We like epic cross stitch patterns here, and we’ve helped on how to tackle epic cross stitch projects, but one big thing is getting the aida. With epic cross stitch patterns covering meters and meters, finding someone that sells good quality aida, that is huge, can be a struggle. Until now…
Simplify What You Need
First thing first, what do you actually need? Now, I know the obvious response here is a big piece of aida, but if you’re attempting an epic cross stitch project, you’ll need to work out two things. The first is color, and the second is count. And once you’ve done that, we have some bad news.
High count (higher than 14 count) aida doesn’t hold together as well as lower count aida. In short, its about the levels of starch in the fabric, but it means that in very large sizes high count aida breaks apart. This means that you’re going to need to stick to 14m or 11 count aida.
Secondly, finding large sections of aida in one color can be hard. The reason is a consistent dye. When a manufacturer supplies “pewter grey” it needs to always be that one shade. When the size of the aida gets larger and larger, its harder to keep the color the same as the other pieces. So you probably want to buy a white piece.
If Needed; Dye The Aida
But what if you want a different color I hear you say! Well, dye it. In fact, dying aida really isn’t hard at all. Unless it’s ironed, you can use any normal fabric dye to change the color of your aida to whatever you want. Buy it white, and make it whatever color you want.
Look For Fabric Stores
So now you know that you’re probably looking for 14 count white aida, its time to get your hands on some. The fact that you’re reading this means you might be struggling to find someone selling some large enough. Well, I have the answer for you! Fabric stores.
Yes, we mean brick and mortar stores selling fabric to sewing enthusiasts. It turns out that aida, sometimes called “Java Cloth” (its original name) is a common fabric used for stitching in curtains and upholstery. Because of this, fabric stores often hold stock of white aida you can buy by the meter. The usual brand they hold is Zweigart too, meaning its good quality.
Contact The Manufacturers Direct
It might seem a little odd, but you can contact manufacturers of aida directly. Sure, it’s not a mainstay of their business, but I’ve heard of many people getting large sections of aida direct from the manufacturer. It costs a little more money than you would buy from a store, but you can get MASSIVE bits of aida this way.
Worst case, manufacturers can help find a reseller who can supply it for you.
Do You NEED A Massive Piece?
Ha, I know, this seems similar to the first point; but it’s not. You see, if you can’t get that huge piece you need, you can actually use smaller pieces. Before I tell you how, I will advise that there is an issue with this, and you should only use it in the worst of situations; always try to find a single bit first.
You can’t frame it. Yes, that’s right. Once you try to frame joined aida, it will open up in a way that will be obvious. So as long as the thing your creating won’t be stretched, made into a throw for example, you can attach aida.
So how do you do it?
Well, in short, you place two bits on top of each other. So long as you line up the holes in aida, you can stitch through both pieces at once and the cross stitches will naturally hold the two bits together. So long as you have a full coverage pattern, it will be fine.
Having been a cross stitcher for over a decade and a half, not much surprises me anymore however, I recently saw a poll on a facebook group that had me speechless.
It turns out, that not only do people have a preference on which way to cross their stitches, but there is a massive 73% who do it one specific way. A way, which is basically irrelevant, yet has somehow permeated as the main way of doing your stitches.
Why do it that way?
The first question I had was a simple one; why did everyone pick that specific way, from bottom left to top right first? Well, I did some research. And it comes down to two points. The first is that most people learn cross stitch from a pattern, or from an online guide. You can see that even our own animated gif uses the same direction as the poll:
The second is that when printing, at least in English, you right left to right, which is why so many people designed their cross stitch instructions in that order.
Looking at the data, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that people stitch this way. Or should it?
Is it the right way?
I guess the second thing that shocked me was that people had a preference that they stuck to. For me, I always do it specific to the pattern. If there is something in a corner I want to draw attention to, I tend to make the top stitch point towards it. Does it make a difference? Well, that’s up for debate, to be honest. In most cases, once you wash and iron your work you can’t tell. However, I also found out recently that a lot of people don’t wash their cross stitch at all, so for them; I guess it would make a difference.
I guess, for the first time ever, I’m going to have to leave this one open. I’m not sure that changing your stitch direction has a big impact for those who wash and iron their work, however for that 73 % of people that stitch that way; try changing it. Just because you do something a specific way in the past, doesn’t make it the best way. In fact, the direction seems terrible for a left-handed stitcher…
I saw a facebook poll recently. Its principle was sound; it was just asking where people start their cross stitch. But actually, this brings up an interesting point. Is there a best place to start your cross stitch from?
