Self Threading Needles – Are They Worth it?

Self threading needles pack (source: Etsy)

Our recent post on needle threaders has been a bit of a runaway success, however I’ve had a few people ask a simple question; what about self threading needles?
I must admit, that despite owning a pack, I never actually tried them out, so I threw caution to the wind and threaded a few needles.

What are self threading needles?

To start, let’s talk about the elephant in the room; self threading needles are needles which say they can make threading super easy. Most often they’re marketed for people with arthritis or poor eye sight, however anyone who hates the game of ‘poke the thread through the hole’ can stand to benefit.
 
It should also be said that there are multiple types of self threading needle, however they mostly come into two camps; V-shaped and spiral. We picked up a few packs of self threading needles from Etsy to give a good diversity.

V-Shaped Self Threading Needles

V Shaped Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)
V Shaped Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)

These V-shaped needles have actually been around for a really long time, and as a result have a whole raft of names including “self threading”, “French Spring eye” or “Calyx eye”, however they all have the same design. Simply put, you pull the thread down, through the two ‘clips’ which hold the thread in place. I had to try a few times before I got the system, as whilst it seems simple, doing it in real life isn’t as easy. I found that having a block to place the needle in so you could pull the thread through helped.
However, I wasn’t impressed. There are three reasons I just couldn’t get on board with these needles. The first was how annoying they were to thread. It honestly took me about 5 tries to thread the needle each time. Those 5 times weren’t all sunny times either, as they kept breaking the thread. I mean, these things break thread better than my scissors. However I can forsee myself getting better as time goes on.
The biggest issue for me though, was how painful it was to push the needle through the aida. Whilst needles are far from soft, the rounded edges make it slightly easier on the fingers, but these needles are like two little prongs stabbing me everyt time I pushed down. Not fun. I found the only solution was a thimble, which really gets in the way of cross stitching…

Spiral Self Threading Needles

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

Despite the V-shaped needles being far older, more often than not the only self threading tapestry needles you can find are the spiral type. This is down to how bulky the self threading mechanism is, however in our size tests they were no larger than ordinary needles. Unlike their V-shaped counter parts, you thread them on the side, which is MUCH easier, and frankly, lives up to the idea of being suitable for those with bad eye sight and arthritis. However, there are downsides too.
Specifically, we found two issues. The first was how often the needles caught on the aida, thanks to the side design the needle effectively has a hook, which caught on every 3 to 4 stitches, however with a slight change in how you stitch this can be avoided; but is practically worthless to those with reduced mobility. The second issue relates to the first in the sense that the eye of the needle breaks far faster, which isn’t too bad of a problem on its own, but these needles are expensive.

Are they worth it?

So, we finally get to the answer to the orginal question, of are self thread needles worth it. In my opinion; no. That isn’t to say they don’t have a purpose, I truly think that for some its a great idea, but with so many great needle threaders out there, that I just don’t think it’s worth it.

When should you pay for a pattern maker?

MacStitch Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern

Last week we reviewed the differences between paid and free cross stitch programs and decided that whilst paid once were better, free ones held up quite well. But that doesn’t tell you when you should pay for a pattern maker, and when you pay, which type is best.
 
The first thing to discuss is the possible types of pattern maker you can get:
Free – Made using a simple pattern maker without customisation
Patterns As A Service – You pay for one pattern at a time
Fully Capable – Lots of customisation options, but a big learning curve
 
So with that in mind, let’s get into when you should pay, and which ones I suggest.

When you want a super realistic outcome

After a few cross stitch kits and patterns from others, its a fairly regular thing to want to stitch a photo you own, however free pattern makers just aren’t capable of making a realistic pattern in most cases (see the discussion on dithering on last weeks post). As a result, in order to get something realistic, you have to pay. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out wads of cash. The patters-as-a-service model is perfect here, offering you the chance to get a pattern made with really good tools, without much effort, for only $10.
A word of warning though, if you want more than 5 patterns a year, we suggest you keep reading!
 
Our suggestion: thread-bare.com ($10) or patterncreator.com ($7.50)
Whilst pattern creator is cheaper and reviews slightly better overall in our tests, we find thread-bare has some fantasticly realistic outputs so long as you’re willing to experiment with the settings.

When you want something custom

There are a whole load of cross stitch patterns on places like Etsy, but what happens if you want something custom? The only choice is a paid pattern maker. This might take the form of something small, or something massive like the pattern below, but whatever changes you want, you need a robust pattern maker that can handle it.

