Are DMC Thread Dye Lots Really An Issue?

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

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

Are the stories true?

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

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

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

So why does it happen?

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

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

What can you do about it?

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

Buy them from a reputable source

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

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

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

Store them well

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

Know they don’t last forever

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

Buy cheaper threads

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

Is Etsy a Good Thing for the Cross Stitch World?

Etsy Logo (Sourec: Google Images)

When I first started with cross stitch, Etsy was around, but it just didn’t have anything in the way of cross stitch on it. However, in the last years, there has been an increasing number of people and brands selling cross stitch patterns on Etsy, alongside tools and threads. But is it a force for good?

Google Trends Report on search term Etsy Cross Stitch (Source: Google Trends)
Google Trends Report on search term Etsy Cross Stitch (Source: Google Trends)

The Good

Let’s start off with the good side of Etsy. At first, Etsy seems like a fantastic thing for both those selling cross stitch patterns online, but also those buying. Sadly, commercial patterns still aren’t creating modern designs, and whilst there are newer magazines like XStitch Magazine, finding a modern cross stitch pattern is nearly impossible without Etsy.
This has a series of benefits, from introducing new, and younger cross stitchers, creating a pool of modern cross stitch patterns, giving cross stitch designers a place to sell, improving overall quality of patterns, but also dropping prices of patterns.
When I started stitching I had to come up with my own pattern ideas, put them down on paper and stitch them on the fly. There was no way that I could get those types of patterns other than making them myself. That worked for a lot of us, but I know cross stitchers who just gave up as they couldn’t stand making patterns. I know this is totally down to the Etsy platform, in fact, affordable cross stitch pattern software has risen at the same time as Etsy has and as a result Etsy was simply the platform of choice, but the fact remains that it’s Etsy that has helped give cross stitch designers a voice, and a place to sell. Without it major brands that win awards yearly like Peacock and Fig and Floss and Mischeif wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Etsy.

Etsy Listings - Lord Libidan's Sarky Stitches (source: Etsy)
Etsy Listings – Lord Libidan’s Sarky Stitches (source: Etsy)

The Bad

But sadly, there is always another side of the coin. With Etsy, this is two-fold; copyright and quality.
I said previously that Etsy has given rise to a wealth of modern cross stitch patterns, with recognizable characters and themes that appeal to your non-your-grandmas cross stitch. But with this comes the obvious issue of cross stitch and copyright. I know us designers tend to go on about it, but there is a genuine reason why you should care about cross stitch and copyright. For small designers its a case of having a business or not having a business, and for larger brands, it’s simply a case of breaking the law. In fact, when writing this post I had to alert a designer that someone else was selling their patterns on Etsy without their knowledge.

copyright definition Image (source: Wikipedia)
Image shared under Creative Commons License! (source: Wikipedia)

And it doesn’t make things better for buyers either. In fact its hard to know if you’ve brought a cross stitch pattern that isn’t copyrighted. The fact of the matter is there are hundreds of Etsy stores out there selling TERRIBLE cross stitch patterns, and they do their utmost to make it hard to know if you’re buying a quality cross stitch pattern. You can force an image through a cross stitch pattern generator in seconds, but the pattern will suck. And whilst most designers don’t spend 100 hours making a cross stitch pattern you need someone to spend time on the pattern to make it good. To make sure it’s not something that will go straight into the bin.

Verdict

So where does this leave us? Well, on principle I would say Etsy is good for the cross stitch world.
But that is on a few provisos. The first, is that you don’t count the rampant copyright theft that happens. Sadly, the only way that this will stop is buyers need to stop buying cross stitch patterns they know to be copyrighted, and for brands to work with designers to make quality cross stitch pattern books. I’ve made a few now, and I know its a big price on publishers, but there is a market out there that will buy it.
But on principle, thanks to Etsy, there is a thriving cross stitch community that creates, buys and sells modern cross stitch patterns, and proving that cross stitch isn’t dead.

The Best Cross Stitch Travel Scissors

Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)

As an independent website, we don’t promote one brand over another, however today we’re making a slight exception. Not due to the fact that one brand is better, but there only appears to be one brand. In fact, it appears the tool I want to talk about today seems to be very niche; however, I think they’re one of the best things any cross stitcher can get.
 
Without beating around the bush anymore, I want to talk about Canary mini snips. These little things are super tiny scissors, which you use with the tips of your fingers, instead of pushing your fingers through the hoop handles of a standard pair of scissors.

