Why You Should Try Hand-Dyed Threads

It feels like every time someone posts a photo on social media at the moment, somewhere in the background is a nice hank of hand-dyed, variegated or over-dyed threads. But the number of photos with people actually using them is super rare. In fact, despite you seeing them at stores, there’s a good chance you’ve never picked any up.
Today, I want to convince you to give them a try.

Chameleon Hand Dyed Threads (Source: africanfabric.co.uk)
Chameleon Hand Dyed Threads (Source: africanfabric.co.uk)

Why Should You Use Them?

So, what makes these threads interesting? Well, it’s all about visual interest.
There are two main reasons why you might choose to use specialty stitches; to create something unique, or to highlight details.

Something Unique

The first of these is making something unique. By applying a specialty thread on something like a background (as in the picture below), you create not only something with visual interest but something that no one else can replicate. It’s something new, different, and doesn’t take away from the rest of the stitch.

Harry Potter Cross Stitch with Variegated Thread by cityofevil7 (Source: reddit.com)
Harry Potter Cross Stitch with Variegated Thread by cityofevil7 (Source: reddit.com)

Details

Secondly, there are the details. This one, for me, is the most interesting. By using something like a variated thread you can create complex-looking sections of your work, without having to confetti stitch.

Various hand-dyed, over-dyed and variegated thread cross stitches (Source: various)
Various hand-dyed, over-dyed and variegated thread cross stitches (Source: various)

In the examples above you have roses with natural-looking color variation, a truly fantastic wood effect, and a brick wall and bushes that would take a crazy level of time to replicate with single color threads.
 
Whilst these seem like simple ideas at first, by adding them to your work you’ll see how they add an extra touch of something special, especially if used sparingly.

Types Of Threads

Whilst we have been talking about these threads, it’s worth pointing out that there are more than a few thread types here.
 
Hand-dyed Single Color – Of all the threads, this is the most boring, but also hardest to find. In short, they’re single color threads, that happen to be hand-dyed. Whilst there are some really nice colors coming out of this space, the difference between using something like DMC or CXC and hand-dyed single color threads is barely noticeable (if at all).
 
Over-dyed – The second type of threads are over-dyed. Effectively these are also single-color threads, but the dye has been applied haphazardly (on purpose) meaning there are more intense spots and less intense spots. This gives you a patchwork like effect.
 
Variegated – The official ‘variegated’ threads from manufacturers like DMC are like over-dyed, but with two key differences. Firstly, the changes between intensities are planned out in regular lengths, giving it a far less natural transition. Secondly, they are MUCH more intense, going from super dark to super light all within one thread.

DMC Thread 67 (Source: cloudcraft.co.uk)
DMC Thread 67 (Source: cloudcraft.co.uk)

Hand-dyed Variations – These threads are a bit more complicated, instead of going through intense and less intense patches of the same color, they go through the same, but with multiple colors. This gives a really interesting, and visually complicated look.
 
Variations Threads – The official variation threads from brands like DMC are once again, the same style as the hand-dyed, but have two drawbacks. The first is once again, its very regimented transitions, looking rather obvious if stitched over larger areas. Secondly, they can change between some seriously powerful colors at opposite ends of the color spectrum. These threads tend to be less useful thanks to their extreme changes of color.
DMC Thread 4200 (Source: studio-koekoek.com)
DMC Thread 4200 (Source: studio-koekoek.com)

How To Stitch With them

So now we want to stitch with them, and we know the differences, can we start to stitch? Well, not yet.
 
You see, unlike normal threads, if you’re using any of these threads, you need to be aware of how you stitch.
Below is an image of different stitching techniques and how they change the look of stitching. From left (up) to the right (bottom); Danish method, English method, block method.

Variegated Thread using different stitching styles (Source: crossstitchreview.com)
Variegated Thread using different stitching styles (Source: crossstitchreview.com)

Depending on the look you’re going for, and the thread type you choose, you may need to adjust your stitching technique.
 
But that’s up to you! We suggest you have a trial and see what interesting ideas you can come up with!

A Word Of Warning

Finally, it is worth pointing out that even though hand-dyed threads are fantastic to use, there are a few downsides too.
 
Washing/Colorfast – The first issue is a two-parter; both washing and colorfastness. Washing your cross stitch is an important step for most stitchers (even if you don’t have to wash it), but all bets are off with hand-dyed threads.
The processes behind colorfast dyes might not be followed, or even possible, depending on the brand, color, or even style base thread, meaning that washing these threads often washes colors. We would suggest that you really think about the threads before any washing happens, and whilst you could wash your thread before you start, some of the intensity will come out. So it’s a decision you really need to think about.
Finally, a lot, but not all, of these threads have their own washing instructions, so make sure you follow them to the letter for best results!
 