Great Wave Inspired Japanese Cross Stitch Pattern by Lord Libidan (Source: Etsy)
Great Wave Inspired Japanese Cross Stitch Pattern by Lord Libidan (Source: Etsy)

 
Our suggestion: WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac) $48
For us, Ursa Softwares WinStitch and MacStitch are the best on the market, and reviewed best on our review of the best cross stitch pattern software too. It has everything you can think of to help you make any pattern you can dream up.

When you intend to make more than 5 patterns a year

When you want to make more than 5 patterns a year, I would invest in a really good pattern maker. The advantage here is that not only do you get patterns cheaper, but you have ALL the control, meaning you can make anything from a tiny change, to a massive custom piece. If you just want a plug and play pattern, you can do that, but as you progress, or you want to make more changes, all the functionality is built in. The cherry on top? Once you purchase the software, you never had to pay for a pattern again, meaning you save on the first year by $10, and then the following years by $50+.
 
Our suggestion: WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac) $48
Once again Ursa software offers the best option here, no only as its just under $50 (the price of 5 patterns on a pattern-as-a-service model) but also allows for a more realistic output and gives you access to tools you’ll need as you progress in pattern making.

Are free cross stitch pattern makers better than paid?

Stitchfiddle Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern

As a cross stitch pattern designer, I strongly sing the praises of any and all free and paid cross stitch pattern generators but there is something quite obvious when looking at these generators; they aren’t made equal.
 
As a result it often scares people away from purchasing a pattern or downloading software to make patterns. Further to this the confusion about what makes a good pattern maker is rife, and so I regularlly get people asking me if a free pattern maker is better than a paid one. The answer is usually no; paid is better, however the reasons why are quite important; it can mean the difference between a brilliant pattern, and a terrible one.

Color Selection

Color selection in a pattern is super important, and as you progress as a stitcher you’ll find yourself hand picking colors. The reason hand picking colors is so important is that no one actually know what the colors is. Here me out there; thanks to the new DMC threads there are 500 DMC threads in the standard range to choose from, and whilst you can find these colors represented in a lot of places with color blocks, the threads aren’t made up with computer screens in mind. As a result when someone wants to look at an image on a computer they have to guess what the color is. Yes, you heard that right, they guess.
To give you an example, below are two cross stith programs interpretations of the colors in the DMC range. The important thing here is to see how different they are. Even though they’re meant to be the same color.

DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)
DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)

Free programs use a list they found somewhere online, they haven’t sat down with each color and investigated what the accurate color might be. Paid programs do. In fact, many paid programs make similar graphs to the above just to check their working against others, as a result they have a higher likelihood of getting more accurate color selections.

Dithering

Dithering is a rather complicated thing, and I’m not going to describe it in detail, but in short, its how boundries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, its simply too complicated to bother and as a result there is no dithering. This sounds OK at first, but if you look at the example below (you can click it to enlarge it) you can see the difference dithering makes to ever part of the pattern. Simply put, dithering makes it look more real.

Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)
Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)

Extras

You might not think that any cross stitch pattern has ‘extras’ however things like per page thread usage, a preview image, page ‘cross over’ marks, amount of thread needed, and other things all come with patterns from paid pattern creators, however they don’t with free ones. In fact, with most, you’ll only get the bare bones of a pattern,.

Limits

It should also be noted that with every free pattern, there are limits. This is normally size and how many colors a pattern can have, most are limited to 200×200 and 30 colors, but there can also be other limits, such as only exporting in an image, or forced to have a weblink on the pdf.

Why They’re Free

Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realise; nothing is free. By offering a free program, what they mean, is they don’t think they can charge, as they know their program isn’t good enough to charge.
But that doesn’t mean you should never use free cross stitch pattern makers. In fact, there is definitely a time and place for them. We’ll discuss when you should pay for a pattern maker next week.
 
Although online programs like StitchFiddle make free programs super accessible, the ability of paid programs, such as the online Thread-Bare and the downloadable WinStitch make the paid alternatives much better.

Are There Any Needle Threaders That Don’t Break?

Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)

We’ve been focusing on cross stitch tools a lot lately, however there’s one in particular that I personally don’t use; the needle threader. The reason I don’t use them? They break. A lot.
This is actually an accepted reason to shun needle threaders, even though they’re helpful, and the first thing that came to your head, if you use them or not, was breakages. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are a whole slew of needle threader types out there, and there’s only one that breaks.

