One of our most popular posts is about cross stitch gridding techniques and when I wrote the post, I thought it was the only real option. Either you grid or you count. But that isn’t the case. In fact, there is something else; a counting pin.
I had frankly never heard of these before, so not only did I have to look up what they were, but I had to buy some myself to check just how handy they were. And honestly, I was suprised how awesome they are.
In short, counting pins are just blunted pins, but longer and they normally have a cap so you can leave them in the fabric for a while. They solve the problem of recounting. If you don’t grid, you know you’re going to have to count, but thanks to those oops moments in the past, you keep recounting. Counting pins help do that:
The most common way to use them is when moving from one stitched area to another spot where you want to start stitching. For instance, if your next stitching point is 12 stitches left and 15 stitches down from completed stitch “A”, using the counting pin to count 12 stitches to the left of stitched point A. Insert the counting pin into that hole, bring it back up 2 or 3 stitches away and put the nut on the pin to anchor it. Take a second counting pin and count down 15 stitches from where the first pin was inserted. Insert the second pin at that point and anchor it. Then you can thread your needle and start stitching.
In addition you can use them to count out a long line of stitches. Instead of having to go back and count out how many you’ve stitched every so-often.
But are they any good? Well, yes, I think they are. I start most of my stitching in the middle, as is the norm, and as a result I tend not to need to grid things, but if I’m stitching a long line, or a phrase, placement of the next stitch, if its apart from the main body of the work, is always a worry-some moment. I count and count and count again. But with counting pins, I feel safe in the knowledge that I counted right. Considering you can pick them up for a few dollars, its worth having one on stand by.
Title: Pikachu Running Animated Cross Stitch
Date Completed: February & March 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Video Game/Pop Culture: Pokemon
As you may know, I’ve been designing patterns for the Xstitch maazine for sometime, however I have always felt like I wasn’t the best designer there. I mean, there is no chance I am, its full of awesome cross stitch talent, but there is one specific cross stitch, Tom Katsumi’s sewtrope, that I fell in love with. It was an accomplished piece of cross stitch, but that wasn’t the thing that made it great. It was alive. Thanks to an online animated GIF maker, he was able to reproduce its effects, and it truly looks like the cat is running. Well, I knew I had to do something in the style.
I had originally planned out a whole screen, with a sky, grass and pikahu unfurling from a pokeball into a run, however when I actually looked at how many cross stitches it would need (42) and the size, I quickly rethought my plan. I toned it down into 6 frames (and 6 completed cross stitches) with a very small pikachu running. However, then I came across this animated GIF and knew I had to copy it. So I scaled up in size of cross stitch, but thankfully, down in frames, to just 4.
It took a while to stitch them up, and it was actually a pain to line them up for the GIF, but once made, I slowed it down a touch, and hopefully made a cross stitched Pikachu look like he’s running.
Backstitch is often the thing at the end of a cross stitch, and whilst you know it can make a big difference, you’ve not really thought any further than that, right? Well, it turns out that whilst backstitch is super simple, there a lot you can do to improve it. The smallest of changes in your backstitch can have a massive impact, and its as simple as changing the thread thicknesses.
On the example below you can see a series of different backstitches, and whilst stitching everything as 2 stands would have been fine, I decided to stitch the grid with a single stitch. Why? Because it makes the ship stand out more. The subtle change here hasn’t taken anything away from the cross stitch, but its clear that when looking at this section, the ship is the most important bit. Obviously you could go the other way around here, stitching the ship with 3 or 4 strands of thread.
Thickness of the same thread
Yeh, its a thickness thing, but this time we’re speaking about the same thread. In the example below I’ve taken wires coming out of my portal gun and instead of using the 2 stands it called for, at the tips, split it into one. The effect it has is super small, but anyone looking at the cross stitch quickly can see that they start off as two seperate wires, which come together, then split off again. Something small like this has added another layer of detail to a simple cross stitch.