The dead center was the out and out winner in this poll, and for the best part, is where most patterns tell you to start. The reason is pretty simple; you can move in any direction and it normally means you can start with any color you choose.
However, there are issues. In fact, there is one big one; what happens if you don’t get the dead center? I’ve regularly stitched from the center to find out I was off, meaning my cross stitch got really close to the edge of the fabric. Its clear this happens to a lot of you guys too. In fact, that’s why I created a great free aida dimensions calculator. I now add a lot more fabric than is actually needed to avoid this problem, however, I still find myself being slightly off-center. I’ve never been in a position that this has been a massive problem, but I’ve seen people online having to restart their own pattern due to this before, and the worst thing, is that you can’t find out until you’ve almost hit the end.
I personally like starting in a corner. It’s absolute, it gives you a place to work out from, and you can make sure to place it exactly where you want on the fabric.
But there lies the problem. By starting on a corner, you’re not thinking about the other corner, and you might find out late on that you won’t have enough space (although sooner than starting at the center)
Center Upper Left/Right
These options kinda surprised me at first. I was trying to work out why someone would combine the issues of both starting in a corner and starting in the center. However, that’s when it struck me that they’re trying to solve the problems caused by both.
I thought about this, and then I even tried it out, and personally; I think this is an OK way to start. However, it still means that if you’re counting is off, you might run out of fabric. I think it’s better to start in a corner.
This is crazy. 😛 I just can’t bear with the random nature of why you would start in one place instead of another on a whim, but not everyone is like me it seems! The problems starting are going to plague these people as they’ll constantly be changing, however, if they can count like a dream, then I’m all in favor of the anarchy!
So which is the best place to start?
It seems like there is no best option out there, however, it’s actually all of these. I know doesn’t make sense, but you can actually start anywhere and it not be a problem at all. So long as you grid. There are loads of gridding techniques for cross stitch, but so long as you grid, you’ll never have a problem running out of fabric or miss-counting!
The vast majority of threads for embroidery come in skeins, or more accurately, ‘pull-skeins’. However, not many people know that, as a result, people often ask me how to make sure they can get the thread out, without it knotting. Now, I know Christmas is a time when a lot of people gift and receive threads, in fact, we even mentioned it in our Christmas gift guide, and so now is a great time to finally put this to bed.
The thing is, there IS a way to remove the thread without it knotting.
The clue is in the name; Pull Skeins
Every skein and thread you pick up for embroidery has two labels. These labels are there to hold each loose end of the thread down. Normally, you’ll see one thread is covered by the brand label (DMC and Anchor threads are like this) meaning one end is ‘loose’ down at the other end, by the number and barcode label.
Well, as the name ‘pull skein’ suggests, pull your thread from that side. Skeins come off the packing machine in a set order, meaning if you pull from one end, you’ll unravel the thread, which is what you want, but if you pull from the other side it’ll knot!
Is it really that simple?
Well, sadly not. You see, DMC threads have the long end by their number and barcode label, but this isn’t the case for other brands. Both Anchor and Cosmo have the “perfect end” on the brand label side.
Thankfully though, CXC and Sublime stitching following DMC’s way.
A few weeks ago we wrote about what makes a cross stitch sampler and in it, we featured some of our most loved samplers. However, we didn’t speak about them. So I’ve decided to do another roundup post, this time of my favorite samplers, but instead of stitching with modern samplers, I thought I’d do a journey through time, and give you some details on the best samplers history has given us.
The Oldest Surviving Sampler
How could I not include the oldest surviving sampler? This example by Jane Bostocke is the quintessential example of a sampler from the 1500s, and basically stands as the example all other samples are compared to. Mostly containing cross stitch and backstitch, it also includes beads, meaning that this was also a very very very expensive sampler for the time.
The Intimate Passage Cross Stitch Sampler
This cross stitch from Elizabeth Parker is probably the most intimate work you have ever seen. Its open words of “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.” gives you a shocking portrait of the mind of a 13-year-old girl, who continues to write about her treatment that is “cruelty too horrible to mention” and her thoughts on suicide.
These words are so shocking to read, however, the well placed, thoughtfully cross stitched letters in blood red on white linen makes the words so much more poignant. After reading her thoughts, the sampler ends early, with “what will become of my soul” followed by a large blank space, as if the worst has happened.
Thankfully, in 1998 some closure was gained as we found out that Elizabeth grew up in moderate surroundings and died at 76. This lasting sampler acts as her diary, and possibly her only outlet.