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

You may know that I’m a big fan of getting the perfect scissors for you however these little scissors might just be my all-time favorites. As small snips, they are perfect for thread cutting, they don’t take up much space, you don’t have to fiddle with finding the hoops and getting the proper control. You can pick these up and make a snip and put them back before even getting a normal pair of scissors ready. However, their excellence doesn’t end there. They’re round-tipped, meaning you won’t stab yourself, they can be attached to keychains or put into a travel cross stitch kit, and as the blades are super tiny, they’re fully safe scissors to fly with.
 
It also helps that you can pick them up for under $10.
 
You can pick up a pair on Etsy.com in a variety of styles
Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)
Canary Micro Scissors (Source: Amazon)

What’s the best mark up app for cross stitch patterns?

cross stitch mark up app ezpdf (Source: youtube)
A lot of people like to keep track of cross stitch patterns on their computers, ipads, tablets or phones, but what are the best ways to mark up your cross stitch patterns? We’ve reviewed the biggest solutions on the market to help you pick.

Jump to Android
Jump to iOS
Jump to Windows & Mac

Best ANDROID markup software:



XODO (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 185 reviews
Free, and therefore right up there with favourability, XODO is a good alternative to ezPDF. It’s not as easy to use, and that’s why it gets a worse score, but there is one advantage XODO has over ezPDF; it can be used across devices. All you need to do is set up an account and you can use the android app or go online (through your computer, iPad, phone or any internet-enabled device (including your smart TV)) and you can pick up where you left off. Great for those who want multiple devices.

Foxit (FREE) – 8/10

Based on 82 reviews
Foxit is a great app for editing pdfs on the go, however, it’s built with that purpose, and therefore doesn’t easily control cross stitch markups. It still works, its free, and its great at opening any PDF, however, the app is considerably larger than the alternatives, and it’s just not as good on our tests.

Pattern Keeper ($10.50) – 8/10

Based on 10,000 reviews
This app is still in beta, however has still been downloaded and reviewed over 10,000 times. It works with any pdf and has a great list of tools. It tracks stitched and unstitched threads, you can track the use of the parking method (the only app to do so), count how many threads are left, and it combines pages of patterns into one large pattern for you. I cannot recommend this app enough. It initially looks like a free app, but be aware, the trial ends after 2 weeks, and it costs just over $10.

ezPDF ($4) – 4/10

Based on 374 reviews
Frankly, ezPDF has everything you want from a markup app. It’s lightweight (doesn’t take up too much space on your tablet/phone), can open any pdf with ease, and its mark up tools appear to be designed especially for cross stitch. You can undo incorrect markups, even if they were from weeks previous, and the app saves as you go, meaning no mistake app closing losing your work. However with more and more bugs being reported, with no customer service, and a VERY questionable set of permissions required to use, it’s no longer as good as it once was.

Best iOS markup software:

iBooks (FREE) – 10/10

Based on 1091 reviews
iBooks probably wasn’t what you were thinking when you read this list, but as a built in-app, it does everything you need a cross stitch mark up app to do. Not only is it built-in, therefore free, but it is lightweight, has an easy to use format, and saves as you go. It’s not fantastic at loading times but will open anything you throw at it.



Cross Stitch Markup (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 78 reviews
  The new app from Ursa software (the makers of WinStitch and MacStitch) is a dream to us and is the ONLY app on this list specifically made for the purpose. It’s frankly, brilliant. But there is one big issue, and that’s its dependency on .chart files, a file format specifically made for the app. One day I’m sure they’ll be everywhere, but at the moment, finding a .chart is actually kinda hard.

Goodnotes ($12) – 8/10

Based on 27 reviews
Goodnotes is a brilliant app, it’s on its 4th generation, its been made to do pretty much anything you can think of to a pdf with ease, and its a dream to use. But its also the most expensive app on the list. If you’re aching for a great app that’ll be supported for decades to come, Goodnotes is it, but with many free alternatives, I wouldn’t go with it for my first choice.

GoodReader ($8) – 7/10

Based on 18 reviews
GoodReader is pretty much a carbon copy of Goodnotes, so the same applies from a review perspective, but with the lower cost comes less innovation. They’re always playing second fiddle to Goodnotes.

ezPDF ($2) – 4/10

Based on 312 reviews
ezPDF reviewed with our android users as the best app by far, but with the iOS app, everything is different. Hard to install, barely works, late updates, large install file, and not as easy to use as the android version. I’m afraid ezPDF just lets the side down on iOS.

