This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 6: Mixtape, and has been adapted.
Cross stitch has always had a lot of similarities to music in my mind, not only does has it been with us for nearly as long in history, but its popularity ebbs and flows. There is even a ‘golden age’ of cross stitch in the 1800s when it was seen as a young lady’s proof of skill. But there is one other thing that music shares with cross stitch; much like the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, we’re in a revival, a revival that isn’t just marked with a renewed interest in cross stitch, but with definite influence coming from historical samplers, mixed in with modern style.
We now live in an era where retro is cool again, you can just look through past copies of the Xstitch Mag to see that swinging 60s are as popular now as ever, with images and icons from 30, 40, and 50 years ago being in vogue, refreshed and reborn in cross stitch. In music, 80s pop bands are starting to reform and tour again, which are not only on 80s revival radio but mixed in with the current offering of music, which has clearly been influenced by its older counterparts.
Back in the 70s and 80s, before my time, people listened to the music of one artist at a time on scratchy vinyl records that they saved all week for and played on a record player in the corner of their living room. Records were immensely fragile and the prospect of music on the move was limited to radio, normally owned by record houses, not offering much in the way of variance.
But this wasn’t what people wanted. In the UK, Radio Caroline, a pirate radio station streamed off the shores of Britain, started broadcasting a mixture of pop artists, to circumvent the stranglehold of record houses, allowing everyone to enjoy a medley of music in one session. Radio Caroline changed the face of radio worldwide, but its enormous listening figures still weren’t what people wanted. Back then people lacked the wide array of radio stations we have now, and so when one DJ’s preferences didn’t match up with what the listener wanted, they were stuck.
Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.
Until the mixtape. The advent of personal tape recorders and tape players introduced the capacity to record music of choice for replay at a time of choosing. The mixtape was born in the 80s and was more than just music on a tape. A leading essayist of the time described it as “perhaps the most widely practiced American art form”.
Ironically, the mixtape exists today as a retro throwback or a shuffle on an iPod. Although more famous mixtapes such as Now that’s What I Call Music have just celebrated the 100th release. But its permeated modern music tastes, modern technology, and a larger choice of music available.
But the mixtape isn’t the only revival, hobbies of by-gone decades are back in. Cross stitch has never been more popular than it is today. Back in the 1800s, it’s the ‘golden age’, it was only available for those in the know, the rich upper classes. Its 1900s ‘silver age’ had mostly male workers stitching, but it failed to be accepted by everyone.
Revitalized and appealing to the younger hobbyist, rather than the traditionalist granny in a rocking chair cross stitch is now in its mixtape era, not only due to it permeating every age group, class, and age but because cross stitch isn’t just a singular. This reignited interest may have come down as a primarily purist hobby, but modern times have brought with it; options. Options that allow you to make a cross stitch mixtape of your own choosing.
Cross stitch is no longer limited to the stilted patterns and palettes of fairies, landscapes, and wolves, cross stitch isn’t even limited to 2D. With plastic canvas, circular canvas, waste canvas, variated threads, metallic threads, silks, blending filaments, pearlescent, glow-in-the-darks, plastic canvas, French knots, quarter stitches, backstitching, beads, and hundreds of other options, cross stitch patterns are now only rough guides. Cross stitch has modernized and adapted to offer an array of choices, a ‘mixtape’ of options and choices, all that is available to the professional or the hobbyist.
This mixtape issue displays the best of the cross stitch of our time, with a selection of well-known cross stitchers. However, every one of the designers knows that we’re just the inspiration; the pirate radio of cross stitch magazines. When and if you stitch these patterns, you do it with your own agenda in mind. You choose to stitch just that section, or maybe you want to work that bit up in a different color, maybe you want to add a bit of sparkle. Just like the American youth of the 80s, you sit at home, stitching for hours on end to create something similar, but unique. You make your own mixtape based on these designs.
Cross stitch, just like the music of older generations is retro, but it has been reborn and revitalized. And I and the other designers implore you to take your own road and create your own cross stitch. Push boundaries, do something different, and show us that the best cross stitchers out there are you; the mixtape makers.