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Book Review: A Bitch in Time – 30 Sarcastic Stitches for You to Stab

I tend not to review books. Most books are produced to a similar standard, and the themes are very personal; you’re either going to be interested or not interested. Of these books, the ones in particular that I always steer away from are sarky statements; most of these books are exactly the same, with riffs on the new home sweet home sampler “please don’t do coke in the bathroom”.
But today I’m going to break my rule; I’m going to review a book; and a sarky one at that! But stay with me, as there is a good reason to!

What Does It Include?

A Bitch In Time 30 Snarcastic Stitches For You To Stab Cross Stitch Book Cover (Source: bitchintime.com)
So let’s get the basics covered here; it contains a lot of the basic things any cross stitch book does:
 
Clear patterns ✔
Previews of the stitched pieces ✔
Instructions for beginners ✔
Fully of sarky statements ✔
Great imagery ✔
 
Yep, it’s got all the basics. Now to be fair, it does also have a lot more, such as count information, multiple ways to start, what to do with mistakes, finishing tips, and it also has some extras in the back for color changes or lettering alterations. Actually, this section also hides 4 tiny patterns too, which is a nice touch. But for the vast majority of readers, it’s going to be a standard cross stitch book with little in it you didn’t already know.
 
But that’s where we start talking about the real highlight of the book.

So Why Are You Reviewing It?

The vast majority of cross stitch sarky books contain a basic premise; a simple quote in a nice cross stitch font with a flowery border. Does it have them? Well, it has one. In a 30 pattern book. You see, the remaining 29 patterns are what really sell this book.
 
Taking smart quips and adding them to aid is pretty simple but the real power of this book is the way they’ve been added. Instead of a boring frame, they’ve been grafted on the side of a cactus, added to the front of a packet of pants, punched out of a magazine, lit up in neon and put on a poster.
These patterns go further than just the normal everyday sarky patterns. They’re truly designed perfectly in ways that simply aren’t seen anywhere else. When was the last time you saw a neon cross stitch pattern?
 
For me, the greatest thing this book has to offer is its blueprints. By that I mean it gives you everything you need to create a stunning pattern in the future using the styles in this book. It isn’t just a bunch of patterns, it’s a bunch of ideas.
 
But that would actually be a little unfair of a review for this book. It is filled with sarky patterns, all aching to be the new “please don’t do coke in the bathroom”, with clever touches that riff off expected clichés, and subvert your understanding of what they might be. This is what subversive cross stitch really is.
 

Truly Truly Truly Outraged Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)

 

Is It Really That Good Though?

Yes. And just to prove it, I want to let you into a little secret; my neon cross stitch was heavily inspired by the one in this book (in fact, I stole their colors). I had already made a design that was…meh, but the style of the one in the book made me totally redesign it, and even steal the colors! That’s just how much I love it. It literally changed the pattern idea I had, and made me make something great.
 

“Tara and Roy definitely deserve a high-five for their brilliant execution of a stitched neon sign AND their understanding of where french fries fall on the priority list! A Bitch in Time lets you take a nice, constructive stabbing break anytime too much becomes WAY too much!”
Haley Pierson-Cox, author of Improper Cross-Stitch, Cross Stitch The Golden Girls, and Feminist Stitches

 

You’re Next Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)

 

So Is It Worth Getting?

Yes. It’s been a long time since I got a cross stitch book that I truly admired, but this is one.
 
If you’re interested in sarky stitches, it’s great; it has them, and mostly of the ruder kind. But even if you’re not interested in that (like me), it’s still a great book for what it can teach you about design. Not only did it totally change a pattern idea I had, but there’s another pattern that I’m thinking about too. For me, it’s a great book!
 
Digital copies are $24/£18and hard copies are $30/£23.

Why You Should Try Hand-Dyed Threads

It feels like every time someone posts a photo on social media at the moment, somewhere in the background is a nice hank of hand-dyed, variegated or over-dyed threads. But the number of photos with people actually using them is super rare. In fact, despite you seeing them at stores, there’s a good chance you’ve never picked any up.
Today, I want to convince you to give them a try.

Chameleon Hand Dyed Threads (Source: africanfabric.co.uk)

Why Should You Use Them?

So, what makes these threads interesting? Well, it’s all about visual interest.
There are two main reasons why you might choose to use specialty stitches; to create something unique, or to highlight details.

Something Unique

The first of these is making something unique. By applying a specialty thread on something like a background (as in the picture below), you create not only something with visual interest but something that no one else can replicate. It’s something new, different, and doesn’t take away from the rest of the stitch.

Harry Potter Cross Stitch with Variegated Thread by cityofevil7 (Source: reddit.com)

Details

Secondly, there are the details. This one, for me, is the most interesting. By using something like a variated thread you can create complex-looking sections of your work, without having to confetti stitch.

Various hand-dyed, over-dyed and variegated thread cross stitches (Source: various)

In the examples above you have roses with natural-looking color variation, a truly fantastic wood effect, and a brick wall and bushes that would take a crazy level of time to replicate with single color threads.
 
Whilst these seem like simple ideas at first, by adding them to your work you’ll see how they add an extra touch of something special, especially if used sparingly.

Types Of Threads

Whilst we have been talking about these threads, it’s worth pointing out that there are more than a few thread types here.
 
