Does the back of your cross stitch matter?

Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source:

I’ve heard a shocking amount of people talk about the backs of the cross stitch, including some of my stitching friends. And honestly; no one cares. At all.
Here’s the thing; the back of your cross stitch CAN be neat, but sometimes it just CAN’T. The reason is all about the pattern.
Let’s explain with some examples. Here, we have a fantastic Mew cross stitch by The Celtic Crafter. Its a pattern made up of about 4 colors and they’re all nicely placed, so the back is nice and neat.

Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter
Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter

However lets take another example, of a highly skilled cross stitcher, My Poppet Makes, who’s back looks a little less clean. Now this back HAS to be like that, with small stitches all around and colors on both sides of the work, the threads have to jump on the back, with its small size making them look much less neat. But lets be clear; its not better or worse. Just less neat.
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes

So I should never care about the back of my work?

You often hear people talk about the back of your work in terms of two things; framing and skill. So let’s address both.


I’ve heard a few people mention this, even really experianced stitchers, however the back has no impact on the framing of cross stitch. The issue comes from home framing and people not using the correct framing system. You can check out a great guide on framing cross stitch, in which we mention the use of foam board. This foam; super important. It means that any of those little messy blemishes on the back are hidden, and can’t be seen when framing.


Here’s where those nay sayers are slightly right. When stitching the lack of mess on the back of your works usually means you’re more econmical. Some take this to mean skill. However we circle back around to the original statement; sometimes you can’t make a clean back. I know people might be nervous about their work, so I’ve taken an example from shutterstock that shows the back is sometimes just messy, and its all thanks to the pattern. This pattern has colors all over it, with floating confetti stitch a plenty, meaning you just won’t be able to make it neat.

Shutterstock cross stitch back side example

If you’re still bothered by the comments though, be rest assured that your back will be cleaner as time goes on and you learn those little secrets about cross stitch. But don’t be suprised when sometimes your back is a mess! It happens.

So where does the rumor come from?

When the Japanese first came across cross stitch when a samurai accidently brought cross stitch to Japan we started seeing neat backs. Backs that were far neater than European examples, and the idea that the backs should be similar to the fronts came with it. However, that’s simply down to culture. Japanese people have a rich history with embroidery, and in particular sashiko, which includes a stitch called ‘cross stitch’. You can see what when counted cross stitch came to Japan is was obvious that they would follow the same rules they did for their sashiko. One of these rules in particular is that the front should look like the back. This is mostly down to how they stitch sashiko, but when the European’s started seeing Asian cross stitch the rumor came about that they were far more skilled and everyone should try to make their backs neat.

Hitomezashi sashiko
Hitomezashi sashiko

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book Cover by Lord Libidan (source: amazon)

Once again, I have awesome news to tell you all! I’ve got another kit book out!

Fine Art Cross Stitch Box Cover

This time we delve into the classic paintings of the past, with a Fine Art Cross Stitch kit, complete with 12 patterns from Mondrian to Da Vinci.

Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art turns your needlework from a craft to fine art by showing you how to recreate the classic masters’ finest works.
Take your needle art to the next level and recreate some of the finest masterpieces in history! Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art presents to you a myriad of patterns which will channel the master artist in you. From van Gogh to Klimt to Munch, the projects and artists found in Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art represent a wide range of art movements in the painting world as a whole. The clear, step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs for the 12 included projects allow you to decorate your walls with the master’s most iconic works of art in the classic medium of cross stitch!
Cross Stitch Creations: Fine Art includes a 64-pg instruction book which shows you how to create works originally painted by van Gogh, Klimt, Matisse, Hokusai, and many others.

Fine Art Cross Stitch Book Cover 1

You can get your copy from Quatro (the publisher) now!

I’ll be posting some of the completed peices over the next week, so keep your eyes out for them!
I’ve now been published quite a few times. Check me out in:
Fine Art Cross Stitch Kit
Emoji Cross Stitch Kit
Star Wars Cross Stitch Kit
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting Book
Disney Classic Cross Stitch Kit
Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch book
CrossStitcher Magazine (twice)
CrossStitcher Designer Stitches Magazine
CrossStitchCrazy Magazine
& XStitch Magazine

Emoji Cross Stitch Book

Emoji Cross Stitch Book Cover by Lord Libidan (source: amazon)

Two bits of news in one day? Yep! I’ve got two kit books out this month!

Emoji Cross Stitch Box Cover

12 fun and simple emojis to stitch your heart away at, with enough thread in the kit to stitch up to 4 emojis (but definately at least 2)!

