Regardless of where you are in your cross stitch journey, you will find a time where you want to stitch, but don’t know what. Unlike the same feeling with reading a book, it’s not as simple as to just walk into a bookstore, and so I’ve compiled a list of the places I most frequent to get some cross stitch inspiration.
You can buy degree artwork online, for less than £500. Whilst many of these artists have great skills, they’re still exploring their creative side and style. This means the wealth of content from varied styles is staggering. The link above has 1 million pieces in it, all gallery level quality, simply from lesser-known artists. This is where the trends for the next few years come from, so get in early.
Online Museum Collections
Quality art from the world all packaged up and easy to digest. Exactly what you wanted 😀
The best two I know of are the MET and the British Museum.
Etsy is a fantastic place to pick up patterns, completed pieces, and frankly, anything. But its also great at inspiration. The above link looks at just cross stitch within Etsy worldwide, however you can also look at all art (be it cross stitch, paintings, illustrations, etc).
Stock images are quality images created for all kinds of purposes, however, they can also serve as inspiration. They’re well put together images from a series of styles and offer a sheer volume greater than even google images. The link above goes to Shutterstock, but they’re all as good as each other.
There are loads of artists on DeviantArt that specialize in cross stitch, and most of those find groups like the stitching pirates. They have a whole heap of artwork by previous artists, ranging from super contemporary to standard kits.
If that doesn’t fill your inspiration bottle, then you can look at all of DeviantArt’s content, or narrow it down on specific words.
When it comes to contemporary sewing, Mr X Stitch is the place to go. It has everything from my own column on video game cross stitch, to not safe for work clothing elements. You can find 7 years of daily posts all lined up and ready for you. Alternatively, you can also check out their twitter, which posts a large volume of images too.
There are loads of websites out there that sell t-shirt designs for one day only. This means you get great quality images, filled to the brim of pop culture references on a daily basis. Now, the great thing about these, is they put all their old t-shirt images on their websites to review. So people like dayoftheshirt have compiled all of the shirts in one big repository.
I really wasn’t joking about how perfect Etsy is for inspiration. The above link looks at just pop culture pieces, in all categories.
This link, on the other hand, looks up all “contemporary” items within the art category. I prefer this as its more narrowed and doesn’t give me something like a teapot, which is inevitably un-cross-stitch-able.
The great thing about Pinterest is it’s built on being contemporary, and whilst there will be some traditional stuff on there, most of it is purely modern.
The top three contemporary links I follow are:
Cross Stitch Explore – 1,000,000 pins
Cross Stitch board – 13,000 pins
All cross stitchers have their own style and topics, and if you can find one with similar interests, you should check their profiles and past work out. After all, they’re in the same world as you. However, I would also suggest contacting them, speak with how they’re getting their own inspiration.
SpriteStitch is a craft website built upon the sole purpose of great video game cross stitch inspiration, and whilst it’s changed a bit to include more usual crafts, it’s still mostly cross stitch.
Fair warning: not everything on this site is cross stitch. In fact, a large section is cosplay, however of the content that can inspire, it sure does.
Want something just video game centric on DeviantArt? Well we have you covered, with a team from the makers of SpriteStitch who only post video game cross stitch.
With little to no effort (just click the link), you can see some of the best curated video game art anywhere on the web, gratis of Etsy.
There are a lot of communities out there looking to fill the video game arena on Pinterest, but the above link features some of the best work possible, and it’s curated by cross stitchers, so everything you see is possible.
Makibird has some of the best free pokemon patterns out there. No joke. They are simply inspired. Not only that, but she has a slew of other games, and comes out with at least one new pattern a week. Always worth a stop for a free pattern, or some great composition ideas.
Real world inspiration
The V&A in London not only has a large selection of historic samplers among its ranks (including the piece we looks at in the history of cross stitch post), but it’s constantly rotating exhibitions make it a fantastic source of new ideas from other art mediums.
Whilst some of the art can be well over the top, the Tate Modern galleries in England are a great source of unusual ideas. Whilst the average piece might not be to taste, that one random idea pops out of nowhere.
