What Is Petit Point Anyway? And Should You Try It?

I’m a cross stitch purist. I like full stitches and that’s it. I hate backstitch, French Knots fill me with fear, and quarter stitches aren’t my thing. But what about tent stitch?
Ha! I know, tent stitch isn’t real cross stitch. Wait… It is?
 
Today I wanted to talk about Petit Point, or Petite Point as it’s sometimes called, which is technically a tent stitch, but closer to cross stitch than it is needlepoint.

What is it?

So let’s start simple. A standard cross stitch makes the shape of an X. A tent stitch is effectively like a half-finished cross stitch, it makes the shape of a / or \.
Petit point is a tent stitch, so only takes up the space of a / or \, but unlike a tent stitch is stitched in the continental style. This means the back of your work has long threads on it.
But, because of the way you stitch this has a different look, basically making it smaller. In the image below you can see normal cross stitch (row 1), petit point (row 2), cross stitch and petit point together (row 3) and quarter cross stitch and petit point together (row 4). I short, the petit point makes up roughly the same space as a quarter stitch.

Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)
Cross Stitch and Petit Point examples (Source: crosssitchclub.com)

Why Use it?

So, why would you use this rather odd stitch? Well, there are a few reasons. Unlike normal embroidery stitches that can look out of place in a cross stitch, petit point looks right at home, meaning you can stitch with it on its own, or combine it with normal cross stitch.

Better Coverage

The first advantage is coverage. We’ve mentioned this in the past, but whenever you select a count of fabric, you need to think about the coverage look you’re going for. The larger the count, the worse the coverage will be. You can avoid this by adding more strands to your work, but this makes it bulky.
This is where petit point comes in. The stitch itself makes the whole work fuller-looking, but the back of your work that might be seen also adds to the fullness of your stitches, bulking up the whole thing.

Pattern, Cross Stitch and Petite Point Geocaching Bug (Source: pinterest)
Pattern, Cross Stitch and Petite Point Geocaching Bug (Source: pinterest)

Smaller Work

Next up is a simple one; size. By stitching in petit point, you effectively half the size of the work. Now I say effectively, as whilst is if half the size, it’s not a perfect miniature. Instead, the stitch gives the whole thing a slightly different feel.
The design above, stitched in cross stitch (14 count) and petit point (14 count) almost look like different patterns. Still very similar, but the petit point version looks fuller. This is in part due to the better coverage petit point will give you, so you do need to be careful
 
A good example of this is my Spring in Daigoji temple miniature cross stitch. The design is full coverage, so if I had chosen to stitch in petit point, would look exactly the same. Sometimes you do need to be careful when using this stitch!

Speed

Next comes speed. Cross stitch isn’t the fastest thing in the world, and there are ways to speed up cross stitch, and one of those is stitching in half stitches. However, unlike petit point, half stitches also have negative drawbacks, such as poor coverage. With your new stitch you might be able to work through all those cross stitch patterns you’re hording.

Cross stitch and petit point in one pattern (Source: youtube)
Cross stitch and petit point in one pattern (Source: youtube)

Combining Stitches

Next, we’re going to look at combining both petit point and cross stitch. This is, by far, a lot rarer. However, is also why I started looking into petit point in the first place. By adding petit point into your standard patterns, you can create a new dimension; litterely.
 
Distance
That dimension is distance. By adding in petit point to something that should be in the foreground, it looks exactly like it should be; in the foreground. Look out of the window and you’ll see that things in the distance are smaller, and things in the far distance are blurry. Petit point is fine and detailed, with normal cross stitch looking blocky and out of focus in comparison.
 
Detail
Perversely, you can also use petit point to draw your attention to other objects. In the image above the youtuber is stitching a face in petit point. By doing this the eye picks up on the difference and focuses on the face. You do have to be careful here though, as you only want one section of petit point per pattern in order to make sure everyone is looking in the right place. You often find this in HAED patterns for this exact reason!
 
Shout out to Sirithre who has a great post on how petit point can be used to great effect!
 