The one that breaks

Basic Needle Threader (Source: Etsy)
Basic Needle Threader (Source: Etsy)

It would be remiss of me to start this list without mentioning the elephant in the room; the threader that everyone knows, and loathes. Let’s start with the positives, as afterall, they do work well as needle threaders. They’re also dirt cheap, and easy to find. More often than not you can get them free in a hotel sewing kit or by 100 of them for a few dollars.
But that’s kinda where it ends. You see, these things are effectively a small wire, and as a result, break often. Way too often. The wire might break, bend, or come free from the handle part. They’re also super hard to hold (especially the cheaper metal handle ones)

Clover Needle Threader

Clover Needle Threader (Source: SnugglyMonkey.com)
Clover Needle Threader (Source: SnugglyMonkey.com)

But fear not! Someone has improved the design. Clover was the first, so we’ve shown them here, but essentially they’ve taken the flimsy wire and made it a thin flat bit of metal. They work exactly the same other than that, however thanks to their thickenss are only really useful for cross stitch (which lets face it, you love). But this all comes at a price which is kinda over the top for what it is. Considering the other options on our list (like the one below) are often cheaper, it feels like these are better, but still not great.

LoRan Needle Threader

Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)
Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)

So now we look at the better alternatives. The LoRan needle threader as its come to be known is a new take on a needle threader, which is loaded on the side, and hooked through the eye. They’re a simple sheet of metal, so still super cheap (its worth getting them online where they’re a few cents each, rather than store where they can be a shocking $5 or more), but they’re also better in every way.
The hooks on both sides give you options for smaller and larger needles (or eyes), and are super sturdy. They can also be combined into needle minders like the one above by NeedleKeep Emporium. And finally, its the easiest one on our list to actually thread.
But there are things to be careful about. The hooks are kinda large, so it you use really small needles, such as petites you might not be able to fit them, and you need to be careful not to bend the hooks when they’re in your kit, or threading the needles will become SUPER hard.
 
I personally really rate these needle minders, I now use them myself. I rate them so much that we’re even offering one in our free giveaway this month!

Dritz Looped Needle Threaders

Dritz Looped Needle Threader (Source: Youtube)
Dritz Looped Needle Threader (Source: Youtube)

Whilst the LoRan needle threader is my go to, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. We already discussed above how petite needle users will struggle, and the possibility of hook bending might ruin your day, and so Dritz (who also came up with the LoRan needle threader) came up with something that might help; the looped needle threader.
You need to think of this as a ring of wire, however they make it in such a way that there is no join, and the wire has been pressed into a long spike. You feed the thread into the ring and then you use the wire to thread the needle. In my mind this kinda defeats the point as the wire is just as hard to thread, but it can be a life saver on sewing machines.
That doesn’t mean they’re all bad though, as these are cheap, super hardy, come in a multipack and we couldn’t break them; and we tried really hard.

Hummingbird Needle Threader

Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)
Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)

And now we come to the final, the true ‘best’ of the list. The hummingbird. Ignoring the fun shape for a second, its a hooked wire which you thread the needle onto, and then the thread. It’s been created to fix everyone’s needs. It has a cover so it doesn’t break, its cheap, its small so will go through any needle, it has a hook system so you don’t need to look too closely to hook it on, and it’s user friendly. However the fact that it tried to fix all these problems at once, for me, means it doesn’t really fix any. There are cheaper ones out there, there are ones that break less often, there are ones more suited to smaller needles, there are easier ones to work, and there are simpler forms. Sadly, for me, it falls short.

Automatic Needle Threaders

What about automatic needle threaders I hear you say! Well, there are some out there that do a good job. I’m not going to pretend otherwise either, as some work on magic I swear. However there is one big thing that gets me about automatic needle threaders. They’ve been around for about 50 years and in that time have been tried by countless thousands of embroidery fans, however I don’t know a single one that uses theirs. Instead they use a manual one. I don’t know why, and maybe that will be a future blog, but for now, I’ll still with the experts and choose the manual ones.
 
If you’re interested in how to use any of the above needle threaders, our friend Peacock & Fig have a super video.

Book Review: Criss Crossing Paris

Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover (source: amazon)

I’ve done a few cross stitch book reviews in the past, however I tend to stay away from them, and there is a very simple reason for this; they’re all the same. Cross stitch books stitch to a hard and fast formula. The reason is that for the vast majority; it works.
 
There are exceptions though, such as the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch which put cross stitch in a new light. However for the first time ever (as far as I could tell), Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes have created a cross stitch book that goes totally off the ‘golden rules’ of cross stitch books and they’ve made something truly amazing.
 

Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover (source: amazon)
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover (source: amazon)

We’ll start with what the book does have; the normal instructiions which are slightly more in depth than normal featuring things that aren’t in the book but help embelish, such as the dreaded french knot or beads, a fanastic selection of stitched up patterns, a guide on making things out of your finished cross stitch and a whole raft of standard thread lists and methods to accompany each pattern. That’s where things start getting special. The first thing you see when opening the book is an introduction to the authors, something that I normally flip past, however if you read on it gives you hints on how this book came to be, and where the ideas came from.
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages

Pulling across the page you see Paris in all its stitched glory; or a map of it anyway. See, the special thing about this book is that is about Paris, and stitching the sights Paris is famous for. I don’t mean the Eiffel Tower and other iconic sights; I mean the real Paris. Pictures include art being sold on the street, adorned windows above a shop, a fancy Parisian door, and other unusual sights that make up Paris. This in itself is a great idea for a book, to take something slightly less well known, but still truly Parisian and making a cross stitch about it.
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages

They really could have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead, they took a step I’ve never seen before in a cross stitch book; a loose pattern. OK, it’s still a pattern at the end of the day, but they have fun with it, and want you to as well. The grid sits over an image of cross stitches of random sizes and placements, allowing you to pick your own destiny in stitching it. You can follow the blocks, you can free hand it, you can even drop some points all together; this book is about cross stitch creativity. They then take this idea and show you just what you can do with it. I’ve attached images of their Eiffel Tower stitch, their most typically Parisian, and they’ve shown how you can chop the pattern up, stitch only a section, stitch it freehand or copy the pattern stitch for stitch.
 

In more geometric designs, the charts are easy to follow as the grids are carefully aligned with the illustrations. For designs with more organic elements – curves, foliage, sky – the design doesn’t adhere to a grid line. This is where you need to become creative.

Everything about this cross stitch book screams creativity; the choice you the stitcher make when stitching, and how every time you pick this book up and stitch a pattern, regardless of how many times you’ve stitched it before, it will always be different. Is it for the beginner? Well, I don’t see why not; this is a book for people who want to create, to make something truly unique, and Fiona and Sally-Anne give you a helping hand to get there.

Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Inside Pages

 

You can pick up a copy from amazon or your local book store.

A pdf copy of the book was supplied free of charge by the authors for this review. The opinions are totally my own and no effort was made to appease or appeal to the authors or publishers of this book.

Are Cheap Embroidery Threads Worth It?

Full set of DMC threads

We’ve all heard the horror stories over threads about melting threads and bleeds, and as a result settled with DMC threads. Now, I’m a DMC fan, so I was thinking I’d try a few threads out, complain about how they sucked and go on my jolly way. Well, I was wrong. Turns out that all those horror stories are pretty much exactly that; stories. Whilst most do have some truth to them, cheaper Chinese copy threads aren’t all that bad.
I took a new DMC thread, a DMC thread from 1998, a DMC thread from 2016 that had been on a shop floor, an Anchor thread, a CXC thread (known as a Chinese DMC copy), and a Royal Broderie thread (a Chinese DMC copy that mostly goes without a brand name online). I then stitched some test squares, projects and a few party favours to test them all against some of the compaints people had.
Below are my findings which show that those Chinese threads aren’t that bad after all. I will state for the record, that I still use DMC threads though.
 

The Colors Don’t Match

FALSE(ish)

DMC 3861 dye lot differences
DMC 3861 dye lot differences. Courtesy of Cindi Csraze
This was the number one complaint I came across during my research, and I was expecting to see some serious color mis-matches. My first initial stitches showed a slight difference in color, but nothing great enough to phone home about. But then I got to some of the other DMC threads. I said above I used three DMC threads, new ones, ones from 1998, and some from 2016 that were stored on a shop floor under hallogen lights. The difference in these threads were astonishing. Far greater than the difference in the chinese copies, the older DMC threads lost there lustre and most looked a little greyed out.
This is an issue I’ve seen before. In fact, batches of the same color from DNC come out differently too. In the below picture you can see a significant difference between dye lots.

They’re Plastic!

TRUE(ish)
This rumor centers around the CXC threads in particular. They’re made from a composite of poleyester and cotton (much like a dress shirt is). Despite some online retailers stating they are 100% cotton, which is where this rumor comes from. Now from a tradition stand point, the threads of cross stitch should be cotton. However, does that mean you shouldn’t use the composite ones? I think not.
Now being plastic composite does have some impact on the threads, which we talk about below, but being part plastic isn’t a terrible thing.
In addition to this, its only CXC threads that are like this. The slightly cheaper, often no-brand, threads by Royal Broderie are 100% cotton.

They Melt!

FALSE
Yes, some threads include plastic. But melting? No.
Polyester is a high temperature fibre, and it does melt at some point, however the melting temperature is 50 degrees higher than the ignition point of cotton. Yes, you heard that right. The cotton threads would have had to burst into flames before the polyester threads started melting. This story has to be completely made up. I know a few people who know people who have melted threads, but no one could give me proof, and there is always a chance that it was some super cheap thread which might melt.