Best WINDOWS/Mac markup software:

WinStitch ($52 ($48 with discount)) – 10/10

Based on 1834 reviews
Use this link ($) or this link (£) to save yourself $5 when you buy!

WinStitch is expensive for a markup app, but its not a markup app. In fact, its a fantastic bit of software for making your own cross stitch patterns, it even reviewed as the best windows cross stitch pattern software. What makes it helpful however, is its also able to mark up cross stitch patterns. Unlike its iOS app brother, it can do it on all pdfs too. The issue; they should be made from within WinStitch to start.



XODO (FREE) – 9/10

Based on 185 reviews
  XODO is a great app, it’s a great online platform, and therefore, its great on PC or Mac. You see, so long as you have a login, you can access your patterns on any computer and pull up its great markup software. It’s easy to use, free, and fast.

Wait, What Are Cross Stitch Counting Pins?

Yellow and Aqua Handmade counting pins (Source: Etsy.com)

One of our most popular posts is about cross stitch gridding techniques and when I wrote the post, I thought it was the only real option. Either you grid or you count. But that isn’t the case. In fact, there is something else; a counting pin.
I had frankly never heard of these before, so not only did I have to look up what they were, but I had to buy some myself to check just how handy they were. And honestly, I was surprised how awesome they are.

Plumeria Counting Pin by GinasUniqueBoutique (Source: Etsy.com)
Plumeria Counting Pin by GinasUniqueBoutique Etsy.com)

In short, counting pins are just blunted pins, but longer and they normally have a cap so you can leave them in the fabric for a while. They solve the problem of recounting. If you don’t grid, you know you’re going to have to count, but thanks to those oops moments in the past, you keep recounting. Counting pins help do that:
 

The most common way to use them is when moving from one stitched area to another spot where you want to start stitching. For instance, if your next stitching point is 12 stitches left and 15 stitches down from completed stitch “A”, using the counting pin to count 12 stitches to the left of stitched point A. Insert the counting pin into that hole, bring it back up 2 or 3 stitches away and put the nut on the pin to anchor it. Take a second counting pin and count down 15 stitches from where the first pin was inserted. Insert the second pin at that point and anchor it. Then you can thread your needle and start stitching.

Tommye J Bunce (aka TJB Designs)

 
In addition you can use them to count out a long line of stitches. Instead of having to go back and count out how many you’ve stitched every-so-often.
 
But are they any good? Well, yes, I think they are. I start most of my stitching in the middle, as is the norm, and as a result, I tend not to need to grid things, but if I’m stitching a long line, or a phrase, placement of the next stitch, if its apart from the main body of the work, is always a worry-some moment. I count and count and count again. But with counting pins, I feel safe in the knowledge that I counted right. Considering you can pick them up for a few dollars, its worth having one on stand by.

Yellow and Aqua Handmade counting pins (Source: Etsy.com)
Yellow and Aqua Handmade counting pins (Source: Etsy.com)

What is the best monthly cross stitch subscription box?

The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

Everyone loves a subscription box, that feeling when it comes through your door and makes you feel like its Christmas every month, but with more and more subscription boxes out there, it’s hard to find the best. So we brought 3-month subscriptions to cross stitch subscription boxes to review, and tell you which is the best to get! Updated March 2019.

The Geeky Stitching Club – Score 9/10

$5 per month: Digital pattern download only
$10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (2×2 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sweets, 15% shop discount, access to all previous patterns
$15 per month: All of above + 1 counted cross stitch pattern & kit (6×6 inches), Pom Pom Kit
 
The Geeky Stitching Club is our preferred cross stitch subscription box for a simple reason; stuff. You get a lot of stuff. Not content with just one pattern, you get 2 full 6×6 inch patterns, and a sweet mini pattern to stitch up too. You get enough stuff to make one of the larger patterns, and some sweets (always a nice touch). The real gem with the subscription though isn’t the number of patterns you get, and not even the price, which is really low, or even that you can add ANOTHER kit for only $5 more. No, the gem, is that you get access to the full back catalog of patterns (5 years worth) for your subscription.
The patterns are well made, interesting, and vary enough to keep you at them month after month. I would say however that there is a definite theme to Geeky Stitching Club patterns; girly. That might not be much of a problem, but don’t expect pop-culture references or snarky comments.

