Often within the stitching community the question of art or craft comes up, and on a general basis it can be answered. However cross stitch always sits outside the classifications, and no one is really sure. Its not an art form in its own right, its part of embroidery, however there are LOADS of art pieces out there with just cross stitch. So does it deserve to finally be called an art form?
Mastering the art form
I wrote a post a few months back now on becoming a cross stitch master and how achievable that actually is, however I never addressed the elephant in the room; a master OF WHAT?
The reason there are so many issues here are down to the definition of art form. In short it could be “a medium for artistic expression”, “an activity that requires skill and care” or “the more or less established structure, pattern, or scheme followed in shaping an artistic work”, all of which cross stitch applies to. But its STILL not classed as an art form in its own right. So why?
I recently posted a link to someone who had used my cross stitch as a base for his own art work, so surely the original must be art too?
For many, cross stitch conjures up images of cute kittens and country cottages, but theres a different side to cross stitching that its an art in its own right, and will encourage them to be a little braver with their art.
However there are a few exeptions. What I like to call the “modern renaissance” where art is in the hands of everyone, there are a few notable examples:
WWII cross stitch
We’ve shown this piece before in a history of cross stitch, however the works of Major Alexis Casdagli in the second world war are not only a fascinating story in their own right, but his most widely known work (seen below) has traveled all over the world in modern exhibitions.
The only truly well known cross stitch artist is Severija who uses cross stitch with historic objects to truly create a memorable set of works. We even devoted a whole post to creating works like hers.
So does any of that suggest an answer? Well, yes. But mostly in the craft camp.
Whilst there is cross stitch art out there, most of the works being produced are being done for just a beautiful image. To truly be classed as art in a modern form, it needs to have a message, like Severija’s works. So as much as I hate it, I’ve got to admit I’m not an artist.
I’ve now been published twice under my own name, and had patterns/writing in 4 others. I just released a Star Wars cross stitch book, and I even have another project in the works with the same publisher. Many of my contemporaries are doing the same, but still whenever someone picks up my book I get the same question; What’s it like to write a book?
Now, I’m going to be a bit more specific here, and assume they mean a craft book, as writing a fiction and non-fiction books are very different. I would know, I have one of those too. But its true, non fiction and fiction are MASSIVELY different.
So lets get down to it. Positives first, or negative? Time to flip a coin.
The Possible Negatives
Well, negative first. The good news is that whilst there are negatives, they aren’t that bad. In fact, I get a kick out of the extra pressure, but I know a lot of people, including Genevieve Brading (Floss & Mischief) who had some seriously tight deadlines.
Which is the first thing;
In the best scenario you might have 3 months. Whilst this seems like loads, there is one issue; you also have to stitch 12-20 projects in that time. Not easy. With some projects you might be able to kick them out in a weekend, but others can be massive (Star Trek LCARS comes to mind…)
Last Minute Changes
So you work for three months solid, and then all goes quiet on the Western Front, leaving you to sit and wait for up to a year. And then the license holder suddenly changes their mind about EVERYTHING. A super busy period exists where you just don’t know how you can get it done at all, but somehow you do..
All The Help
And this is how you get it done. The secret of every craft book writer. Massive amounts of help. I’ve relied on a few people, but massive kudos goes out to BlackMageHeart who has been a serious help with all the books. And frankly without her; it would have been impossible. Thanks!
You Get Paid
Well… Yeh. You get paid. Now its not a massive amount of money, but considering its the cherry on the cake, its always a plus 😀
And this is why you do it. Sure, its not going to be the next Harry Potter, but you’ll be the author you always wanted to be.
Unless its a flop.
Would I give it up?
Hells no. I LOVE to work to a dead line, and frankly having a project where I think about kawaii characters instead of video game characters allows my mind to bring in some different perspectives and makes me a better pattern maker.
So you like cross stitch, and it has its health benefits, but are you addicted?
Your fingers are always twitching to itch
That’s how it starts, that’s how it gets you. The first thing you know you sit there at work, or in the super marketing, and you just wanna get back home to stitch something up.
You cancel 90% of social meetings just to stay home and stitch
And that’s when the read addiction sets in. Do you really want to go to the bar with your friends, pretend to follow the game and be absolutely knackered tomorrow? Or should you just cancel it like all the others and sit at home in the warm with a nice brew and your cross stitch?
