Whats The Best Cross Stitch Aida Brand?

Black aida (Source: Etsy)

Since I started stitching I’ve only really used two brands of aida. A no-name brand that came free with a magazine (and was TERRIBLE quality) and a well-known brand. However thanks to my local sewing store being shut, I picked up someone else’s aida. The problem was the aida was completely different. In the past, we rounded up the best cross stitch needle brands and we decided its time to round up the best aida brands too thanks to me having to try them all out!
Over the last 4 months, we tried 180 aida sheets from a variety of brands, with a selection of colors to see who has the best! We chose a series of factors to test including how starched they are, the uniformity of batches, the range, price, and overall quality. We also ignored things like the uniformity of color and possible bleed; if we found any of these things (and we did) we’ve chosen to not even review them here.

Big Box Store Aida

Finally, the next brand we have on our list is the big box store. What do we mean by that? Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Hobbycraft, Joann’s, Michael’s, etc. These are the own brand aida that lots of stores sell. We actually know they all come from the same factory and we do know the brand name, but it’d just confuse things, so far now, we’ll call them “big box store” aida.
I’ll start with the positives here; the price is great. Its dirt cheap, and frankly for the price, you get a good product, even if the quality itself it’s super. In addition, the range is basically white or black, meaning so long as you don’t want anything fancy, they have you covered. In addition, the volume they produce aida means that you’re likely to get the same aida for a good 6 months which all comes from the same batch; however, the black does differ wildly from batch to batch. That, it’s all there is to say about this aida. It’s cheap, and it’s OK. Sure, it’s not the best (by far), but it’s a great place to start, and by no means worthless. Just maybe not the nicest.

Starch – 3/5
Quality – 2/5
Batch consistency – 2/5
Price – 5/5
Range – 1/5
Total – 2.5/5


DMC Aida

DMC aida is generally a brand most have used at least once. It’s a good aida, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise, however, there are some downsides. The first is that DMC aida is stiff; which isn’t too big of an issue, but makes it less pleasant to use. They also suffer from issues with batch consistency (specifically with their pale blue and cream aida). But they are good! However, as one of the most expensive options on this list, I’m not sure they’re the best choice.

Starch – 2/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 3/5
Price – 3/5
Range – 3/5
Total – 3/5


Permin Aida

Permin aida is fantastic, let’s get that’s straight from the outset. However, there are two important things to know. The first is that Permin aida is very soft; which can be great, but for those who freehand stitch (without a hoop) it can be a pain. The second is that whilst Permin used to have a massive selection of aida, they’ve reduced their colors drastically in the last few years with their range mostly being made up of pale colors.

Starch – 1/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 2/5
Range – 3/5
Total – 3/5


Zweigart Aida

Zweigart is the brand of choice for me. It’s a medium amount stiff, which for most is good, it’s extremely consistent with its batch colors and its a good price. It might not be as nice to use as brands such as Permin, but its consistency, its range and the fact that it’s everywhere make it the best to pick up. They also include a red stripe along the border, meaning you always know when you get Zweigart aida.

Starch – 4/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5
Total – 4.5/5


Charles Craft Aida

Charles Craft Gold Standard aida is a brand most people tend to ignore. I think they’re hard to get hold of most of the time, however, if you ever get a chance to use some; give it a go. Without a doubt, they are the best quality aida on this list. Its starch level is stiff but smooth, they have fantastically bold colors, a great range, and a nice price tag. The price is on the expensive side, but its far from prohibitive. They also take a lot more risks with their colors than other brands, giving you a great choice like grasshopper (which is just gorgeous)!

Starch – 4/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 5/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5
Total – 4.5/5

And there you have it, our round-up of the best-known cross stitch aida brands out there which will hopefully help you pick out your next fabric supplier! We should say though that there are lots of smaller brands out there which we haven’t included, but are great. 123stitch.com has a great supply for example.
If you wanted to know, our choice is Zweigart aida. Its great quality, but thanks to its fancy orange border, we’re always 100% sure we’ve got the right brand, and someone isn’t trying to pass a poorer quality aida off to us.

Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)
Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)


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Is Etsy a Good Thing for the Cross Stitch World?

Etsy Logo (Sourec: Google Images)

When I first started with cross stitch, Etsy was around, but it just didn’t have anything in the way of cross stitch on it. However, in the last years, there has been an increasing number of people and brands selling cross stitch patterns on Etsy, alongside tools and threads. But is it a force for good?

