since 2018.

ThreadHeaven

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

We’ve spoke about ThreadHeaven every year since 2019’s post and the reason for that was its shock exit from the cross stitch world. However, that loss opened up the market, but in an interesting way. Last year we said we thought we’d see less and less people using thread conditioners, and by and large we were right. With the loss of a major brand, we’ve seen people go back to threads without conditioners. This wasn’t quite the same though, and in the last year we’ve seen suggestions that people are starting to look towards the quality of their products.
 
Our own posts about the best cross stitch needle brands and the best cross stitch fabric brands are now some of the most popular on the site. This trend suggests that people want quality products. This doesn’t necessarily mean high price either, and we pointed out that cheap embroidery threads from brands like CXC are really good quality thanks to their cotton and polyester mix. Its new inventions like this that we think we’ll see more of (although not until 2022), and big brands really trying to get us on their key selling points.
We’ve already seen DMC increase their offering to include the new 35 threads in 2016 and the Etoile threads in 2018 and we expect other brands to try and play catch up.
 
So that’s what we thought of our 2020 guesses, and our 2021 predictions. Is there something you think we’ll see next year?

Under-Rated Tool Alert: The Laying Tool

I have a railroading tool, or to give it the correct name, a laying tool, in my cross stitch kit. And I use it all the time. But I don’t railroad my cross stitches. Perplexing, right?
 
Whilst a laying tool can be used to railroad, it can also be used for a whole bunch of other uses that make it one of the most underrated cross stitch tools out there. Considering they can be picked up from a dollar (but be warned they can also be really expensive depending on the type) I think they’re worth picking up, even if you don’t railroad. So, let’s go through their various uses.

Rosewood Laying Tools (Source: Pinterest)
Rosewood Laying Tools (Source: Pinterest)

Railroading

Well, it was obvious we were going to start with railroading, wasn’t it? Laying tools are used to help place stitches nicely, and while this is mostly used in other embroidery stitches, you can use it to lay cross stitches perfectly. This has a whole bunch of advantages, but many people ask if they should bother railroading at all. Whilst that’s a discussion for a different time, the laying tool can still be used for it if you’re so inclined.
 
Not sure how to use a laying tool? Check out the video below:

Metallic/Glow-in-the-dark Threads

The second advantage a laying tool brings is somewhat similar to the first. Metallic threads and glow in the dark threads are a pain to use, and whilst there are ways to make using metallic threads easier and tips for using glow-in-the-dark threads neither are as easy as simple cotton. By using the laying tool in exactly the same way as you would if railroading, you’ll have a much more pleasant experience and better final product. I should say though that you will probably struggle to railroad the threads, even if you do the same technique, specialty threads are just a pain like that.

Blending Threads

The third use is another “official” use; blending threads. In the image below you’ll see someone combining two threads to blend them, however, if you look at the stitching, it looks a bit…blotchy. Now, that could be the style they were going for, however if you use blending thread to make a color DMC haven’t got yet, or trying a dithering technique then this just won’t do. This is where the laying tool comes in.
 
You will be railroading here, but you don’t need to railroad your whole project, just the blended threads. Trust me, if you’ve ever blended, its worth it.
 
However, if you wanted to bypass the laying tool here, using a double eye needle for blending will save you the trouble.

Cross stitch using blended threads (Source: gathered.how)
Cross stitch using blended threads (Source: gathered.how)

Removing Knots

This is the actual reason I use my laying tool, and why I wrote this post. Knots suck, but they do happen, even if you’re doing everything you can to avoid them.
 
Most knots can just be pulled out, but this has two issues. The first is how you pull the thread. By pulling the knot out, you pull on the aida and thread, making the whole you just stitched through larger, and sometimes even warping the fabric. By using the laying tool with one hand you can pull the knot with the other (or visa versa) and be sure not to cause undue tension on the fabric or thread.
The second issue is fingers, or more specifically the oil on your fingers. We tend not to touch our cross stitches, only the needle, and while washing your hands is (hopefully) a major part of your stitching process, the needle only transfers a little bit of oil. However, if you get your hands right in there and touch threads and knots, expect oil transfer. The laying tool takes over the job of your fingers and avoids the nasty oil getting on your work.

Poking and Prodding

Sometimes threads just need a poke. It’s as simple as that. Maybe it doesn’t want to go in the hole? Poke the fabric to make the hole bigger. Maybe it just isn’t sitting right? Push it over. Whilst you can do both of these things with your cross stitch needle, needles are meant to go through things. A laying tool isn’t. That’s why its the perfect tool to push something around and make sure your stitching looks neat and tidy.