Maybe an option only for the modern/contemporary art movement, the MoMA is a great source of inspiration due to its sheer volume of art. Just let it soak in…
No list of museums would be complete without the Smithsonian. Simply put, if you can walk around these museums for longer than a few hours without getting crazy inspired then there’s something seriously wrong. The one thing I love in particular about the Smithsonian is the volume of printed material backing up each exhibit. A space shuttle is one thing, but it comes with reams and reams of posters, NASA manuals, detailed specs, blueprints, etc all on display alongside.
The affordable art fair offers the largest collection of purchasable art I’ve ever seen. There are thousands of paintings, thousands of sculptures, and even a few cross stitches. The great thing about it though is its been treated like an aspiring artist gallery for decades. The tickets are about £20 each, and that’s all you need. The sale conversion rate is super low (1% max), so you’re in the great company of others just walking around. The artists are all there, talking about their own pieces and inspiration, and they enthuse you just by talking to them! I’ve even set up collaborations with artists here before.
Local Art Fairs
Much in the same way that the affordable art fair in the UK works, but on a much smaller scale, local art fairs showcase the best of the local area. The amount of work is likely to be much smaller, and they try to sell in these, but you still get a lot of work to see and inspire you.
An odd idea, granted, however, every brand has at least a brand book or guidelines to work from. In turn most push this content out on the web. Whilst some times you may want to copy the style of a brand it can be helpful, but sometimes the visuals are just amazing from these guides. I love NASAs 1970s brand guide for example; pure distilled 70s style.
Sometimes the greatest issue with inspiration is the ability to do ANYTHING, and you just can’t work out what. That’s where competitions really shine. They focus the mind on a set task, usually with some rules to follow, meaning you’re pushed to do the best you can. And if you win you get recognition/free stuff!
I’ve done loads of competitions in the past, and the simple fact of it being a competition always pushes me. After winning with my Transformer Cross Stitch and Arcade Cabinet Cross Stitch I’ve come away with ideas up the wazoo, itching to stitch more projects.
Yeh, you heard me. Book covers go through many design phases with designers and hold images and text. Depending on what you like to stitch, walk around a book shop and check out some covers, I guarantee some will pique your interest (and in the worst-case scenario, you can always buy a book!).
Cross stitch books are a great place to start with a project. I’ve had a few pieces start from designs in a book, to end up looking nothing like them. I tend towards more pop culture books as they push boundaries a bit, I have a Star Wars Kit and a Star Trek Book out that you can try!
This is a bit of a two-part inspiration. The first is that travel, and unique experiences change the way you think about things, they add another point of view and help create a large set of reference material in your head.
That all helps MASSIVELY, however whenever I travel I always pop into a museum or gallery. Not only do they have different stuff, but they’re opinions are different. I went to a Japanese museum that painted America as the aggressor in WWII, and taking opinions out of the matter, they displayed things differently, took the other point of view, and in doing so made me look at a uniform or map in a totally different way.
Movies can be a great source of inspiration for two reasons; style and graphics. Some movies have a signature style, with red hues over the whole thing, maybe a set color palette, but also film scenes in a unique way, which could be great cross stitched!
The second reason is the graphics involved in films. In sci-fi, in particular, you get fantastic set pieces with objects in them, like harry potter posters, the martian computer screens, or styling of moon’s habitat. You could use them directly, or indirectly for inspiration.
Well that’s not much of a surprise, is it? Video games tend to have rich graphics, full backstories, objects not in the real world, and they create pop culture references that can be used to your advantage.
University Art Sales
Did you know at the end of the school/uni term all the art created that year gets sold? Well, now you do. This is a great place to pick up a sub £500 bit of unique and quality artwork, however, they always feature a wide variety of art styles, more so than any museum or gallery, due to the experimental nature of study, and so have a great source of unique content to feast your inspiration hunger on.
Go For A Walk
Not exactly what you were expecting? Well, when I’m stuck the first thing I do is go for a walk. I tend to know where I’m walking by now, however, just the act of walking clears your head. Once you’re back, look at some of the other inspiration sources and something normally comes. And the old adage of one the doors open, the flood comes is true for inspiration.