A horrific thought, I know; but with many cross stitch forums suffering with low engagement, and the size of haberdasheries getting smaller in all the major stores, is it time to face facts?
I know, a graph straight away! How mean of me. But its the best way of showing the facts (and there’s only one, I promise!). I’ve used google trends to create a report since 2005, showing cross stitch and embroidery.
The first thing to note, is that they’ve both dropped since their initial high (more on that later), but it also shows that cross stitch has JUST dropped. Other than monthly variance, the general trend is down. But does this actually show you a true story? I don’t think it does. There are three main reasons for this:
Initial guide surge
Initial guide surges: Back in the earlier days of the internet, you went to find out how to do something. And whilst there are loads of great guides out there for cross stitch now; there wasn’t back in 2005. Now-a-days with the rise of cross stitch, (almost) everyone knows how to stitch. As a result, less people are searching in google for it.
Category dip: I used to work in category analysis, so I’ll keep this brief. Following the economic dip, craft in general got a major boost, and cross stitch rode the wave. However as recession comes to a close, and the average person has more money, craft is starting to decline. So the question here is actually, is cross stitch dipping faster? And the answers no. A big fat no. Craft in general is dropping out at a massively fast pace, mainly due to the rise of baking.
Knowledge: I know. Not what you expected. However as all cross stitchers know, cross stitch is a form of embroidery. With people pushing the envelope when it comes to new ways of stitching, the lines are being blurred a bit. Embroidery is a better term for it sometimes.
So is that a yes?
I’m sad to say that the popularity of cross stitch is definitely dropping. Whilst this is sad to hear from the die hard community, its definitely far from dead. I work in a company turning over £10 million a year, and our keyword gets maybe half as many views as cross stitch. And we’re growing faster than we can count! So no, its not dead.
Will it make the slightest bit of difference?
No. No it won’t.
Actually, that’s one of the best things about cross stitch. Throughout history its gone through peaks and troughs of interest, and despite that it keeps coming back. Why should now be any different? In fact, most recently I’ve seen cross stitch in museums, been published(and again), and without meaning to brag, my site views are through the roof. So long as amazing pieces are still being produced, we have no issues!
So you understand how to cross stitch, but now you want to make your own patterns? I’ll start by saying; you rock! Making patterns is half the fun of cross stitch, so you’re onto a good start. Depending on what you have in mind, there are a series of ways to make a cross stitch pattern, and so without using an specific programs, I’ll go through them all here. However, if you’re looking to make video game cross stitch patterns you may want to look at our specific guide for that.
First things first
To start, you need to work out what image you’re trying to make. Depending on what it is specifically you want, you change the way you make the pattern.
I want to make an image – Brave. But rewarding. You need an image package (MS paint will do), and that might be all.
I want to edit an image – If you need a large amount of edits to your image you need to edit the image before making the pattern.
I have a pixel image – If you have a pixel image in hand, you have a few options, but you need to make sure your image is right first.
I have a photo
With a photo you have a load of quick, easy options to making a pattern. However, all of them require you to have the image on your PC. If you’ve already got this, skip the next paragraph.
In order to get the image onto your PC, you may be able to simply send the image from your phone, or insert your cameras memory card, but in some circumstances you may only have a printed version. If you have one of these, you can scan the image in through a regular scanner. Don’t have a scanner? There’s still an option for you. If you have an iPhone/iPad try out the app Cross Stitch Camera, which allows you to take a photo and make a pattern all on your phone. Its a lot more automated on this app, so you should just follow the app guide.
You’re ready, image in hand, ready to make a pattern, so what’s the hold up? Size. Any photo you’re likely to have on your PC will be HUGE, and will make an equally huge pattern. So the first thing to do is work out how big you want the pattern. Start by working out (in inches) the size of the largest edge. Then work out what count aida you’re using. Time the inches by the count. This figure is important, so write it down.
If the overall number is less than 500, you could use an online pattern maker, such as patternsforyou.com, but if you’re brave enough to edit your image, you may need a downloaded pattern creator. Usually images tend to come out too dark, could scan in weirdly, might have scratches, etc, and so I would suggest downloading a pattern. You can find the best one for you here.
