Cross-stitching – It’s Not Just Embroidery!
While Wikipedia defines cross-stitch as “a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture”, to me it is more than just embroidery.
Cross-stitch has been around for a long time, all over the world. In Europe and Asia, cross-stitch is a popular way of decorating clothes, and other fabrics – bed sheets, tablecloth, linen. Fabrics used for religious purposes are also more often than not embroidered by some cross-stitch designs.
Recent years, however, have found renewed interest in cross-stitch and it has become a hobby in itself. No longer used only to embellish certain clothes, cross-stitch works are now used to adorn walls of homes and business establishments. Instead of just forming a pattern or a picture, cross-stitch works resemble paintings, complete with lighting, texture and depth effects.
To say that cross-stitching has become more complicated (and certainly more lucrative!) is a given. Designs are much more advanced, the time required to complete a piece is longer, and the level of effort necessary is altogether higher.
But this does not mean that cross-stitch aficionados have been discouraged. In fact, cross-stitching has just become much more rewarding.
There are certain cross-stitch supplies you cannot do without: aida cloth (weave cloth), needles, threads and of course a cross-stitch pattern.
(All images in this hub were lovingly stitched by the author, pictures taken by Ones Almario.)
Necessary Cross-Stitch Supply No. 1: The Aida Cloth
Aida cloth is available in many colors; cross-stitch patterns usually recommend what color of aida cloth you should use, but this should not stop you from exercising your better judgment. If you feel that a pattern will be more alive in another color of aida cloth, or if it will complement your wall better, then by all means go for it!
Aida cloth is described by its “count” – 7, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18. The lower the count, the bigger the squares are. This is because the count represents how many holes there are in one linear inch of that particular aida cloth. So a 14 count aida cloth will have 14 holes in one linear inch, equivalent to 13 squares. My personal favorite is 12 count. Just like the aida cloth color, you can also change the count size of your weave cloth, to make your finished work bigger or smaller. Just remember to calculate well how much cloth you need.
Necessary Cross-Stitch Supply No. 2: Needles and Threads
Aida cloth serves as the canvass for your masterpiece. Using the same analogy, the threads or skeins are your color, and the needles are your brushes. Because of this, you really need to have the right threads and needles, otherwise the effect you are aiming for will not materialize.
Each cross-stitch pattern lists all the threads you’d need. Cross-stitch threads are identified by their numbers. So black will be 310, if you are using DMC threads. I always use DMC thread, because I find them more vibrant. Another famous producer of cross-stitch threads is Anchor. Anchor and DMC do not have the same numberings, so pay extra attention to these details.
While some stores may sell threads by the meter, rather than the full 6 meters of one skein, it will be better to buy the whole lot for each color. This is most helpful if you plan on doing more than one cross-stitch pattern. The best way to store and organize your threads is to put them in individual flat spools and label that spool accordingly. Then stack them side by side, like books. If you are short of cash, you can just buy one flat spool, and reproduce it by cutting cardboards and using them as spools. For storage, you can also use cardboards to serve as trays. Just be sure to put them somewhere dry.
Necessary Cross-Stitch Supply No. 3: Cross-Stitch Pattern
Of course, you need a pattern to work on. There are many downloadable patterns from the internet, and many hobby shops sell cross-stitch patterns as well. Personally, I never buy patterns with pictures, just because they are more expensive. I’d look at the picture, then have the cross-stitch pattern photocopied and that’s what I’ll buy. Also, I always, always, always make another copy of the cross-stitch pattern – this is the one I will be using. I can use markers, make notes on it, and dispose it after. The other copy I save on clear file books, in case someone might want it in the future, or in case I’d want to do the pattern again.
There are also softwares that let you create cross-stitch patterns from any image or picture you like. I have never personally tried them, though, so I don’t know how accurate they are.
Some cross-stitch tips
So now that you're all set to do your needlework, here are a few more tips to help you enjoy your cross-stitching to the fullest!
- If it’s your first time to do cross-stitch, be prepared to be pinched by the needle. Don’t worry, though since it is really not pointed. The end of a cross-stitch needle is rounded so there is really not much harm that can be expected. Expect, however, to get your fingertips calloused but this will actually work for the better, as you can push the needle faster.
- Enjoy and have fun. Do not expect to finish a pattern in just a few hours or a few days. Cross-stitching can sometimes cause strain to the eyes so make sure to take breaks every now and then. Some patterns take months to complete, be prepared to have a little progress at a time, and be assured of the beauty that is produced from slow, meticulous work.
- Before having your work framed, make sure to wash the cloth and iron it. Use lukewarm water and powdered detergent, and slowly dip and shake the cloth in the solution, much like how you would wash a pair of stockings. Do not rub, just let the water go through the holes, and it should clean your cloth. Hang to dry and iron it with the right side down, just like how you’d iron an embossment on a shirt. This will make the colors very vibrant, almost glowing. Do this just before you have your work framed.
Cross-stitching is really more than just needlework. It demands commitment, patience and great attention to details. But just like anything made from hard work, it is really rewarding.