They Don’t Fit Needles!

TRUE(ish)
For some reason I’m yet to work out, the strands of thread in the Chinese variants are slightly thicker. This goes for both the CXC and generic threads. However, they are only slightly bigger. Increase the needle size by one, and you’re sorted!

They Destroy Needles!

TRUE(ish)
As per above, the needles used with these Chinese threads need to be slightly bigger. If they’re bigger, then there is no problem. However smaller needles will catch at the fibers, destroying your needle eye.

They Break And Knot!

JURY IS OUT
I tested 17 colors of each thread, and with it I got breakages, and knots. However they were all fairly spread over each brand. The cheapest Royal Broderie threads broke most, without a doubt, but the CXC threads didn’t break at all; instead they knotted a lot. In fact, CXC threads knotted a lot when being taken off the skein, however I have heard removing them a different way helps with this.
I know from experience that breaks and knots happen, and most can be avoided by good technique, but I didn’t find anything that suggested more problems with the cheaper threads.

They’re Dull!

TRUE
I don’t want to get too technical here, but both of the tested Chinese threads had less of a shine. Was it noticable? Yes. Is it a problem? Well, no. Combining the threads would look bad, you could see it as clear as day, however when only using the single brand it was hard to see any real difference.
In addition I feel Anchor threads have less of a shine than DMC, and they are one of the most expensive threads to buy.

The Colors Run!

FALSE & TRUE
Cotton can be dyed in two ways, a color fast way, or a ‘quick dye’ which bleeds and runs. The Royal Broderie threads are a quick dye, so they bleed. It wasn’t obvious as first, however you can simulate wear on threads by washing with higher heats, which shows a very clear bleed.
CXC threads on the other hand, don’t. This is probably due to their polyester cotton blend, which needs the color fast dye method to dye them in the first place.

They’re Hard To Get!

FALSE(ish)
You can get either CXC threads or Royal Broiderie from ebay, amazon or alibaba. Getting them to your house quickly; that’s harder. Getting exact colors; also hard.
Now, in recent times picking up specific colors has got a lot easier, however in general you pick up packs of 50 threads, random colors. This can work out really well (you can get a full set quickly and cheaply), however picking a single skein of a specific color is still a pain to do. Most of the time they come from China (being Chinese and all), so postage is a few weeks.
So long as you prepare ahead of time, its not a big deal.

TL;DR

If its a no-brand Chinese thread, its terrible quality, don’t touch them.
DMC is superior to CXC, but consider the downsides to cost, as it may be a viable thread, especially for people starting in the hobby.
CXC threads tend to knot, they are duller than DMC, they aren’t 100% cotton, you needle to use a larger needle and they can be fiddly to get hold of sometimes. I know a lot of people that will be turned off by this list, myself included, however the price difference between DMC (£0.89 at the time of this test) compared with an average CXC skein (£0.22 at the time of this test) is a massive difference. Using a slightly inferior thread for less might be a viable option to many. They really aren’t as bad as some of the rumors suggest…
 
I just wanted to thank a few resources that have done similar test; reddit comparison by Damaniel2, crossstitch forum and thread-bare
CXC threads forum comments

Cross Stitch Software for Mac

PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)

As more and more people move to Apple, more and more people are on the lookout for cross stitch software on a Mac. However, there simply isn’t much choice out there.
 
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some great choices out there.
 

MacStitch – 9/10

($52 ($47 with discount))
We start with the behomoth of cross stitch software, on Mac or Windows. MacStitch is simply the Mac version of the ever popular WinStitch, a full service cross stitch software that not only competes (but ranks better in our tests) than the likes of PCStitch.
It has over 30 different brand of threads, including select options, such as DMC grey scale, has an inbuilt print to pdf (unlike some, PCStitch), and runs without strong demands on RAM. As a result, its the first place to look for a Mac software option.

MacStitch Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern
MacStitch Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern

But it does come with some drawbacks. The first, is of course the price. Whilst the initial outlay of $52 ($47 with discount) seems steep, its comparable to the price of any Windows options, and is BY FAR the cheapest Mac software option.
Secondly, thanks to its full service option, it comes with a learning curve. However, the same can be said with any software, regardless of platform, and as confidence grows, the extra options will become invaluable.
As a final point, if the time comes you wish to move away from Mac, all your saved patterns and files are compatable with the Windows version of the software, and whilst you’ll have to buy that copy, it saves you a serious headache if that time comes.
 

