Under-Rated Tool Alert: The Laying Tool

Rosewood Laying Tools (Source: Pinterest)

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

AliExpress logo (Source: Google Images)

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

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

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)

Why You Should Try Gold Plated Needles

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

We like needles here, and as a result its probably no surprise that we’ve come across gold plated needles before. In fact, we even mentioned them in our post about choosing the perfect cross stitch needle for you. However, a lot of people are skeptical of gold plated needles. There’s a good reason for this; they cost a lot more, and they’re often viewed as a luxury that doesn’t can you anything. But they can actually be fantastic needles, and we want to convince you to try them out.

Why Gold?

So we start with a simple question; why gold? Simply put, you’ll find claims about gold needles from improving your cross stitch, to stopping wrist injury and even more crazy claims. In short; they’re all lies. There are two reasons you might want a gold plated needle; allergies and smooth passing of threads. We’ll go into more details on those later on, but as a warning; don’t believe the crazy lies.

Type of Gold Needles

So now we have that out of the way, let’s talk about types of needle. Most people expect a gold needle to be solid gold, and I’m afraid that’s not the case; they are gold PLATED needles. But not only that, some aren’t even fully plated.
A lot of gold needles you’ll find are only gold on the eye. This is mostly to keep the price down, but the idea that the eye of the needle is the largest part, so you only really need to plate that. In my mind, I don’t agree and find these needles are normally the ones that aren’t worth the money. However, if you like the idea of a gold plated needle, but don’t like the cost, they can be a good alternative.

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)
Gold eye plated cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

Price

So let’s hit the biggest issue of gold plated needles on the head right away; cost. Gold is expensive, and yes, gold plated needles are more expensive, but they do vary in price. Realistically they can be anything from a few cents more expensive per needle, to double the price, depending on quality (which we’ll speak about later). This seems OK to start but bear in mind that gold plated needles don’t last as long as nickel-plated needles, meaning you go through them faster. I’m a big fan of getting rid of old needles, but let me tell you, you’ll be going through gold needles at a rate of knots (once again, we’ll say why later).

Allergies

So now we have that out the way, let’s talk about positives. The first is a nickel allergy. It actually affects more people than you think and can go undiagnosed for a while. You might get stiff fingers after stitching, slight swelling and redness. And for those people, gold needles are the only way they can stitch. You either have an allergy or you don’t, so that’s pretty much all there is to say about this.

Feel

For the rest of us non-allergic cross stitchers, the advantage of gold plated needles is the smoothness of stitching. Specifically, gold is a soft metal, but nickel is harder (but still fairly soft). This means as you push the needle through your cross stitch fabric the gold moves. Yes, you heard that right, the gold actually moves out of the way. We are talking tiny tiny tiny amounts here, but this allows you to have a smoother feeling stitch.
It might sound a little stupid, but it’s genuinely a great stitching experience. This is why I want you to try gold plated needles. There is simply nothing that compares to how nice it is to stitch with gold plated needles. I know a lot of people that swear by thread conditioners but gold plated needles are MUCH smoother.

Self threading needles pack (source: Etsy)
Self threading needles pack (source: Etsy)

Corrosion

But all this fancy gold does come with a downside; corrosion. Gold reacts far faster to things like hand oils that nickel, and thanks to the way the gold reacts to you passing it through the fabric, the gold plating does come off. In fact, it comes off far quicker than you think, realistically it starts being a problem at about 6 hours stitching. Gold plated needles in general last maybe 30 hours. This can be improved to 40 to 50 hours if you store your needles properly, but your gold needle will quickly become a steel wire before long.
We rarely have to speak about steel when it comes to cross stitch, nickel needles usually break before you expose the steel core, but steel does terrible things to your cross stitch. Its biggest problem is the tarnishing that can stain your work, or even rust it. And trust us when we say cross stitch stains can be a pain to get out. So you will throw needles out quickly.

Variations in Manufacture

But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, the differences in supplier can be massive when it comes to gold plated needles. We’ve spoken before about the best cross stitch needle brands and we really mean it when it comes to gold. For example, most people plate their needles with 1 micron of gold, but cheaper manufacturers supply less than 0.2 microns of gold. The thicker the plating, the longer they’ll last. The best we’ve found are the cross stitch guild gold plated needles with 2 microns of gold.

Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)
Tulip Sashiko Needles come in a glass vial (source: sewandquilt.co.uk)

Are They Worth It?

So now we’ve spoken about the differences, price, feel and how hand oils can impact them, the question remains; are they worth it? And that’s a hard question to answer. In short, it depends on you.
 
If you have an allergy its a no brainer; try them. But if you don’t they still might be worth getting. Everyone’s hands vary and the oils they produce do too, so for some, they won’t have the corrosion problem, for others, the smoother feel is worth the high price tag. But you won’t know, until you try them.