With the pattern software downloaded (or loaded online), you need to upload the image. Its usually called “import” on downloaded software. You’ll be hit with a series of options. First off is size; remember that number from earlier? You should input this in the “ct” box, making sure its the largest edge. The smaller size will update automatically. The next choice is the amount of colours. I would always suggest using as many colors as you can with a photo, but if you want to make it easier you can lower the color count. What I would say is the detail will be reduced with less colors. Finally, you may have options about names, color palettes, and authors.
The software will then create the pattern for you. You can start stitching with this straight away, but if you want, you can also edit the pattern to your needs. Don’t like a color? Swap it out for a different one. Want more colors? Repeat the import with a larger number. Something hasn’t come out right? Try increasing the size of the project. Once you’re super happy, just hit print (if you’re on Mac you can save this to a pdf, or if on PC you might want to download cutePDF) and stitch to your hearts content!
I want to make an image
This is definitely the most rewarding way to make a pattern. It does have its limits though. The first thing I would say is pick your medium. Sometimes drawing something out then scanning it in would be the best option, other times you may want to paint, create in photoshop, or even make pixel art. However, whatever you want to make, pick what you feel comfortable in. For those of you looking for video game sprites, I have a specific guide for you. Assuming that you want to create your image on the PC, and you’re happy to work in pixels, you could either use something like MS Paint, or even create something within a pattern creator itself. The advantage of this would be you’ve set your sizes, and you can pick colors the way to make sure its perfect, but not all pattern creators have this ability. You can see a few options on our post about the best pattern making software.
I want to edit an image
Depending on what this image is, you may be able to edit the image with ease, however I would always suggest photoshop for photos, and a simple image package like MS Paint for pixel images. If you’re editing a photo, you can edit to your hearts content, but do it outside of a pattern editor. Once you’ve imported it, it gets very complicated. Once done, just import as a photo by following the “I have a photo” guide above. If you’re editing a simple image/pixel image you could always consider importing it into a pattern creator first. The advantage of this is you already set out what size image you want, and amount of colors. You can then re-position/recolor/etc on the fly to make sure the image is perfect. This is especially helpful if you want specialized stitches. If so, I would follow the “I want to make an image” as best as possible.
I have a pixel image
Sweet! I love pixel art! But before we get down to making a pattern, you need to work something very important out. Size. Pixel images can be very small, or very big. You need to make sure that the pattern you’re going to make isn’t too big (or too small) as you can’t resize the image. Work out what count aida you want to stitch on and times this number by the largest edge of the pixel image. This will give you the inch size of the image. A rough judge is an inch square in one color will take a hour, 2 colors will take 2 hours, etc.
My image is fine – Great! You can follow the “I have a photo” guide.
Its too big/small/needs edits – With a pixel image you might not have too much option, I would suggest contacting the person who made the image, but if you’re brave you can edit the image yourself.
The world of cross stitch can be someone daunting for the beginner, with a whole new dictionary of words and terms to learn (Aida, floating stitches, etc), but stitching is actually pretty simple. This how to cross stitch guide will help you through your first project and beyond!
What you need
The first step in any cross stitch rock star’s future is getting the right tools for the job. This guide runs on the assumption that you have all the below items either collected yourself or as part of a kit.
Scissors – These can pretty much be any scissors, but embroidery scissors work best, or even better; quick clips
Aida fabric – You can also stitch on other fabrics, but aida is the best place to start. I would suggest 14 count (its the most popular kind)
Needles – Embroidery needles are blunted needles, and usually a little shorter. They come in sizes too. If you’re using 14 count use a size 24 needle
Threads – Embroidery thread is what you need here. Its a little different to other thread, which we’ll go into in a minute
Hoop/Frame – You’re going to need something to hold your cross stitch taught. A hoop works best, and it usually the cheapest option
Now you have everything, you need to get your fabric taught. We do this so that its easier to see the little holes in the fabric, but also so the stitches are nice an neat in the end. Depending on if you have a hoop or frame you can see the two ways below.