Dye Lots – Whilst DMC thread dye lot issues may or may not be real, its a serious problem with hand-dyed threads. These things not only have a less stringent dying process, so vary in intensity, but variation threads and variegated threads blend multiple colors from different points, meaning it almost guaranteed that no two threads will be the same.
This can work to your advantage, meaning you always produce something truly unique, but there is also no chance you can get the same look twice.
 
Price – Yeh, hand-dyed threads cost more. In reality, you’re paying for the base price of the thread, and then the hand-dying process on top of that, meaning that most of these threads can cost 3 or 4 times as much as their mass-manufactured counterparts.
 
Have you tried using hand-dyed threads, or even DMC’s variegated? We’d love your feedback and to hear if you’ll be using them again!
 
Happy stitching,
Lord Libidan

 

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Make Your Own Cross Stitch Challenge

When it comes to cross stitch, most of us sit in our safe place. We might use white fabric, only use aida, or might stitch patterns from one preferred designer. But does it have to be that way?
I propose that you should try something different, try to expand your skillset, and make something truly awesome. You might find a new technique to use, a great fabric supplier, a new pattern designer, or you might just find an easier way to stitch. This is why you should challenge yourself.
 

Do Something You Think You Might Hate

I’m going to start with an idea that initially sounds horrid, but it’s not! Bare with us!
Try something you think you’ll hate. Now let’s be specific here, don’t do something you DO hate, but what about those things you’re not super sure of? What about those things you’ve never tried before but heard are bad?
 
I personally hate french knots, I just can’t abide them, but I LOVE when they’re creatively used. Our friend and designer, Peacock & Fig, uses them a lot in her designs and they simply rock. She has no issue with them.

Cherry Blossom Cross Stitch by Peacock & Fig (source: peacockandfig.com)
Cherry Blossom Cross Stitch by Peacock & Fig (source: peacockandfig.com)

If you’re trying this, you should probably limit yourself to a small pattern at first, but by pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, you can fall in love with where it can take you. This was the same for me and my transforming robot cross stitch. I wanted to push myself and see what plastic canvas could do, and it was a love affair!
 

Try A New Technique

Next up, we suggest trying something with a new technique. A good example here is railroading or gridding, which aren’t hard techniques, and they aren’t hated (by the majority) either. But these techniques can totally change your stitching experience.
 
Before I started grinding I used to always make mistakes, having to get the dreaded frogging tools out. But now I rarely make mistakes, I’m happier as I don’t have to rip stuff out, and I don’t have to count as much. It’s a win-win. Sure, this doesn’t change the overall look of my work, but it does make the stitching experience much nicer.
 
You don’t even need to stitch to traditional techniques here either; what about mixing things up by using a double eyed needle or blending threads?

railroaded cross stitch (source: Craftster)
railroaded cross stitch (source: Craftster)

 

Pick A Thread To Work With

But what about taking this in a different direction? Most of us scour the internet looking for a great pattern, buy it and stitch it (or store the pattern and probably forget it exists). But there is another way!
 
Instead of finding a pattern first, choose a thread. It might be variegated, it might just be a singular color you’ve always wanted to use or anything else! You could even try using metallic threads and combining the first challenge with this! Sure, you can make stitching with metallic threads easier (and I strongly suggest you do), or you could even try out different metallic thread types like the DMC Diamant thread range. You might just find a favorite thread and make a kick-ass cross stitch while you’re at it.

DMC Diamant Threads (Source: tattingcorner.com)
DMC Diamant Threads (Source: tattingcorner.com)

 

Find Your Fabric First

“But what about fabric”; I hear no one ask! I’m currently on a massive fabric obsession. From insane colors to hand-dyed aida. It turns out that there are loads of different fabrics out there, which are just begging to be stitched on and to make something crazy awesome.
 
By simply changing the aida from white to something else you’ve created a whole new look without any real effort. Find a fancy fabric that looks like the sea, or space, and find a pattern to fit it. You can even stitch on dark or black aida with ease, so don’t be shy of trying those either.
 
But you have even more choice! There are a whole bunch of different cross stitch fabrics you can choose, or if you’re feeling adventurous you can cross stitch on anything!

Various Hand Dyed Aida Pieces (Source: Etsy)
Various Hand Dyed Aida Pieces (Source: Etsy)

 

Try A New Tool

There are two tools in our cross stitch kit that we can’t live without, gold plated needles and micro scissors. Both of these are tools that were suggested by friends. In fact, I had gold-plated needles forced upon me after I failed to buy them after my friend suggested them. But they truly are amazing. And I wouldn’t have know unless I took a punt. Both of these are cross stitch tools for less than $20 so aren’t a big purchase, and they’re definitely worth it.

gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)
gold cross stitch needles (source: ebay)

 
Have you got any other ideas on how you can challenge yourself with cross stitch? Drop us a comment below and we’ll include it in the post!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Great Cross Stitch Gifts Under $25/£20

Cross stitchers buy threads in their ever reaching aim to own all 500 DMC threads, we buy aida and other cross stitch fabrics through the year, but the little things that don’t cost the earth and are super useful never seem to get purchased. So why not spend a little on yourself ($25 or £20) and improve your cross stitch game.

