This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 7: Love, and has been adapted.
When you look up love in the dictionary you can get a whole series of definitions, however, at its core, love is an intense feeling of pleasure in someone or something. However, if you look up the definition of similar words, appreciation, devotion, passion, and fondness, you come up with very similar definitions. Instead, love becomes a word to signify an absolute commitment to something.
Yet people, myself included, state they love this or love that. Maybe it means something different in different circumstances. Maybe it’s just a psychological stimulus or plain and simple unadulterated joy. Or maybe it’s deeper than that. When I say “I love cross stitch!”, does that mean I’m in love with cross stitch, or does it mean I have a passion for cross stitch, a commitment to it?
I would initially say yes. I elect to cross stitch over almost every other hobby, pastime, or event. I’m sure most of you do too. But does that mean I have a relationship with cross stitch? Do I have to start looking at stitching as a third wheel in the relationship? Or even worse; is it just a fling?
I would argue that anyone who states they love cross stitch is probably exactly that; in love with cross stitch. But love has come in many, many different forms. Love can be enduring, passionate, or sometimes even fleeting. So, when it comes to cross stitch, what type of love is it?
There are actually a well-accepted seven stages of love, and I’m far from a love doctor, so I’m happy to say I’m generalizing here, but they fit perfectly on almost everyone’s cross stitch journey. Infatuation, understanding, disturbance, obsession, experimentation, passion, and devotion.
For many, love starts quickly. This is the crush stage, needing to know every single detail about some TV or music star. And whilst age tends to dull the enthusiasm in which infatuation takes form, that rush when you see someone winking from across the bar is the driver. It’s the thing that gives you the push to walk over and start talking to someone. Someone cross stitching that is. For many of us, we found stitching through another person, we asked questions, we wondered, we maybe put it at the back of our heads for months, even years. But that time when you walked through a haberdashery; saw a tiny inch square highland cow, and you took the plunge.
You’ve done it! You brought your first kit. Yeh, it’s a random tiny and frankly overcute cow, but who cares? You pull open the packaging, you pull out the threads, you find your needles, threads, scissors, hoop and you get good light… and then you see the book that came with it. Yeh, the instructions.
Our glorious editor, states that you can learn cross stitch in 10 minutes, and frankly, I agree. But when you’re five the instructions, your mind races, you look with quizzical panic as you see different stitches! Quarter stitches? Backstitch? French knots!? But then you realize; they aren’t in the pattern, so that’s a lesson for another day.
You start your stitch and you learn your craft. You see how crossed thread makes something wonderful on mass. You learn the correct way of laying, the right length of thread, you learn about sizes of needles, and before you know it you have literal piles of kits surrounding you.
Or as I like to call it ‘beginners’ frustration’. Everyone’s first kit goes well, and even if it doesn’t you probably don’t know what you did wrong. But as you take more and more steps into the cross stitch world, you start making slip-ups, you realize halfway through a Wallace and Gromit pattern that their legs are 10 stitches too short, you get knots on the back of your work that are just impossible to untie, you stitch something in the wrong color, maybe counted wrong and found the wonderful world of frogging.
This is make or break. Some will give up, some just don’t have the heart, and I don’t mind saying that I thought about it too, but others will knuckle down, they’ll push through, they’ll frog the whole dang Gromit leg if they have to. If you push through, this is where you can truly call yourself a cross stitcher. Not because you stuck with it, not because you learned how to not make those mistakes, it’s because you learned to accept them. I still frog, I still get weird unsolvable knot puzzles, I still botch patterns. But I know it’s not the end of the world.
Just one more stitch, just one more stitch. Let’s face it, almost everyone reading this article has been in a situation similar to this, when they’re up at 3 am stitching when they promised themselves an early night. It happens. I’m definitely not going to blame you. But this is a super important part of love. Everyone reading has likely got to at least this state. The point where they want to know it all, they want to learn about what others are doing, and how others are pushing the craft.
But watching others push the craft isn’t enough. For me, I want everyone reading this to take up their needle and keep on pushing cross stitch. I want people to look at my work and see something they can build on. I’m probably best known for my transforming robot cross stitches, but the story behind them was probably very similar to the one you’re taking right now. I saw a transformer pattern, it looked cool, it looked doable! But I wondered, couldn’t those arms move? And what about that head, if it just sent down a bit and that went there and boom, transforms to a semi-truck. I honestly started that project not knowing how it would end. I truly and honestly thought it would fail. But it didn’t. In fact, it went so well that other people have now started creating their own things in a similar style. That is what being part of a cross stitch community is all about; the pushing of boundaries and the passing of experience. I would argue that until you push yourself beyond what you know you can do, you haven’t yet got past this stage, but you brought this mag, so you’re thinking about it already.
And so comes passion. Those pattern failures or experiments that go wrong just slip off your back like water. You don’t mind the ups and the downs, you’re in it for the long run.
The final step. The marriage to cross stitch. In my mind, I hit this a while ago. In fact, when asked what would happen if I couldn’t cross stitch ever again, I truly didn’t know what I would do. It is my everything.
And so I wonder, when did you start saying that you ‘love cross stitch’? Because whilst I truly believe you love cross stitch, sometimes it’s good to look back and see where we’ve come, what we’ve been through, where we are now, and how everyone in the Xstitch Magazine family was right there with you.