The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)
The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

 

Rag Tag Box – Score 8/10

$5 per month: Digital pattern download only
$16 per month (USA); $22 per month (Canada): 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, Wooden Hoop, DMC Threads, Needle, Link to other pattern options
 
The Rag Tag Box is what you would expect from a cross stitch subscription box. It has a pattern, all the tools needed, a hoop and even different versions of the pattern supplied to mix it up a bit. The brilliance of the Rag Tag Box, however, is the patterns themselves. They vary. They vary like crazy. One month you might be getting a snarky phrase, the next a sweet collection of miniatures, the next month a cute animal, the month after a time-specific pattern. What makes these even better, however, is how detailed, and well made they are. You’d genuinely want to go out and buy these patterns.
The only downsides we could come up with however were both the price, and that you can’t get the kits outside of North America. But, with a $5 download-only option, its a nice option (if a little less special). Their patterns can be a little pop-culture and sci-fi related sometimes, but I see that as a positive.

Rag Tag Box Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: spot-colors.myshopify.com)
Rag Tag Box Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: spot-colors.myshopify.com)

 

Cotton & Twine – Score 8/10

£20 per month (UK): 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, Wooden Hoop, DMC Threads, Needle, Related “free item”, Sweets
 
As the only UK only subscription box, the market for the Cotton & Twine subscription box might be a little limited, however, its really hitting off that side of the pond, thanks to its parent company, Historical Sampler Company, being at the helm. Well known in the UK cross stitch market for over 18 years, it’s no surprise that they supply quality items each month. The patterns tend to be in the middle ground, a little bit contemporary, but also a little bit historical. In my mind, this lowers the overall interest in the box.
One of the best things about the box though is its extras. Every month you get a free item, which can range from a pillow to cross stitch on, to an Easter wall hanging, stickers or a book. And then there is the sweet treats. Unlike other boxes on this list, the sweets are a massive part, with a heavy dose of English treats, like fudge to endulge in.

Cotton and Twine Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: www.historicalsamplercompany.co.uk)
Cotton and Twine Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: historicalsamplercompany.co.uk)

 

Lakeside Needlecraft DMC Thread Club – Score 8/10

$33/£26 per month: 38 DMC Threads & free gifts on month 3, 6, 9 & 12
 
Unlike the other entries on this list, Lakeside Needlecraft aim to help you complete the full set of 500 DMC threads, including the 35 new DMC threads and 18 variegated threads. They do this by supplying 38 random threads each month for 13 months, ensuring they only send you one thread of each color. Whilst getting all the DMC threads is a fantastic thing to do, its a little clostly upfront. This monthly subscription is a fantastic way to slowly build them up.

DMC Monthly Full Set Thread Club by Lakeside Needlecraft (Source: lakesideneedlecraft.co.uk)
DMC Monthly Full Set Thread Club by Lakeside Needlecraft (Source: lakesideneedlecraft.co.uk)

 

Mini Little Stitching Club – Score 8/10

$10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Large Needle, Sweets
 
From the same makers of the Geeky Stitch Club, the Mini Little Stitchers club follows roughly the same model, but instead of small intricate designs, offers simple designs, stitched on wooden boards, with big threads and needles. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a suprise that its aimed at 6 to 12 year olds. Whilst this definately isn’t the best subscription box for adult stitchers, its a fantastic way of getting kids into the hobby.

Mini Little Stitchers Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)
Mini Little Stitchers Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

 

StitchBox – Score 7/10

$30 per month: US – 19 cross stitch patterns (25×33 stitches), 11 ‘gifts’
$47.50 per month: International – 19 cross stitch patterns (25×33 stitches), 11 ‘gifts’
 
Working more like a traditional advent calender, but for every month of the year, the Stitchybox monthly cross stitch subscribption box has a gift for each day of the month. This always contains at least 19 very small patterns, but you do have to supply needle, thread and cross stitch fabric for all of the patterns.

StitchyBox Logo (Source: stitchybox.com)
StitchyBox Logo (Source: stitchybox.com)

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 that say they can make threading super easy. Most often they’re marketed for people with arthritis or poor eyesight, 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 foresee 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 every 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 counterparts, you thread them on the side, which is MUCH easier, and frankly, lives up to the idea of being suitable for those with bad eyesight 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 original 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 fantastically 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 it’s 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 regularly 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 handpicking colors. The reason handpicking colors is so important is that no one actually knows what the colors are. 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 stitch program 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 boundaries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, it’s 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 every 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 normal 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 web link on the pdf.

Why They’re Free

Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realize; 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 is 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 thickness are only really useful for cross stitch (which let’s 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 it has 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 (it’s worth getting them online where they’re a few cents each, rather than the 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 if 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 lifesaver 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 fit 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.