Hoop: If you’re using a hoop, you need to measure out the required size of fabric (it should be on your pattern), and you need to add 2/3 inches on top of each dimension. once done fold your fabric in half, and then half again, pressing firmly on the edges. Open the folds up and there should be two lines denoting the center of your fabric (you need this for later). Place the smaller of the two hoops on the table, and place the fabric over the top, so the center is in the middle of the hoop. Loosen the larger hoop slightly by unscrewing it. Place it over the top of the fabric and bottom hoop. Tighten the screw on the top of the hoop without lifting it.
Frame: You’re going to need a little more fabric when using a frame, so bear that in mind when purchasing. You’re looking at 2 or 3 inches more in one dimension, and 6 to 8 inches in the other dimension. Once you’ve cut your fabric, fold it in half and fold it in half again. Open up and you’ll have two folds marking out the center point. Taking the shortest edge, put the fabric on top of the frame, and push over/screw the edge of the frame to it (you can also get some you have to stitch). Twist the frame so that fabric only just covers the far side of the frame. Repeat the process of clipping/screwing the edge of the fabric to the frame. Twist the frame once again until you have the center point in the center of the frame.
Getting your threads ready
Whilst you just want to jump right in with stitching, getting your thread right is one of the most important parts of this instruction guide. Look at your pattern, and you should see two triangles at the top and side of the pattern denoting the center. Work out the color of this thread and choose that one. The first thing to note is the length of your thread. We’ll go into ending threads later, however you will need extra. In addition you’ll need enough. But (and this is the important bit) you don’t want too much, as it catches, twists, knots, and splits. The accepted standard for thread length is by using your own arm. Hold the end of the thread in your thumb and forefinger, and pull the thread down your arm, around your elbow, and back to your fingers. Cut the thread where the two ends meet. Whilst using the thread you’ve probably noticed how thick it is. Well, unlike other threads, embroidery thread is actually a composite thread. That means its made up of multiple strands that you can separate. If you take the end and roll it in your fingers backward and forward it will split into six separate strands:
Depending on the count of aida and fabric you are using, you make need more or less of these, however for 14 count fabric we use the 2 over 2 method (two stands). But wait! starting the thread is slightly different in cross stitch to other sewing, so for now, split the 6 stands into 6 separate threads. A good way to do this is by pulling one away an inch, then holding the single end, and the remaining threads, pull your finger down the entire length (the threads may spin after this is done, let them spin themselves out).
Starting the stitch
Take one of the strands you’ve created and hold the two ends together. This will create a loop of thread. Carefully insert the two ends into the eye of the needle, and allow the ends of the threads to fall half way down the length of the hoop.
That took long enough didn’t it? Well, we finally get to start a stitch! I’ve repeated the top image again, as its a very good guide on what you have to do. To start, find the middle of your fabric by locating the position the two folds lie. Looking closely you’ll see the fabric has many holes. Pick the closest hole to the center, allowing the thread to pull through about two thirds of the way. Take the thread and insert it in the hole to the top right. This is movement 1 and 2 of the below image. The first time you’ll have to turn the fabric over and insert the needle through the small hole in the thread. Pull it taught. You can now repeat movement 1 and 2 for 3 and 4. You’ll note on the image below that this is next to the original stitch, meaning you don’t yet have a full X. Don’t worry. That’s normal. Doing it this way you use less thread, and your finished product will look better. Repeat this until you have a full line of stitches you need to make (you can skip a single stitch if the pattern requires it, but I wouldn’t skip more than two). You then have to repeat the same process, but in reverse. This means you finally complete the full X.
Once you’re back where you started you may need to end the thread (see below), or do another line. Go either up or down, but make sure the first line of stitches is in the same direction. For this example, bottom left to top right. If you change the direction the finished item looks a little wrong, and peoples eyes are often drawn to the imperfections.