Have you ever tried petit point before? If so, tell us why, we’d love to hear if there are other great uses!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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How To Make A Needle Minder

There are a lot of advantages to using a needle minder, from saving you losing needles and keeping things tiny to just adding a bit of interest to your stitching space. But do you really need to buy a needle minder?
We don’t think so. In fact, you can make a whole variety of needle minders, and all you need are a few magnets…
 

Stitch One

So for the first idea, we suggest stitching one! After all, it’s great to be able to use your cross stitch for something useful.
We suggest using plastic canvas, as you can finish plastic canvas in a way that makes a little envelope. Drop a single neodymium magnet into the space, and all you need to do is place another magnet on the back of your work, and you’re done! But we do suggest a smaller cross stitch like my cassette cross stitches.
 

Use A Pin

Another idea, and one that a lot of people selling needle minders use, is using pins. There are a whole bunch of pins out there from tiny to massive, from brash to refined and everything in between. You will need a specific tool for this one though; wire clippers. Simply snip the spike off the back of the pin, and add a magnet with some hot glue (some pins are already magnetic, but many aren’t, so check first).

Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)
Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)

 

Use Doll House Items

My personal suggestion, however, is to use dollhouse items. Dolls house items are super small, well built, and don’t need anything adapting; you simply add the magnet. You can go with dollhouse food (I have a ramen noodle needle minder), dollhouse books (use your favorite book and you have a super personalized minder), or even furniture. I’ve even seen 32 count cross stitch turned into a dollhouse artwork, turned into a needle minder!

coffee cups needle minders (source: pinterest)
coffee cups needle minders (source: pinterest)

 

Craft One From Clay

Feeling a little more crafty? How about making one from polymer clay? This works very similarly to the dollhouse example, but you have the freedom to make anything you want out of clay. Simply craft your design, then bake it in the oven. You could even get the kids involved and get them to make you something special!

chapelviewcrafts polymer cake needle minder by chapelviewcrafts (source: etsy)
Polymer cake needle minder by ChapelViewCrafts (source: etsy)

 

Combine It With a Needle Threader

More of a utilitarian stitcher? How about combining it with your favorite needle threader?
Most needle threaders are metal-based, and you can simply add a magnet to the back of your work and you’re set! No gluing needed 😀

Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)
Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)

 
We’d love to see some examples of your needle minders, and especially so if you’re not a fan of needle minders!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Grab A Project Bag And Cross Stitch While You Travel

When I first started cross stitching I remember finding a photo of Mr X Stitch cross stitching on the train! I thought it was insane! OK, I was a manbroiderer so may have preferred to stitch indoors, but I thought his work must get so dirty!
That’s the thing; your work doesn’t have to be dirty. With a great project bag, you can stitch wherever you like (including on a plane). But when I first started, no one spoke about project bags, and to be honest, they still don’t. So I plan to shine some light on some of the most useful bags you’ve ever come across!
 

Plastic Mesh Bag

We’ll start with some of the most obvious options, and right at the top goes the plastic mesh bag.
These bags are specifically for projects, come in a whole variety of sizes, and can come in pure mesh versions (with holes, kind of like aida) or plastic-covered mesh.

Gingham Mesh Project Bag (Source: itssewemma.com)
Gingham Mesh Project Bag (Source: itssewemma.com)

As the go-to for many people when first looking for a project bag, they do a good job, however, there are a few issues that actually make them somewhat problematic. The first is that some of these have unprotected mesh; this is great for designing and stitching on it yourself, but just allows dirt and water through!
Secondly, all your tools need to be stored within the same pouch. This is just asking for trouble when it comes to scissors bouncing around, but if you have the mesh variety you need to be careful your needle doesn’t drop out too!

Benefits

  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • You can stitch the outside of them

Draw Backs

  • Not water proof
  • All tools & thread need to be stored with project

 

Vinyl Project Bag

For many who have felt the pain of mesh bags, they move to a vinyl project bag, most commonly found on Etsy or similar handmade websites.