You can’t go to a gallery without wanting turning art into cross stitches
Previously that painting looked nice. Now it NEEDS to be turned into cross stitch. I mean, that’s the perfect medium. I mean why did the artist even choose paint to start with. For that matter who is this Picasso guy?
You have at least 2 stitches on the go at once and at least 5 patterns bubbling around your head
Oh, but it isn’t just art that isn’t safe. No, its EVERYTHING. There has to be at least 2 projects on the go, at least 5 patterns in your head, and a whole raft of paper or a journal with even more… I just can’t find enough hours in the day…
you no longer count projects in hours, but in days
On that point, no longer was a project 24 hours. Now its counted in days. Maybe even weeks…
Any time anyone mentions any type of textile your name is ALWAYS mentioned
You don’t even have to be around any more. People are aiding your addiction. Any time anyone mentions textiles, art, embroidery your name pops up. Bonus points for being able to detect when its happening from across the office.
No nerves in your fingers
The ultimate sign of cross stitch addition. You have basically no nerves in your fingers anymore. There are needle marks under your nails. You’re a wreck. You need help… Or maybe you should try out that awesome half stitch idea you’ve been thinking about…
A cross stitch calculator is basically a requirement for all stitchers. Sure, if you wanted you could do the maths, but who has time? And who want’s to check it three times over to make sure its right? Neh, instead, pull out the calculator.
There are a few out there now, each doing slightly different things. We’re going to roundup all the best ones in one post, with their pros and cons.
This post has started for a simple reason; I wasn’t happy with the ones available. So I took all the best features from all of the below calculators and combined them into one. Which we (of course) belive is the best, but we’ve also got loads of support from reddit!
Yarntree’s calculator has previously held the title as the best due to its extra features. It allows you to select extra aida a the sides for framing and gives you both inches and centimeters, but it also simplifies this down by just asking it you want it or not, doing all the fancy maths in the background.
Barely known for anything else, needlework tips & tricks’ calculator has gained a lot of momentum due to it being more mobile compatible than the others mentioned (other than our own), however will a lot less options, tends to be a quick reference calculator to give an approximate, and not exact measurements.
It really shouldn’t surprise you that social media is one of the first options here. And it really shouldn’t surprise you that instagram is the most important one. As a primarily image based sharing platform its craft following is really quite massive, with people regularly getting up to 10,000 followers. What’s even better is the engagement with people is super high.
Other social media
Other social media is pretty much the same as the above, but unlike instagram you need to limit the text, limit the hashtags, and you’ll get less of an impact on posts. But, you can post multiple times for more love!
DeviantArt is similar to a few other things on this list, however as the largest online artist sharing platform, its obvious that this is where you want your work. It requires a little more effort to get popularity than social media platforms, but with over 10 million finished pieces on its databases you’ll be addicted in no time.
Forums are SUPER at self promotion. There are loads out there, but big highlights are craftster, crossstitchforum or more specific sites like SpriteStitch. The great thing about forums is they’re full of your peers, meaning you can get tips, help out others, and of course, promote your work.
We recently went through all the best cross stitch forums so you can find your community.
Now we start getting more technical. There are loads of blogging platforms out there such as wordpress, blogger or tumblr which makes it super easy to create a website. Over time you’ll get more and more people following your site, and can help out the community with awesome posts like this.
How to do it
So now you know where to upload it, is there an easier way? The answer is yes; automation.
If you’re making a website, there are plugins you can get that post to all of these are more. And if you’re not, you could use a tool like Zapier or IFTTT, which post across all.
Have you got any preferred ways to promote your work? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
I’m going to suggest three different ways of making a truly awesome pattern here, each of them are SUPER simple to do.
The initial idea when trying to make an awesome cross stitch is to add something, but before we get there, think about removing something. The below storm trooper helmet cross stitch originally had a full outline which the designer decided to forgo. Its placement on a white aida hoop makes it really work, and as not many people think to remove bits, its rarely seen, making it more unusual.
Ok, you can add things too. Sometimes its more detail, or an extra joke, but in the case of the below, one of a massive series, is an instagram sepia filter, making it moody and dark.