Ending the thread
So you have have to end your thread, or used most of it up, but either way, you need to end your thread. The most important thing to remember though, is you need at least 1 inch of thread remaining to end a thread. Ending a thread is very simply done, by turning over the fabric to see the underside. The top has X stitches on it, however the back has straight lateral lines of thread. Take the needle and slot it through these lines of thread. Done. Cut off the end and start a new thread. You could always not it, however, this tends to leave bobbles on the back which won’t allow you to frame your project very well. In addition knots can come undone and the stitches could fall out (which no one wants!).
There aren’t many things that daunt a cross stitcher, but the one sticking point is floating stitches. A floating stitch is when there is a solitary stitch on its own, without anything around it. The problem with these is you can’t end the thread without either tying a knot, or crossing thread over a large area. But there is a trick. Pull a large knot in the end of your thread, insert it into your cross stitch top down, one row up from your floating stitch, but in a large body of stitches. Make your floating stitch and once again pull your thread one row away (I would suggest down) in a block of stitches and tie another knot at the top of the work. Keep stitch away, and when you end, cut the two knots off. This will mean there is no knots on the back, and the loose thread is held by the stitches, without it showing though. Easy!
I’m finished, what next?
This is the first part in the how do guide, but once you’re finished you need to Wash & Iron, then Frame(or store) it. You could also look at the after care guide too, to make sure your finished project stays perfect forever! But here’s a guide to save any if not.
You can download a simple A4 cheat sheet for how to cross stitch below:
As a marketer, I’ve always wanted to stand out from the droves of CVs an employer gets. Eventually I tried out putting cross stitch on there. I never looked back. Since it went on my CV I’ve had 200% more interviews; its come up in every interview, and frankly, I think I owe my job to it. But why did it work?
In short; I stand out. As a professional I’ve gone through the employment process from both sides, and I’ve seen hundreds of colleagues go through the same. As I want to be clear here; its always the same. The CV’s either come flooding in, or they trickle at a rate which makes you want to give up. Regardless of the situation, the need to stand out against the crowd. As much as I don’t want to admit it, not that many people know what cross stitch is. It sounds simple, but they just don’t know. The likelihood is whoever is reading it will look it up online straight afterwards. And whilst going away from your CV might sound bad; they will now always associate cross stitch with you. Well done, you stood out from the crowd, your future employer read the whole of your CV instead of skimming it. You just massively increased your chances of getting an interview.
CVs are roughly split into two camps; the visual (normally marketeers) and the written. In both situations you’re likely to have a quick 2 sentence bio at the top. That’s the place to put it. But you need to make it obvious. As people skim past the page it needs to stand out. Put it on a new line, and make it snappy “My main hobby is cross stitch”. That’s enough. Interest has been peaked.
I’m of the personal believe that cross stitch can show proof of any skill. I’ll go into more detail on how in a moment, but lets first talk about additions to your CV you can make without directly referencing your hobby. Do you have a website? Etsy? Maybe you write for a blog? Put it on there. Put it under voluntary work (otherwise it looks like you have two jobs at once), and you can push a whole new set skills.
So you got the interview. Well done. But cross stitch doesn’t stop there. Firstly, if brought up, I can guarantee they will ask what is it. You can find a good description here, but if you don’t take my advice, at least have an answer up your sleeve. So now you have a choice. And I would personally play this by ear. Do you bring it up, or should they?
Bring It Up
The first choice is you being it up. They’re likely to ask you to go through your CV. This is opportunity number 1. Mention it towards the end, and, if its part of volunteering in your CV, you can tack it on the end “And I also volunteer blogging for a cross stitch website”. Instant engagement. This is where they’ll ask you what it is. The second opportunity is the safer bet. Every interview contains competency based questions. I said earlier that cross stitch backs up every skill; well I wasn’t joking. Detail oriented, logical, creative, devoted, understands a small impact can change the end product, the list really goes on. This is where I usually bring it up, you can’t go wrong…
Let Them Bring It Up
So maybe you’re a little unsure about bring it up; that’s OK. They’re also likely to bring it up. Once again, you need to know what to say once they do, but remember; back up your skills with it, you are still in an interview after all.