Sewing Project Bag by TheTinySewingCompany (Source: Etsy)
Sewing Project Bag by TheTinySewingCompany (Source: Etsy)

These bags are very similar to a mesh bag but are made up of cotton, normally with a vinyl window (which gives them their name). These have a few advantages over mesh bags, such as being dirt proof (although still not waterproof), have a window to see what is where comes in a whole range of designs, and if cross stitch isn’t your only hobby you can stitch your own!
You still have to keep your tools with your work, but they are better than mesh bags. This is where most people end up. However, there are better choices.

Benefits

  • Can come in multi designs
  • Can be stitched yourself

Draw Backs

  • Dirt proof, but not water proof
  • All tools & thread need to be stored with project

 

Laptop Bag

So right now the biggest issues are that we need it to be waterproof, dirtproof, and holds your tools in their own section. This is where we start getting creative. It’s time to look in your attic for that old laptop bag.

Laptop Bag used as a Cross Stitch Project Bag (Source: Amazon)
Laptop Bag used as a Cross Stitch Project Bag (Source: Amazon)

You don’t have to use a second-hand one, of course, you can pick up good laptop bags pretty cheap, and even some that market themselves as project bags. But laptop bags have all of the things we need. They’re waterproof to keep the laptop safe, you have multiple flaps and sections for your cables cross stitch tools, and thanks to the way these bags are constructed you can keep your work in the frame (and we mean big frames here, not just the hoop!).

Benefits

  • Water proof and dirt proof
  • Keeps your work separate from your tools
  • The bulky construction allows you to keep your work in the frame

Draw Backs

  • Not very pretty

 

A Hangbag

Want something prettier? We don’t blame you. So what about your handbag?
Well, we’d suggest you have a handbag JUST for cross stitch as no one wants makeup getting anywhere near your project, and going for a bag with a zip-top is a massively important step to keep it clean and dry. However a handbag doesn’t really solve that much other than being pretty; all your tools will still be with your project, and having two bags on the go at once is a pain (and will inevitably end up with one being left somewhere).

Benefits

  • Pretty

Draw Backs

  • Bulky
  • All tools & thread need to be stored with project
  • Open top bags mean some are not dirt or water proof

 

Knitting Bags

So what do we suggest? Knitting bags.

Knitting Bag (Source: Amazon)
Knitting Bag (Source: Amazon)

Handbags and knitting bags can look similar, but knitting bags actually have a whole range of designs, some similar to laptop bags, some like clutches, and some like backpacks, so you have lots of variation here to pick from. But knitting bags are made in a way that protects your work, be it knitting, or a cross stitch frame, from dirt and water. They’ve got multiple sections for tools and storage. They have pretty designs!
There isn’t much that we can say negative about them; that’s how good knitting bags are. It’s our personal choice for cross stitch project bags. Sure, most have a single hole in them somewhere to let wool come out, but that’s hardly a big thing!

Benefits

  • Tools and work are stored seperately
  • Pretty, and come in lots of different types and designs
  • Dirt and water proof

Draw Backs

  • Normally have a single hole in the site (for wool to come out)

 

The Sewing Roll

But what if you’re not looking for pretty? What happens if you already have a good vinyl bag you like, but want to keep your tools separate? Well, for you, we’d suggest a sewing kit roll.

Sewing Kit Roll (Source: Flickr)
Sewing Kit Roll (Source: Flickr)

These babies store all your tools in a nice and safe space, that you can drop into your bag (be it a handbag or project bag), and you can pull out at the drop of a hat. You can make these yourself or pick one up at Etsy or even sewing shops. Or, if you prefer, a makeup bag, makeup roll, or a simple pencil case will work too!

Benefits

  • Keeps tools safe and separate from project
  • Lots of options
  • Can be made yourself
  • You can use makeup or pencil cases instead

 
Wondering what you might want to add into your travel kit (like a reading light), we’ve got you covered with our tips for traveling with cross stitch. If you have any project bags you think we should mention (or even have a photo) drop us a line below!
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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Why Cross Stitch Is A Truly Human Hobby

This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 5: Heroes & Villans, and has been adapted.
 