Aida Identification Cards – from $5

Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)
Cross Stitch Gauge and Rule by Yarn Tree (Source: Stitched Modern)

When it comes to sheer usefulness of cross stitch tools, an aida identification card, or aida gauge is right up there. Many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting and so don’t buy one themselves, even though they are frankly one of the most used things in my cross stitch kit.
 

Frogging Scissors – from $5

lift-n-snip-scissors with close up (source: amazon)
Making a mistake in cross stitch sucks, but its a pain that cross stitcher knows. However, there is a tool that makes frogging easy. It might not be the most glamorus pair of embroidery scissors, but it sure is one of the most useful.
 

Scissor Sheaths – from $5

Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)
Scissor Sheaths (Source etsy.com)

From scissors to scissor sheaths. Every single cross stitcher probably owns multiple sets of embroidery scissors and like most, one is always kept handy, out on display, getting stuck into things/people all the time. So to keep them safe, and sharp, scissor sheaths were invented. Coming in a whole host of designs, they’re sure to brighten anyone’s cross stitch kit.
 

Easy Guide Needles – from $7

Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)
Easy guide cross stitch needles (Source: Etsy.com)

Not much happens in the world of cross stitch and tapestry needles, however one recent new addition, the easy guide needle, is like a breath of fresh air. By adding a small ball to the tip of a sharp needle, you keep the blent edge, but get a better point for more controlled stitching.
 

Canary Micro Snips – from $7

Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)
Canary Micro Scissors in a palm (Source: beyondmeasure.com)

Stepping up the price slightly, we reviewed these micro snips from Canary that are a fantastic pair of finger scissors, which are not only fast and easy to use, but are fully TSA compliant for plane travel and can even be attached to your keys, so you’re never away from a pair of scissors!
 

Thread Shade Chart – $20

We simply cannot advise every cross stitcher out there to get a shade card enough. They are a super valuable tool. Sure, we have a copy of the DMC shade card on our site to see at any time, but there is nothing like seeing the real threads sat next to each other, to get the best out of your threads, and mae the best patterns. Still aren’t convinced? Check out our post on why you need a DMC thread card.

DMC complete thread card (small)
DMC complete thread card

 

A Good Cross Stitch Book – $20 to $25

Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)
Criss crossing paris book by fiona sinclair and sallyanna hayes cover small (source: amazon)

With cross stitch patterns being found online in their masses in places like Etsy, however that doesn’t mean those are where the best patterns are. In fact, cross stitch pattern books are still on the rise, and are normally the only places you can get official patterns from people Like Disney. You check our run down of the best cross stitch books out on the market to find one for you.

 

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Spring In Kurama Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Spring In Kurama Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Spring In Kurama Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Title: Spring In Kurama Temple
Date Completed: April 2021
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 16
Canvas: Cream
Colors: 25
Pop Culture: Japan
 
Whilst I’m well known for things like my transforming 3D cross stitchaliexpress, so I’ve decided to fly the flag for all things Japanese cross stitch.
 
Since my last big piece, Morning At Hot Spring Resort in Arayu cross stitch, I’ve been obsessed with collecting ukiyo-e and shin-hanga. However, there is one artist I just can’t get enough of; Takeji Asano. You may know of him already if you’re aware of my work, and both my Moonlight In Yasaka Pagoda cross stitch and Spring In Daigoji Temple miniature cross stitch are by him too.
 
This work, also based in Spring, is the same size as both the hot spring and Yasaka Pagoda pieces, and in fact, I brought the frame before I even started, I was looking forward to it that much. But thanks to a few other projects I had going on, I had to break my golden rule of “never stitching more than one project at once” more than a few times. As a result this took me 8 months! But I’m glad to say it was worth it!
 

Spring In Kurama Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan comparison
Spring In Kurama Temple Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan comparison

 

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The Psychology Of Green

This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 4: Green, and has been adapted.
 
When someone talks about green a few things pop into your mind quite quickly; the color of money, the color of nature, that trendy Matcha tea, the green-eyed monster, or the not-so-popular vegetable known as ‘sprouts’. However, for many, green is not universal.
 
To explain this better, I’m going to jump back to the Romans, and the color blue, or as they knew it; bronze. You see, to the Romans the sky was simply a shade of bronze, and it was only until they expanded into Europe and Africa that they realized other people called some of their bronzy colors blue. The colors were always the same, and the name change didn’t really bother the Romans, however the understanding that the bronzy sky could be from the same color palette as the sea simply didn’t resonate; it would be like comparing yellow and green nowadays.
Now whilst variations in eyes do mean that people don’t see colors exactly the same, and women tend to describe colors more specifically than men, it’s this difference in color understanding that causes controversy and, in my mind, interest.
 
