Stitch, Please: Why You Should Try Cross Stitching

Already thinking about what you’re going to give friends and family for Christmas? Need a stress-relieving activity before finals roll around? I have your answer: cross stitching. Yes, the needlework activity that you typically think grandmas and Victorian-era women do for fun. Although it’s a time-consuming activity, it’s cheap, easy, and makes the perfect Christmas gift or decoration.

It’s not as boring as it sounds: subversive cross stitching came onto the needlework scene a few years ago, and in this genre people stitch curse words or phrases like “I made that stitch famous” in fancy lettering with decorations like flowers. There’s also a lot of cross stitches dedicated to cute, pixelated book and movie characters. Cross stitching has no limit of subject matter, so here’s how you get stitching!

A Samus cross stitch I made for my brother. 

Materials

You can buy cross stitch kits at craft stores that include everything you need, but here’s what you’ll need if you want to customize what you’re stitching.

  • Pattern: First, you need a cross stitch pattern. You can find a lot online, and DMC.com has a lot of great free patterns as well as great instructions for beginners.

  • Aida fabric: This is the woven fabric divided into squares that you use for cross stitching. Three common sizes are 11-count aida, 14-count aida, and 18-count aida, the number being how many squares there are per inch. Beginners should start with 11-count aida since it’s easier to use because the squares and the holes are a bit bigger.

  • Cross stitch needles: You can’t use any regular sewing needle for cross stitching. Cross stitch needles have a fairly blunt point and have a long, skinny eye for your embroidery floss to fit through.

  • Embroidery floss: Embroidery floss comes in every color imaginable. When you use embroidery floss, you typically separate out only two or three out of the six strands. If you try to cross stitch with the full six strands, the thread will be too thick to pull through the fabric.

  • Scissors: A small, sharp pair of scissors, such as embroidery scissors, are best because they can cut without fraying the thread.

  • Embroidery hoop: These aren’t necessarily essential (I don’t use them as often as I should), but they help keep your fabric in place while you sew, and they prevent you from touching the white fabric too much and discoloring it from the oils in your hands.

  • Frame: After you’re done with your project, you can leave it as is, hang it up in an embroidery hoop, or thrift some cute picture frames to display your artwork.

  • Patience. All the patience. This is a time-consuming activity, and it can be easy to get frustrated, but attention to detail will really help you while you’re stitching.

My Christmas gift to my dad from last year.

Stitching Tips

  • Always make your stitches consistent. It doesn’t matter if you stitch from the left corner to the right corner or from the right corner to the left corner as long as you do the same method for the entire piece. Otherwise, the stitches look messy.

  • On big designs, it’s easiest to start in the center of your pattern so you don’t miscount or run out of space. You can count out the squares and mark the center one lightly with a pencil for reference.

  • Keep your stitches taut but not too tight, otherwise the thread will twist and scrunch the front of your design.

  • Try to keep the tails of thread at the back of the cloth out of the way of your stitching, otherwise strands will pull through to the front of your design. You can snip them short each time you start a new strand, or you can use mini clothespins to clip them to the sides of your design and out of the way until you cut them.

  • I kind of cheat when I cross stitch: sometimes after I finish a design, I’ll use a bit of fabric glue to hold down the tails of stitching on the back just to make sure the knots don’t come apart.

  • Always, always keep track of your needle—don’t put it where you can’t find it or where it will easily get lost. This is where a pin cushion will come in handy. No one wants to step on a needle, because ouch.

  • Check and double check when you’re stitching, because it sucks to put an hour of work into your cross stitch only to realize you made a mistake.

  • It takes some time to train yourself to be able to find holes in the fabric from the back, but the more you practice the better and faster you’ll be.

  • You’ll probably poke yourself at some point. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.

  • Have some good music, an audiobook, or a movie playing while you stitch.

A gift I made for a Waffle House obsessed friend.

Project Ideas That Would Make Perfect Gifts:

  • Bookmarks

  • A mini wreath to hang up on the door

  • Sayings or quotes to frame and display

  • Your home state with a heart marking your hometown

  • Stitch little figures of your family or roommates

Cross stitches don't have to be cute: This one is a quote from The Silence of the Lambs

I hope this has inspired you to try out cross stitching. It’s super fun, and I promise you’ll get hooked!

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