Google Trends Report on search term Etsy Cross Stitch (Source: Google Trends)
Google Trends Report on search term Etsy Cross Stitch (Source: Google Trends)

The Good

Let’s start off with the good side of Etsy. At first, Etsy seems like a fantastic thing for both those selling cross stitch patterns online, but also those buying. Sadly, commercial patterns still aren’t creating modern designs, and whilst there are newer magazines like XStitch Magazine, finding a modern cross stitch pattern is nearly impossible without Etsy.
This has a series of benefits, from introducing new, and younger cross stitchers, creating a pool of modern cross stitch patterns, giving cross stitch designers a place to sell, improving overall quality of patterns, but also dropping prices of patterns.
When I started stitching I had to come up with my own pattern ideas, put them down on paper and stitch them on the fly. There was no way that I could get those types of patterns other than making them myself. That worked for a lot of us, but I know cross stitchers who just gave up as they couldn’t stand making patterns. I know this is totally down to the Etsy platform, in fact, affordable cross stitch pattern software has risen at the same time as Etsy has and as a result Etsy was simply the platform of choice, but the fact remains that it’s Etsy that has helped give cross stitch designers a voice, and a place to sell. Without it major brands that win awards yearly like Peacock and Fig and Floss and Mischeif wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Etsy.

Etsy Listings - Lord Libidan's Sarky Stitches (source: Etsy)
Etsy Listings – Lord Libidan’s Sarky Stitches (source: Etsy)

The Bad

But sadly, there is always another side of the coin. With Etsy, this is two-fold; copyright and quality.
I said previously that Etsy has given rise to a wealth of modern cross stitch patterns, with recognizable characters and themes that appeal to your non-your-grandmas cross stitch. But with this comes the obvious issue of cross stitch and copyright. I know us designers tend to go on about it, but there is a genuine reason why you should care about cross stitch and copyright. For small designers its a case of having a business or not having a business, and for larger brands, it’s simply a case of breaking the law. In fact, when writing this post I had to alert a designer that someone else was selling their patterns on Etsy without their knowledge.

copyright definition Image (source: Wikipedia)
Image shared under Creative Commons License! (source: Wikipedia)

And it doesn’t make things better for buyers either. In fact its hard to know if you’ve brought a cross stitch pattern that isn’t copyrighted. The fact of the matter is there are hundreds of Etsy stores out there selling TERRIBLE cross stitch patterns, and they do their utmost to make it hard to know if you’re buying a quality cross stitch pattern. You can force an image through a cross stitch pattern generator in seconds, but the pattern will suck. And whilst most designers don’t spend 100 hours making a cross stitch pattern you need someone to spend time on the pattern to make it good. To make sure it’s not something that will go straight into the bin.


So where does this leave us? Well, on principle I would say Etsy is good for the cross stitch world.
But that is on a few provisos. The first, is that you don’t count the rampant copyright theft that happens. Sadly, the only way that this will stop is buyers need to stop buying cross stitch patterns they know to be copyrighted, and for brands to work with designers to make quality cross stitch pattern books. I’ve made a few now, and I know its a big price on publishers, but there is a market out there that will buy it.
But on principle, thanks to Etsy, there is a thriving cross stitch community that creates, buys and sells modern cross stitch patterns, and proving that cross stitch isn’t dead.


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Why Do The Cost Of DMC Threads Vary So Much?

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

If you look to buy DMC threads, you’ll often find that the price will vary. This isn’t just an inter-country thing either, the prices of threads vary massively depending on where you live in the world. On Facebook recently someone asked why this was, and I jumped in with an answer. It turns out, that answer was wrong. So I want to dedicate this post to those who both set me straight, and led me down the weird path of finding out why prices vary so much.
So, I hear you ask, how much do they vary? Here are a few countries (converted to US dollars) with prices:

$0.49 to $0.56 – USA
$0.74 – Canada
$0.89 – UK
$0.89 – Australia
$1.00 – Portugal
$1.61 – France
$2.00 – Italy
$2.00 – Finland
$2.78 – Switzerland

thread plastic rings (source: DMC)
thread plastic rings (source: DMC)

The Rumors

Or more specifically, what I thought was the case. In the 1990s DMC was going through less than stellar times. The company thought this was in part due to its expansion of factories across the US, Asia, and Africa. They decided that they needed to concentrate on the heritage of the brand more, and rely on the “made in France” tag line. In order to do this, they closed down one of the US factories and brought their main thread manufacturing back to France.
The rumor, however, is that some threads are still made in the US and other factories. This is false. The Asian, African and non-French European factories do produce some of DMC’s stock, their six-strand threads are all made in France. The remaining US factory was shut down, and they are now just a warehouse.