Let’s start with some color facts; people tend to like green, it’s the second and third favorite color for men and women respectfully, with roughly 14% of the vote. However, it also ranks highly in distaste; with 6% of people describing it as their least favorite color. This is stronger in women than men, and men tend to hate the paler colors less.

(Source: Pixabay.com)

But what does all that mean? Well, it means designers struggle to cope with green. More universally accepted colors like red and blue can be used freely in design with known results; green can’t.
Taking prescription drugs as an example; color and the placebo effect has a massive part to play. Take a cream to treat a burn; would you prefer a nice cooling white or a stimulating red? It turns out that that red cream works on almost none of the patients, despite it being the same cream. It’s for this reason that colors are picked for drugs very specifically. Green for example could be used for antidepressants as it’s meant to be calming and reduces anxiety, but despite that, most antidepressants are yellow. Why? Color confusion. That calming green isn’t so calming for everyone, in fact, for some, it causes anxiety.
 
Jealousy; the green most people think of when it comes to emotions, and the one that’s most heavily linked to anxiety. This notion of a green-eyed monster is fairly hard to substantiate, with no one really being sure why it’s associated with green. However, one thing is clear; the ‘monster’ comes to life in a lot of mediums. The raging Hulk, the Grinch, Godzilla, or even Kermit the Frog (He’s up to something, I swear). Monsters ARE green, and that normally means that green is bad. But it is always? What about the Jolly Green Giant? A massive green monster, that, just like the slogan says, stands for goodness. Confused? Now you understand the problem.
Green Lantern Cross Stitch by saber (source: deviantart.com)
Green Lantern Cross Stitch by saber (source: deviantart.com)

Let’s talk food to start. In the past green foods have been treated well; think Popeye’s spinach, but also poorly; think Solent Green. However green foods tend to fit into two camps; artificially green, and natural green. For most, it’s easy to tell the difference between these two, with natural green foods being super healthy and not so fun to eat. As one of the only truly natural foods though, green items represent something; nature. That Jolly Green Giant is promoting the healthy and environmentally friendly trend. But that’s all too often used against us.
 
Our love of natural products, especially important at the moment, can be used against us with ease. The likes of those kale and matcha tea superfoods and drinks aren’t all they seem. Kale and matcha are strong color changers, making pretty much anything turning a natural green, even if those smoothies are packed full of sugar. I don’t expect anyone to start checking all the ingredients on their foods, but you can spot when designers use colors against you quite easily. Logos. Without naming and shaming, one of the least environmentally friendly companies on our high streets has a green logo, as do some of the highest polluting oil companies. The reason for this is to appear natural, appear less likely to cause anxiety. And if you want to appear as something, instead of using your credentials to prove it, it’s a warning sign. But does that mean we should avoid green like the plague?
 
Despite being one of the least favorable colors, green has one thing over any other color on the spectrum; it’s restful. I’m not talking psychologically here either. Due to the eye’s structure, green is the least strenuous color to look at, meaning that walk in nature is calming for you, and your brain knows it. And that’s why despite being linked with illness, jealously, monsters, boring food, and false advertising, green remains one of the only colors your brain seeks out.
(Source: Pixabay.com)

So, what does all this mean? Green has a bit of an identity crisis, struggling to fit into a camp as good or bad. And that’s why I think green needs more love. Now you know a little more about the color, you can choose how you perceive it. When you see the green logos of mega-corporations; think about why they’ve chosen the color. When you see a green field, relish the ease on your eyes, and allow your emotions to move to calm. When you hear about the green-eyed monster, just think of it as a catchy name. Personally, I would suggest you do this with every color, but a great starting place is green, loved, and hated.
 
“But Lord Libidan, that doesn’t explain why American dollars are green!” I hear you shout. Well, America is capitalist, and thanks to people having such a confusing relationship with green, its ink is used less, meaning it’s cheap. A new government-run bill circulation called for a lower production cost, and in the 1860s that meant the cheap green ink.
 
We expanded on this post recently when we asked the question; why are glow in the dark threads green?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Is Pinterest Bad For The Cross Stitch World?

In the past, I’ve looked into two of the biggest online platforms in the cross stitch world and asked the questions is Etsy good for the cross stitch world? and is AliExpress both saving and ruining cross stitch, but the biggest thing about both of those sites is they both charge for things.
 
However, for almost a decade there has been another player in the cross stitch world which is all about giving things away for free, but also one that struggles with its own issues.
Today we ask the question; is Pinterest bad for the cross stitch world?

What is Pinterest?