StitchFiddle – 9/10

(FREE)
I hear what you’re saying, do you NEED to pay? Well, if you want a full suite of options you need a paid bit of software. However, if you want, there is a free option. But instead of software, its online.
StitchFiddle has long been our favorite online pattern maker, and or good reason. Its simple to use, has fantastic image creation software (see below) and most importantly, is free.

Nothing in life is truly free though, as StitchFiddle is very limited in what it can do. It only has DMC or Anchor treads, it has very simple size selection (but does go up to 2000×2000), and even more simple image editing ability. However, for a quick image conversion, its the bees knees, offering a great print to pdf option.
 

DP Software Cross Stitch Pro Platinum – 5/10

($191)
Here’s where we start getting into some pricier options. For a long time Jane Greenoff pattern making software was the only one around, and over time she got quite a following. However, the first of our pricy Mac options, and the very first Mac software, has been lifted directly from the old Jane Greenoff software, which means its complicated, has a limited selection of threads, and limited in many of its features.
Its a higher cost that the likes of MacStitch, and has considerably less features. Its only real positive is its ability to work with very old Macs (MacStitch works with XP onwards).
 

Stitch Painter – 5/10

($199/FREE)
Stitch Painter is a fairly complicated program, with a similarly limited set of features that DP Software Cross Stitch Pro has. However, it does have a free demo, which despite various prompts, doesn’t seem to run out.
 

StitchCraft – 5/10

($155)
Our final pattern creator for Mac is StitchCraft, and whilst it isn’t pretty at all, it does get the job done. Considering its cost, there is simply no reason to go with something this hard to use.

20 Of The Best Mobile Apps for Cross Stitchers

crossity app icon (source: Itunes)

With every wake moment thinking about cross stitch, it’s no wonder you want an app or two to help you out. We round up the best apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Ranked using iTunes store (for iPhone & iPad) and GooglePlay (for Android) reviews.

Jump to iPhone
Jump to iPad
Jump to Android

Best iPhone cross stitch apps:

cross stitch world app icon

Cross Stitch World (FREE) – 10/10

Based on 656 reviews
Unlike others on the list, this app isn’t a tool, but is actually a game. Effectively it’s a paint by numbers affair, made to look like cross stitch, with the ability to make new patterns with your own images. Due to the recent trend of adult coloring books, the app has really hit it off, but for most cross stitchers it might just be a distraction.
However, if you suffer from any arthritis or similar conditions stopping you stitching, this is a great alternative!

cross stitch calculator app icon

Cross Stitch Calculator (FREE) – 3/10

Based on 24 reviews
A fabric size calculator in your pocket. Sadly the app has many bugs and issues, leaving most to prefer alternative cross stitch calculators, such as our own.


thread tracker 117 app icon

Thread Tracker 117 ($1) – 7/10

Based on 14 reviews
For a dollar, it’s hard to say anything bad about this app, however in reality, it’s just a spreadsheet to track which DMC threads you have. The advantage, and the thing that makes this app so successful is you can import list of colors needed for your next project, and the app works out which ones you need. Next time you’re in a store, pull the app out and the list is there straight away. Of all the apps on the list, this is the one I personally use the most.

thread replacer 117 app icon

Thread Replacer 117 ($1) – 4/10

Based on 1 reviews
From the maker of Thread Tracker 117, this app has a slightly different aim. If you’re on a project and you’re missing a color, the app will give you the 5 nearest colors to the one you want. Sometimes this allows you to make a swap, however often, it results in needing to buy new thread. I would personally buy a shade card instead.

cross stitch guild app icon

Cross Stitch Guild ($8) – 5/10

Based on 2 reviews
A great app in premise, the cross stitch guild have put together a series of tools into one app, allowing you to convert thread, work out fabric size, and track which threads you own. However, it doesn’t do any of these particularly well. With bugs and a super high price point, you’re better off getting Thread Tracker 117, Cross Stitch Calculator and Cross Stitch Saga for less money and a better user experience.