What About Platinum Needles?

I’ve had a few people mention platinum plated needles to me while I was putting this post together, and yes, you can buy platinum plated needles. But having tried them; they gain nothing more than a gold needle does. In fact, platinum is a softer metal so corrodes faster, and the price is 4 times more than a standard needle. If you want our advice; just stick with gold.

Great Cross Stitch Gifts Under $25/£20

Cross stitchers buy threads in their ever reaching aim to own all 500 DMC threads, we buy aida and other cross stitch fabrics through the year, but the little things that don’t cost the earth and are super useful never seem to get purchased. So why not spend a little on yourself ($25 or £20) and improve your cross stitch game.

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)

When it comes to sheer usefulness of cross stitch tools, an aida identification card, or aida gauge is right up there. Many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting and so don’t buy one themselves, even though they are frankly one of the most used things in my cross stitch kit.
 

Frogging Scissors – from $5

lift-n-snip-scissors with close up (source: amazon)
Making a mistake in cross stitch sucks, but its a pain that cross stitcher knows. However, there is a tool that makes frogging easy. It might not be the most glamorus pair of embroidery scissors, but it sure is one of the most useful.
 

Scissor Sheaths – from $5

Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)
Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)

From scissors to scissor sheaths. Every single cross stitcher probably owns multiple sets of embroidery scissors and like most, one is always kept handy, out on display, getting stuck into things/people all the time. So to keep them safe, and sharp, scissor sheaths were invented. Coming in a whole host of designs, they’re sure to brighten anyone’s cross stitch kit.
 

Easy Guide Needles – from $7

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

Not much happens in the world of cross stitch and tapestry needles, however one recent new addition, the easy guide needle, is like a breath of fresh air. By adding a small ball to the tip of a sharp needle, you keep the blent edge, but get a better point for more controlled stitching.
 

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

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

Stepping up the price slightly, we reviewed these micro snips from Canary that are a fantastic pair of finger scissors, which are not only fast and easy to use, but are fully TSA compliant for plane travel and can even be attached to your keys, so you’re never away from a pair of scissors!
 

Thread Shade Chart – $20

We simply cannot advise every cross stitcher out there to get a shade card enough. They are a super valuable tool. Sure, we have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, but there is nothing like seeing the real threads sat next to each other, to get the best out of your threads, and mae the best patterns. Still aren’t convinced? Check out our post on why you need a DMC thread card.

DMC complete thread card (small)
DMC complete thread card

 

A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $25

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

With cross stitch patterns being found online in their masses in places like Etsy, however that doesn’t mean those are where the best patterns are. In fact, cross stitch pattern books are still on the rise, and are normally the only places you can get official patterns from people Like Disney. You check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market to find one for you.

The Most Under Rated Cross Stitch Tool

Round Nose Jewelry Pliers (Source: kernowcraft.com)

I have a secret I must share with you all. Whenever someone shows me a cross stitch, I ALWAYS take a peek at their cross stitch kit. In fairness, this has helped me in the past, without it I wouldn’t be using snip scissors or a cross stitch magnifier, and after all, its hardly like a ladies handbag.
 
But today, I don’t want to talk about someone new, I want to talk about the thing everyone overlooks; pliers and tweezers.
Now those who have one of these in their kits will probably be nodding away at just the slightest mention of them, but those people are also the ones that never talk about them. The rest of you are probably reading this in sheer confusion at what seems to be an electrician’s tool, but trust me when I say this; I think pliers and tweezers are the most underrated tools in a cross stitcher’s arsenal.

Round Nose Jewelry Pliers (Source: kernowcraft.com)
Round Nose Jewelry Pliers (Source: kernowcraft.com)

Let me start by saying that these aren’t your run of the mill beefy pliers used to bend metal stakes or whatever (can you tell I don’t do DIY?) these are more petite. In fact, there are loads and loads of craft pliers out there for specific purposes. I personally choose a pair of round-nosed jewelry pliers (more on why later), but you can also get tweezers, in metal or plastic, and in fact, there are pairs of tweezers with magnifying glasses too!

What Are They Used For?

So let’s finally let those confused readers in on the secret. Cross stitchers can use pliers and tweezers in three main ways. The biggest thing for me is pushing through threads.
 
