Title: Neon Libidan
Date Completed: April 2021
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Neon
After finishing a whole series of cross stitches I moved onto completing some other hobbies, one of which was redecorating a room in my house. I’ve spoken before about using cross stitch in interior design, but I recently couldn’t get something out of my head that’s been in my cross stitch inspiration journal for a few years.
Back when I lived a lot closer to London I managed to find a place called Gods Own Junkyard, which is effectively a pub filled to the brim with neon. This is actually a super rare thing in London, which has never been a mecca for neon, however it dropped something in my brain that I new I had to copy.
Neon cross stitch really isn’t that new, and in fact, one of the first cross stitches I have in my inspiration journal is a neon by CrassCross, however, when looking at his work, I felt I could do something a little…more.
Whilst his work is clearly a neon sign, it lacked the bright reflection neon causes, and the fonts we often think of when we think of neon. In addition, I also thought about adding some effects to make it look like a flashing neon sign.
So I made a pattern! My first step was picking a great cross stitch font, and I made the pattern in a bright red hue. But I didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it enough that I sat on the pattern for a month. Until I realized three things;
– It needed a new color
– It needed a better font
– And it needed a better pattern
Pretty damning for a pattern that’s all about one font in one color…
But that didn’t stop me!
I changed the color to the only color I know with ‘neon’ in the name; pink. I then changed the font to a single-line handwritten font (which is rarer in real neon but felt more realistic), and finally, I started to redesign the pattern. I say start as I came across a book called “A Bitch in Time – 30 Sarcastic Stitches for You to Stab“, which includes a neon pattern. I stole some ideas and came up with two cross stitches (one ‘on’ and one ‘off”).
I finally stitched it up, added some animated effects, and now I have my very own neon sign.
All posts containing finished cross stitch.
Title: Spring In Kurama Temple
Date Completed: April 2021
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Japan
Whilst I’m well known for things like my transforming 3D cross stitchaliexpress, so I’ve decided to fly the flag for all things Japanese cross stitch.
Since my last big piece, Morning At Hot Spring Resort in Arayu cross stitch, I’ve been obsessed with collecting ukiyo-e and shin-hanga. However, there is one artist I just can’t get enough of; Takeji Asano. You may know of him already if you’re aware of my work, and both my Moonlight In Yasaka Pagoda cross stitch and Spring In Daigoji Temple miniature cross stitch are by him too.
This work, also based in Spring, is the same size as both the hot spring and Yasaka Pagoda pieces, and in fact, I brought the frame before I even started, I was looking forward to it that much. But thanks to a few other projects I had going on, I had to break my golden rule of “never stitching more than one project at once” more than a few times. As a result this took me 8 months! But I’m glad to say it was worth it!
This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 6: Mixtape, and has been adapted.
Cross stitch has always had a lot of similarities to music in my mind, not only does has it been with us for nearly as long in history, but its popularity ebbs and flows. There is even a ‘golden age’ of cross stitch in the 1800s when it was seen as a young lady’s proof of skill. But there is one other thing that music shares with cross stitch; much like the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we’re in a revival, a revival that isn’t just marked with a renewed interest in cross stitch, but with definite influence coming from historical samplers, mixed in with modern style.
We now live in an era where retro is cool again, you can just look through past copies of the Xstitch Mag to see that swinging 60s are as popular now as ever, with images and icons from 30, 40, and 50 years ago being in vogue, refreshed and reborn in cross stitch. In music, 80s pop bands are starting to reform and tour again, which are not only on 80s revival radio but mixed in with the current offering of music, which has clearly been influenced by its older counterparts.
Back in the 70s and 80s, before my time, people listened to the music of one artist at a time on scratchy vinyl records that they saved all week for and played on a record player in the corner of their living room. Records were immensely fragile and the prospect of music on the move was limited to radio, normally owned by record houses, not offering much in the way of variance.
But this wasn’t what people wanted. In the UK, Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station streamed off the shores of Britain, started broadcasting a mixture of pop artists, to circumvent the stranglehold of record houses, allowing everyone to enjoy a medley of music in one session. Radio Caroline changed the face of radio worldwide, but its enormous listening figures still weren’t what people wanted. Back then people lacked the wide array of radio stations we have now, and so when one DJ’s preferences didn’t match up with what the listener wanted, they were stuck.
Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.
Until the mixtape. The advent of personal tape recorders and tape players introduced the capacity to record music of choice for replay at a time of choosing. The mixtape was born in the 80s and was more than just music on a tape. A leading essayist of the time described it as “perhaps the most widely practiced American art form”.
Ironically, the mixtape exists today as a retro throwback or a shuffle on an iPod. Although more famous mixtapes such as Now that’s What I Call Music have just celebrated the 100th release. But its permeated modern music tastes, modern technology, and a larger choice of music available.
But the mixtape isn’t the only revival, hobbies of by-gone decades are back in. Cross stitch has never been more popular than it is today. Back in the 1800s, it’s the ‘golden age’, it was only available for those in the know, the rich upper classes. Its 1900s ‘silver age’ had mostly male workers stitching, but it failed to be accepted by everyone.
Revitalized and appealing to the younger hobbyist, rather than the traditionalist granny in a rocking chair cross stitch is now in its mixtape era, not only due to it permeating every age group, class, and age but because cross stitch isn’t just a singular. This reignited interest may have come down as a primarily purist hobby, but modern times have brought with it; options. Options that allow you to make a cross stitch mixtape of your own choosing.
Cross stitch is no longer limited to the stilted patterns and palettes of fairies, landscapes, and wolves, cross stitch isn’t even limited to 2D. With plastic canvas, circular canvas, waste canvas, variated threads, metallic threads, silks, blending filaments, pearlescent, glow-in-the-darks, plastic canvas, French knots, quarter stitches, backstitching, beads, and hundreds of other options, cross stitch patterns are now only rough guides. Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.
This mixtape issue displays the best of the cross stitch of our time, with a selection of well-known cross stitchers. However, every one of the designers knows that we’re just the inspiration; the pirate radio of cross stitch magazines. When and if you stitch these patterns, you do it with your own agenda in mind. You choose to stitch just that section, or maybe you want to work that bit up in a different color, maybe you want to add a bit of sparkle. Just like the American youth of the 80s, you sit at home, stitching for hours on end to create something similar, but unique. You make your own mixtape based on these designs.
Cross stitch, just like the music of older generations is retro, but it has been reborn and revitalized. And I and the other designers implore you to take your own road and create your own cross stitch. Push boundaries, do something different, and show us that the best cross stitchers out there are you; the mixtape makers.
This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 7: Love, and has been adapted.
When you look up love in the dictionary you can get a whole series of definitions, however, at its core, love is an intense feeling of pleasure in someone or something. However, if you look up the definition of similar words, appreciation, devotion, passion, and fondness, you come up with very similar definitions. Instead, love becomes a word to signify an absolute commitment to something.
Yet people, myself included, state they love this or love that. Maybe it means something different in different circumstances. Maybe it’s just a psychological stimulus or plain and simple unadulterated joy. Or maybe it’s deeper than that. When I say “I love cross stitch!”, does that mean I’m in love with cross stitch, or does it mean I have a passion for cross stitch, a commitment to it?
I would initially say yes. I elect to cross stitch over almost every other hobby, pastime, or event. I’m sure most of you do too. But does that mean I have a relationship with cross stitch? Do I have to start looking at stitching as a third wheel in the relationship? Or even worse; is it just a fling?
I would argue that anyone who states they love cross stitch is probably exactly that; in love with cross stitch. But love has come in many, many different forms. Love can be enduring, passionate, or sometimes even fleeting. So, when it comes to cross stitch, what type of love is it?
There are actually a well-accepted seven stages of love, and I’m far from a love doctor, so I’m happy to say I’m generalizing here, but they fit perfectly on almost everyone’s cross stitch journey. Infatuation, understanding, disturbance, obsession, experimentation, passion, and devotion.
For many, love starts quickly. This is the crush stage, needing to know every single detail about some TV or music star. And whilst age tends to dull the enthusiasm in which infatuation takes form, that rush when you see someone winking from across the bar is the driver. It’s the thing that gives you the push to walk over and start talking to someone. Someone cross stitching that is. For many of us, we found stitching through another person, we asked questions, we wondered, we maybe put it at the back of our heads for months, even years. But that time when you walked through a haberdashery; saw a tiny inch square highland cow, and you took the plunge.