To me, cross stitch is the height of handmade. Unlike a lot of other crafts, such as knitting, screen printing, or painting, cross stitch can only ever be made with human hands. It requires dexterity and planning that a machine simply doesn’t have the ability to do. As time has progressed technology has been added into cross stitch to help people do this, such as specialty threads, double eye needles, or even conductive threads, however, it has never been able to cross that barrier into a commercial project, even if people have tried in the past.

Frogging is also a term used in knitting for the same issue! (source: google images)
Frogging is also a term used in knitting for the same issue! (source: google images)

Truly, people have tried. In fact, as of today, anyone with a large enough wad of cash can buy a sewing machine capable of cross stitching, and whilst it’s beyond the cost of most crafters, it can be done. But not well.
 
The most well-known example of a cross stitch machine is probably the Ikea cross stitch invite, sent out to over 50,000 customers back in 2016. A Chinese embroidery house taking on the challenge of making all those invites; it’s not a surprise that they were done on a machine. Looking closely though you can see that on the mass-produced invites the aida doesn’t match up with the stitches. However, that hasn’t stopped its draw. Since then cross stitch can be seen on fashion and furnishings everywhere, becoming a visual synonym of ‘handmade’, despite all of these incarnations being machine sewn.
Ikea Lida cross stitched email (source: Lida)
Ikea Lida cross stitched email (source: Lida)

Inherently, that is cross stitch, a handmade product, lovingly produced the quality of which cannot be reproduced by machines. But the march of progress strives ever forward and it’s inevitable that cross stitch will at one point become just another stitch a sewing machine can perform seamlessly. But that does raise an interesting question. In the words of Will Smith in I, Robot:
 

“Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”

 
Whilst we’re some way off a machine cross stitching a masterpiece, there are a lot of robots creating masterpieces. Or at least, art. There is an international competition held each year where the artists are all robots, hoping to win a cut of $100,000. These aren’t just simple machines capable of taking an image in real life and recreating it either. These machines take decisions based on previous paintings, art styles, or sometimes because they want to (which is pretty scary, even if we’re just talking about art). These artificially intelligent machines are creating independent aesthetic choices, creating artworks that “doesn’t look like a computer made it” as per the New York Art Critic Jerry Saltz. We’re yet to call these paintings masterpieces, but computer algorithms are making massive strides in creating a visual medium we can recognize as art. Something we can recognize as truly human.
 
This year’s winner was CloudPainter, created by an independent team headed up by Pindar Van Arman. And whilst you might be willing to write him off as a traitor to humanity, ushering a new age of robot overlords, which may or may not need a Terminator to be sent back in time to sort out, Pindar has a very interesting take on what he’s doing, and what his machine is capable of.
 

“What they are capable of reveals the point where computational creativity ends and human creativity begins. It was not until I began exploring this threshold that I began to understand my own creativity and what it revealed about me as an artist.”

 
This is only a powerful insight into the mind of an artist, but it highlights that one thing that makes art human; it’s more than just artistic interpretation; it’s artistic creativity.
 
The Xstitch magazine has been put together with a whole series of cross stitch artists, making their own artistic decisions in creating patterns based on a brief. That might be something simple as “heroes & villains” or something more contrived they put together themselves, but it’s you, the reader, who has the human touch. You can take the patterns and recreate them perfectly. But they will never be perfect. And the reason for that is human emotion, human experience, and human creativity.
 
In the first issue, I submitted a Saturn V cross stitch pattern and I spelled something wrong in it. That error got printed. That error got stitched. And that error was stitched by others copying the pattern. But some chose to edit it. Some chose to fix my design to their own needs. Maybe it was spelling, maybe it was an aida choice, maybe it was taking only part of the design. Those are choices that a machine cannot make. Those are choices that only humans can make. And that’s why cross stitch will always be handmade. The tiny changes that make it something more.