The way I was taught to end a thread, like many of you, was by pushing the needle through the back of the stitched threads. Once done, you pull it out and snip the end off. Or at least, that’s how most guides SAY it should be. In reality, the force of getting that thread out is probably the most strenuous thing any cross stitcher will do in the hobby. This is multiplied about one million times when using plastic canvas too.
This is where these tools come in really handy. By gripping the end of the needle you can reduce the overall force you need to apply and the needle will pop right out. We suggest round nosed pliers, or plastic tweezers if you’re going to do this, as the sharp edges of metal tweezers and straight pliers can damage the needles. And whilst I do say you should throw out that old needle I don’t think you should throw needles away all the time…

How to end a cross stitch thread illustration (source: DMC)
How to end a thread (source: DMC)

The second use for these is frogging. Yes, the dreaded frog. I’ve previously spoken about tools that make frogging easier, but tools like tweezers are a good alternative. Unlike a pair of scissors or seam ripper, you can unpick the threads without cutting them.
Equally, they are good at picking out stray pieces of threads that might have developed (I swear some threads fluff more than others), alongside picking out any dirt that might get on your work.

Should You Get Them?

Well, if you haven’t already; yes! I know they might not be the fanciest of cross stitch tools, and they sure don’t make things more fun, but they will make things easier for you.

The Best Online Cross Stitch Stores

Cross Stitch Thread Hanging Board (Source: Reddit)

The cross stitch community is fantastic at supporting local cross stitch suppliers, however sometimes they don’t carry the thing that you want, the prices are a little steep, or you just want a larger range. For most, going to a larger store like Hobby Lobby or Joanns, but thanks to big halogen lights, your threads can be damaged before you’re brought them!
That’s where online stores come into play, which offer home delivery, fantastic service and ranges, but also you can find fantastic cross stitch thread deals. We’re rounding up the best online stores.
 
All stores were suggested by our social media followers, they all had to supply needles, threads and aida of multiple types and had to pass a few delivery tests. We are not affiliated with any of these stores and do not get kickbacks. Updated April 2020.
 
Jump to United States
Jump to Canada
Jump to United Kingdom (UK)
Jump to Australia
Jump to Rest Of World

Best online cross stitch stores – US

 
 

 
Whilst many think of Etsy as a great palce to get cross stitch patterns, its also a fanastic place to get threads and tools. With hundreds of small stores across America, they offer great prices, and you always get impectable customer care.
 
 

 
123Stitch is by far the best place to get cross stitch supplies online in the US. Finding cross stitch items online isn’t hard, but 123stitch offers two things that others don’t. Firstly, value; a skein of DMC thread will cost you only 56c! The second is the sheer volume of items available. If you want it, they’ve got it.
Fast shipping, great customer service, and an unbeatable price mean they are the top dog of online stores.
 
 

 
EverythingCrossStitch says everything you need to know about it with their name; they have everything you need for cross stitch. Sure, there isn’t a lot of tools that aren’t purely for cross stitch (no magnifiers and the like), but they have boatloads of everything else; including the largest selection of cross stitch threads of any online company in the US or elsewhere. Prices are just as cheap as others on this list, and postage is also excellent. The one thing I would say is they suffer from a lack of aida brands; they don’t stock Zweigart for example, however that really is the only negative that can be said.
 
 

 
CrossStitchWorld really tries to offer the best out there in the cross stitch world, that much is clear as soon as you step on their site. They have stock of pretty much anything you can think of, and whilst the prices aren’t rock bottom, they’re pretty good too. Sadly CrossStitchWorld doesn’t get as much focus as it should, as it’s far better than the big craft stores.
 
 

 
Our number one online store is Lakeside Needlecraft, and we’re not alone, it is by far the largest UK based online retailer out there. And there is a good reason for this; they’re excellent.
They have a gigantic range of everything you can think of, they supply to your door super fast, they have great customer care, they have a points program, and they’re really good value for money. To give you an idea, you can pick up a DMC skein for 69p, a good £30 cheaper than stores.
Their website can be a little annoying to find your way through, however, their search is superb. They also have a huge selection of patterns from large and small designers and have even started putting their own cross stitch pattern books out.
 
 

 
ABC Stitch (or ABC Stitch Therapy as its currently know) doesn’t have a modern site. But they have everything else. They’re one of the longest-running online stores, and they stock frankly, an overwhelming amount of stitchy supplies, so much that you will never get bored of looking through their catalog. Prices are pretty good, although a DMC skein will set you back 69c.
 
 

Best online cross stitch stores – Canada

 
 

 
Thanks to Etsy’s worldwide shipping you can get your hands on tools and threads from across the border, meaning on average everything will be slightly cheaper.
 
 

 
At 69c per DMC skein, StitchItCentral were suggested to me for a great value website, however, that would be unfair to them; they’re more than that. With a frankly astonishing range of cross stitch supplies, including magazines, something often forgotten about by other retailers, they’re a great resource for everything cross stitch. The only downside is browsing can be a bit of a pain due to their depth of range, but so long as you know what you want; they can supply it.
 