You’ve done it! You brought your first kit. Yeh, it’s a random tiny and frankly overcute cow, but who cares? You pull open the packaging, you pull out the threads, you find your needles, threads, scissors, hoop and you get good light… and then you see the book that came with it. Yeh, the instructions.
Our glorious editor, states that you can learn cross stitch in 10 minutes, and frankly, I agree. But when you’re five the instructions, your mind races, you look with quizzical panic as you see different stitches! Quarter stitches? Backstitch? French knots!? But then you realize; they aren’t in the pattern, so that’s a lesson for another day.
You start your stitch and you learn your craft. You see how crossed thread makes something wonderful on mass. You learn the correct way of laying, the right length of thread, you learn about sizes of needles, and before you know it you have literal piles of kits surrounding you.
Or as I like to call it ‘beginners’ frustration’. Everyone’s first kit goes well, and even if it doesn’t you probably don’t know what you did wrong. But as you take more and more steps into the cross stitch world, you start making slip-ups, you realize halfway through a Wallace and Gromit pattern that their legs are 10 stitches too short, you get knots on the back of your work that are just impossible to untie, you stitch something in the wrong color, maybe counted wrong and found the wonderful world of frogging.
This is make or break. Some will give up, some just don’t have the heart, and I don’t mind saying that I thought about it too, but others will knuckle down, they’ll push through, they’ll frog the whole dang Gromit leg if they have to. If you push through, this is where you can truly call yourself a cross stitcher. Not because you stuck with it, not because you learned how to not make those mistakes, it’s because you learned to accept them. I still frog, I still get weird unsolvable knot puzzles, I still botch patterns. But I know it’s not the end of the world.
Just one more stitch, just one more stitch. Let’s face it, almost everyone reading this article has been in a situation similar to this, when they’re up at 3 am stitching when they promised themselves an early night. It happens. I’m definitely not going to blame you. But this is a super important part of love. Everyone reading has likely got to at least this state. The point where they want to know it all, they want to learn about what others are doing, and how others are pushing the craft.
But watching others push the craft isn’t enough. For me, I want everyone reading this to take up their needle and keep on pushing cross stitch. I want people to look at my work and see something they can build on. I’m probably best known for my transforming robot cross stitches, but the story behind them was probably very similar to the one you’re taking right now. I saw a transformer pattern, it looked cool, it looked doable! But I wondered, couldn’t those arms move? And what about that head, if it just sent down a bit and that went there and boom, transforms to a semi-truck. I honestly started that project not knowing how it would end. I truly and honestly thought it would fail. But it didn’t. In fact, it went so well that other people have now started creating their own things in a similar style. That is what being part of a cross stitch community is all about; the pushing of boundaries and the passing of experience. I would argue that until you push yourself beyond what you know you can do, you haven’t yet got past this stage, but you brought this mag, so you’re thinking about it already.
And so comes passion. Those pattern failures or experiments that go wrong just slip off your back like water. You don’t mind the ups and the downs, you’re in it for the long run.
The final step. The marriage to cross stitch. In my mind, I hit this a while ago. In fact, when asked what would happen if I couldn’t cross stitch ever again, I truly didn’t know what I would do. It is my everything.
And so I wonder, when did you start saying that you ‘love cross stitch’? Because whilst I truly believe you love cross stitch, sometimes it’s good to look back and see where we’ve come, what we’ve been through, where we are now, and how everyone in the Xstitch Magazine family was right there with you.
Title: Okumiya Omamori Cross Stitch
Date Completed: September 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Japan
In Japan, religion is everywhere. It may not have as many followers as it used to, but Shinto and Buddhist shrines dot the country at a shocking intensity. At each shrine, you can purchase small objects, known as omamori, that give good luck. In most cases, these are small fabric pouches with wooden talismans inside. However, in recent times, these omamori have become a little more interesting. From small metal keychains to wooden pencils, to modeling clay foxes, giving not only luck but specific help, with love technology and beyond. But a new trend has started, one of small enamel pins.