The fact of the matter is that Pinterest, for good or bad, is a collection of images. These images come from all over the internet and are collected by anyone who wants to. What makes this slightly more interesting than say, Google Images, is that Pinterest has ‘boards’ you can create. Smaller collections with specific pins YOU want to add.
 
These boards get very, very specific.
Cross stitch patterns? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games from the 80s? Yep.
Cross stitch patterns of video games from the 80s, only tabletop arcades, only male characters and from only one Japan-specific brand? Yep. It has 500 patterns in it.
These boards, despite how specific they are, still have loads of patterns and inspiration.

Good – Inspiration

There sheer volume of content on Pinterest is its best quality in my mind. Not only are there cross stitch and pixel art-related things, but general art too, meaning its perfect for spiking your interest in something new. That’s why we named Pinterest as one of the best places to get cross stitch inspiration.
 

Good – Free Patterns

Let me start with a small caveat here; free patterns that are legally free. This will be important later, but for now, let’s just look at the positives.
 
There are free patterns all over the internet. These might be from well-known designers, up-and-coming designers, or just someone drawing a pattern on paper. The sad thing is that unless those images are hosted on sites with good SEO, Google will never show them to you. This is where Pinterest really shines. Cross stitch patterns are filling up boards at a matter of rates, and most are from the deepest corners of the internet that don’t get any exposure.
 
One of the biggest areas that benefit from this is cross stitch fonts. We’ve spoken in the past about how hard to get hold of they are, and we even offer free cross stitch fonts and alphabets to help, but you might want more options. These images aren’t normally well-tailored to appear on Google, so are often overlooked. But thanks to Pinterest, there are loads of them. In fact, we even suggest Pinterest as one of the best places to get cross stitch alphabets and fonts.

Free Cross Stitch Fonts On Pinterest (Source: Pinterest)
Free Cross Stitch Fonts On Pinterest (Source: Pinterest)

What makes Pinterest even better is that it records things, things that might not be available anymore. Sadly, patterns do get lost over time. One of the most well-known instances are LittleMojo’s cross stitch patterns which were lost for about 10 years before we were able to get these back. Pinterest was instrumental in doing this.

Bad – Copyright

This, sadly, is where the problems start creeping in though. Those free patterns? Aren’t all that they seem. Copyright in cross stitch is a fairly large issue, and sadly, is the biggest detractor from an otherwise great platform.
 
The reason we looked into Pinterest was actually a whole series of Facebook followers approaching us to inform us of how many patterns had copyright issues. And so we looked into it.
We took 500 boards, and took the first 100 pins from each (50,000 total images) and traced every single pattern back to its source.
 

  • 5% We just couldn’t find the source of. These were mostly out print patterns from pre-copyright days.
  • 45% We’re completely copyright free.
  • 5% We’re from recognised designers or sold on Etsy.
  • 45% Had permission issues but weren’t necessarily a copyright issue.

 
Copyright is an odd beast, and we should state that whilst it looks like 50% is fine and 50% have issues, this isn’t actually as cut and dry as it looks.
 
The 5% that were from recognized designers are an issue, for sure. However, Pinterest has a solution for this. As a designer, you can report them. I’ve even had issues of this in the past on my transforming robot cross stitch pattern, and to be fair to Pinterest, they took down the pins within seconds. But my patterns had the included copyright information on them, most don’t.
This also doesn’t look into the issue of how you, a user are meant to know if they’re copyrighted or not.
 
But it’s the 45% that have ‘some’ issues that are the real issue. Copyright only really applies if someone is trying to profit from it. Etsy sells patterns, getting them in hot water, but Pinterest is free. This is where the grey area of copyright exists. In our opinion, you should care about copyright in cross stitch, and you should know to spot the issues. But we also know this is a rose-tinted glasses way of looking at the world.
These patterns have copyright issues, such as using Disney characters, but they aren’t able to be taken down as no one is profiting (Pinterest technically makes money off adverts, but this doesn’t count). But does that mean you should stitch them?

The Verdict

As with all of these posts, finding a verdict isn’t as easy as we’d like. Pinterest is a fantastic resource for inspiration, and it has loads of genuinely free patterns, including many lost to time, meaning it’s a great place to go. However, it does have a dark underbelly.
 
It is annoying for designers, but with Pinterest’s copyright claim function, the 5% are OK as far as we’re concerned. You should be checking things like Pinterest as a designer (it’s tough, but part of the business). But that 45% of patterns that aren’t easy to take down do have issues. But overall, if you follow the rules of finding a quality cross stitch pattern, Pinterest is good for the cross stitch world.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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How To Cope With More Than One Project At Once

We’re big fans of organization, and in the past we’ve covered everything from organizing fabric to needles, but this post will be slightly different. You see, whilst most of us only stitch one project at a time, that doesn’t mean we only have one project started. Today, we look at how to cope with multiple projects.
 