 

 
59c per DMC skein is a super great deal. However, Herrschners isn’t just about cut-price cost. Around for over 120 years, Herrschners has developed relationships with every single supplier of anything cross stitch, meaning they have a crazy level of stock. They also have great customer service, including project assistance (which is worth trying just for the novelty!) and a quick dispatch process. They do run adverts on their site as well, which is a little annoying, but that’s the only negative to say.
 
 

Best online cross stitch stores – UK

 
 

 
Our number one online store is Lakeside Needlecraft, and we’re not alone, it is by far the largest UK based online retailer out there. And there is a good reason for this; they’re excellent.
They have a gigantic range of everything you can think of, they supply to your door super fast, they have great customer care, they have a points program, and they’re really good value for money. To give you an idea, you can pick up a DMC skein for 69p, a good £30 cheaper than stores.
Their website can be a little annoying to find your way through, however, their search is superb. They also have a huge selection of patterns from large and small designers and have even started putting their own cross stitch pattern books out.
 
 

 
Need to find that special edition thread? A DMC thread shade chart, or another hard to find tool? Etsy is the place to go. With loads of worldwide sellers, finding the item you need has never been easier.
 
 

 
Stitcher is not a website I knew about until recently. I had always been a SewAndSo shopper (before they went out of business) however the other big player was Stitcher. They have a more simplistic website design and it hasn’t really kept up with the times, however, that doesn’t stop them having a great selection and great prices. So much so that their trustpilot score is the highest I’ve ever seen!
 
 

 
Previously known purely for their large modern pattern and kit selection (which they still have a load of), Stitched Modern has started moving into the traditional cross stitch retail space lately. What really makes them stand out from the crowd is the quality of their products. They only choose quality items that they themselves use to design and stitch. Not only that, but they have products that other retailers don’t, like my much loved cross stitch travel scissors.
 
 

 
I personally love Cross Stitch UK, however, I don’t buy everything from them. It turns out that many of our social followers do the same. It’s not that they’re bad in some aspects, although they don’t sell DMC threads, it’s a case of doing a little bit of everything, and we really mean everything. Other retailers on our list stop after the basics, but if you want pins, a magnifier, or even scissor keeps, this is the place to go.
 
 

 
Hobbycraft is the largest craft retailer in the UK, and therefore, it’s no surprise that they’re also one of the best online stores. Hobbycraft have always looked to build their online shop at the same time as their stores, but their preference is on supplying low-cost products. This often means that they have a lot of too-good-to-be-true products, however, if you ignore these, they still have a great selection, and actually boast a better selection than others on this list; but you do pay a premium, and postage is high.
 
 

Best online cross stitch stores – Australia


 
Threaded Needle doesn’t sell a lot of items, and in fact, they basically don’t sell patterns or kits at all. But they’re known for quality, low price basics. You need threads, they have them. You need needles, they have them. You need fabric, they have them. But if you need that specific type of needle or that rare brand of thread or that specific color of aida; they aren’t a great place to go.
This all sounds rather negative, however, ThreadedNeedle is one of the best places you can shop for the basics you need. So long as you aren’t doing something cutting edge or crazy, they’ll have what you need, meaning they’re a trustworthy supplier, with great customer care.
 
 

 
More than just a cross stitch store OzStitch supplies a bit of everything. Closer to a brick and mortar store than any other online store OzStitch has a great direct relationship with suppliers meaning they never run out of the usual suspects (although they often have out of stock cross stitch kits listed on the site), giving you a great place to stock up from, even if they’re a little expensive ($1.10 per DMC skein).
In addition to its great stock, its one of the only online stores anywhere in the world, that will let you come and visit their facility. What makes this more impressive is that its a family business and you visit their family property. If that isn’t a sign of honest and open practices, I don’t know what is.
 
 

 
We all know DMC threads can cost a lot in Australia, however, ItchyStitchy is stepping in to help out. At 99c a skein, they are the cheapest online seller of DMC skeins we can find anywhere in Austalia. This doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they do though. A somewhat small online store compared to others on this list (and very young too) they supply everything you need at great prices, and they put customer care first. No confusing price points, great communication and a small team you can really get behind.

Best online cross stitch stores – World


 
Whilst we aren’t going to hit on all countries in this guide, most of them do ship internationally. However, even if they don’t ship to you, there is another option; Etsy. It’s a market place made by thousands of sole traders, and they sell everything you could ever want (not just cross stitch). As there are loads of people wanting your trade, it drives costs down, and as a result, you get some great deals.
What makes this even better is they have patterns that are only available through Etsy, and they do have copyright issues, but we did a deep dive and found that Etsy was a good thing for the cross stitch world.

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)