Why Aliexpress is Both Ruining and Saving Cross Stitch

A few months ago we asked the question is Etsy a good thing for the cross stitch world? And whilst we found that it was in principle good, we got a lot of people asking about Aliexpress. So we’ve broken down the main areas AliExpress operates in, and deep-dived into how it impacts cross stitch.

What Is AliExpress?

Many of you might not know what AliExpress is, so let’s start with a crash course. AliExpress is like Amazon but based in China. The big difference is that instead of stores selling products, like Amazon does (or even Amazon itself), AliExpress gets rid of the middle man; you buy direct from the factory.
This means that prices are often MUCH cheaper, but come with the downside of you have no quality control, and postage takes a very long time (weeks to months).

Threads

The first thing we need to talk about is threads. And there is a reason this is first; by and large, the reason people come to AliExpress is the threads. Brands like CXC and Royal Broderie are only available through AliExpress at the moment but are picking up a lot of interest amongst cross stitchers due to their price, and their perfect color match to DMC threads.
This has a good side and a bad side. In the past, we’ve looked into if cheap embroidery threads are worth buying and we put some rumors to bed about their quality. We used CXC threads for most examples and they came out looking great, they don’t bleed, don’t melt, they hold their color, they are nice to use, and with a price point at less than 10 cents per skein, they are a fantastic price. But we picked CXC threads as we knew they were the best of the cheap thread brands. There are others that don’t even have brand names, which are frankly the worst things I’ve used in my life. They do bleed, they do melt, they do break, they do knot. In fact, you can even see fake threads on AliExpress as well as there is no regulation. In those cases, you often see people reselling them and getting reports of DMC dye lot issues (when they’re actually just fake).
So you need to be careful when buying threads, as you can get really screwed over. But that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the issues. You have to wait weeks or months for your threads to arrive, and if there is an issue, it takes more weeks to sort out. This isn’t a quick process (and buying them can be a pain too).

CXC embroidery floss (Source: Etsy)
CXC embroidery floss (Source: Etsy)

Aida

Let’s move onto the next thing people tend to buy on AliExpress; aida. Thanks to the likes of SewandSo going out of business last year, finding aida other than black and white can be hard. And even then, if you’re looking for super sized aida it can still be hard. This is where AliExpress starts to shine.
Yes, there are loads of bad quality aidas out there, but as per our list of the best cross stitch aida brands, aida doesn’t actually need to be of that high of a quality. Essentially it needs to be gridded, and starched, which most aida supplies. The fact that it’s super cheap just makes this a better deal.
There are still pitfalls though. There are some aidas out there that aren’t correctly made up, so you get something more like 13 count or 15 count instead of your 14 count. This isn’t a super big thing most of the time, but if you’ve purchased just enough aida for your project, or you want to frame it, you start to get into tough situations.
There’s also next to no variations here either; you get a set of 10 basic colors, and you’re done. No pre-gridded, no waste canvas, etc.

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

Patterns

And now we get to patterns. One of the biggest things about Etsy was its copyright issues, and whilst this does exist with AliExpress to a MUCH smaller impact, poor quality patterns abound. It’s hard to find a good cross stitch pattern on AliExpress, and we even suggest avoiding pattern shopping on there at all. However, this is somewhat unfair to AliExpress.
You see, there are massive markets for cross stitch outside of English speaking countries. And patterns from these areas can’t sell in traditional markets due to the language barrier. However, as an experienced cross stitcher, you don’t need the text at all, meaning you can pick up some awesome patterns that you can’t see anywhere else in the English speaking world. These patterns tend to be larger, tend to prefer silks (although there are always embroidery thread conversion tables) and tend to look fantastic. These are the gems of AliExpress, but be prepared to pick a lot of bad apples before you find gold.

Price

But it’s not all doom and gloom!
Price is the biggest thing with AliExpress. Thanks to being manufactured in China, purchased directly from the factory, and normally super slow mail, you can get everything super cheap. Yes, the quality stuff is more expensive, but even that is considerably cheaper than more established Western brands like DMC or Anchor. The upshot of this is that people with lower incomes can get into cross stitch. This might be younger people, people from less economically developed countries, people on lower pay, or even just those not willing to spend a load of money on something they might not like.
It also has the added benefit that over time it will probably lower the price of all cross stitch goods, meaning things like DMC threads will be cheaper. But there is a downside here as well. By reaching for something cheaper and cheaper, quality falls. So far we know the like of CXC threads are good quality, but others are starting to try to make cheaper threads. If this continues CXC will go the same way, meaning AliExpress may soon only deliver poor quality products. Although this might be years off.