Average Income

So with that in mind, the standard thought is why is it cheaper in countries other than France? Well, lots of reasons, but the first and most striking when it comes to France is a standard commercial decision. What can we sell them for?
To use an example, let’s take Portugal, selling at $1.00 a skein, and France, selling at $1.61 a skein. Both are in the EU with no import charges, both have the same regulations and sales tax. The difference is the average wage. On average France makes $10,000 more per citizen than Portugal does, meaning they can charge more for the same product in France than they can in Portugal. The Portuguese stores run at a lower profit per skein than France.

Country Competiton

The second reason is competition. Once again, let’s look at two European countries, France and the UK. Both once again have the same import tax, sales tax and have the same regulation. They also both have roughly similar average wages (in fact, the UK is higher by $5,000). However, despite all of the similarities, a skein in the UK is $0.82 cheaper than it is in France. The reason is a simple one; Anchor threads.
The biggest rival to DMC is Anchor threads, which was in the UK long before DMC got involved, meaning they have history here. And whilst they are no longer made in the UK (they are made in Germany after they combined with JP Coats) they are big competition. In fact, Anchor threads go for about $0.90 on average in the UK. DMC knew that in order to compete, they had to reduce their cost to just under that. Stores in the UK just run at a lower profit margin.


The previous reasons are fairly striking in themselves, however, if you compare France with a country outside of the EU, like the USA or Canada, you see a MASSIVE difference in price. The above factors do have sway here as well, but there is also a large transport cost you have to add into the price, but despite that, North American threads are cheaper still. We’ll get into the US specifically later on, as there is another factor that impacts their price, so for now, we’ll talk about Canada, which sells at $0.80 less than France.
To many both inside of North America, and outside, there are a set of threads, 3773 to 3895 that are discountinued threads. This isn’t actually the case. Instead, some threads are only to be sold in North America. We go into detail in our post about why those DMC threads are discontinued, but in short, the dyes used in those threads are illegal in the EU, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, China, and many more. The US lags behind many countries on regulations. This can be specific dyes used as per the above example, or larger regulations, such as the traceability of products.
In the EU, in particular, there is large accountability on textiles to ensure the supply and manufacture is done in a sustainable way, that doesn’t take advantage of lower economic growth countries, and has no modern slavery involved. Therefore in order to sell textiles in the EU, you need to supply documentation about this and other regulations. These regulations cost money, lots of money. So much, that the cost of sending products to North America is not only cheaper but a lot cheaper, than filling out regulation paperwork.
That said, I hear you asking about Australia, which is cheaper than France. Well, in Australia, there are lots of Anchor threads being sold, they have a lower average wage, and the regulations aren’t as strict. This all means that they can compete on price in the same way the UK does.

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)
Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

Import Fees

Only three more reasons now, and this one can be a big thing, or small thing, depending on the country you’re in.
This time, we go to Switzerland, which pays a whopping $1.26 more than France, almost double the price, despite being in Europe, and in fact, bordering France. However, Switzerland isn’t part of the EU. This means they don’t have the same laws about trade that the rest of Europe does. In short, if you want to import into Switzerland, you have to pay a heavy fine.

Sales Tax

Now we get to more US specific pricing. There are two main things, but the first is inter-country pricing, and how you can vary by the price of up to 10c on a skein.
The US works a little like separate countries, in the sense that each state can set its own sales tax. In fact, each city, county, and municipal area can also change their sales tax, which can vary as much as 10% on the original price. In many places, there is one cost for the whole country, but in the US depending on where the store is, you can save a fair amount of threads.

Selling At A Loss

Finally, we come to the biggest cost difference going. This is usually why people ask on Facebook about cost; the US is super cheap. In fact, it can be cheaper to buy US threads and have them sent to a different country. There are two reasons. The first is that the US is a large market. In the same way that the UK has high competition from Anchor, the US has none. This, you would imagine, would hike up the price, but thanks to no competition and a large number of people buying, orders from stores are normally large. In addition, the US has a lot of “big box stores” that buy in supermassive volumes to sell across the country. In other countries, stores are usually smaller and can’t get bulk order discounts that the US stores can.
But the second reason is the biggest. In the US, DMC thread is usually sold at a loss or very close to wholesale prices. Most stores in the US are selling thread so low as they want you to come in and buy other, higher-margin products. This can be coupled with the fact that the US has a discount culture, meaning that whilst they have the lowest prices, unlike other countries, you can get further discounts on threads.
I won’t state who, but I spoke to someone that runs a small store, so does not get bulk discounts, who buys in at 46c a skein. The average sale price in her state was 50c a skein, meaning she gets only 4c of profit, before and extra discounts are applied. I spoke to a British store owner that has a profit margin of 40c after discounts are applied.
So there you have it, all the reasons that prices vary so much from country to country. We’d love to hear the price you pay for threads, and if any of you buy from different countries and import to get lower prices. Leave us a comment and we’ll update the list as we go!
In addition, we’d just like to say that there are cheaper embroidery threads which are a great alternative to DMC. But if you wanted to know, we also have a round up of the best places to get good DMC thread deals and if its worth buying second hand threads.