Hand-dyed Single Color – Of all the threads, this is the most boring, but also hardest to find. In short, they’re single color threads, that happen to be hand-dyed. Whilst there are some really nice colors coming out of this space, the difference between using something like DMC or CXC and hand-dyed single color threads is barely noticeable (if at all).
 
Over-dyed – The second type of threads are over-dyed. Effectively these are also single-color threads, but the dye has been applied haphazardly (on purpose) meaning there are more intense spots and less intense spots. This gives you a patchwork like effect.
 
Variegated – The official ‘variegated’ threads from manufacturers like DMC are like over-dyed, but with two key differences. Firstly, the changes between intensities are planned out in regular lengths, giving it a far less natural transition. Secondly, they are MUCH more intense, going from super dark to super light all within one thread.

DMC Thread 67 (Source: cloudcraft.co.uk)

Hand-dyed Variations – These threads are a bit more complicated, instead of going through intense and less intense patches of the same color, they go through the same, but with multiple colors. This gives a really interesting, and visually complicated look.
 
Variations Threads – The official variation threads from brands like DMC are once again, the same style as the hand-dyed, but have two drawbacks. The first is once again, its very regimented transitions, looking rather obvious if stitched over larger areas. Secondly, they can change between some seriously powerful colors at opposite ends of the color spectrum. These threads tend to be less useful thanks to their extreme changes of color.
DMC Thread 4200 (Source: studio-koekoek.com)

How To Stitch With them

So now we want to stitch with them, and we know the differences, can we start to stitch? Well, not yet.
 
You see, unlike normal threads, if you’re using any of these threads, you need to be aware of how you stitch.
Below is an image of different stitching techniques and how they change the look of stitching. From left (up) to the right (bottom); Danish method, English method, block method.

Variegated Thread using different stitching styles (Source: crossstitchreview.com)

Depending on the look you’re going for, and the thread type you choose, you may need to adjust your stitching technique.
 
But that’s up to you! We suggest you have a trial and see what interesting ideas you can come up with!

A Word Of Warning

Finally, it is worth pointing out that even though hand-dyed threads are fantastic to use, there are a few downsides too.
 
Washing/Colorfast – The first issue is a two-parter; both washing and colorfastness. Washing your cross stitch is an important step for most stitchers (even if you don’t have to wash it), but all bets are off with hand-dyed threads.
The processes behind colorfast dyes might not be followed, or even possible, depending on the brand, color, or even style base thread, meaning that washing these threads often washes colors. We would suggest that you really think about the threads before any washing happens, and whilst you could wash your thread before you start, some of the intensity will come out. So it’s a decision you really need to think about.
Finally, a lot, but not all, of these threads have their own washing instructions, so make sure you follow them to the letter for best results!
 
Dye Lots – Whilst DMC thread dye lot issues may or may not be real, its a serious problem with hand-dyed threads. These things not only have a less stringent dying process, so vary in intensity, but variation threads and variegated threads blend multiple colors from different points, meaning it almost guaranteed that no two threads will be the same.
This can work to your advantage, meaning you always produce something truly unique, but there is also no chance you can get the same look twice.
 
Price – Yeh, hand-dyed threads cost more. In reality, you’re paying for the base price of the thread, and then the hand-dying process on top of that, meaning that most of these threads can cost 3 or 4 times as much as their mass-manufactured counterparts.
 
Have you tried using hand-dyed threads, or even DMC’s variegated? We’d love your feedback and to hear if you’ll be using them again!
 
Happy stitching,
Lord Libidan

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)

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


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)

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)

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)

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

 

A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $25

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.

Is Pinterest Bad For The Cross Stitch World?

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

What is Pinterest?

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

Good – Inspiration

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

Good – Free Patterns

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

Free Cross Stitch Fonts On Pinterest (Source: Pinterest)

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

Bad – Copyright

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

Finger Gloves For Cross Stitch?

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

Finger Gloves (Source: Gesswein.de)

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

Get A Grip

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

Textured finger gloves (Source: banggood)

Keep It Clean

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

No More Pricked Fingers

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

So When Should You Use Them?

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

Are Satin and Silk Threads Worth Using?

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

DMC satin threads (Source: DMC.com)

Luster

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

Price

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

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

Availability

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

Care & Sew Quality

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

So, When Should You Use Them?

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

Why you NEED a tracing pad

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

Tracing pad (source: Amazon)

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

Light

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

Working with Black fabric

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

Pattern Making

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

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

Health

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

The Little things

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

The Best Cross Stitch Accessories & Notions

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

Fray Check – from $5

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

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

Aida Identification Cards – from $5

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

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

Easy Guide Needles – from $7

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

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

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

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

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

Thread Conditioner – from $2

Beeswax thread conditioner (source: Etsy)

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

Center Finding Rulers – from $9

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

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

Quilters Square n Blocker – from $20

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

The Better Alternative To Finding The Center Of Your Fabric

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

The Center Finding Ruler

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

Clear center finding ruler (Source: Amazon)

So why would I want one?

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

Center finding ruler in use (Source: Amazon)

Where to get one

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

Next Year In Cross Stitch – 2021

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

Cross Stitch Magazines & Books

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

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

The Rise Of The Small Store Owner

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

Inclusive Patterns

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

Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan

Software

PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)

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

ThreadHeaven

Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)

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