I’ve shown off the work of Johan Ronstrom before, as he’s the true master of the craft, but you can always combine patterns to make something truly weird. The below image takes a sweet Breaking Bad reference and combines it with a kitsch flowery boarder to really make the evil face stand out. Perfect.
I have a pattern, but I want to make it break the internet!
Now you have a pattern, the hard but is done for you. All the images below started off as standard patterns and have been edited in some way to really make them pop.
I actually devoted a whole post to making a cross stitch pop but that relied on you not making a pattern yet. The truth however is that you’re going to be doing the same things. In the below image, by replacing the suggested blue threads with a glow in the dark thread, the piece lights up ever so slightly in the day, giving it the illusion of real neon.
In addition is this pattern we’ve featured on our best Harry Potter cross stitch as its a brilliant example of pattern hacking.
The original pattern was entirely black, but by choosing to stitch the golden stitch gold, its taken a whole new edge to the piece. I imagine you could go further, stitching in a metallic thread, or even putting small silver details on the snitch.
Got any other ways of making awesome cross stitch? Drop me a line below.
There are frankly loads of video game cross stitches out there now, a large volume of which are mine… but the reason cross stitch got such a cult following back in 2010 was partly due to awesome work being shared on the likes of technabob. This amazing example by psi169 is one of my all time favorites.
Harry Potter will ALWAYS (see what I did there?) be a part of our hearts, but there is so much going on in the books and movies, how can you stitch all of them? Well this brilliant Potter inspired sampler by Etsy shop FeltLikeStitching is made particularly poignant by adding a little golden flair.
1 in 3 people have a tattoo. Hard to get away from now-a-days, but its rare to see a truly brilliant one. However, this rose cross stitch tattoo, whilst not my personal favorite, still goes to show there’s talent out there.
Whilst I did have a hand in the below pattern, thanks to my Star Trek Cross Stitch Book, the fact that the below sampler is so fantastic is the designer has merged multiple patterns into one, making a super stitch.
Game of Thrones hit the world my storm, and its clear we’ll get spin offs, but whilst the story is all about being the king or queen, everyone knows its all about owning the map. And now you can thanks to RandomlyGenerated’s Etsy store, featuring this brilliant map you can develop as the stories continue on.
This we missed one off, or want to submit your own? Hit us up with an email or link!
Making patterns is pretty simple, however making a good one is an art. We’ve gone over a few ways to make sure the pattern you make has elements that put on the finishing touches, however I’m going to delve into one of those in more detail.
This is where comic books come in. Comics and manga have a limited space to convey a lot of emotion, suspense, story and above all still look good.
They do this in a few key ways that allow the image to convey more than just a simple figure standing there, and these are things you should always think about when making a pattern, especially of a character.
The first thing you see here is the cat. Then you see what he’s saying. Now whilst this is a direct import from a comic book (Saga) its been positioned slightly off to the right of center, meaning you look at the whole image, and not just the cat. This puts further emphasis on what the cat is saying; his catchphrase (and only thing he says).
If you look into this image a little further it also utilizes the rule of thirds to perfection.
Boom! Look at those pose. Green Lantern has not only taken up the whole ring, but his position shows he’s in flight, driving off the screen, creating suspense and movement. Imagine a plain green lantern standing there; which is better?
Whilst the above image is very comic book specific it does show that with the simplest of words “pow” you can create something so much more. The fun colors, the star background, the fact that it only just fits into the ring, its slightly uncentered position, all make it seem super important, punchy and in your face. Drama at its finest.
Combining these things:
So what does this actually mean for combining these things together? Well the above pattern (available on Etsy) uses all these things at once for a fantastic cross stitch pattern.
The position on the right makes it clear he’s looking down on the city, the pose suggests he’s mid fight (or enraged), and the drama of the piece thanks to the plain simplistic background but bright crisp detailed superman.
When making my own patterns I ALWAYS try to think of comic books, and how they might be displayed. Not only does it help with each of the above points, but its always a constant source of inspiration. A Green Lantern cross stitch in the right pose can quite easily be turned into any superhero, and with a bit of work any character you want.
If you want to know more about how comics and manga can help make cross stitch patterns with a punch, check out the book Manga Cross-Stitch: Make Your Own Graphic Art Needlework. Its all about how to use the comic book style in pattern making.