Depending on who you are, you might think this isn’t a post for you. Maybe you only stitch one thing at once? I was like that once. However then I found this great cross stitch pattern on Etsy, and I just had to buy it. I was excited, I was itching to start, so I had to collect my threads together. That; is where it starts.
 
On average I still only stitch one thing at once, like many of us, but I have a few projects prepped and ready to go. But what’s the best way to actually go about this?

Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)
Homemade Cross Stitch Pattern Holders by Ms_Pebbles (Source scrapbook.com)

Ask Yourself If You’re Actually Going To Stitch It

We’re going to start with a somewhat painful one. The fact of the matter is that all of us horde cross stitch patterns, but many of us fail to actually start most of them (or I do at least. Please tell me I’m not the only one?).
As a result, it’s important to ask; are you going to stitch it. This might even be something you can postpone to later too. Let’s say you’re stitching a massive piece and you know it will take months; wait until at least halfway through before you start thinking about other projects, otherwise you might have a stack by the time you finish!

Pick Out Your Threads

OK, so you’re devoted to stitching up a second project, or at least you want to get ahead on the planning phase. The first step is to pull out some threads.
There are a few things here that are important.
 
The first is something we talk about a lot; picking good threads. And by that I mean make sure they’re all new threads, you have enough, and there are no issues with color variation. This will avoid you having to deal with the whole dye lot issue, and makes sure your project will be perfect.
 
The second one is once again something we shout about a lot; storage. You’ve picked your threads, and now is the time to make sure they’re stored well. Leaving them out on the side for months getting dusty, sun-damaged, and risking spills (it always happens when you least expect it), is not the way to go. We have a whole bunch of ways to store cross stitch threads, but our suggestion is a thread box. These boxes hold a whole bunch of threads (enough for even the largest of epic projects), can hold other things like needles, and keep everything protected.

Full set of DMC threads
My full set of DMC threads ordered by number

Grid It Up

Next, we suggest you grid your fabric. OK, we suggest washing the fabric before you start and then gridding the fabric.
This might seem a little weird at first glance, after all, gridding is only one step before stitching, but we’ve all been there with a new project; we want to get stuck in, not spend an hour gridding it.
 
And that is exactly why we suggest doing it now. Grid it, and forget it. You’ll still be able to get stuck in when you do start the project, but you’ll have a little more enthusiasm for gridding now than you will later in time.
 
There are a whole bunch of ways to grid your cross stitch, but if you plan on putting your project on hold for a while, we would suggest using the non-pen related methods. Washable pens can bleed and disappear over time and whilst this isn’t a permanent issue, it will mean you have to redo the gridding later on. And the only thing worse than gridding is gridding twice.

Cover It

Dirt happens. Cover everything. This might be the threads as we explained about, this might be the pattern, fabric, or anything else. Just make sure it’s covered.

Project Bags

Knowing that you need to cover it, and knowing you need to hold a whole bunch of things together, this is where the project bag comes in.
 
I use to store my “ongoing” projects in a draw. I opened it and I had to fish through the fabric from one project, threads from another, and pattern sheets that you swear shouldn’t even be in there. It was a mess. Sure, they were protected in the draw, but it was an organizational nightmare. Then, a well known online cross stitch store supplied a few to us for free. Game changer.

Cross Stitch Project Bag by BloomTopia (Source: fatquartershop.com)
Cross Stitch Project Bag by BloomTopia (Source: fatquartershop.com)

You can get project bags in a whole raft of different types, sizes, and designs, but the best for us is something clear so we can see which project is which, and comes in multiple sizes. These things hold everything you need, protect it, and keep things together. A real game changer.
 

Pro tip – If you like highlighting patterns; don’t leave your highlighter in the bag. We’ve been burned on this a few times!

 
As I said earlier, this might not be something you initially think is relevant to you based on your current stitching trends, but with the above advice, if you do ever prep for another project early, or even have multiple cross stitch projects on the go at once, this should help avoid any pitfalls!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Finger Gloves For Cross Stitch?

When it comes to reviewing cross stitch tools, normally it’s something made specifically for the industry. Sometimes we might happen to cross into the realms of needlecraft in general, but its rare for a tool to cross into the medical sphere. That was until I happened upon curved tipped scissors, which are my goto tool for frogging. However, I expected that to be the only one. Turns out, there is another medical tool that is perfect for cross stitching.

Finger Gloves (Source: Gesswein.de)
Finger Gloves (Source: Gesswein.de)

Finger gloves sure look funny. They’re somewhat like a thimble but go over your finger a little better. I’ve been asked about them a few times, but it wasn’t until I received an email from a reader who was stitching with silks for the first time that I recommended finger gloves myself!
The fact is, these weird-looking (and weird feeling) gloves are actually a really great addition to your stitching.