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The Origins of the Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler

Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: Pinterest)

When you think of cross stitch, even as a seasoned cross stitcher, you probably think of a sampler. In fact, you probably think of one sampler in particular.
You may have had to explain what cross stitch was to people in the past, and used it as an example, or probably stitched one yourself, but the fact remains, that cross stitch is, and probably always will be, linked to the simple ‘Home Sweet Home’ sampler. By why?

Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: Pinterest)
Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: Pinterest)

As all cross stitch stories start, we need to talk about something totally random. This time, we’re going to talk about opera. This opera has its own story, but importantly, in 1823, the Maid of Milan, or Clari to give its authentic name, and it was liked. Not well enough to be a massive hit, in fact, they stopped performing it in 1830, however one part of this opera, the song “Home! Sweet home!” was a hit. In fact, it sold over 100,000 copies once sold, which was truly a marvel at the time.
19th Century Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: PicClick.com)
19th Century Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch Sampler (Source: PicClick.com)

But due to the way publishers wrote contracts, almost all the money from this was made by the publisher, and not the original artists, John Howard Payne and Henry Bishop. Whilst Payne was known for his lack of business sense, Bishop decided to take action, and relaunched the song as a parlor ballad in 1852. Thanks to American history, we know that this time was massive for America, with a lot of patrons going to parlors, understandably, it became a massive hit. By the time that the American Civil War broke out in 1861, it was known as a classic song. With soldiers on both sides pining for home it became a popular song sung to keep morale up (although the Union army banned the song to avoid desertion at one point).
This, is finally where we get into the world of cross stitch. In our history of cross stitch post, we mentioned how cheap German wool exports decreased the price of thread and increased the prevalence of cross stitch in England. After the civil war in America, the German wool and cross stitch reached American shores, where cross stitch started to take off. Initially, post-war, a lot of samplers were focused on god, America, and home. Most commonly, statements like “God bless this house” come from this period. But with more and more soldiers returning from the front, they brought back with them the songs they have sung.
Vintage Bless This House Cross Stitch Sampler, America date unknown (Source: eBay)
Vintage Bless This House Cross Stitch Sampler, America date unknown (Source: eBay)

‘Home! Sweet Home!’ was quickly adopted as a common phrase for a series of things at this time. In fact, the famous “there’s no place like home’ from the Wizard of Oz also comes from this song. However, in addition, they also took the title (which doesn’t actually feature in the song) and cross stitched it up. As America recovered from the war, and connections with England improved, samplers came over from the US and in turn, the phrase was incorporated into English cross stitch samplers too, even if they didn’t quite know why (the song was never as popular in England).
But then it died down. As many new phrases came into fashion, and the breakout of world war one came, cross stitch fell aside. The next time cross stitch became really popular was the 1960s, in fact during this time cross stitch was the most popular its ever been, and they took old samples and cross stitched them, giving them modern twists and art. But the phrase “home sweet home” remained. In fact, during the newest cross stitch revolution in the 2000s, this was also the case. By this time the phrase was simply associated with cross stitch, and its original meaning was lost. But that didn’t stop people taking the phrase and making it their own, just like I did with my Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross stitch.
Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan
Pokemon Home Sweet Home Cross Stitch by Lord Libidan


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What is a SAL (Stitch-A-Long) and Should You Join One?

Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)

  1. A cross stitch activity called a stitch-a-long.
  2. A cross stitch pattern that is slowly revealed week by week that large groups of people stitch seperately, but at the same time.

Through out the year, people on cross stitch blogs, cross stitch forums and reddit always seem to be talking about SALs. At this time of year people seem to be talking more and more about them as many start in the first quarter of the year. But for those of us that haven’t been part of one; no one seems to know what anyone is talking about! And why you would join one.

So, What is a Stitch-A-Long?

In short, a SAL, or Stitch-A-Long is a single cross stitch pattern that is broken up and given to you week by week. The idea is that you stitch it at the same time as other stitchers and you can all guess at what it is, little details, etc.
Almost all SALs have a community group somewhere that only talks about that pattern, and you usually have to join within a few weeks of it starting (although there are some that you can join at any time).