Best iPad cross stitch apps:

cross stitch world app icon

Cross Stitch World (FREE) – 10/10

Based on 656 reviews
Unlike others on the list, this app isn’t a tool, but is actually a game. Effectively it’s a paint by numbers affair, made to look like cross stitch, with the ability to make new patterns with your own images. Due to the recent trend of adult coloring books, the app has really hit it off, but for most cross stitchers it might just be a distraction.
However, if you suffer from any arthritis or similar conditions stopping you stitching, this is a great alternative!

magicneedle cross stitch app icon

MagicNeedle (FREE) – 8/10

Based on 9 reviews
A new entry to the world of cross stitch generators, Magic Needle is effectively a ‘poiint and click’ pattern generator, however also boasts more more advanced features that make it a little special. As the only true free cross stitch generator for iPad and iPhone is definately worth a shot, even if it isn’t as advanced as the likes of Cross Stitch Saga.


stitchsketch app icon

StitchSketch ($8) – 9/10

Based on 251 reviews
StitchSketch is created by the maker of KG Chart. It’s a fantastic pattern creation program, which works almost as well as any desktop program. The app only allows you to import back into KG chart, however unlike apps like Cross Stitch Saga, the app has all of the advanced features the desktop version does.

x-stitch app icon

X-Stitch ($3) – 9/10

Based on 27 reviews
Similar to Thread Tracker 117 this app not only tracks threads, but aida, needles, charts and other tools. It’s “need to buy” feature not only works well, but it reads your charts and patterns to give you lists of threads needed for each project too!

crossity app icon

Crossty ($4) – 8/10 (US only)

Based on 9 reviews
A very clever app, Crossity comes in after you’ve made a pattern. You import your pattern and Crossity takes over. You highlight the colour you’re using, you can select areas you’ve already stitched, it works out how long it will take you to stitch the rest of the project or color, counts stitches and even works out the best route to minimise confetti and jumping across the back. There is also a free version, however ads are incredibly intrusive and the limited features means its work spending the 5 dollars.

cross stitch camera app icon

Cross Stitch Camera ($4) – 7/10

Based on 10 reviews
Cross Stitch Camera works, you guessed it, with your camera. It takes a photo (which can be from your phone’s memory) and makes a pattern based on the largest dimension you set.

Best Androids cross stitch apps:

cross stitch world android app icon

Cross Stitch World (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 31,188 reviews
Unlike others on the list, this app isn’t a tool, but is actually a game. Effectively it’s a paint by numbers affair, made to look like cross stitch, with the ability to make new patterns with your own images. Due to the recent trend of adult coloring books, the app has really hit it off, but for most cross stitchers it might just be a distraction.
However, if you suffer from any arthritis or similar conditions stopping you stitching, this is a great alternative!

cross stitch fabric calculator app icon

Cross Stitch Fabric Calculator (FREE) – 8/10

Based on 124 reviews
A fabric size calculator in your pocket. Sadly the app has many bugs and issues, leaving most to prefer alternative cross stitch calculators, such as our own.


crossity android app icon

Crossty ($5) – 9/10

Based on 360 reviews
A very clever app, Crossity comes in after you’ve made a pattern. You import your pattern and Crossity takes over. You highlight the colour you’re using, you can select areas you’ve already stitched, it works out how long it will take you to stitch the rest of the project or color, counts stitches and even works out the best route to minimise confetti and jumping across the back. There is also a free version, however ads are incredibly intrusive and the limited features means its work spending the 5 dollars.

Cross Stitch Thread Organizer app icon

Cross Stitch Thread Organizer ($1) – 8/10

Based on 30 reviews
Doing exactly what it says on the tin, Cross Stitch Thread Organizer orders your threads with to-buy lists, current stock, and warns you if you’re running low on a thread and a future project needs it. There are a lot of other apps doing exactly this, however what makes this app fantastic is the constant upgrades, and a really devoted developer who can be found on reddit daily.

eCanvas for cross-stitch pro app icon

eCanvas for cross-stitch PRO ($3) – 8/10

Based on 92 reviews
A simplistic pattern creation software, eCanvas makes patterns up for you to export and stitch. Its lacking in advanced stitches and sometimes assumes you’re using a stylus instead of a finger, however it’s a well-balanced app. There is also a free version, however adverts obstruct the working area and it makes pattern creation VERY hard.

x-stitch designer app icon

XStitch Designer ($1) – 7/10

Based on 222 reviews
A great pattern creation app, well designed so it works on a phone. The only downside is you can’t print directly from the app, and getting a pdf to print from a computer isn’t user friendly.

An Interview with Makoto Oozu the Japanese Cross Stitch Master

Makoto Oozu (source: oozu.jp)

It’s super rare that the cross stitch master Makoto Oozu does an interview outside of Japan, however, we were able to speak to him one on one to get a glimps into his world.
 
A lot of people outside of Japan already know who you are, but the story on how you became a cross stitch master is an interesting one. Can you tell us how you came across cross stitch and how it changed your life?
In my early twenties, when I was working at a liquor store, my friend give me a book of cross stitch. It was my first encounter to cross stitch too. Normally, cross stitch books are written for women, with designs like flowers or pretty things. But I thought cross stitch is close to 8bit, which I have loved from childhood. Then I started to design original ones. Then a publisher asked me for some books to be published. However, there were two things they wanted. One; it was made for men who like embroidery. Two; mothers who have little boys liked my design. If I had not come across cross stitch, I would be a liquor shop manager.
 