Get A Grip

The first thing that grabs me when talking about finger gloves is how handy they are at gripping. We all know that stitching with threads like metallics can be hard and whilst there are many ways to make things easier like thread conditioners you still need a lot of grip on your needle.
 
Finger gloves come with little bobbles on the tips, and thanks to their latex material, grab onto things well. I’m personally always looking to make annoying threads easier to use!

Textured finger gloves (Source: banggood)
Textured finger gloves (Source: banggood)

Keep It Clean

The second advantage of finger gloves is cleanliness. Sure, we can wash our cross stitch, but if you’re using something like silks or DMC satin threads, washing both isn’t as effective, and isn’t as easy. Using finger gloves on these heirloom projects gives another layer of protection to your work, whilst not restricting your hands in any way.

No More Pricked Fingers

Another great advantage of finger gloves is that, much like their heftier thimble brothers, they protect you from pricking your finger. And as much as I think needle injuries are part of the sport of cross stitch, a little protection goes a long way!
Whereas a thimble is hard and doesn’t sit on your fingertip easily, these finger gloves do!

So When Should You Use Them?

So when should you bother with these things? Well, that’s up to you, and honestly, I don’t wear them all the time either, so you really do need to make your own choice.
 
However, when using hard to manage threads like metallics they’re a great hand. When stitching with fancy threads like silks or DMC satins they keep everything clean. However, you can pick up 100 of these things up for a few dollars and have enough to wear day in day out. So why not give them a try?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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How many strands of thread should you use?

I get this question a lot. Whilst most patterns do have a guide, depending on the fabric you use, if you stitch 1 over 1 and the overall look you want, the amount of strands you use can vary.
 

Fabric Strands (Light Fabric) Strands (Dark Fabric)
11 Count (1 over 1) 4 Strands 6 Strands
14 Count (1 over 1) 2 or 3 Strands 3 or 4 Strands
16 Count (1 over 1) 2 Strands 3 Strands
18 Count (1 over 1) 2 Strands 3 Strands
20 Count (1 over 1) 1 or 2 Strands 2 or 3 Strands
22 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
22 Count (1 over 2) 4 Strands 6 Strands
24 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
24 Count (1 over 2) 4 Strands 6 Strands
25 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
25 Count (1 over 2) 3 Strands 4 Strands
28 Count (1 over 1) 1 Strand 2 Strands
28 Count (1 over 2) 2 or 3 Strands 4 Strands


 
Cross stitches with different amounts of strands of threads on 18 count aida, 14 count aida, 11 count aida and 9 count aida (Source: better-cross-stitch-patterns.com)
Cross stitches with different amounts of strands of threads on 18 count aida, 14 count aida, 11 count aida and 9 count aida (Source: better-cross-stitch-patterns.com)

When You Should Ignore The Table

Yep, sometimes you should ignore me! 😀 Whilst this post does show you the standard strands to use, there are actually 3 different situations when you should ignore the table up above.
 

Style

The first is simply a case of prefered style. It might be that you like the fuller stitch look, or you’re going for more of a pencil drawing style, or whatever. There are actually a whole load of reasons why you might want to change it up based on your prefered style, and better-cross stitch patterns have an excellent post on why floss coverage matters, but when it comes to anything in cross stitch, it’s all about your prefernce.
 

Creating Detail

The next reason you might want to ignore the normal strand guide is detail. The best way of thinking of this is much like a drawing with thick and thin pens. You might want the outline to be in a thick pen to draw the eye, the light lines on someone’s face might be in a thin marker. This can be replicated in cross stitch and embroidery.
&nsbp;
For an example, look at my Star Trek Voyager Blueprint cross stitch or the larger Enterprise. When you stand and look at it in real life (I’ll admit the effect isn’t as good online), you see the thick white outline of the ship. As you take a step forward you see the pink floors and as you take a step further you see the tables and chairs in every room. Here I’ve combined 3 strands for the outline, 2 strands for the floors and 1 strand for the mini details. It means that when you stand back you’re not bombarded with detail that ruins the overall design, but if you get closer you see more and more detail.

Star Trek Voyager Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Zoomed in Section of ship
Star Trek Voyager Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Zoomed in Section of ship

Creating Distance/Importance

The final thing is actually distance. We tend to think of cross stitch as very one dimensional, but by changing up the strands, you can create a false sense of distance.
 
Taking my Enterprise again (sorry, I don’t mean to plug myself so much!), if you look at the small white ships they look like they sit on top of the purple lines. This effect was made by making the purple lines only 1 strand. Your eye naturally thinks that lines of the same thickness are on the same level, but thicker lines pull forward, and thin lines push back.
 
I know that’s very embroidery focused, but by doing the same with whole cross stitches, you put some parts in the foreground, and others in the background. This is similar to how photos look, with the background slightly out of focus, bringing your eye to the subject you want.