Going back to Voyager here, I’ve taken to combining both thicknesses of threads, and layers. When you look at this image, the first thing that comes out is the outline of the ship, then the decks, and then the details. This was achieved not only by laying the stitches in the opposite order (details first), but also by making the thread thickness larger as I when up. The over all effect has now changed so that the image as a whole is a ship, then the details, and not a super detailed hot mess.
I’m not saying any of the above examples are perfect, however layering is an effective way to change the focus of your cross stitch, and might just be worth practicing.
I know what you’re thinking; Is this guy really about to talk about printers? Well, yes, I am. And for good reason. With printer ink costing twice the price of human blood in the USA, its no suprise that printing patterns can cost a shocking amount. But is that the only way?
I’m here to tell you it isn’t.
We’ll start with the basics. You probably have a printer that requires ink cartridges at home, it was the standard for a long time. The reason for this was the competition was super expensive. Specifically, the laser printers. But as time has gone on, lasers have reduced in costs massively and now are not only comparable, but chearper than a ink jet. But here’s the big secret; they can be cheaper than a standard printer ink cost.
Black & White Or Color?
The first thing to work out, is if you even need a color printer. Some people use their printer all the time, but never print in color. In fact, most people print patterns in black and white just to reduce cost. As a result, you probably don’t need a color printer. But you’re still paying for one. If this is you; you’re in luck. Look up the prices for a “Mono Laser Printer” and you’ll find a whole load for under $50. Now, much like ink printers these need a supply of “ink” too, and normally these cartridges costs about $50. So all in all, you can get a printer for $100. Now if you compare this to a new ink jet printer with a full set of ink, it’s cheaper from the start. In fact, a new color set of ink costs up to $80.
The big saving is the rate that these lasers go through their cartridge. Most ink printers can print a maximum of 2000 pages, but average only 200. Most laser printers can print a maximum of 20,000 pages, and average, 20,000 pages. Yes, you read that right. Unlike traditional ink, which can dry up, lasers are ready to go whenever they’re needed. And on top of that, they only use electricity, meaning you don’t have to replace it anywhere near as often.
They’re just as high quality print wise, but as stated, they are only black and white. Personally, I think mono laser printers are 100% the best printers for cross stitch.
But what about color printing? I hear you, sometimes you just need color, or maybe you just prefer a color print. Well, you can still get a laser printer, but a color one. They are roughly the same price, but you need to buy a more expensive cartridge to go in it. This is on average about $100, so its not a small investment, but it can print just as many color pages as the mono lasers before needing replacement, and its the same price as 1-2 sets of standard color printer ink.
There is a problem with this though; it’s not suitable to print on photo paper. It actually gives a better quality print than a ink jet printer, but thanks to the way printer paper works, it just won’t work.
Now, that said, I wouldn’t go out and throw your printer away based on this article, but it might be worth checking the prices of a new next time you get some new ink. You might get a great deal; I picked my printer up for $30 thanks to a deal, which was the same as new ink!
Everyone loves a subscription box, that feeling when it comes through your door and makes you feel like its christmas every month, but with more and more subscrition boxes out there, its hard to find the best. So we brought 3 month subscriptions to cross stitch subscription boxes to review, and tell you which is the best to get! Updated March 2019.
$5 per month: Digital pattern download only $10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (2×2 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sweets, 15% shop discount, access to all previous patterns $15 per month: All of above + 1 counted cross stitch pattern & kit (6×6 inches), Pom Pom Kit
The Geeky Stitching Club is our prefered cross stitch subscription box for a simple reason; stuff. You get a lot of stuff. Not content with just one pattern, you get 2 full 6×6 inch patterns, and a sweet mini pattern to stitch up too. You get enough stuff to make one of the larger patterns, and some sweets (always a nice touch). The real gem with the subscription though, isn’t the amount of patterns you get, and not even the price, which is really low, or even that you can add ANOTHER kit for only $5 more. No, the gem, is that you get access to the full back catalog of patterns (5 years worth) for your subscription.
The patterns are well made, interesting, and vary enough to keep you at them month after month. I would say however that there is a definate theme to Geeky Stitching Club patterns; girly. That might not be much of a problem, but don’t expect pop-culture references or snarky comments.