The Nazi Defiance Cross Stitch Sampler
From one horror story to another, my next sampler of choice is Alexis Casdagli’s Nazi defiance piece. Stitched from fibers of his bedding while he was held as a prisoner of war in World War 2. Alexis clearly appealed to the Nazi’s sensibilities by stitching what appears to be a fully-fledged pro-third reich sampler. The Nazi’s loved it so much they took it around other prisoner of war camps to show others, not knowing its true brilliance. Stitched into the border in morse code, are fairly anti-Nazi phrases like “God Save The King” and “F**k Hitler”.
Having seen this sampler in the flesh, the sheer audacity of Major Casdagli to stitch this amazes me, but his cross stitches are perfect, made with shockingly imperfect tools. A true marvel.
The Iconic Ikea Cross Stitch Sampler
In 2016 Ikea launched a simple idea “homemade” and it chose to use cross stitch as its poster boy. Whilst this sampler is very much unlike the others in this list, it stands as one of my most cherished samplers, as it shows something the others don’t. Machine cross stitch.
Created using a cross stitch robot the sampler marks a change in the cross stitch world, a change where technology and cross stitch are combining.
Want to know more about the iconic Ikea cross stitch?
The Ultra Modern Cross Stitch Sampler
Finally, I’ve chosen to pick this cross stitch, stitched by samapictures. It was actually designed for the Star Trek Cross Stitch Book I worked on, however it wasn’t picked for its ability, design, or even its history.
I picked it as it shows where we’ve come from. Throughout history we’ve seen cross stitch samplers that show honest truths, that stick it to the Nazis and that buck the trend of tradition. However, despite that, we choose to cross stitch samplers that reflect the history and reflect where cross stitch comes from. Even with super modern themes, like Star Trek, we choose to stitch traditional counts, on traditional fabrics on traditional styles. In cross stitch, we explore new worlds, not like Star Trek, but new worlds of art, and truly make it one of the most varied hobbies around.
I’d like to thank every museum out there for recording cross stitch samplers and making sure these examples live on long after their artists have passed.
Today, I want to talk about samplers, both in the general sense as well as cross stitch. I know your first thought might be “Its a sample, what’s more to learn?” however samplers are a very interesting part of cross stitch history. One that whilst looking rather simple actually has complicated roots.
[sam-pler, \sam-plər\] noun
1 – A piece of embroidery worked in various stitches as a specimen of skill, typically containing the alphabet and some mottoes.
2 – A representative collection or example of something.
I figured we should start with a definition of a sampler, considering what the topic is about, however that simple definition hides something. In fact, it hides something major about samplers. That simple description suggests that anything cross stitched, unless its a reference tool, isn’t a sampler. However, that simply isn’t true. So let’s break down exactly why.
In our history of cross stitch we see how counted cross stitch was invented just before the 15th century. During this time samplers, we, exactly as you expect; samples. Books weren’t in common print, cross stitch patterns definitely didn’t exist, and so samplers existed as professionally curated parts stitched together into a long scroll-like reference material.
The state of samplers somewhat continued in the same vein for some time, before spot samplers came in during the 17th century. During this time, books were starting to be produced with patterns for purely cross stitch, however, cross stitch was still firmly a hobby for Europeans. In order to appeal to the English, books were put together without cross stitch alphabets, and as a result, started to focus on objects.
This trend boomed. Not only in the intended country of England, but in European countries as well. Pushed on by the import of cheap German wool, cross stitch was no longer a hobby for the super-rich and was possible for the moderately wealthy too (small steps). It meant that wool thread was no longer something to be used sparingly, allowing for greater change and in turn, more creativity. For a time, samplers became works of art. Instead of simply being a sample of something, they were an object in themselves, to be cherished. In fact, samplers were often created for funerals and morning activities. If you want to more about this point in history for cross stitch, check out our article on death and cross stitch.
However, the 19th century is what most people think of when someone says sampler. A usually forced activity that young ladies in waiting would need to complete to show they were marriage material. However, this is where the word sampler starts to get murky. Yes, there were written words in cross stitch during this time, often religious text, mottoes, and icons, however, their purpose was not a sample. In fact, the only cross stitch, was a sampler. A collection that depicted anything the cross stitcher wanted. It could include poems, religious passages, or just images.
So what of modern times? What now? We know samplers can be a collection of mottoes, words, icons, images, they can be reference material or a finished piece.