How long does a Stitch-A-Long last?

So with a single pattern broken up, SALs usually take some time to get through. That said, most are fairly large patterns, so you shouldn’t be rushing to stitch your bit before the next one comes out.
Due to this, most give you parts of the pattern weekly, or monthly, and they tend to run for 6 months to a year depending on the size of the finished pattern. But there are a few out there that last less than 2 months.

How does a Stitch-A-Long work?

Well first off, you have to join a SAL. They’re usually advertised on mail lists for pattern designers, social media and cross stitch groups. They tend to give you about a month’s notice and ask you to sign up. Depending on the type, these can be free, or charge you for the full price of the pattern upfront. A few pattern makers also sell a kit of all the supplies you need to complete it too, but once again, payment is upfront.
You’ll then be given parts of the pattern week by week and a way to communicate with everyone else stitching too!
One thing you might have noticed there is that you haven’t looked at the pattern. You see, with a SAL, you don’t see the pattern. So you need to pick a designer you like the style of.

Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)
Tiny Modernist 2019 Stitch A Long Guide (Source: tinymodernist.com)

Why should you join a Stitch-A-Long?

So with all that in mind; why would you even want to enter a Stitch-A-Long?

The Community

The biggest thing about a Stitch-A-Long is the community. There are whole subreddits, flosstubes and communities that spring up around SALs, with people talking about the pattern, the designer, their general cross stitch likes, and even life in general. But everyone is there, to talk about their stitching together. It’s not about who can stitch the fastest, or who can guess the pattern first. It’s all about being together. If you’re a little unsure about joining a larger community (which can be intimidating), SALs make a great place to enter into the world and get a few great stitchy friends.

To Get Better Knowledge On The Pattern

Another big thing about the SAL, is that the designer is a major part of the community. They answer direct questions, they tell you about the decisions they’ve made with the pattern, the ideas that formed it, tiny details you might have picked up on, and even hints about future projects. It’s rare to get the insight of a cross stitch designer, but with a SAL you get lots of 1 on 1 time.

Mini Satisfaction

Another reason to enter SALs is actually the weird satisfaction that comes with it. Unlike most patterns, where you get page after page and you have to stitch through it to the end. But in a SAL you get a small amount that is achievable. You stitch your mini part, and you’re complete! You get the satisfaction every single week, instead of at the end like you would in a normal pattern. Because of this it’s easy to keep motivated. And that’s not including the community that’ll keep you going too.
In addition, you only ever get small parts, meaning not only is it easy to catch up if you have a busy week, but you can normally stitch other projects on the side too, meaning you aren’t bound into this one massive project all at once.

For The Suprise!

For me, the biggest thing about SALs is that you don’t know what the pattern is. Sometimes, you might get a hint, maybe a theme, but other than that, nothing. With the sheer wealth of cross stitch patterns online it can be hell trying to work out what to stitch. But with a SAL, that choice is taken away from you. All you need to do is pick a designer you like the style of, and start stitching!
Usually, the patterns for SALs are limited to the SAL itself too, meaning you might not be able to get the pattern at any other time!


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Where to Find Super Sized Aida

Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)

We like epic cross stitch patterns here, and we’ve helped on how to tackle epic cross stitch projects, but one big thing is getting the aida. With epic cross stitch patterns covering meters and meters, finding someone that sells good quality aida, that is huge, can be a struggle. Until now…

Simplify What You Need

First thing first, what do you actually need? Now, I know the obvious response here is a big piece of aida, but if you’re attempting an epic cross stitch project, you’ll need to work out two things. The first is color, and the second is count. And once you’ve done that, we have some bad news.
High count (higher than 14 count) aida doesn’t hold together as well as lower count aida. In short, it’s about the levels of starch in the fabric, but it means that in very large sizes high count aida breaks apart. This means that you’re going to need to stick to 14m or 11 count aida.
Secondly, finding large sections of aida in a specific color can be hard. So you probably want to buy a white piece.

If Needed; Dye The Aida

But what if you want a different color I hear you say! Well, dye it. In fact, dying aida really isn’t hard at all. Unless it’s ironed, you can use any normal fabric dye to change the color of your aida to whatever you want. Buy it white, and make it whatever color you want.

Black aida (Source: Etsy)
Black aida (Source: Etsy)

Look For Fabric Stores

So now you know that you’re probably looking for 14 count white aida, its time to get your hands on some. The fact that you’re reading this means you might be struggling to find someone selling some large enough. Well, I have the answer for you! Fabric stores.
Yes, we mean brick and mortar stores selling fabric to sewing enthusiasts. It turns out that aida, sometimes called “Java Cloth” (its original name) is a common fabric used for stitching in curtains and upholstery. Because of this, fabric stores often hold stock of white aida you can buy by the meter. The usual brand they hold is Zweigart too, meaning its good quality.