Stitch 12 Iconic Patterns to Communicate with Your World!
Even when you can’t find the right words, you can always find the right emoji! Frame these sweet and sassy little symbols as art or embellish clothing, linens or a throw pillow!
Emoji Cross Stitch includes the patterns to craft twelve of the most popular emoji, along with all the materials to make to finished projects. The 64-page book offers clear step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs, suitable for beginners and experienced stitchers alike.

Emoji Cross Stitch Book Cover 1
I’ve now been published quite a few times. Check me out in:
Fine Art Cross Stitch Kit
Emoji Cross Stitch Kit
Star Wars Cross Stitch Kit
Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting Book
Disney Classic Cross Stitch Kit
Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch book
CrossStitcher Magazine (twice)
CrossStitcher Designer Stitches Magazine
CrossStitchCrazy Magazine
& XStitch Magazine

Cross Stitch Gridding Techniques

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source:

Gridding isn’t often talked about in cross stitch, its often seen as a ‘if you want to’ kind of task, however gridding is actually one of the best things you can do.
Simply put, counted cross stitch requires (you guessed it) counting. The time you take to count can not only be massive, but you can, and often do, miss count requiring mass unpicking. Gridding stops all of that. In fact one of the products we’ll talk about says it can cut stitching time by one third!
So with that in mind, what exactly is the best way to grid your cross stitch? Well, its all a matter of choice. We’ve taken the most popular ways and detailed them out so you can give them a shot.

Easy Count Guideline

Cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A Satisfied Spirit
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit

You’ve probably seen gridded cross stitch on the internet, with red lines crossing. The likelihood is that its Easy Count Guideline, which works as a thread, but instead of being made from cotton is a thin wire. The advantage of this is that is doesn’t get caught up in your stitches and when you’re done you can simply pull it out. It is, by far, the most common gridding technique and I personally use it myself. However, its also the most expensive with costs of about $6 for 10m. It’s also technically a ‘secure object’ in the EU, so you must be 18+ to buy it.

Single Threads

Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint

I hear you all saying to yourselves “so why can’t I just use thread instead?” well, you could, I just wouldn’t suggest it. The issue with single threads is that you can stitch through them, meaning when you go to pull out your thread; you can’t. Not only that but as its part of the stitch now, you can’t cut it out easily. This means that your guideline, which is normally a bright color can’t be removed, ruining your stitch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, in fact, for backstitching projects its a fantastic idea!

Fishing Line

“Fine, but are there cheaper options? I’ve heard people use fishing line?” True, you can use fishing line, and fishing line is often cheaper than the official stitching alternative. I’ll even let you into a secret; Easy Count Guidleine is actually just fishing wire. The different however omes in thickness of wire. There are a lot of fishing wires that would work OK, but the thinner, the better. Look for wire rated less than 8 pounds.

Easy Count Pre Grided Aida

Zweigart Easy Count Grid
Zweigart Easy Count Grid

Easy Count aida, is made by Zweigart and simply has lines built into the fabric. This line is when washed away once you’re finished. It is more expensive than standard aida, and doesn’t come in as many colors. To make things a little worse, the lines take up the space of a stitch, and not inbetween the lines like patterns are marked.

Magic Count Pre Grided Aida

Very simlar to Easy Count, DMC make their own, called Magic Count, which has the advantage of being a little easier to see, but holds the DMC price tag to boot.

Erasable Pens

Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread
Pen grid cross stitch by pull the other thread

Finally, there are erasable pens. Whilst erasable pens were my first stab at gridding, you soon realise there are a few issues. The first is that they don’t wash out as easy as you’d like, meaning you sometimes need to give your cross stitch a hot bath once you’re finished which does impact the threads, especially metallics. Secondly, much like the pre-printed aida, you can’t stitch on the lines, meaning you have to take up a line of stitching, which could possibly throw your count off.
Once you’ve decided on your gridding technique check out this video from Peakcock & Fig on how to grid:

The Robots That Cross Stitch

cross stitch machine (source: youtube)

I write for the XStitch Magazine, and in issue 4 I talk about the rise of Artificial Intelligence in art, and just how close we are to a robot creating a masterpiece. I mention the rise of a series of robots capable of creating something close to art, but there is one robot in particular that is making waves in cross stitch, and not the good kind.

How close are we to a robot cross stitch artist?