And that’s it. why I bring up cross stitch. It makes me stand out from the crowd, it increases likelihood of an interview, it increases engagement in the interview… But there is one last piece of advice I would give you: bring a business card. I can guarantee that at one point in the process, they’ll check your website out.
Cross-Stitch has been a staple of embroidery for nearly 2000 years, and in that time has gone through multiple dips and resurgences through the last two millennia. However, the story starts back in Egypt. You can view this post as an infographic by scrolling down!
The first known embroidery In around 1860 a dig in a remote corner of Egypt found 3 tombs. Inside one, of what is believed to be a wealthy slave owner, was a series of well-preserved linens with embroidery of coins and wall paintings. In addition there were frescos detailing tapestries and other embroideries; proof that this was not a one off. You can read the official journal paper here.
618 – 900AD
The first record of the movement of embroidery Oddly, the first known evidence of embroidery is unknown, however during the 6th to 8th century’s records from both the Chinese and the Russians began to detail a vast movement of embroidery in both directions. Ledgers of the time detail that tea was often traded for produce, including embroidery.
The Bayeux tapestry Unlike most tapestries of the past, the first western embroidery known is the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the events of 1066AD in Britain. Whilst in Britain this tapestry is highly regarded, it featured many new forms of stitch, including the over under, or cross stitch.
Invention of counted cross stitch Whilst up to this point crossed stitches had been used, there was no specific reason to use them. However, in the Islamic states, on traditionally made hemp cloth cross stitches were used to create a small repeating pattern in a grid. This quickly moved across into Europe and the Baltic States. You can follow a timeline of pieces in the Victoria & Albert museum on their website.
Cross Stitch brought to Britain Whilst counted cross stitch had grown in popularity in Europe over the last few hundred years, England had stayed out of it, focusing on other embroidery. However, Catherine of Aragon brought black work, and cross stitch to England where she stitched on Henry VIII’s shirts. As the height of style at the time, this launched England’s love affair with cross stitch.
Counted Cross Stitch Books started to be published The first known counted cross stitch was published in England. Whilst there is no surviving copy of this book, we do have many references to its existence.
Printing presses working overtime Cross stitch books started to become one of the first mainstream publications within England, with many books such as this one from the Smithsonian Library being released and distributed. DMC and Anchor were also founded.
German wool imports Whilst embroidery was incredibly popular up until this time, the German wool trade was suffering from lack of internal demand, and so started exporting. The English market was flooded with cheaper threads, which in turn lowered the desirability.
Invention of domestic sewing machines Struggling to overcome mass imports, cross stitch suffered another blow as domestic sewing machines lowered the desirability for cross stitch even further. During this time, the arts and crafts movement developed within England, however cross stitch was never taken up within this movement.
First World War The breakout of the First World War caused cotton prices to soar worldwide, and thread was classed as a luxury item, not to be used by the mass public.
Women given the vote In Britain women were finally given freedoms, including the vote. However, with this came an increase in working hours, and less time spend on leisure activities. Cross stitch at this time had a small resurgence, but prices meant access for the mass public was limited.
Second World War WWII brought strict rationing in England, limiting cotton once again. In addition women moved into the land army, where hobbies were not in the national interest. Interestingly, during this time prisoners of war were often finding themselves with nothing to do. Cross stitch and embroidery became a pass time in PoW camps. A very interesting example of a cross stitch made from threads of his bedding was made by an English PoW. It featured pro-Nazi imagery, and as a result was taken to other PoW camps as proof of obedience. Little did the Nazi’s know, but stitched within the boarder were pro-English, and anti-Hitler sentiments.
A fantastic in-depth article can be found on Make, with an interview by the PoW; Major Alexis Casdagli.
The 60’s resurgence For 300 years cross stitch had been battered in Britain, and popularity wavered, however in the post war 60s, time saving tools came to average households, allowing women more free time. Cross stitch saw its largest ever resurgence.
New fabric invented – aida Plastic canvas and waste canvas were invented as desires for new products launched within the hobby sewing market.