AliExpress logo (Source: Google Images)
AliExpress logo (Source: Google Images)

Legacy

But what about legacy? By this I mean what impact will AliExpress have on the legacy of cross stitch. Let’s run an example. Let’s say a new cross stitcher comes to AliExpress, picks up some threads, aida, and pattern for a great price. They feel let down by the quality of all of them, and then never cross stitch again. This will impact how cross stitch is seen in general.
Thankfully, AliExpress isn’t particularly well known at this time, meaning new cross stitchers probably won’t go there first, but with the increasing knowledge of the store, this will start happening soon. But there is something else too. Resellers. You can buy poor quality fake threads on AliExpress and then sell them on online stores elsewhere, which people will buy and then, in turn, will assume the real brand is to blame. A good example of this is the DMC dye lot issue, and selling second hand threads. Whilst fake threads aren’t the main issue here, people really fear dye lot issues and stay clear from CXC due to them. In reality, it’s about storage of embroidery threads, but that doesn’t stop people who aren’t in the know from making an incorrect assumption.

So Is It A Force For Good?

Unlike Etsy, which we can see is for the better, it gets a little harder with AliExpress. There are many pitfalls to the AliExpress model, but its size and power allow for high quality, cheaper products to be made available to cross stitchers across the world. I think AliExpress will continue to rise but will fall short of overtaking the likes of Amazon and more specialist stores. Therefore, these cheaper brands will be made available in other places, but the bad quality items won’t.
Therefore, I would say; AliExpress is ruining cross stitch.

Double Eye Tapestry Needles – Perfect For Blending Cross Stitch

Considering we use them so much, cross stitch needles or tapestry needles to give them their rightful name, are staples for our craft. Therefore, when I spoke about the best types of cross stitch needles in a previous post, I thought I had all of them covered. For a while, I thought there were no others. But when we started investigating who makes the best cross stitch needles we fell upon another type of needle. One we had never heard of before; double eye needles.

What Are They?

In essence, they are exactly what you expect, a standard tapestry needle with two eyes for threads. If we’re getting specific they actually take the standard eye and split it in two. This means that you probably have to use a needle threader to put the thread through the smaller eyes, but otherwise they act just like a normal needle.
 
The reason they exist, however, is slightly more interesting. The double eyes are meant to carry two different threads, allowing you to either blend threads, or add in metallics without putting friction on the fabric. This should result in a neat almost railroaded blended thread look.

Gold Double Eye Tapestry Needles (Source: grovesltd.co.uk)
Gold Double Eye Tapestry Needles (Source: grovesltd.co.uk)

How To Use Them

So how do you use them? In short, you put one thread in each eye and stitch like normal. As they are blended, you need to think about the ends of your thread (no using the loop method), but otherwise its just like you’d expect.

Are They Worth Getting?

So now you know what they are, and how to use them, let’s talk about their worth. Or more specifically, are they worth getting. We don’t shy away from speaking our mind here, and we’ve previously asked ourselves if self-threading needles are worth it, but double eye needles are different. They’re just for blending.
 
If you don’t blend, and you have no intention of doing so, don’t get these needles. They just aren’t for you. But what if you do blend?
In my mind, these needles make blending separate threads no easier. In fact, I tend to find the threads spin around each other much more, resulting in a worse look than a standard needle. BUT then we come to metallic threads. Without a doubt, it’s hard to use these threads and anything that can make using metallic threads easier, I’m game. And that’s where these needles really shine.
 
The extra eye means the effort associated with metallic threads is mostly avoided, making it a much nicer experience. In my mind, if you use metallics at all, even if you aren’t blending, these things are worth their weight in gold.

Standard tapestry needles next to double eye tapestry needles (Source: Pinterest)
Standard tapestry needles next to double eye tapestry needles (Source: Pinterest)

Where To Get Them

So, where can you get them? The fact that I wasn’t even aware of these needles, despite Bohin, Clover and Hemline making them just goes to show they aren’t easy to find. I prefer looking for them on Etsy as you can always find someone selling them, but other than that, local brick and mortar stores should be able to stock some in, even if you have to ask.

Bohin Double Eye Tapestry Needles (Source: stitchitcentral.ca)
Bohin Double Eye Tapestry Needles (Source: stitchitcentral.ca)