Really close. Really really really close.
Sewing machines have been around a long time, and the fact that they can complete a whole slew of stitches makes the art of patch embroidery possible, such as the awesome work of NAME.
However in the last 5 years sewing machines have been able to cross stitch too.

Last week we looked at the iconic IKEA cross stitch mail out. The point of the marketing campaign was to appear handmade, however they produced 40,000 of the letters, on machines. It kind of missed the point in my eye, however it just goes to show, that cross stitch isn’t just a handmade craft anymore.
cross stitch machine
The one good side? The cost. These machines are at the lowest $1000 and you just don’t see that many around. Thankfully, for now at least, cross stitch will remain wholly in the handmade.
And for any of those who want to know if it’s handmade or not, the machines can’t stitch on aida properly, so they normally stitch on linen.
Interested in more companion pieces? Check out my blog on the time cross stitch almost made it to space or why glow-in-the-dark thread is green.

The Story Of The Iconic IKEA Cross Stitch

Ikea Lida cross stitched email close up (source: Lida)

The IKEA cross stitch mailout is fairly well known in our community, however whilst researching another story, this old chestnut came back with an rather interesting video, as seen below, and I wondered just how many of you knew the story of the mailout in the first place.

It all starts with a brief, and in this instance IKEA wanted to collect email addresses of high purchase buyers that hadn’t yet given it. The marketing agency LIDA took up the call, and looked into IKEAs brand promises. The one that stood out the most? Handmade. The second? Craft.

Ikea Lida cross stitched email
Source: Lida

To all of you reading this, that should scream cross stitch, and with good reason too. Cross stitch has always been a craft that uses the hand, and for a very long time, something that only the hand could do, machines just weren’t able. However as the above video shows, new embroidery machines can match the cross stitch action, and whilst they can’t hit the holes in aida very well, they can make a very good facsimile.
Machined and sent out to 40,000 IKEA family members, the marketing campaign was the best the company had ever produced, and sparked a follow up campaign using a printed cross stitch postcode, which won a whole slew of awards.
Ikea Lida cross stitched email close up
Source: Lida

Jonathan Goodman, Managing Director at LIDA says “The Handcrafted campaign is IKEA through and through. It engages their customers by showing them appreciation and the message is delivered with craft and care. It was a pleasure to be given the brief to ‘send an email without an email address’ and to be given the freedom to create a something that will demonstrate both the effectiveness of high value DM, as well as the relevance of email communications.”
Whilst for most the IKEA mailout was a fun marketing idea, for us cross stitchers I think we need to look at just what our craft represents. We are handmade.
If you want to know more about how robots can cross stitch, we’ve looked at that.

Book Review: Criss Crossing Paris

Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover (source: amazon)

I’ve done a few cross stitch book reviews in the past, however I tend to stay away from them, and there is a very simple reason for this; they’re all the same. Cross stitch books stitch to a hard and fast formula. The reason is that for the vast majority; it works.
There are exceptions though, such as the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch which put cross stitch in a new light. However for the first time ever (as far as I could tell), Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes have created a cross stitch book that goes totally off the ‘golden rules’ of cross stitch books and they’ve made something truly amazing.
Criss Crossing Paris by Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes Book Cover
We’ll start with what the book does have; the normal instructiions which are slightly more in depth than normal featuring things that aren’t in the book but help embelish, such as the dreaded french knot or beads, a fanastic selection of stitched up patterns, a guide on making things out of your finished cross stitch and a whole raft of standard thread lists and methods to accompany each pattern. That’s where things start getting special. The first thing you see when opening the book is an introduction to the authors, something that I normally flip past, however if you read on it gives you hints on how this book came to be, and where the ideas came from.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 1
Pulling across the page you see Paris in all its stitched glory; or a map of it anyway. See, the special thing about this book is that is about Paris, and stitching the sights Paris is famous for. I don’t mean the Eiffel Tower and other iconic sights; I mean the real Paris. Pictures include art being sold on the street, adorned windows above a shop, a fancy Parisian door, and other unusual sights that make up Paris. This in itself is a great idea for a book, to take something slightly less well known, but still truly Parisian and making a cross stitch about it.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 2
They really could have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead, they took a step I’ve never seen before in a cross stitch book; a loose pattern. OK, it’s still a pattern at the end of the day, but they have fun with it, and want you to as well. The grid sits over an image of cross stitches of random sizes and placements, allowing you to pick your own destiny in stitching it. You can follow the blocks, you can free hand it, you can even drop some points all together; this book is about cross stitch creativity. They then take this idea and show you just what you can do with it. I’ve attached images of their Eiffel Tower stitch, their most typically Parisian, and they’ve shown how you can chop the pattern up, stitch only a section, stitch it freehand or copy the pattern stitch for stitch.