Star Trek Enterprise LCARS Ship Schematic Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan (Right Detail)
Star Trek Enterprise LCARS Ship Schematic Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan (Right Detail)

Check The Brand

This isn’t actually so much of a reason to change the strand count you use, but it’s worth noting that different cross stitch thread brands, and even different types of thread within a company can give different coverage.
This doesn’t play out as you’d expect either, with cheap embroidery threads sometimes covering better than the more expensive ones.
Our table above is suitable for most brands.
 
Have you tried playing with stands within a project? We’d love to have a look!
 
Happy stitching,
Lord Libidan

 

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The Threadbox Mixtape Mashup

This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 6: Mixtape, and has been adapted.
 
Cross stitch has always had a lot of similarities to music in my mind, not only does has it been with us for nearly as long in history, but its popularity ebbs and flows. There is even a ‘golden age’ of cross stitch in the 1800s when it was seen as a young lady’s proof of skill. But there is one other thing that music shares with cross stitch; much like the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we’re in a revival, a revival that isn’t just marked with a renewed interest in cross stitch, but with definite influence coming from historical samplers, mixed in with modern style.
 
We now live in an era where retro is cool again, you can just look through past copies of the Xstitch Mag to see that swinging 60s are as popular now as ever, with images and icons from 30, 40, and 50 years ago being in vogue, refreshed and reborn in cross stitch. In music, 80s pop bands are starting to reform and tour again, which are not only on 80s revival radio but mixed in with the current offering of music, which has clearly been influenced by its older counterparts.

(Source: Pixabay.com)

Back in the 70s and 80s, before my time, people listened to the music of one artist at a time on scratchy vinyl records that they saved all week for and played on a record player in the corner of their living room. Records were immensely fragile and the prospect of music on the move was limited to radio, normally owned by record houses, not offering much in the way of variance.
 
But this wasn’t what people wanted. In the UK, Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station streamed off the shores of Britain, started broadcasting a mixture of pop artists, to circumvent the stranglehold of record houses, allowing everyone to enjoy a medley of music in one session. Radio Caroline changed the face of radio worldwide, but its enormous listening figures still weren’t what people wanted. Back then people lacked the wide array of radio stations we have now, and so when one DJ’s preferences didn’t match up with what the listener wanted, they were stuck.
 

Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.

 
Until the mixtape. The advent of personal tape recorders and tape players introduced the capacity to record music of choice for replay at a time of choosing. The mixtape was born in the 80s and was more than just music on a tape. A leading essayist of the time described it as “perhaps the most widely practiced American art form”.
 
Ironically, the mixtape exists today as a retro throwback or a shuffle on an iPod. Although more famous mixtapes such as Now that’s What I Call Music have just celebrated the 100th release. But its permeated modern music tastes, modern technology, and a larger choice of music available.
 
But the mixtape isn’t the only revival, hobbies of by-gone decades are back in. Cross stitch has never been more popular than it is today. Back in the 1800s, it’s the ‘golden age’, it was only available for those in the know, the rich upper classes. Its 1900s ‘silver age’ had mostly male workers stitching, but it failed to be accepted by everyone.
 
Revitalized and appealing to the younger hobbyist, rather than the traditionalist granny in a rocking chair cross stitch is now in its mixtape era, not only due to it permeating every age group, class, and age but because cross stitch isn’t just a singular. This reignited interest may have come down as a primarily purist hobby, but modern times have brought with it; options. Options that allow you to make a cross stitch mixtape of your own choosing.

Mini Cassette Tape Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan
Mini Cassette Tape Cross Stitches by Lord Libidan

Cross stitch is no longer limited to the stilted patterns and palettes of fairies, landscapes, and wolves, cross stitch isn’t even limited to 2D. With plastic canvas, circular canvas, waste canvas, variated threads, metallic threads, silks, blending filaments, pearlescent, glow-in-the-darks, plastic canvas, French knots, quarter stitches, backstitching, beads, and hundreds of other options, cross stitch patterns are now only rough guides. Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.
 
This mixtape issue displays the best of the cross stitch of our time, with a selection of well-known cross stitchers. However, every one of the designers knows that we’re just the inspiration; the pirate radio of cross stitch magazines. When and if you stitch these patterns, you do it with your own agenda in mind. You choose to stitch just that section, or maybe you want to work that bit up in a different color, maybe you want to add a bit of sparkle. Just like the American youth of the 80s, you sit at home, stitching for hours on end to create something similar, but unique. You make your own mixtape based on these designs.
 
Cross stitch, just like the music of older generations is retro, but it has been reborn and revitalized. And I and the other designers implore you to take your own road and create your own cross stitch. Push boundaries, do something different, and show us that the best cross stitchers out there are you; the mixtape makers.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan