Two bits of news in one day? Yep! I’ve got two kit books out this month!
12 fun and simple emojis to stitch your heart away at, with enough thread in the kit to stitch up to 4 emojis (but definately at least 2)!
Stitch 12 Iconic Patterns to Communicate with Your World!
Even when you can’t find the right words, you can always find the right emoji! Frame these sweet and sassy little symbols as art or embellish clothing, linens or a throw pillow!
Emoji Cross Stitch includes the patterns to craft twelve of the most popular emoji, along with all the materials to make to finished projects. The 64-page book offers clear step-by-step instructions and full-color photographs, suitable for beginners and experienced stitchers alike.
Gridding isn’t often talked about in cross stitch, its often seen as a ‘if you want to’ kind of task, however gridding is actually one of the best things you can do.
Simply put, counted cross stitch requires (you guessed it) counting. The time you take to count can not only be massive, but you can, and often do, miss count requiring mass unpicking. Gridding stops all of that. In fact one of the products we’ll talk about says it can cut stitching time by one third!
So with that in mind, what exactly is the best way to grid your cross stitch? Well, its all a matter of choice. We’ve taken the most popular ways and detailed them out so you can give them a shot.
Easy Count Guideline
You’ve probably seen gridded cross stitch on the internet, with red lines crossing. The likelihood is that its Easy Count Guideline, which works as a thread, but instead of being made from cotton is a thin wire. The advantage of this is that is doesn’t get caught up in your stitches and when you’re done you can simply pull it out. It is, by far, the most common gridding technique and I personally use it myself. However, its also the most expensive with costs of about $6 for 10m. It’s also technically a ‘secure object’ in the EU, so you must be 18+ to buy it.
I hear you all saying to yourselves “so why can’t I just use thread instead?” well, you could, I just wouldn’t suggest it. The issue with single threads is that you can stitch through them, meaning when you go to pull out your thread; you can’t. Not only that but as its part of the stitch now, you can’t cut it out easily. This means that your guideline, which is normally a bright color can’t be removed, ruining your stitch.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t use it, in fact, for backstitching projects its a fantastic idea!
“Fine, but are there cheaper options? I’ve heard people use fishing line?” True, you can use fishing line, and fishing line is often cheaper than the official stitching alternative. I’ll even let you into a secret; Easy Count Guidleine is actually just fishing wire. The different however omes in thickness of wire. There are a lot of fishing wires that would work OK, but the thinner, the better. Look for wire rated less than 8 pounds.
Easy Count Pre Grided Aida
Easy Count aida, is made by Zweigart and simply has lines built into the fabric. This line is when washed away once you’re finished. It is more expensive than standard aida, and doesn’t come in as many colors. To make things a little worse, the lines take up the space of a stitch, and not inbetween the lines like patterns are marked.
Magic Count Pre Grided Aida
Very simlar to Easy Count, DMC make their own, called Magic Count, which has the advantage of being a little easier to see, but holds the DMC price tag to boot.
Finally, there are erasable pens. Whilst erasable pens were my first stab at gridding, you soon realise there are a few issues. The first is that they don’t wash out as easy as you’d like, meaning you sometimes need to give your cross stitch a hot bath once you’re finished which does impact the threads, especially metallics. Secondly, much like the pre-printed aida, you can’t stitch on the lines, meaning you have to take up a line of stitching, which could possibly throw your count off.
Once you’ve decided on your gridding technique check out this video from Peakcock & Fig on how to grid:
I write for the XStitch Magazine, and in issue 4 I talk about the rise of Artificial Intelligence in art, and just how close we are to a robot creating a masterpiece. I mention the rise of a series of robots capable of creating something close to art, but there is one robot in particular that is making waves in cross stitch, and not the good kind.
How close are we to a robot cross stitch artist?
Really close. Really really really close.
Sewing machines have been around a long time, and the fact that they can complete a whole slew of stitches makes the art of patch embroidery possible, such as the awesome work of NAME.
However in the last 5 years sewing machines have been able to cross stitch too.
Last week we looked at the iconic IKEA cross stitch mail out. The point of the marketing campaign was to appear handmade, however they produced 40,000 of the letters, on machines. It kind of missed the point in my eye, however it just goes to show, that cross stitch isn’t just a handmade craft anymore.
The one good side? The cost. These machines are at the lowest $1000 and you just don’t see that many around. Thankfully, for now at least, cross stitch will remain wholly in the handmade.
And for any of those who want to know if it’s handmade or not, the machines can’t stitch on aida properly, so they normally stitch on linen.
The IKEA cross stitch mailout is fairly well known in our community, however whilst researching another story, this old chestnut came back with an rather interesting video, as seen below, and I wondered just how many of you knew the story of the mailout in the first place.
It all starts with a brief, and in this instance IKEA wanted to collect email addresses of high purchase buyers that hadn’t yet given it. The marketing agency LIDA took up the call, and looked into IKEAs brand promises. The one that stood out the most? Handmade. The second? Craft.
To all of you reading this, that should scream cross stitch, and with good reason too. Cross stitch has always been a craft that uses the hand, and for a very long time, something that only the hand could do, machines just weren’t able. However as the above video shows, new embroidery machines can match the cross stitch action, and whilst they can’t hit the holes in aida very well, they can make a very good facsimile.
Machined and sent out to 40,000 IKEA family members, the marketing campaign was the best the company had ever produced, and sparked a follow up campaign using a printed cross stitch postcode, which won a whole slew of awards.
Jonathan Goodman, Managing Director at LIDA says “The Handcrafted campaign is IKEA through and through. It engages their customers by showing them appreciation and the message is delivered with craft and care. It was a pleasure to be given the brief to ‘send an email without an email address’ and to be given the freedom to create a something that will demonstrate both the effectiveness of high value DM, as well as the relevance of email communications.”
Whilst for most the IKEA mailout was a fun marketing idea, for us cross stitchers I think we need to look at just what our craft represents. We are handmade.
I’ve done a few cross stitch book reviews in the past, however I tend to stay away from them, and there is a very simple reason for this; they’re all the same. Cross stitch books stitch to a hard and fast formula. The reason is that for the vast majority; it works.
There are exceptions though, such as the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch which put cross stitch in a new light. However for the first time ever (as far as I could tell), Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes have created a cross stitch book that goes totally off the ‘golden rules’ of cross stitch books and they’ve made something truly amazing.
We’ll start with what the book does have; the normal instructiions which are slightly more in depth than normal featuring things that aren’t in the book but help embelish, such as the dreaded french knot or beads, a fanastic selection of stitched up patterns, a guide on making things out of your finished cross stitch and a whole raft of standard thread lists and methods to accompany each pattern. That’s where things start getting special. The first thing you see when opening the book is an introduction to the authors, something that I normally flip past, however if you read on it gives you hints on how this book came to be, and where the ideas came from.
Pulling across the page you see Paris in all its stitched glory; or a map of it anyway. See, the special thing about this book is that is about Paris, and stitching the sights Paris is famous for. I don’t mean the Eiffel Tower and other iconic sights; I mean the real Paris. Pictures include art being sold on the street, adorned windows above a shop, a fancy Parisian door, and other unusual sights that make up Paris. This in itself is a great idea for a book, to take something slightly less well known, but still truly Parisian and making a cross stitch about it.
They really could have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead, they took a step I’ve never seen before in a cross stitch book; a loose pattern. OK, it’s still a pattern at the end of the day, but they have fun with it, and want you to as well. The grid sits over an image of cross stitches of random sizes and placements, allowing you to pick your own destiny in stitching it. You can follow the blocks, you can free hand it, you can even drop some points all together; this book is about cross stitch creativity. They then take this idea and show you just what you can do with it. I’ve attached images of their Eiffel Tower stitch, their most typically Parisian, and they’ve shown how you can chop the pattern up, stitch only a section, stitch it freehand or copy the pattern stitch for stitch.
In more geometric designs, the charts are easy to follow as the grids are carefully aligned with the illustrations. For designs with more organic elements – curves, foliage, sky – the design doesn’t adhere to a grid line. This is where you need to become creative.
Everything about this cross stitch book screams creativity; the choice you the stitcher make when stitching, and how every time you pick this book up and stitch a pattern, regardless of how many times you’ve stitched it before, it will always be different. Is it for the beginner? Well, I don’t see why not; this is a book for people who want to create, to make something truly unique, and Fiona and Sally-Anne give you a helping hand to get there.
You can pick up a copy from amazon or your local book store.
A pdf copy of the book was supplied free of charge by the authors for this review. The opinions are totally my own and no effort was made to appease or appeal to the authors or publishers of this book.
Title: Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda
Date Completed: August 2017
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Japan
After the success of my Pokemon Great Wave cross stitch I knew I had to create another. Looking back on my previous works, its clear that Japanese art inspires me, and I’ve attempted many Japanese woodblock print style pieces before, such as my Japanese Gengar cross stitch. I wanted to continue this theme of adding a Pokemon addition into a traditional print, so went looking at famous Japanese woodblock prints.
This is when I came across the work of Asano Takeji. Whilst many of his later prints were humorous or risqué his earlier pieces blew my mind. His approach was to take urban landscapes in Kyoto (a city with traditional architecture) and create prints using interesting angles. Arguably one of his most famous works is Moon Light In Yasaka Pagoda, where he uses an angle which cannot be met in real life. Having been to this Kyoto landmark I felt a real connection to it. In fact, the Yasaka Pagoda was a primary inspiration for my Minature Ecruteak City cross stitch.
In the same way as I created the great wave cross stitch pattern, I recreated the print using the style of the artist (which unlike the Great Wave does not have black lines seperating the different colours) in the same size as the original in 1951 was. I then took this and added a Pokemon element.
As I mentioned earlier, I always thought Yasaka Pagoda looked very similar to the Ecruteak City Tin/Bell Tower. The Pokemon fable is that the legendary Ho-oh sat on top of the golden tower. In addition to this in the Pokemon anime, Ash, the main character, searches out for Ho-Oh, convinced of his existance (when the rest of the world doubts him). I remember watching the very first epidode and seeing Ho-Oh, and telling all my friends about it, to also be shot down. I felt it would be a perfect connection to add in Ho-Oh in the same way Ash sees him in the first episode.
However, as I stitched what was the largest project I’ve undertaken (in size and stitches) I fell in love with the original print, and just couldn’t bring myself to add Ho-oh. Instead, I went for a faithful recreation.
I recently made a post about needles and how its time to ditch those old cross stitch needles, and in it I said about using new needles every project. This has played on my mind recently, and whilst I would still strongly suggest starting a new project with a new needle, it does create waste. And that’s what we’re talking about today; how to make cross stitch more eco friendly.
Its been just over 6 months since I was approached at a fair and someone asked me what did I do with my clippings of threads. I answered, but it got me thinking, we talk about those little snipped bits often, but just how much other rubbish does cross stitch create, and how can we minimize that? So I went on a journey. Today, I can tell you that actually, you can do a lot more to help the environment that you currently are; but the fixes are easy. Lets start simple.
ORTs: Thread ends
The biggest source of rubbish for cross stitch is a small snippet of thread, however these threads multiply. Like, seriously; so many. I started my journey here, and the good news is that there are some clever ways to help you. The first; make an ORT jar. Ort is actually a really old term for ‘waste of any type’, however more commonly known as Old Raggety Threads, making a jar to store old snipped threads has two fantastic effects. The first, is you realised just how much thread you’re wasting. It’s a lot more than you think, and a few econmical ways to stitch will save meters of the stuff. Secondly, once you’re done, you can use it. Now, you can use them a whole load of ways, but in my mind, the best is fire starters. Threads burn really well, and if you place them inside an old loo roll (and you can add tumble dryer lint too) you can create fantastic fire starters, which not only work better than the ones from a store, but they aren’t covered in hellish chemicals.
Word of warning though, do this with cotton only threads, some brands such as CXC use plastics in their thread production.
Whilst we’re talking about threads, the next biggest thing we waste is the little wraps threads come in. Now, I know not all of these wraps are plastic, but the vast majority are, meaning the biggest concern we have is; is it recyclable? It took a VERY long time for me to find the answer, but the DMC wraps are made from Polypropylene. Not only is this a plastic that can be recycled and reused, but its one of the best as it can be reused for food stuffs too, meaning that its the one plastic people like to recycle. Just make sure you put it out with your recycling waste!
I won’t bore you with the numbers here, however I worked out that the next biggest waste item in cross stitch; was hoops. Yeh, it shocked me too. Turns out however that kg for kg, the hoops are seriously wasteful. You can help this by buying wooden frames, which while not recyclable (they’re made with lots of glues), they can burn them, and they do biodegrade. The only problem is that the metal components don’t. So instead of throwing broken hoops, you could try using them as frames where they don’t need to be as strong, or even choosing to buy less in the first place (a wooden cross stitch frame is always a better choice).
Now we start talking about things that require a little more effort on our part. Canvas initially seems super recyclable, and it can always biodegrade, right? Wrong. In fact, most aida canvas has loads of starch. This effectively stops the biodegration, and means it can’t be burnt off. But you can fix this. Wash it. Yep, a simple wash will remove these starch fibers enough that you can throw it away without thinking too much about it. Your local refuse center will either bury it (where it will biodegrade) or burn it (which is now safe to do). Go you, eco warrior!
How about something much harder? Plastic canvas, waste canvas and ‘training’ canvas all come in two types; recyclable or not recyclable. If you get the right one, you’re in the clear, but picking the right one isn’t always that easy. For waste canvas, get the plastic looking sheets, which are actually starch and are washed away into treatment plants (which can biodegrade it). For plastic cavas, look for the stuff which wobbles, not the stiffer stuff. They might be harder to use, but they save the environment.
And so we go full circle. I’m sad to say, needles aren’t anywhere near reusable. You can’t recycle them, you can’t reuse them, they don’t biodegrade and there is no natural alternative. However, there is a small silver lining. In an old post about how cross stitch needles are made we found out that the process for making needles is super precise, meaning there’s next to no industrial waste. I guess for now, that’ll have to do.
Finally, lets talk about thread dyes. If you buy natural threads, such as DMC, they use natural dyes. I hope you all the best in reducing cross stitch waste.
Cross stitch has been around for more than 2500 years and whilst it has a rich history the advent of new technology into a fairly historical hobby is few and far between. However, with a recent push in the fashion industry for e-textiles, cross stitch has had its world turned upside down. Now, its future tech.
I initially heard about lights and PCBs being used in cross stitch back in 2013 when I was about to speak to Wei Chieh Shih about his work, and an upcoming project, “Adelita”. He’s a fashion designer that focuses on technology, but to work out if something is possible, he turns to cross stitch. There are a whole series of conductive thread kits you can now buy, allowing you to install tech into your clothing, but Wei takes it 10 steps ahead, by intergrating programable tech into complex circuits.
He can then take these ideas, simplfy them and create fantastic works of art, like his 2013 “Adelita” project, combining folk wooden toys from Mexico with high tech clothing.
But technology and cross stitch isn’t just for the fancy high end artists. It’s not only possible to make clever art using tech, but you can do it really easily.
With more and more cross stitch artists showing their work to the world, it’s clear that kits such as Kitronik or LilyPad, we’re not only going to see more tech cross stitch, but also helping push the e-textile world.
Oh yeh, we’ve all said that. Its just part of cross stitch… right? Wrong.
Needles are a very important art of cross stitch, and they can massively range in complexity, material and price, and so it seems only natural to stick to what you know; and stick to the same old needle. However after speaking with a very well known needle manufacturer last year when I was looking into how cross stitch needles are made, he informed me that cross stitch needles are soft. Not so soft that they can be broken easily, but far softer than say, medical needles.
Medical needles are, in case you hadn’t realised, used only once. And they are made from surgical hardened stainless steel, twice as hard as the gold needles you use. And then he showed me this:
Now on the face of it, that doesn’t look too bad, but when you remember you use a needle 256 times in a square inch. And your needle is half as strong as that one. That’s why I’m suggesting you throw out that old needle.
In fact, I’d go one step further and tell you that you need to use a new needle for every project. And no, I’m not a crazy rich person. Every time you use a needle, you damage it. Every bit of damage means you snag on the threads and canvas, you stretch the holes in the aida, you catch threads on other stitches, and frankly, you put your whole project at risk of those tiny little weird bits that stick out for no reason. Sadly, even storing cross stitch needles can damage them too.
So that’s why I use a new one for every project. Whatever the size, a new needle comes out. Now, lets be honest, needles can be super expensive, and my prefered needle is a petite full gold number, but I’m not made of gold needles. I get smart. For plastic canvas I use a standard, cheap needle, which can save a lot of money in cross stitch, as my plastic canvas stitches tend to be less than 1000 stitches. For anything with 10,000 stitches I use a fancy one, and anything inbetween, I use whatever I have on hand.
But this isn’t just a crazy idea of mine either. Not only is there a difference in how I can stitch, how fast I can cross stitch, and on the ease, but it has a clear effect on the end result. Less puckering, more uniformity, and no stray stitches that just don’t want to sit right. Try ditching that old needle, and see for yourself the improvement. And suffer a lot less broken needles.
I’ve been stitching now for well over 15 years, and in that time I must have frogged a good few hundred meters of thread (I stitch stuff wrong all the time), and frankly, its not been fun. Frogging sucks. It’s the bain of existance for cross stitchers everywhere, not only due to the fact that it takes ages, means the last few hours stitching were a waste, but also opens up all the little holes in aida.
It turns out however that one of those problems is now something of the past. Enter these babies:
Before I get into the meat of things here, if you don’t know what frogging is, check out my previous post where we go into where the term frogging came from. I also want to say that I’ve not been paid for this review; I’m just obsessed with these scissors. In fact, I’m pretty much obsessed with cross stitch scissors in general.
But these scissors are a bit different. Firstly, they’re very new to the market, I can find reference to them in 2017, but not before. The second thing, is these scissors are made JUST for frogging. Or as I should actually say; removing sutures and stitches.
You see, removing stitches from people have exactly the same issue of opening up the holes, and with humans and animals, you can spread disease like crazy. So the medical profession took to making a perfect pair of scissors for removing sutures.
Some clever so and so thought it would be great to move them to cross stitch, and my word where they right. These scissors have a magic tip to them, curving inwards so you can capture a single stitch and snip it without pulling.
I won’t link directly to anyone in particular (it looks like they’re aren’t in mainstream cross stitch stores yet), however if you want to pick up a pair yourself, look online for Snip-A-Stitch, Lift-N-Snip or (if you want the medical ones) littauer stitch scissors. Trust me, these are the new best thing in cross stitch.