In more geometric designs, the charts are easy to follow as the grids are carefully aligned with the illustrations. For designs with more organic elements – curves, foliage, sky – the design doesn’t adhere to a grid line. This is where you need to become creative.

Everything about this cross stitch book screams creativity; the choice you the stitcher make when stitching, and how every time you pick this book up and stitch a pattern, regardless of how many times you’ve stitched it before, it will always be different. Is it for the beginner? Well, I don’t see why not; this is a book for people who want to create, to make something truly unique, and Fiona and Sally-Anne give you a helping hand to get there.
Criss Crossing Paris Inside Page 3

You can pick up a copy from amazon or your local book store.

A pdf copy of the book was supplied free of charge by the authors for this review. The opinions are totally my own and no effort was made to appease or appeal to the authors or publishers of this book.

Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Moon Light in Yasaka Pagoda Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Title: Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda
Date Completed: August 2017
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 18
Canvas: Cream
Colours: 15
Pop Culture: Japan
After the success of my Pokemon Great Wave cross stitch I knew I had to create another. Looking back on my previous works, its clear that Japanese art inspires me, and I’ve attempted many Japanese woodblock print style pieces before, such as my Japanese Gengar cross stitch. I wanted to continue this theme of adding a Pokemon addition into a traditional print, so went looking at famous Japanese woodblock prints.
This is when I came across the work of Asano Takeji. Whilst many of his later prints were humorous or risqué his earlier pieces blew my mind. His approach was to take urban landscapes in Kyoto (a city with traditional architecture) and create prints using interesting angles. Arguably one of his most famous works is Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda, where he uses an angle which cannot be met in real life. Having been to this Kyoto landmark I felt a real connection to it. In fact, the Yasaka Pagoda was a primary inspiration for my Minature Ecruteak City cross stitch.

moon light in yasaka pagoda inspiration
Inspiration: Asano Takeji’s Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda (left), Pokemon Tin Tower (middle top), Ho-Oh in Pokemon anime (top right), Tin Tower over Ecruteak City (bottom right)

In the same way as I created the great wave cross stitch pattern, I recreated the print using the style of the artist (which unlike the Great Wave does not have black lines seperating the different colours) in the same size as the original in 1951 was. I then took this and added a Pokemon element.
As I mentioned earlier, I always thought Yasaka Pagoda looked very similar to the Ecruteak City Tin/Bell Tower. The Pokemon fable is that the legendary Ho-oh sat on top of the golden tower. In addition to this in the Pokemon anime, Ash, the main character, searches out for Ho-Oh, convinced of his existance (when the rest of the world doubts him). I remember watching the very first epidode and seeing Ho-Oh, and telling all my friends about it, to also be shot down. I felt it would be a perfect connection to add in Ho-Oh in the same way Ash sees him in the first episode.
However, as I stitched what was the largest project I’ve undertaken (in size and stitches) I fell in love with the original print, and just couldn’t bring myself to add Ho-oh. Instead, I went for a faithful recreation.
Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda cross stitch by Lord Libidan comparison

The Eco Cross Stitcher!

cross stitch thread waste (source: reddit)

I recently made a post about needles and how its time to ditch those old cross stitch needles, and in it I said about using new needles every project. This has played on my mind recently, and whilst I would still strongly suggest starting a new project with a new needle, it does create waste. And that’s what we’re talking about today; how to make cross stitch more eco friendly.
Its been just over 6 months since I was approached at a fair and someone asked me what did I do with my clippings of threads. I answered, but it got me thinking, we talk about those little snipped bits often, but just how much other rubbish does cross stitch create, and how can we minimize that? So I went on a journey. Today, I can tell you that actually, you can do a lot more to help the environment that you currently are; but the fixes are easy. Lets start simple.
cross stitch thread waste

ORTs: Thread ends

The biggest source of rubbish for cross stitch is a small snippet of thread, however these threads multiply. Like, seriously; so many. I started my journey here, and the good news is that there are some clever ways to help you. The first; make an ORT jar. Ort is actually a really old term for ‘waste of any type’, however more commonly known as Old Raggety Threads, making a jar to store old snipped threads has two fantastic effects. The first, is you realised just how much thread you’re wasting. It’s a lot more than you think, and a few econmical ways to stitch will save meters of the stuff. Secondly, once you’re done, you can use it. Now, you can use them a whole load of ways, but in my mind, the best is fire starters. Threads burn really well, and if you place them inside an old loo roll (and you can add tumble dryer lint too) you can create fantastic fire starters, which not only work better than the ones from a store, but they aren’t covered in hellish chemicals.
Word of warning though, do this with cotton only threads, some brands such as CXC use plastics in their thread production.
ORT thread jarhomemade firestarters