Well, that says it all. Cross stitch, however, stitched, is always a sampler. It doesn’t matter what it contains, what parts it includes or not, its always a sampler. A piece of work for the simple reason to show off its skill in being made. This, of course, opens up the debate about is cross stitch art or craft, however, cross stitch has always been a collection. A collection of stitches.
I’d like to thank the Victoria & Albert Museum for their resource on the history of samplers, which was super helpful in putting this article together, and a great read.
Giant squid might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for cross stitch patterns online, and a giant squid fighting a shark even less, however as soon as we saw this pattern, we were interested. The topic might be a little weird, but by moving the bodies slightly there is a real feeling of movement in the pattern, giving you a real idea that its a struggle between these two beasts.
The way the designer has lowered the color count to very deep colors, with glimmering around the two gives a real feeling it’s deep down in the sea, cold, dark and unforgiving.
I initially planned on using my magnifier on a few small count projects, think 32 count, however before I got to that point I ended up pulling it out to check something on my cross stitch project using 14 count. I would normally have squinted or pulled it close to my face, but for the first time ever, I could just use a magnifier to see it with ease!
Not only that, but cross stitching on black aida has been made considerably easier with the massive light source the magnifier has brought me. I actually use my magnifier a lot, far more than I thought I would, and whilst the super magnification area gets a lot less use, it being there means I have something to use a back up if I still can’t get that dang stitch to lie properly.
So what exactly are the negatives I’ve refered to?
Well, whilst it’s great having a tool at your disposal, relying on a magnifier is a whole different thing. Its bright lighted area and magnification cause havoc with your eyes. And stitching with daylight lamps when it’s not daylight can cause problems with sleep cycles too.
However, the biggest issue is that magnification requires a lot of eye use, and it’s very common for people to get involved in what they’re doing and not taking regular breaks. For those with good eyesight, this can have long term effects on your eye health, and for those who already have eye issues, it can make is substantially worse. That doesn’t mean you have to give up cross stitch if you rely on one though; magnifiers are great to use non-regularly, so consider stitching less, lighting your stitching area better, or reducing the count of your fabric so its easier on the eyes.
Is it worth it?
All in all, I think magnifiers are a fantastic tool for a cross stitcher, even those without issues seeing things in detail (why strain your eyes when you don’t have to) however they should be used as a tool in your armory, rather than something to rely on all the time.
If you are one of those who need it regularly, try reducing your aida count, or using a smaller magnification, taking regular breaks and lighting up your stitching area as much as possible with natural light.
Title: Home Sweet Home Futurama Cross Stitch
Date Completed: October 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Futurama
Before I started cross stitching back in 2001, I knew of cross stitch. This was before the big cross stitch revolution in England, and I didn’t have anyone I knew cross stitching, or even crafting. So how did I know about it? Futurama. Yes, the sci-fi cartoon.
But I want to go slightly further back to tell this story. Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons and Futurama, has regularly made nods to needlework in the past. In fact, Marge Simpson cross stitches, which we covered in our Celebrities That Cross Stitch post, but it was always something that someone was doing. It was never the main joke itself. But then Futurama comes along.
As you can see from the above screenshot, Futurama made a simple joke using the ‘home sweet home’ cross stitch in its first season when Fry and Bender get an apartment. But teenage me, who fell head over heels for Futurama didn’t quite get it. Clearly, it was a joke. Clearly, you were meant to understand. But I didn’t. Until a lot of lewd jokes that might go over your head, this was a joke that was clear as day, begging you to laugh.
Well, I looked it up. I saw the cross stitch, but I still didn’t understand. I ended up learning to code from that Futurama code, and now I get the joke, and in fact, I can see the error in the programming now too, but it was the first time I saw cross stitch, and understood it was a thing.
I’ve taken on the joke, and I’ve even stitched a Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch in the past, like many cross stitchers and made a free pattern of it too, however not the version that first showed me cross stitch. Some 20 years later, when rewatching Futurama I knew I had to stitch this up.
Sadly, despite the many patterns out there for this, none were perfect. This is mostly due to the fact that it’s a cartoon and pixels mean nothing, so it’s impossible to make it perfect, but I made my own and tried to be as close as possible without ruining the overall look.
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.
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!
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 moisturiser that makes cross stitching MUCH easier. A great gift this season might be the last of the stock avaliable (if you can find it) or one of these ThreadHeaven alternatives.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 KG Chart or PC Stitcher for $35-50. Or you can check out our cross stitch pattern generator comparison page.
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.
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.