Contact The Manufacturers Direct

It might seem a little odd, but you can contact manufacturers of aida directly. Sure, it’s not a mainstay of their business, but I’ve heard of many people getting large sections of aida direct from the manufacturer. It costs a little more money than you would buy from a store, but you can get MASSIVE bits of aida this way.
Worst case, manufacturers can help find a reseller who can supply it for you.

Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)
Zweigart aida (Source: backstitch.co.uk)

Do You NEED A Massive Piece?

Ha, I know, this seems similar to the first point; but it’s not. You see, if you can’t get that huge piece you need, you can actually use smaller pieces. Before I tell you how, I will advise that there is an issue with this, and you should only use it in the worst of situations; always try to find a single bit first.
You can’t frame it. Yes, that’s right. Once you try to frame joined aida, it will open up in a way that will be obvious. So as long as the thing your creating won’t be stretched, made into a throw for example, you can attach aida.

So how do you do it?

Well, in short, you place two bits on top of each other. So long as you line up the holes in aida, you can stitch through both pieces at once and the cross stitches will naturally hold the two bits together. So long as you have a full coverage pattern, it will be fine.


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What Other Hobbies Can A Cross Stitcher Do?

Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

I am, without a doubt, a cross stitcher. It’s my thing. But it isn’t the hobby I have. Sometimes, taking a break from cross stitch can be a great way of getting back your cross stitch inspiration. However, there are also other times, like injury, or simply bad eyesight that you might have to change up your hobby for a short period.
With January being National Hobby Month, we thought we’d go over some of the other hobbies that any cross stitcher would also be great at!


In our next year in cross stitch post from a few weeks back, we spoke about some of the biggest trends in cross stitch in the next year, and blackwork was right up there. Sharing many similarities with cross stitch, and being stitched on aida and linen, blackwork takes a very similar form but makes up images using repeating patterns of backstitch, rather than cross stitches. It might not be great if you’re suffering from injuries, but blackwork is sure to make its way into cross stitch patterns over the next few months, so you might want to get into it now.
Blackwork (link back to next year in cross stitch) https://lordlibidan.com/next-year-in-cross-stitch-2020/

Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)
Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

In addition to blackwork, we also want to give a quick note to sashiko. Whilst it is very different to blackwork, its another embroidery that is really hitting it off at the moment, and worth checking out too!
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)

Diamond Painting/5D Cross Stitch

5D cross stitch is a great example of a hobby similar to cross stitch, hence the name. Despite being called cross stitch, its actually just diamond painting. Using cross stitch patterns, or diamond painting kits, you place small beads or crystals on a grid. It looks very similar to cross stitch when completed, but doesn’t require as much movement from the wrist, which is great if you have a repetative strain injury!

5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)
5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)

Knitting & Crochet

Knitting, or its slightly more complicated sibling, crochet, is a fantastic hobby. It requires a fair bit of hand-eye coordination, but once you’ve picked up the first few stitches, its a simple case of repeating it. You can make real products using one color, or you can go fancy and make patterns in things. I personally knit hats for winter and something simple to pick up on a winter evening like knitting to while away as you watch TV is a great way of taking a break from cross stitch, whilst not straying too far away from needles and thread!

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


Finally, I want to hit on sewing. I don’t mean embroidery here either, I mean sewing clothes or other objects. It might seem super far away from the world of cross stitch, but it really isn’t. You follow a pattern, use a needle, thread and cloth, and you have to think about spacing and placement of threads. It’s more hands-on, there is a steep learning curve, and you need a sewing machine (which isn’t cheap), but you can go on courses that give you the basics and get you ready to stitch up everything you can imagine! And while its no where near as stress free as cross stitch, its a fantastic hobby. The feeling of being about to use your sew clothes in the real world is something you just don’t get with cross stitch.

User Submitted Hobbies:

Water Colors/Painting – You can also paint onto your aida, which works a lot like printing on aida, giving you a great selection of fabric to use.
Weaving – A great way to start making textiles of your own!
Bobbin Lace – A super intricate lace technique that involves you swapping over ‘bobbins’ in different orders to build up a design.
Macrame – A knot based technique that looks a lot like lace once finished, but made out of standard string.
Redwork/Candlewicking – Similar to blackwork, but using just red threads, or pale thread with French knots.
Punched Needlework/Rug Hooking – You can use cross stitch patterns to make rugs.
Felted Wool – If you’re a fan of the stabbing method of cross stitch, this is similar, but you stab felt onto fabric to built up a 3D design.
Are there any hobbies you think we’ve missed? We’d love to hear what you think cross stitchers would be great at if they’d give it a go! Drop us a line below.