Thread Wraps

Whilst we’re talking about threads, the next biggest thing we waste is the little wraps threads come in. Now, I know not all of these wraps are plastic, but the vast majority are, meaning the biggest concern we have is; is it recyclable? It took a VERY long time for me to find the answer, but the DMC wraps are made from Polypropylene. Not only is this a plastic that can be recycled and reused, but its one of the best as it can be reused for food stuffs too, meaning that its the one plastic people like to recycle. Just make sure you put it out with your recycling waste!
thread plastic rings

Emboridery hoops

embroidery hoopsI won’t bore you with the numbers here, however I worked out that the next biggest waste item in cross stitch; was hoops. Yeh, it shocked me too. Turns out however that kg for kg, the hoops are seriously wasteful. You can help this by buying wooden frames, which while not recyclable (they’re made with lots of glues), they can burn them, and they do biodegrade. The only problem is that the metal components don’t. So instead of throwing broken hoops, you could try using them as frames where they don’t need to be as strong, or even choosing to buy less in the first place (a wooden cross stitch frame is always a better choice).


Now we start talking about things that require a little more effort on our part. Canvas initially seems super recyclable, and it can always biodegrade, right? Wrong. In fact, most aida canvas has loads of starch. This effectively stops the biodegration, and means it can’t be burnt off. But you can fix this. Wash it. Yep, a simple wash will remove these starch fibers enough that you can throw it away without thinking too much about it. Your local refuse center will either bury it (where it will biodegrade) or burn it (which is now safe to do). Go you, eco warrior!

Plastic canvas

How about something much harder? Plastic canvas, waste canvas and ‘training’ canvas all come in two types; recyclable or not recyclable. If you get the right one, you’re in the clear, but picking the right one isn’t always that easy. For waste canvas, get the plastic looking sheets, which are actually starch and are washed away into treatment plants (which can biodegrade it). For plastic cavas, look for the stuff which wobbles, not the stiffer stuff. They might be harder to use, but they save the environment.


And so we go full circle. I’m sad to say, needles aren’t anywhere near reusable. You can’t recycle them, you can’t reuse them, they don’t biodegrade and there is no natural alternative. However, there is a small silver lining. In an old post about how cross stitch needles are made we found out that the process for making needles is super precise, meaning there’s next to no industrial waste. I guess for now, that’ll have to do.
Finally, lets talk about thread dyes. If you buy natural threads, such as DMC, they use natural dyes. I hope you all the best in reducing cross stitch waste.

When Cross Stitch And Technology Collide

Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih (source:

Cross stitch has been around for more than 2500 years and whilst it has a rich history the advent of new technology into a fairly historical hobby is few and far between. However, with a recent push in the fashion industry for e-textiles, cross stitch has had its world turned upside down. Now, its future tech.
I initially heard about lights and PCBs being used in cross stitch back in 2013 when I was about to speak to Wei Chieh Shih about his work, and an upcoming project, “Adelita”. He’s a fashion designer that focuses on technology, but to work out if something is possible, he turns to cross stitch. There are a whole series of conductive thread kits you can now buy, allowing you to install tech into your clothing, but Wei takes it 10 steps ahead, by intergrating programable tech into complex circuits.

He can then take these ideas, simplfy them and create fantastic works of art, like his 2013 “Adelita” project, combining folk wooden toys from Mexico with high tech clothing.

Adelita by Wei Chieh Shih
Adelita by Wei Chieh Shih

But technology and cross stitch isn’t just for the fancy high end artists. It’s not only possible to make clever art using tech, but you can do it really easily.
Cross stitched circuit by Jade Jenkins
Cross stitched circuit by Jade Jenkins

With more and more cross stitch artists showing their work to the world, it’s clear that kits such as Kitronik or LilyPad, we’re not only going to see more tech cross stitch, but also helping push the e-textile world.
Stranger Things light up cross stitch by raleblanc05
Stranger Things light up cross stitch by raleblanc05

Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih
Technology and cross stitch by Wei Chieh Shih