I’ve seen a few of these pins in peoples cross stitch kits, converted to really interesting needle minders (I really need a frogging one). However, another trend in Japan is also crazy and interesting manhole covers.
This might seem a little strange, however, Japan has always had a strong relationship with illustration. I decided to combine these two for my recent pattern in the next issue of the Xstitch Magazine.
Combining a view of Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms, and a torii gate, I’ve created a small omamori good luck charm for “courage”.
Christmas is nearly upon us, and we all know how hard it is to buy gifts for hobbies we don’t know much about. So here’s an updated holiday gift guide on what to buy the cross stitcher in your life. They’re arranged by price lowest to highest.
Cross Stitch Gifts Under $25/£20
Aida Identification Cards – from $5
One of the most under-rated cross stitch tools out there, many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting and so don’t buy one themselves. However as something that now lives on my desk, being used at least once a week, I’m a total convert! And at under $5 you can’t go wrong!
Frogging Scissors – from $5
Every cross stitcher has had the hell that is frogging invade their life. Not only do you feel a goof for counting incorrectly, but taking the stitches out is painful. That is, until now. We found out about surgical scissors a while ago and they make frogging easy. Trust us on this, get yourself a pair as you’re bound to need them in the future.
Fun Needle Minders – from $5
Christmas is mostly about fun gifts you might not buy yourself, and something many cross stitchers never buy is a fun needle keep. You can get them in thousands of different designs, and there are a lot of custom made ones out there like this 3D printed Pokemon charizard for $6 from Etsy. They’re a little bit fun, and you can combine other things together, so if their other favorite hobby is reading, get a book based one, etc. There are a lot of options here, so we also made a guide on inding the perfect needle minder that you might find helpful!
ThreadHeaven Alternatives – from $5
Sadly this year we lost one of the most beloved cross stitch companies, ThreadHeaven. For those who don’t know, they produced a fantastic thread moisturizer that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock available (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.
Easy Guide Needles – from $7
A cross stitch needle is just a cross stitch needle, right? Wrong. We not only found out that not all cross stitch needles are made equal, but there are a bunch of cross stitch needle types to choose from. Our favorite is the easy guide needle, which adds a small ball to the tip of a sharp needle, allowing for more controlled stitching.
Canary Micro Snips – from $7
ThreadCutterz – $12 to $15
Cross stitch takes time, and a great place to stitch is on planes and trains, however, with security being tightened all over, ThreadCutterz has come to the rescue with a plane safe alternative to scissors.
They can only currently be brought from ThreadCutterz themselves.
Thread Shade Chart – $20
We have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, and we know that a lot of people use it on a day to day basis, however on screen images aren’t always that reliable, and having the read threads in your hands are a much better alternative. As a result one of the best tools I’ve ever picked up is a cross stitch thread card. We’ve even detailed why you need a DMC thread card. DMC (the most common thread company) do a version with thread samples ($20) including the new DMC threads, which is far superior. Think about getting a metallic shade card from Kreinik too ($36).
Scissor Sheaths – from $5
There’s nothing more fancy than covering the sharp ends of your scissors with a nicely made scissor sheath. Not only that, but it has a practical benefit of keeping the scissors sharper much longer, by reducing dust build up. You can pick up a nice cover for under $5, so you might want to combine this with a nice fancy pair of embroidery scissors too.
The Perfect Frame – $12 to $30
I know a lot of people thing cross stitch is a bit simple, but in reality RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) is a real issue. The best way to solve this is a suitable cross stitch frame. The best one in my mind is a EasyClip frame ($20), but you can see a roundup of cross stitch frames on my recent post about the perfect cross stitch frame.
A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $30
This year has seen some of the best cross stitch books ever published, and I would personally buy all of them. However, for the cross stitcher in your life books offer both patterns, and a fresh look at the hobby. We’d personally suggest Criss Crossing Paris ($22) but you can also check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market.
Cross Stitch Gifts Under $50/£40
Travel Cross Stitch Kit – $30
This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking for gifts for cross stitchers, however many stitchers either stitch when they travel, or wish they could. Finding a great, small, cross stitch kit featuring everything they need is a great gift, and probably not something they’d think of (so you get brownie points). You can either buy pre assembled kits, or make one yourself. A pair of Canary mini snips, needle minder, needle tube and a seam ripper are all you need. And you can fit them all into an Altoids tin.