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Which direction should cross stitches lie?

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

Having been a cross stitcher for over a decade and a half, not much surprises me anymore however, I recently saw a poll on a facebook group that had me speechless.

Facebook poll - Which way do you guys cross your stitches
Facebook poll – Which way do you guys cross your stitches

It turns out, that not only do people have a preference on which way to cross their stitches, but there is a massive 73% who do it one specific way. A way, which is basically irrelevant, yet has somehow permeated as the main way of doing your stitches.

Why do it that way?

The first question I had was a simple one; why did everyone pick that specific way, from bottom left to top right first? Well, I did some research. And it comes down to two points. The first is that most people learn cross stitch from a pattern, or from an online guide. You can see that even our own animated gif uses the same direction as the poll:

How to cross stitch animated gif illustration
How to cross stitch animated gif illustration

The second is that when printing, at least in English, you right left to right, which is why so many people designed their cross stitch instructions in that order.
Looking at the data, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that people stitch this way. Or should it?

Is it the right way?

I guess the second thing that shocked me was that people had a preference that they stuck to. For me, I always do it specific to the pattern. If there is something in a corner I want to draw attention to, I tend to make the top stitch point towards it. Does it make a difference? Well, that’s up for debate, to be honest. In most cases, once you wash and iron your work you can’t tell. However, I also found out recently that a lot of people don’t wash their cross stitch at all, so for them; I guess it would make a difference.
I guess, for the first time ever, I’m going to have to leave this one open. I’m not sure that changing your stitch direction has a big impact for those who wash and iron their work, however for that 73 % of people that stitch that way; try changing it. Just because you do something a specific way in the past, doesn’t make it the best way. In fact, the direction seems terrible for a left-handed stitcher…


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Next Year In Cross Stitch – 2020

Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

Every year, I write a post about what I think will happen in the world of cross stitch for the coming year. Last years next year in cross stitch 2019 went over the previous year’s thoughts, and honestly, I was pretty spot on. However this year has been an interesting one for cross stitch, so let’s look at what I guessed right, and what else is to come.

Cross Stitch Magazines & Books

cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)
cross stitcher magazine cover may 2011 featuring Lord Libidan (source: crossstitchermag.co.uk)

I’ve put cross stitch magazines on my year round-ups for the last three years now, and honestly, they haven’t had a great time. With major cross stitch magazines shutting up shop for good, and others showing clear issues. I also mentioned books last year as well, as I saw a reduction in the amount of new cross stitch books come out.
Now, I wasn’t 100% correct, there have been some great books come out in 2018 and the new Xstitch Magazine has done really well, however in general, the same downturn has continued.
I keep my ear to the ground about cross stitch publishers, and many have stopped producing new cross stitch titles. On top of that, many have gone out of business. In fact, one of the biggest, F&W Media collapsed in June. Clearly, this is a trend that’s sticking.
But it isn’t all bad news! Whilst we’re seeing large cross stitch magazines and book publishers stopping production, I think we’ll start seeing more niche magazines and books come out to fill the space.

The Rise Of The Small Store Owner

One of my 2019 thoughts guessed that at least one major cross stitch supplier would go out of business. In turn, smaller businesses and stores would take up the slack. What I didn’t foresee, was the giant sewandso.co.uk went out of business; the largest European cross stitch supplier. As of writing this article, they’ve shut the store, got sold, got sold off a second time, and their stock has been moved to another online retailer. Whilst I think that they’ll see some of their trade, the new site is unknown in the industry and the higher price point along with the loss of such a massive supplier means people are looking elsewhere. For the last 6 months, people have been using replacement stores, which are smaller, but offer fantastic customer service, and usually cheaper.
I think we might see some more of this going on in 2020 as well. I still think there are a lot of big players in the cross stitch world that aren’t quite happy. As much as I’m sad to admit it, I think thread companies are going to be hit hard. Whilst DMC is releasing new ranges of threads to keep current, cheap cross stitch threads are nipping at their heels. I don’t think DMC will go down, they might be too large, but Anchor might suffer heavily.


Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)
Blackwork Teacup (Source: Royal School Of Embroidery)

You might be asking at this point, “why so much doom and gloom?” however it has to be seen that cross stitch isn’t as popular as it once was. In fact, three years ago I asked is cross stitch dead and whilst the answer was no, it had become less popular. But that’s only due to fringe crafts coming to play. For most cross stitchers, we can also do stuff like blackwork and sashiko.
Last year I was so very close to adding sashiko to the trends list, but I wasn’t 100% sure about it. This year, I can see that was the right choice, as whilst sashiko did have its moment in the sun, blackwork seems to be coming up as the next big thing. I foresee a lot of books coming out about it.
But honestly; I’m OK with that. As a lot of blackwork still uses cross stitch, and blackwork is still a major part of the cross stitch community.


PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)
PCStitch Cross Stitch Software (source: PCStitch.com)

A somewhat confusing story, cross stitch generator software has been on my list for the last 4 years. It went from doing well, to going bad, to going well again. And last year, I saw a trend for the ‘point and click’ online generators. I thought this wouldn’t be a long term trend (I think I was wrong there), however, I also thought that major players like WinStitch and PCStitch would have to adapt to survive. Not only do I think that’s still the case, but we’re seeing a bit of it too. Ursa Software (makers of WinStitch) released a new app for marking up patterns, and I hear they might be looking to make a simpler converter as well.
I don’t see anything from the makers of PCStitch, and their updates are getting smaller and smaller, so I think they might be in some trouble soon if they don’t adapt.


Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)
Thread Magic (source: threadmagic.com)

Sometimes; I’m wrong. Last year we saw ThreadHeaven go away. It was a big moment in the cross stitch world, as a lot of people swore by it. I personally don’t, and as a result, I thought a new player would come along to fill the space. Nope.
Instead, people went without. I guess this is proof that both cheaper and expensive embroidery threads are increasing in quality, but it was something I didn’t see coming. And as a result; I think we’ll see less and less people using thread conditioners (even if it makes using metallic threads much easier).

Unique Tools

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

One of my new items this year will be unique tools. We’ve long been a fan of finding the perfect scissors for you and shouting about great tools like frogging scissors and micro scissors however I think this year we’ll see a lot more people starting to use them, and other quality tools.
So that’s what we thought of our 2019 guesses, and our 2020 predictions. Is there something you think we’ve missed?


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Where should you start your cross stitch?

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)

I saw a facebook poll recently. Its principle was sound; it was just asking where people start their cross stitch. But actually, this brings up an interesting point. Is there a best place to start your cross stitch from?

Facebook poll - Where do you start your cross stitch
Facebook poll – Where do you start your cross stitch

Dead Center

The dead center was the out and out winner in this poll, and for the best part, is where most patterns tell you to start. The reason is pretty simple; you can move in any direction and it normally means you can start with any color you choose.
However, there are issues. In fact, there is one big one; what happens if you don’t get the dead center? I’ve regularly stitched from the center to find out I was off, meaning my cross stitch got really close to the edge of the fabric. Its clear this happens to a lot of you guys too. In fact, that’s why I created a great free aida dimensions calculator. I now add a lot more fabric than is actually needed to avoid this problem, however, I still find myself being slightly off-center. I’ve never been in a position that this has been a massive problem, but I’ve seen people online having to restart their own pattern due to this before, and the worst thing, is that you can’t find out until you’ve almost hit the end.

Top/Bottom Corners

I personally like starting in a corner. It’s absolute, it gives you a place to work out from, and you can make sure to place it exactly where you want on the fabric.
But there lies the problem. By starting on a corner, you’re not thinking about the other corner, and you might find out late on that you won’t have enough space (although sooner than starting at the center)

Center Upper Left/Right

These options kinda surprised me at first. I was trying to work out why someone would combine the issues of both starting in a corner and starting in the center. However, that’s when it struck me that they’re trying to solve the problems caused by both.
I thought about this, and then I even tried it out, and personally; I think this is an OK way to start. However, it still means that if you’re counting is off, you might run out of fabric. I think it’s better to start in a corner.


This is crazy. 😛 I just can’t bear with the random nature of why you would start in one place instead of another on a whim, but not everyone is like me it seems! The problems starting are going to plague these people as they’ll constantly be changing, however, if they can count like a dream, then I’m all in favor of the anarchy!

So which is the best place to start?

It seems like there is no best option out there, however, it’s actually all of these. I know doesn’t make sense, but you can actually start anywhere and it not be a problem at all. So long as you grid. There are loads of gridding techniques for cross stitch, but so long as you grid, you’ll never have a problem running out of fabric or miss-counting!

cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)
cross stitch grid lines in Easy Count Guideline by A satisfied spirit (source: asatisfiedspirit.com)