World War 2 sampler by imprisoned POW Major Alexis Casdagli
World War 2 sampler by imprisoned POW Major Alexis Casdagli (source: V and A website)

This something more has always been around in the cross-stitch world. One of my all-time favorite cross stitches is by Major Alexis Casdagil, a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. The sampler itself is steeped in Nazi iconography, a means for the Major to please his non-robotic overlords. It’s not something I’d have on my wall, or even in my house to tell the truth. But it has a secret. Along the edge are a series of Morse code messages, denouncing Hitler and praising the King of England. Another cross stitch was a detailed map, officially not allowed, but as it was ‘art’ the overseers couldn’t take it away either. He also stitched a British flag, something forbidden in the camps, with a flap over, meaning to see it the Nazi’s had to open it, where Alexis would exclaim the Nazi officer was actually a secret Nazi hater. He stitched not to create art, or to please anyone else. He stitched to defy.
 
It doesn’t matter why cross stitch is created, to sell cheap furniture, or to defy one of the worst people in history, so long as cross stitch is created by the human hand, even if machines do it too, cross stitch will always be handmade. It will always be inherently human. On a final note, when the robot overlords to take over, don’t forget to praise their cross stitch.
 
Happy stitching,
Lord Libidan

 

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Book Review: A Bitch in Time – 30 Sarcastic Stitches for You to Stab

I tend not to review books. Most books are produced to a similar standard, and the themes are very personal; you’re either going to be interested or not interested. Of these books, the ones in particular that I always steer away from are sarky statements; most of these books are exactly the same, with riffs on the new home sweet home sampler “please don’t do coke in the bathroom”.
But today I’m going to break my rule; I’m going to review a book; and a sarky one at that! But stay with me, as there is a good reason to!

What Does It Include?

A Bitch In Time 30 Snarcastic Stitches For You To Stab Cross Stitch Book Cover (Source: bitchintime.com)
A Bitch In Time 30 Snarcastic Stitches For You To Stab Cross Stitch Book Cover (Source: bitchintime.com)
So let’s get the basics covered here; it contains a lot of the basic things any cross stitch book does:
 
Clear patterns ✔
Previews of the stitched pieces ✔
Instructions for beginners ✔
Fully of sarky statements ✔
Great imagery ✔
 
Yep, it’s got all the basics. Now to be fair, it does also have a lot more, such as count information, multiple ways to start, what to do with mistakes, finishing tips, and it also has some extras in the back for color changes or lettering alterations. Actually, this section also hides 4 tiny patterns too, which is a nice touch. But for the vast majority of readers, it’s going to be a standard cross stitch book with little in it you didn’t already know.
 
But that’s where we start talking about the real highlight of the book.

So Why Are You Reviewing It?

The vast majority of cross stitch sarky books contain a basic premise; a simple quote in a nice cross stitch font with a flowery border. Does it have them? Well, it has one. In a 30 pattern book. You see, the remaining 29 patterns are what really sell this book.
 
Taking smart quips and adding them to aid is pretty simple but the real power of this book is the way they’ve been added. Instead of a boring frame, they’ve been grafted on the side of a cactus, added to the front of a packet of pants, punched out of a magazine, lit up in neon and put on a poster.
These patterns go further than just the normal everyday sarky patterns. They’re truly designed perfectly in ways that simply aren’t seen anywhere else. When was the last time you saw a neon cross stitch pattern?
 
For me, the greatest thing this book has to offer is its blueprints. By that I mean it gives you everything you need to create a stunning pattern in the future using the styles in this book. It isn’t just a bunch of patterns, it’s a bunch of ideas.
 
But that would actually be a little unfair of a review for this book. It is filled with sarky patterns, all aching to be the new “please don’t do coke in the bathroom”, with clever touches that riff off expected clichés, and subvert your understanding of what they might be. This is what subversive cross stitch really is.
 

Truly Truly Truly Outraged Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)
Truly Truly Truly Outraged Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)

 

Is It Really That Good Though?

Yes. And just to prove it, I want to let you into a little secret; my neon cross stitch was heavily inspired by the one in this book (in fact, I stole their colors). I had already made a design that was…meh, but the style of the one in the book made me totally redesign it, and even steal the colors! That’s just how much I love it. It literally changed the pattern idea I had, and made me make something great.
 