Magnifier – $30
A magnifier might seem like something an old person might want, but when it comes to cross stitch, a magnifier can be a massive help. In fact, we detailed why magnifiers are worth getting a few months ago; we’re big fans. You can get a whole set of different options here, from ones that light up, to ones that click onto your embroidery hoops. I would try to get one with a 2.5x zoom as this is the most useful for cross stitchers.
A Good Pair Of Scissors – $30
Scissors might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you send a lot of time snipping things, and frankly, a poor pair of scissors get blunt quickly, fraying ends. Get a nice pair of Fiskars ‘snipping’ scissors, or ones like the image (a Japanese embroidery scissor), or another specific pair for embroidery/cross stitch or cutting fishing line and you’ll see the difference straight away.
You can even get a super awesome pair of frogging scissors, which solves the worst thing about cross stitch (frogging is incorrect stitches that need to be removed).
If you’re not sure what type of scissors to buy, check out our guide on picking the best cross stitch scissors.
Magazine Subscriptions – $20 to $50 a year
Magazines are fantastic for both giving you patterns, giving you inspiration, finding out about all the new products, and reading up on all the happenings of the cross stitch community. There are frankly a shocking amount out there, so its best to pick one or two you like the most, you can find our cross stitch magazine reviews here, and getting a subscription to those. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.
Monthly Subscriptions – $20 to $50 a month
Nothing is quite like getting a gift in the post month after month, stuffed full of awesome cross stitch prizes. You can pick up a whole load of different monthly subscription boxes that make every month a gift month. Prices vary, $20-$50 a year.
DMC Thread Cones – $40 – 70
Most us of buy thread in skeins, and whilst this is great for 90% of our needs, colors like black and white are constantly on our “to buy” list. But with a DMC cone, you can buy DMC thread like a pro. These cones come in 500g weights and are equal to about 257. If you do the math, thats only 27c a skein, which is a lot cheaper than anywhere in the world. Trust me, we know how much DMC skeins cost across the world.
Full Set of CXC Threads – $40
CXC is a fairly new brand to the world of cross stitch, but they’re making massive moves. They produce threads, which match the DMC colors exactly, however they make them using a polyester blend, meaning they can reduce costs considerably. In fact, you can pick up their full range of 447 threads for under $40, compared to $400 for DMC threads. But don’t let the price fool you, CXC threads are just as good as more expensive brands in our tests.
This year has been big for DMC threads (the most used cross stitch threads). Not only have the new 35 DMC threads started to be used in commonly found kits and patterns, but they also launched a sweet new set of DMC etoile threads, which are super sparkly threads. You can pick up these new threads in fancy packed sets for under $40.
The natural progression for a stitcher is to go from kits, to patterns, to making their own patterns. Most choose online programs, but they all have their own limitations, so spend $20-$200 on the perfect one. I would personally suggest WinStitch/MacStitch or PCstitch for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.
Cross Stitch Gifts Under $100/£80
Tracing Pad – $50
A tracing pad might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of cross stitch, but there are two great reasons to get one. Firstly, any addition light will help you keep your eyesight while cross stitching, but secondly, and most importantly, it cross stitch on black aida by lighting under your work. You can keep it on your lap or table depending on how you stitch, and they don’t get hot!
Day Light Lamp – $50 – $100
We can tell you, for sure, that day light lamps do make a difference to cross stitch. Not only do they add a massive amount of light to the area you’re working in, which can be super helpful when working with black or dark aida but they help your eyes deal with the intense focus you’re putting them through. We belive that everyone should have a well lit cross stitch area, and day light lamps, or bulbs are the best way to get that necessary light.
Cross Stitch Gifts Over $100/£80
All The Threads! – $200+
The only thing better than owning a thread shade card is owning the threads themselves. I always kept using the threads I had on hand, and until I got the whole set, I didn’t realize just how much I was making compromise; my colors have definitely got better. You can see how much a full set of DMC threads has helped us with our blog post about our journey to a complete set of cross stitch threads.