The great recession In early 2009, I developed Lord Libidan’s Video Game and Pop Culture Cross Stitch. The great recession hit, and although this brought a strain on personal finances for some, it also brought with it a renewed interest in home craft, with retailer John Lewis reporting a 17% increase in craft sales over a year.
As every cross stitcher knows, that question is all too common amongst your friends, family and colleagues, and I’ve never been able to answer in a simple, succinct way. I usually palm it off as a bit of a granny hobby (which is usually followed by a really weird look). I then try and palm out a rough idea of what it is, whilst also trying to show how I do it differently from everyone else, and it just leaves people confused and grabbing for the conversational parachute. I finally relent and show them a picture; which always sparks the obligatory request for a piece just for them (if only they knew how long it took).
But truly, what is cross stitch? I plan to answer that question in a way that a cross stitcher would find interesting, a friend might understand, and a way that doesn’t confuse the person being told.
Dictionary.com kinda calls it like it is: “a stitch in which pairs of diagonal stitches of the same length cross each other in the middle to form an X” Well, yeh, that’s it, right on the head. But you tell someone that, and all they can think of is diagonals, and they have to mentally (or possibly physically) draw out what you mean. Try doing that in an interview and then going back to quadratic quantitative analysis in a hurry…
So maybe the beloved wikipedia has the answer? “Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture.” Great, so now you have to tell someone what a raster image is first.
And don’t get me started on the history. Unless you have 30 minutes to talk through nearly 2000 years of embroidery?
The Real World Definition
The true definitions clearly aren’t able to clear anything up for the layperson, and so you struggle to explain yourself. Maybe you make images in the air, explain in detail how you spend countless hours sat in front of a bit of cloth and then file it away in a draw somewhere when you’re done. Maybe you get a little annoyed that they belittle that slightly… regardless, they just don’t get it. Using references, quoting it as a grandma hobby, giving them an impromptu and a little too detailed history lesson, being too brief, or maybe just avoiding the question all together. I’ve heard all of these being attempted, and honestly, sometimes people get it; but most of the time they nod along and then google it when there’s a quiet moment (normally falling upon one of the aforementioned definitions). Cut it however you want, you still aren’t making yourself clear. But you want to. You need to. After all you spend all this time, effort, and a little too much geekiness; you want the world to know. And let’s face it; it’s more addictive than crack cocaine.
“I create art using thread and needle.” Simple. They don’t NEED to know how its little squares, or how you make little Xs, and they definitely don’t need to know that the material you stitch it on has a whole sub wiki. If you have more time, or they genuinely want to know more, add to it “It usually takes 10-100 hours to finish a piece, and you can make it 3D, flat, basically anything form of art, but its tactile”. They think ‘wow, they’re devoted’, or detail oriented, or have a creative edge. With this as a basis, you can add and embellish as you want. Once they’ve got the IDEA you can tell them anything and they’ll be able to make sense of it. I mentioned earlier that cross stitch has come up in an interview before, in reality, I bring it up in every interview. It engages, it brings a bit of difference, and you can use it to your advantage to back up almost any skill. But you need to be able to tell them what it is first.
Or, if you’re in a hurry; just show them exactly what you make. But expect them to want one… But you can’t blame them…
Title: Joust Cabinet Date Completed: April 2016 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Plastic Colours: 7 Video Game: Joust
While researching a different 3D project (which later turned into the micro Nintendo64 3D cross stitch console) I came across a Joust arcade cabinet by SunQueen1 on imgur. She’s done a few others before, but this was a perfect rendition of the Joust game, and I knew in cross stitch it would be a third of the size she created, which would challenge my miniature plastic canvas ability (which later came in handy on my super miniature 3D Pokemon city cross stitch a few months later). How could I say no?
Title: Journey Robe Date Completed: January 2016 Design: Lord Libidan Count: 14 Canvas: Burgundy Colours: 3 Video Game: Journey
During the re-release of journey on the PS4, I finally got my hands on the game, and it blew me away. No words, no talking, but a super immersive multiplayer game. I knew I had to celebrate it somehow in cross stitch, so I’ve created both a golden robe and a red robe with the end game and start game robe designs respectively.