“Tara and Roy definitely deserve a high-five for their brilliant execution of a stitched neon sign AND their understanding of where french fries fall on the priority list! A Bitch in Time lets you take a nice, constructive stabbing break anytime too much becomes WAY too much!”
Haley Pierson-Cox, author of Improper Cross-Stitch, Cross Stitch The Golden Girls, and Feminist Stitches

 

You're Next Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)
You’re Next Cross Stitch from A Bitch In Time (Source: bitchintime.com)

 

So Is It Worth Getting?

Yes. It’s been a long time since I got a cross stitch book that I truly admired, but this is one.
 
If you’re interested in sarky stitches, it’s great; it has them, and mostly of the ruder kind. But even if you’re not interested in that (like me), it’s still a great book for what it can teach you about design. Not only did it totally change a pattern idea I had, but there’s another pattern that I’m thinking about too. For me, it’s a great book!
 
Digital copies are $24/£18and hard copies are $30/£23.

 

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Neon Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

Neon Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Animated
Neon Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan Animated

Title: Neon Libidan
Date Completed: April 2021
Design: Lord Libidan
Count: 16
Canvas: Black
Colours: 7
Pop Culture: Neon
 
After finishing a whole series of cross stitches I moved onto completing some other hobbies, one of which was redecorating a room in my house. I’ve spoken before about using cross stitch in interior design, but I recently couldn’t get something out of my head that’s been in my cross stitch inspiration journal for a few years.
 
Back when I lived a lot closer to London I managed to find a place called Gods Own Junkyard, which is effectively a pub filled to the brim with neon. This is actually a super rare thing in London, which has never been a mecca for neon, however it dropped something in my brain that I new I had to copy.
Gods Own Junkyard, London (Source: secretldn.com & @lia.marra)
Gods Own Junkyard, London (Source: secretldn.com & @lia.marra)

Neon cross stitch really isn’t that new, and in fact, one of the first cross stitches I have in my inspiration journal is a neon by CrassCross, however, when looking at his work, I felt I could do something a little…more.
Whilst his work is clearly a neon sign, it lacked the bright reflection neon causes, and the fonts we often think of when we think of neon. In addition, I also thought about adding some effects to make it look like a flashing neon sign.
 
Live Nudes Neon Cross Stitch Pattern by CrassCross (source: pinterest.co.uk)
Live Nudes Neon Cross Stitch Pattern by CrassCross (source: pinterest.co.uk)

So I made a pattern! My first step was picking a great cross stitch font, and I made the pattern in a bright red hue. But I didn’t like it. In fact, I didn’t like it enough that I sat on the pattern for a month. Until I realized three things;
– It needed a new color
– It needed a better font
– And it needed a better pattern
Pretty damning for a pattern that’s all about one font in one color…
 
But that didn’t stop me!
I changed the color to the only color I know with ‘neon’ in the name; pink. I then changed the font to a single-line handwritten font (which is rarer in real neon but felt more realistic), and finally, I started to redesign the pattern. I say start as I came across a book called “A Bitch in Time – 30 Sarcastic Stitches for You to Stab“, which includes a neon pattern. I stole some ideas and came up with two cross stitches (one ‘on’ and one ‘off”).
I finally stitched it up, added some animated effects, and now I have my very own neon sign.
 
Neon Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Neon Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan

 

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Make your own cross stitch patterns without online tools

One of the most requested posts I’m asked for is simple; how to make a cross stitch pattern. And whilst we have gone over how to make cross stitch patterns using cross stitch software there are those that want to make patterns on paper. So today, we’re going to talk about how to make a pattern without online/computer tools.
 
When it comes to making patterns without the aid of technology, there are limitations, and we’d reminisce to not talk about these first and foremost, but don’t let these stop you!
 
Size is a problem – When it comes to these types of patterns, you’re limited to a few factors. One big one is the size and amount of paper you have. Whilst you can make ream after ream of paper into one massive pattern, generally, you’re going to be limited to less than 4 inches square of workable space (depending on the count of paper you have and count you stitch on, this may result in a larger or smaller stitched work).
Complexity is a problem – Whilst you can once again make a pattern as complex as you like, making anything with more than about 10 colors gets very complicated, very quickly. We suggest following a very clear guide and make sure you keep track of changes.
Count is (mostly) out of your hands – This is a slightly more complicated situation, but you’re going to be limited by the size of squared paper you can purchase. Most squared paper is about 6 count, and you can get graph paper from 10 count to 20 count. So long as you’re happy working with large patterns and can get your head around that the pattern you make won’t be the same size as the completed work, you should be fine though!
 