Not the cheapest thing in the world, wait until you can buy a whole set in one go on an offer. The price can drop from $450 to $200. Just don’t be tempted by those cheap Chinese deals to see on eBay.
Title: SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Capsule Blueprint
Date Completed: September 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Space, SpaceX, Falcon 9, Dragon
Whilst one of my most loved cross stitches are blueprints (to name just a few, my Futurama Ship Blueprint Cross Stitch and Star Wars Lightsaber Blueprint) I stayed off creating space-based blueprints for a while. There are a few reasons for this, but they come down to two main ones; disappointment and information.
The first of those is more complicated. Unlike my Saturn V Blueprint Cross Stitch, where the official blueprints had been released, for many space-based vehicles they haven’t (and for good reason). However, SpaceX is a little unlike NASA and other government-based space agencies. They are looking to bring back the enthusiasm of Space in the 1950s. As a result, there are loads of images and information, from inside and outside of the ship, meaning finding information was a breeze.
The second reason I’ve avoided creating more space blueprints is a disappointment. The SpaceX Falcon 9 is someone that gets requested on a weekly basis by my fans, and letting them down would suck. However, following my NASA Space Shuttle Blueprint Cross Stitch I knew I could do it justice, even if the Falcon 9 is a lot slimmer and simple than other rockets.
You can also pick this cross stitch pattern up on my Etsy store too.
Title: NASA Space Shuttle Blueprint
Date Completed: August 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Space, NASA, Shuttle
I rarely revisit a cross stitch idea. For me, once the idea is done, it’s done. However, whilst stitching my Star Trek Enterprise LCARS cross stitch, I had a real yearning for a non sci-fi space project. What made this particularly interesting, was it may be the first time I had ever revisited an idea. The Enterprise was a larger version of my Star Trek Voyager LCARS cross stitch.
I’ve previously explained how much I love blueprints, and I’ve done enough of them, however, I’ve always loved my Saturn V Blueprint cross stitch. It was created for the Xstitch Magazine, however it always held a place in my heart for its complex nature. Working with the same design, planned to go side by side, I reworked the stitch to be focused on the NASA Space Shuttle, the only US space craft to fly in my lifetime.
You can also pick up this NASA Space Shuttle cross stitch pattern up from my Etsy.
Title: USS Enterprise LCARS Ship Blueprint
Date Completed: August 2020
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Star Trek The Next Generation
I called my Star Trek Voyager Blueprint Cross Stitch my magnum opus, but apparently, I was wrong.
I started planning my Voyager blueprint years before I started it, with tests in my Star Trek cross stitch book and my LCARS what happens on the holodeck cross stitch, however, it never really worked for me, so I looked at doing a realistic screen accurate LCARS interface, and I chose a blueprint for it. It was one of the only patterns I’ve made to take me over 100 hours, and I was proud as hell. I added in so many details, so many little hints at storylines, and it’s a super-accurate blueprint to boot! However, I kept getting the same question come up “will you do an Enterprise?”.
It turns out, that whilst Voyager has always been my favorite Star Trek, for most people, it’s the Next Generation. This has two major problems with it though, problems I had to overcome. Firstly, there are 7 series (178 episodes) and 4 movies, all of which have their own hints at what the Enterprise contains, and what it can do. So I had to watch them. All of them. That’s not really too hard of a task, but my notes during the 200+ hours of watching were extensive, so I had to add that into the design. This is slightly more complicated by the fact that there are no ‘real’ blueprints out there for inspiration.
The second issue was that of size. The Enterprise D is 2-3 times larger than voyager in all dimensions. This makes it larger, sure, but combined with all the extra secrets I added in there, more complicated. Then, and this has always been a big thing for me, I wanted these patterns to look like real screens that could be used at any time, so I had to make it appropriate for a screen size, used in the series.
However, I put all of this together and even managed to reduce the number of colors from 13 to 11, whilst adding in a whole bunch of extras that were still in keeping, but also period-specific (LCARS changed between Next Generation and Voyager, in both colors and design). Then came the stitching, for which I had to buy a new cross stitch frame large enough!