$5 per month: Digital pattern download only $16 per month (USA); $22 per month (Canada): 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, Wooden Hoop, DMC Threads, Needle, Link to other pattern options
The Rag Tag Box is what you would expect from a cross stitch subscription box. It has a pattern, all the tools needed, a hoop, and even different versions of the pattern supplied to mix it up a bit. The brilliance of the Rag Tag Box however are the patterns themselves. They vary. They vary like crazy. One month you might be getting a snarky phrase, the next a sweet collection of miniatures, the next month a cute animal, the month after a time-specific pattern. What makes these even better however is how detailed, and well made they are. You’d genuinely want to go out and buy these patterns.
The only downsides we could come up with however were both the price, and that you can’t get the kits outside of North America. But, with a $5 download only option, its a nice option (if a little less special). Their patterns can be a little pop-culture and sci-fi related sometimes, but I see that as a positive.
As the only UK only subscription box, the market for the Cotton & Twine susbcription box might be a little limited, however its really hitting off that side of the pond, thanks to its parent company, Historical Sampler Company, being at the helm. Well known in the UK cross stitch market for over 18 years, its no suprise that they supply quality items each month. The patterns tend to be in the middleground, a little bit comtemporary, but also a little bit historical. In my mind this lowers the overall interest in the box.
One of the best things about the box though is its extras. Every month you get a free item, which can range from a pillow to cross stitch on, to an Easter wall hanging, stickers or a book. And then there is the sweet treats. Unlike other boxes on this list, the sweets are a massive part, with a heavy dose of English treats, like fudge to endulge in.
$33/£26 per month: 38 DMC Threads & free gifts on month 3, 6, 9 & 12
Unlike the other entries on this list, Lakeside Needlecraft aim to help you complete the full set of 500 DMC threads, including the 35 new DMC threads and 18 variegated threads. They do this by supplying 38 random threads each month for 13 months, ensuring they only send you one thread of each color. Whilst getting all the DMC threads is a fantastic thing to do, its a little clostly upfront. This monthly subscription is a fantastic way to slowly build them up.
From the same makers of the Geeky Stitch Club, the Mini Little Stitchers club follows roughly the same model, but instead of small intricate designs, offers simple designs, stitched on wooden boards, with big threads and needles. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a suprise that its aimed at 6 to 12 year olds. Whilst this definately isn’t the best subscription box for adult stitchers, its a fantastic way of getting kids into the hobby.
$5 per month: Digital pattern download only $22 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (3×3 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (3×3 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sticker $32 per month: All of above + Wooden Hoop, Backing Felt, 1 accessory/gift
By far the most expensive subscription on our list, the SnarkBox is a nice, yet slightly samey box. Instead of giving one kit, you can get up to three kits, accessories/tools and finishing items too, so its a great way to built up your cross stitch stash, but with patterns that range from snarky phrase to slightly less snarky phrase, I find there wasn’t enough varied patterns coming each month. In addition, due to the size of the patterns, finishing them all in time for the next box was a push.
I regularly attend events on embroidery, and with that comes questions. Most are simple to answer, some can be more challenging, but as soon as people hear I cross stitch, there’s only one question they can think of:
Have you heard of 5D cross stitch? What is it?
Is it cross stitch?
No. It’s not.
But there are simularities. You see, much like diamond painting, 5D cross stitch uses an adhesive back where small things are stuck on. However, unlike diamond painting, they use a special fabric, very similar to aida, with 14 ‘beads’ per inch.
So is it diamond painting?
Well, its closer to diamond painting than anything else, but still no.
Diamond painting is kinda of taken itself a bit quickly, so no one really knows the original type, but diamond painting uses a diamond grid, not squares like cross stitch. It also uses round ‘diamonds’, a hard backing, a randomised count (which is similar to 16 count).
So where does that leave us?
In short, 5D cross stitch is a half way house between cross stitch, and diamond painting.
It has all the hallmarks of diamond painting, but features 14 count flexible fabric backing, and small squares instead of round pegs.
I personally love black aida, it can really make a piece sing, however I’ve also heard of people scared to use dark and black aida due to the issues involved. Ad while I understand their point of view, dark aida really isn’t to be feared. In fact, with some really simple changes you can make stitching on black aida a breeze!
Light it up like crazy
The first thing that everyone says when it comes to dark aida is light it up. I would personally suggest stitching somewhere so well lit up that it doesn’t matter if you have dark aida or not, but investing in a really reliable and bright light can work wonders for your work. If you’re interested we looked at if daylight bulbs are really worth it and we even mention the use of dark aidas.
But people often ask me about how they should light their area. I’ve regularlly heard about lighting under your work as well as on top, and whilst I understand why, I think that this isn’t the way to go. I would light from the top only.
Cover your lap with white (or use a light box)
And here’s why I think you should light from the top only; you should light from the bottom differently. Instead of using a traditional bulb, you should either use a large white sheet to reflect light, or, my personal favorite; a tracing pad. You can pick tracing pads up from amazon for a dozen dollars, and they’re super light and thin so you can rest them on your lap, or table without issue. The advantage is that unlike standard light, a tracing pad both lights and gives a white backdrop at the same time, meaning you can see right through those holes.
I used to hate the idea of gridding, and honestly, I’m not too sure why, but for an average project, I still don’t grid. But that isn’t the case for dark fabrics. For dark fabrics I ALWAYS grid. Half the battle with a dark fabric is the effort of counting, and with a simple grid you can make it so much easier.
Check out our cross stitch gridding techniques if you’re new like I was!
You probably frame your work when you stitch, however with dark aida it becomes super important. You want a nice frame that will stretch out the fabric as tight as possible to ensure the holes in the aida open up so you can see through them. You can pick any of the best cross stitch frames out there, but make sure the fabric is really tight.
With all this extra light, gridding, framing and whatnot its no suprise that looking at dark aida is a strain on the eyes. We would suggest taking regular breaks anyway (we’re big fans of the 20-20-20 rule), but there is something else you can do to help your eye sight; magnification. Put simply, the larger the aida, the clearer it is. As simple as that!
Use your needle to ‘feel’ the fabric
When stitching, I like to watch TV, as I’m sure many of you do too, but by doing this I accidently developed a skill I didn’t even know was a posibility; feeling the fabric. I personally think this explination from StitchedModern is the best at describing it, so I’ll leave it to them:
If you slowly and lightly drag the tip of your needle over the fabric, it will dip where there are holes. Do this before you take a stitch and you are more likely to find the hole instead of piercing the fabric fibers. This takes a little practice, but eventually you get the feel of it.
A simple, but truly effective method for dealing with dark aida…
Our recent post on needle threaders has been a bit of a runaway success, however I’ve had a few people ask a simple question; what about self threading needles?
I must admit, that despite owning a pack, I never actually tried them out, so I threw caution to the wind and threaded a few needles.
What are self threading needles?
To start, let’s talk about the elephant in the room; self threading needles are needles which say they can make threading super easy. Most often they’re marketed for people with arthritis or poor eye sight, however anyone who hates the game of ‘poke the thread through the hole’ can stand to benefit.
It should also be said that there are multiple types of self threading needle, however they mostly come into two camps; V-shaped and spiral. We picked up a few packs of self threading needles from Etsy to give a good diversity.
V-Shaped Self Threading Needles
These V-shaped needles have actually been around for a really long time, and as a result have a whole raft of names including “self threading”, “French Spring eye” or “Calyx eye”, however they all have the same design. Simply put, you pull the thread down, through the two ‘clips’ which hold the thread in place. I had to try a few times before I got the system, as whilst it seems simple, doing it in real life isn’t as easy. I found that having a block to place the needle in so you could pull the thread through helped.
However, I wasn’t impressed. There are three reasons I just couldn’t get on board with these needles. The first was how annoying they were to thread. It honestly took me about 5 tries to thread the needle each time. Those 5 times weren’t all sunny times either, as they kept breaking the thread. I mean, these things break thread better than my scissors. However I can forsee myself getting better as time goes on.