How and where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew?
I’ve learned embroidery in a beginner’s book such as ‘Cross stitch A to Z.’ It was completely self-study, so I can have a kind of inferiority complex, but that also works to my advantage allowing me to do anything.
 
What does cross stitch mean to you?
Both a hobby and job. I work for clients on most of my work recently, but I always want to create something new in embroidery.
 
Where do you like to work?
I like to work in my empty studio after everyone has gone home with the radio on.
 
As a fellow manbroiderer (male embroiderer) how do you look at the market, and what changes are you trying to bring in?
The embroidery market has grown due to internet. The internet gave us the ability to show, buy, or sell products. I wonder if I just had interested in cross stitch a little bit earlier than other manbroiderers.
 
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?
I’m tall and big guy, so people assume I’m not into embroidery. Everyone usually surprised.
 
Over the years you’ve created a lot of cross stitch. What’s your favorite piece and why?
A bracelet shaped like a ROLEX, which is called “OLEX”. (“OLE” stands for “me” or “I” in Japanese, so it has meaning like my ROLEX). When KAWS came to Japan, he bought it! I could believe my products and the way I have walked is right at that time.

OLEX by Makoto Oozu (source: oozu.jp)
OLEX by Makoto Oozu (source: oozu.jp)

 
As one of the only well-known Japanese cross stitchers outside of Japan, how do you think traditional Japanese culture influences your work?
I had no idea that I was well-known outside of Japan lol.
 
I’m 37 years old now. Video games, that I have played when I was a child, influenced my work a lot. And my assistants are methodical, but that may kind of unique to Japan(?).
 
When you design patterns do you try to create patterns for Japan, everyone, or do you create things you like to stitch?
These days, I work with clients, so themes (patterns) are decided due in meetings with them. I used to create patterns that I liked such as insects, dinosaurs, and cars, kind of boyish patterns.
 
With that in mind, where does most of your inspiration for patterns come from?
I have no idea. But, when I am travelling, or shopping, sometimes I think “what if I made these things as cross stitch patterns?” those things become great.
 
What are or were some of the strongest trends and influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work?
Japanese casual fashion between from the middle of 90s to 2000s, when I was around 18 years old. I like Nike Air Jordans, Air Max, G-Shock, Ape, etc… even now.
Makoto Oozu (source: oozu.jp)
Makoto Oozu (source: oozu.jp)

In 2016 you opened TOKYO PiXEL, and moved slightly away from cross stitch. May I ask why you decided to move away from cross stitch and focus on pixel art?
Cross stitch is one of “pixel art”. And I’ve been a fan of video games. The difference is only one thing; using needles or mice.
 
Do you intend to open up more stores, and make a Oozu empire? I know many people would be interested in a store in Europe or America…
Taking about TOKYO PiXEL, I really hope that our products are sold overseas from bottom of my heart. That’s why a shop is near Asakusa where many tourists come.
I hope some company will help us to sell our products overseas as a partner. There are two reasons. One; as a designer, there are many things you can create. Two; I’m not talented enough to sell or manage it lol.
 
Finally, let’s talk about your new book. After a series of successful books, most of which are super hard to get outside of Japan, you’ve decided to come out with a compendium of your patterns. Can you tell us what makes “Fun Cross Stitch Book” different, and tell us why you were so strongly devoted to making it full color?
Three books that I have published became out of print. I’ve got many requests for reissue. So I add some new designs to these three books as one new book.
I think full color is easy to view. There was a hard problem of costs printing in full color, but the publisher cooperated with me.
 
We reviewed Makoto’s new book Fun Cross Stitch!
fun cross stitch book cover by makoto oozu (source: amazon)
fun cross stitch book cover by makoto oozu (source: amazon)

Any future projects you’re especially looking forward to?
Some big projects are in progress. I think we would release them in 2017. Please look forward to it. I would love to hold an exhibition overseas sometime, please come there at that time and when you come to Japan, Please visit our shop.
 
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us?
I designed 3D embroidery where you wear red and blue 3D glasses, but actually it doesn’t work. lol.
 
You can find Makoto’s work on his website, or you can purchase his kits, porcelins and geekery on his TOKYOPiXEL store.
3-14-13 Kotobuki, Taito, Tokyo, Japan.
Open on every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Japanese national holidays.
12:00 – 19:00 TEL 03-6802-7870