For as long as I’ve been cross stitching, there have been snarky cross stitches, NSFW cross stitches, postmodern cross stitches, tongue-in-cheek cross stitches, and even just the plain old retro cross stitches. These designs are great, but they serve a purpose; to subvert. But what exactly does that mean, and is it as contemporary as we’d like to think? I say no.
- Seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.
Its important that we start with a definition, or more specifically the definition of the word. Whilst you probably think you know what something is, its actual definition can be wildly different, take the humble cross stitch sampler for example.
So subversion is to undermine the power and authority of an established system or institution. This can take a whole or part of a cross stitch, but as many know it, a sampler of some type.
In modern times, subversion can be highly varied. It can tackle major injustices, racial freedoms, or it can be a simple subversion of the common cross stitch. For most, this is the vast majority of cross stitch samplers, but even ones that aren’t made to be incongruous or shocking are still subversive.
In the below example someone has taken on the home sweet home cross stitch sampler trope, a highly traditional design, and subverted it by pushing a very modern video game aesthetic on top. This in itself does subvert, but the very nature of the work, a vault under the ground where the inhabitants are trapped for hundreds of years, pushes that envelope even further, mocking the original intentions.
Whilst this is far from the most subversive cross stitch, it does go to show that subversive cross stitch is very popular. This increase in popularity does mean its more obvious to the everyday cross stitcher, but in order to be a video game cross stitch, it needs to be contemporary.
But does it get older than this?
Second World War
With our second example, we throwback to the second world war, a time where you probably didn’t expect cross stitch to be popular, but with thousands of prisoners of war across Europe, cross stitch was a popular pass time. In reality, the British government supported this, indirectly, as they sent supplies that were tools for escape, however that didn’t stop POWs having their fill of cross stitch.
One such example is the fantastic work of Alexis Casdagli. At first glance this is a very Nazi loving sampler, a sampler so impressive to the nieve Nazis that they took this apparent pro-third Reich sampler around Germany to show off in other prisons. They were at the time, the authority, the established system, and Alexis subverted them in a way they didn’t even know. Around the edge reads simple morse code, familiar to all British troops at the time, with very subversive statements like “God Save The King” and even a swear word; “F**k Hitler”.
This is a sampler that not only subverts the authority of those in power but flys under their radar, hidden from view, meaning the Nazis spread the subversive statements to other prisoners of war.
But does it get older than this?
The last example we have today is a fantastic cross stitch sampler by a young Elizabeth Parker in 1830, and whilst being one of the most intimate works you might have seen, is also strong in subversion. This was a time when cross stitch samplers were expected of young women when they were intended to show off their skills for a future life of marriage and to strengthen their bond with God. This was a time when young women couldn’t write and mental health was far from understood. Elizabeth subverted this expectation.
The opening passage of this sampler reads “As I cannot write I put this down simply and freely as I might speak to a person to whose intimacy and tenderness I can fully entrust myself.” from the very opening passage she is showing a wildly different take on a sampler, something at the time so traditional and expected. She subverts the very position she is put in, not being able to write, yet still about to form words.
She goes on, in a lengthy passage, I would suggest anyone reads, stitching about her treatment that is “cruelty too horrible to mention”, her thoughts on suicide and her lack of resolve with God. This all coming from the mind of a 17-year-old girl. But this isn’t pure rambling, this is staged, planned, thought through. Her words are clearly well chosen, and the design clearly planned. Her placement of nothing but red letters on white linen makes the words so much more dramatic, a color that wasn’t well used in samplers of the time. She even ends the whole passage with “what will become of my soul” followed by a large blank space, urging the reader to ponder on what happened to her.
This sampler is a diary of such, but I would argue that its one of the most subversive pieces you’ve ever seen, and whilst it doesn’t have that meme-worthy snarky snippet of modern stitching it’s subversive all the same.
But does it get older than this?
Sadly, we don’t have any examples of subversive stitches before the 19th century, but let me be clear; we barely have any cross stitches before this time. The 19th century was a big boom time for cross stitch history where cross stitch became mainstream, thanks to cheap wool and cotton imports. However that to me, leaves the query open, for whilst we don’t know what came before, we do know subversive cross stitch is far older than we imagine.