The biggest issue for me though, was how painful it was to push the needle through the aida. Whilst needles are far from soft, the rounded edges make it slightly easier on the fingers, but these needles are like two little prongs stabbing me everyt time I pushed down. Not fun. I found the only solution was a thimble, which really gets in the way of cross stitching…
Spiral Self Threading Needles
Despite the V-shaped needles being far older, more often than not the only self threading tapestry needles you can find are the spiral type. This is down to how bulky the self threading mechanism is, however in our size tests they were no larger than ordinary needles. Unlike their V-shaped counter parts, you thread them on the side, which is MUCH easier, and frankly, lives up to the idea of being suitable for those with bad eye sight and arthritis. However, there are downsides too.
Specifically, we found two issues. The first was how often the needles caught on the aida, thanks to the side design the needle effectively has a hook, which caught on every 3 to 4 stitches, however with a slight change in how you stitch this can be avoided; but is practically worthless to those with reduced mobility. The second issue relates to the first in the sense that the eye of the needle breaks far faster, which isn’t too bad of a problem on its own, but these needles are expensive.
Are they worth it?
So, we finally get to the answer to the orginal question, of are self thread needles worth it. In my opinion; no. That isn’t to say they don’t have a purpose, I truly think that for some its a great idea, but with so many great needle threaders out there, that I just don’t think it’s worth it.
When anyone starts a new project there is one question that plagues cross stitchers everywhere. How many skeins of thread do I need?
What makes this question even harder is it isn’t the same for everyone. You see, people stitch in different ways, and generally that means you can be more or less efficient. So we stitched one color in an efficient and inefficient way to get a scale of how many stitches you can make using a whole 8m skein of thread.
Inefficient vs Efficient Stitches
A few people have asked what make the difference between efficient and inefficient stitches, so to help you stitch more economically, here is what we did.
Inefficient – Stitched in the “English Method”, with knots in the starts of the threads and ends of threads. Shorter lengths of threads were used, and all threads were used till at least 2 inches were left.
Efficient – Stitched in the “Danish Method”, no knots in the start or end (thread ends tucked), long lengths of thread and only 1 inch left before ending the thread.
The first thing to discuss is the possible types of pattern maker you can get: Free – Made using a simple pattern maker without customisation Patterns As A Service – You pay for one pattern at a time Fully Capable – Lots of customisation options, but a big learning curve
So with that in mind, let’s get into when you should pay, and which ones I suggest.
When you want a super realistic outcome
After a few cross stitch kits and patterns from others, its a fairly regular thing to want to stitch a photo you own, however free pattern makers just aren’t capable of making a realistic pattern in most cases (see the discussion on dithering on last weeks post). As a result, in order to get something realistic, you have to pay. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out wads of cash. The patters-as-a-service model is perfect here, offering you the chance to get a pattern made with really good tools, without much effort, for only $10.
A word of warning though, if you want more than 5 patterns a year, we suggest you keep reading!
Our suggestion:thread-bare.com ($10) or patterncreator.com ($7.50)
Whilst pattern creator is cheaper and reviews slightly better overall in our tests, we find thread-bare has some fantasticly realistic outputs so long as you’re willing to experiment with the settings.
When you want something custom
There are a whole load of cross stitch patterns on places like Etsy, but what happens if you want something custom? The only choice is a paid pattern maker. This might take the form of something small, or something massive like the pattern below, but whatever changes you want, you need a robust pattern maker that can handle it.
When you intend to make more than 5 patterns a year
When you want to make more than 5 patterns a year, I would invest in a really good pattern maker. The advantage here is that not only do you get patterns cheaper, but you have ALL the control, meaning you can make anything from a tiny change, to a massive custom piece. If you just want a plug and play pattern, you can do that, but as you progress, or you want to make more changes, all the functionality is built in. The cherry on top? Once you purchase the software, you never had to pay for a pattern again, meaning you save on the first year by $10, and then the following years by $50+.
Our suggestion:WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac)$48
Once again Ursa software offers the best option here, no only as its just under $50 (the price of 5 patterns on a pattern-as-a-service model) but also allows for a more realistic output and gives you access to tools you’ll need as you progress in pattern making.