So now the list of problems is over, let’s get on and talk about how to actually do it.

Copying An Image

The first type of pattern you might want to make is a copy of something you originally own, like a photo, logo or something similar. For this, we’re going to need one of my all-time favorite cross stitch tools, a tracing pad.
Simply place whatever you want to copy on to of the tracing pad, then place squared paper or graph paper on top.

Owl image and squared paper on tracing pad
Owl image and squared paper on tracing pad

Simply put, if there is black in a box, stitch in it. If there is white, don’t stitch. As you get to smaller details you can choose to add petit point or half stitches or make a judgment call on if you stitch there or not. And that’s it!
 
However, due to the issue above about count, you’re very limited in regards to size. Changing the graph paper can help with count, but if the thing your copying can’t be printed in multiple sizes, then you’re going to have your hands-tied on size.

Making Your Own Image

The second option when making papers is arguably the most interesting (and more complex); making it up yourself.
 
There are two ways to go about this, you can either draw it yourself and then use the above method, or you can create it from the ground up. Below is an example of that second option, where vmstack has placed each square (equal to one cross stitch) into a square paper journal to form the image. In order to do this successfully, you need to need a really concrete idea of what you want before you start, including size and color count. However, once you’ve done that it’s as simple as marking out your extreme edges, block the areas out roughly, then start adding detail.
 
The great thing about this is that you have so much more freedom with the size and scope of your project. You could just manually try to copy a design, but make it a count you want, or take a well-known character (as per the example below) and make your own version of it. And once you’ve done a few, you can then borrow elements of previous patterns to help you out. For example, the below character has great proportions, which you could use next time for a different character, etc.

Cross Stitch Pattern on Squared Paper by vmstack (Source: Instagram)
Cross Stitch Pattern on Squared Paper by vmstack (Source: Instagram)

Picking Colors

Whatever method you’ve chosen, you’ll come to the point where you have a pattern, with rough colors blocked out. This is where you’ll need to start picking your real colors, and for this, we strongly suggest getting a DMC color card. We’ve gone more specifically into how to do this on our how to use a DMC color card, and as there are lots of fine-tuning you can do we suggest you read that before picking colors.
However, once that’s done, you’ve just completed your first cross stitch pattern on paper.

DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan
DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan

If you enjoy making patterns, or think you may, then trying out one of the various free online cross stitch pattern generators is a great place to start without having to spend any money.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

 

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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 the sheer usefulness of cross stitch tools, an aida identification card, or aida gauge is right up there. I know it might not seem glamorous, and many people are unsure if aida gauges are worth getting at all, and so don’t buy one. But they are frankly one of the most useful things in my cross stitch kit.
People’s hesitance is somewhat understandable, as its rare that you find yourself asking what count is that fabric. But for $5, when you do ask yourself that question (and you will at some point, trust us), you need to get an answer you can trust. These give you a 100% sure answer, 100% of the time. After all, it’s a few dollars that will stop you from having to throw out that unlabeled piece of thread/needles.
 

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)

Scissor sheaths might not be the first thing that comes to mind…. well, in any situation to be honest, but scissors are one of the most important tools for a cross stitcher to have.
Every 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 avoid stabbing yourself, and 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 whilst also providing a protective layer that will keep your scissors perfect for years to come!
 

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 a few years ago, and we simply can’t stop singing their praises!
They’re a fantastic pair of scissors in their own right, which are not only fast and easy to use thanks to the finger hold that avoids all those hoops (and are left-handed friendly!) but are fully TSA compliant for plane travel.
We now use these as our main pair of scissors for cross stitch, they are that good! With a micro form factor, and a protective little sheath, they’re great for travel kits too. We even attach them to our keys, so we’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.