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How Can We Get a New Generation into doing Cross Stitch Kits?

Updated on July 31, 2014

Cross Stitching? Why Not Zoidberg?

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I made a recent post on a prominent cross stitch forum, linking to an article that tried to encourage people to do cross stitch kits. The piece was written in particular reference to certain characteristics that might usually turn people away from picking up a needle and making something amazing (i.e too young, too inexperienced, and too male). I recognize there are lingering stereotypes we must dispel in needlecraft, and thus I wanted to suggest a number of solutions to take this traditional hobby out of its traditional consumer base slump.

In the UK, Hobby Craft have made a big push to tackle a younger demographic alongside their core audience of the over 45s. This is albeit only a marginal decrease: 23-35-year-old women with children. In expected retail methods, their strategy involves more vibrant branding but also in offering classes and stocking less niche crafting supplies on their shelves. It’s this latter one that bothers me; whilst I can’t fault any leading retailer for wanting it to play it safe with their core demographic, I feel there’s a great marketplace that major stores won't to tap in to.

There's a vast overabundance of cross stitch patterns, charts and pieces on sale and on display on sites like Etsy, Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram that forgo flowery landscapes and portraiture for pocket sized Super Mario cross stitched keychains, wall sized murals of Disney’s Frozen and Doctor Who just…everywhere. These pieces are huge hitters when shared in bulk on viral websites like Buzzfeed, but it’s the difficulty in translating them into profit that might be scaring off huge retailers from so afraid to target an abstruse audience.

For this reason and others, I've collected the following ways we might encourage more indie and innovative cross stitch markets, with a few resources and references for your enjoyment.

'Luigi's Revenge' by John at Sprite Stitch
'Luigi's Revenge' by John at Sprite Stitch | Source

New subjects for Cross Stitch Kits

What would you like to see more cross stitch kits based on?

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How to Get Younger Generations to Cross Stitch

1. Petition License Holders

Now the problem here is twofold. Despite the abundance of hand created and sold charts out there made for fans of My Little Pony, comic books or even Banksy, most of the actual rights holders for these franchises and properties have no merchandise that appeals to the stitching community. In terms of copyright, whilst you can’t use images that are of a character from a TV show/film etc. the holders of these copyrights haven’t felt the need to take much action.

Whilst this is good, it’s probably because they don’t have any investment in the market, which is a shame since having officially licensed cross stitch patterns of some iconic characters may actually be quite good. So far as I can tell, the newest Disney franchise made onto aida is Finding Nemo. If you want company’s like Disney, Cartoon Network or Nintendo to release their own line of quality patterns, petitioning them may be a first step in helping them take notice.

I mean, who wouldn't buy a 3D Pokémon cross stitch cave?

2. Teach People to Turn Sprites into Stitch

Maybe you don’t see the idea of these big corporations targeting a niche bunch of needle wielders as likely, or perhaps it’s not something you want to see happen. But if the idea of planting Plants vs. Zombies onto patterns does appeal to you, then it may be worth learning how to do it yourself. There’s been a few guides written up by the masters at Sprite Stitch that break it down pixel by pixel, showing you where to get your original sprites from, what software to use and some tips for getting the finished pattern just right.

If you’re already a pretty experienced video game cross stitcher, then share your knowledge around! The guides at the moment don’t go in depth for those homed in the retro years. Are there specific tips for making patterns based on cartoon/game characters? Are there places to get tips when you get stuck?

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5 Alternative Cross Stitch Sites to Check Out!

  • Subversive Cross Stitch
    A one-person company producing some of the filthiest mouthed cross stitch kits and patterns on the web! Featured in FHM, The Face & even The Graham Norton Show.

  • Mr. X Stitch
    If you're a cross stitcher with even midly outlandish tastes, Jamie Chalmers is the kingpin of weird and wonderful embroidery, featuring it daily on his blog & site.

  • Sprite Stitch
    There's video game cross stitch, and then there's Sprite Stitch. This blog somehow finds the finest depictions of Pokémon, Punch Out! and everything in between.
  • Lord Libidan
    This self-appointed master of video game & contemporary cross stitch is more than happy to share patterns and take commissions, whether that be for a Space Invader QR codes or an actual Transforming Transformer!
  • Iotacons
    Whilst not a cross stitcher himself, Andy Rash's unique blocky characters are so inspired by embroidery that he's just as often posting craft pieces created by fans.

3. Try Out Charts from Alternative Pattern Sites

Up until now I’ve advocated cross stitch kits that do nothing but pay homage to the 90’s. Evidently not everyone is into video games or general geekery, but there’s lots of cross stitch patterns that do target a punkish, rebellious attitude that can ignite a new generation of crafters.

Whilst I understand they’re not to everyone’s good taste, I absolutely love the Subversive Cross Stitch Patterns by Julie Jackson. Aside from how side-splittingly funny they are, they take the things cross stitch is known for i.e. pretty floral borders, frilly décor, but add in a huge helping of sass and overflowing attitude.

Whilst we decided to mind our language in choosing which kits to post here, the fact is the lack of boundaries now surrounding cross stitch kits is clearly being used to its benefit. Many sites like Subversive Cross Stitch are happy to give away the charts for their patterns or sell them on as kits, and by encouraging their sales you can help make this bawdiness mainstream!

4. Start Alternative Stitching Groups

Groups like ‘Stitch and Bitch’ (now ‘Stitch London’) have started unravelling what I think could be the next big thread in crafting. These collectives gather likeminded needlecrafters together to strut out their scarves and what have you in public, being free to join to any and all. Whilst it’s a flagship for the revival of embroidery, we want it to be the foundation, not just the pinnacle of what’s to come.

Taking everything we’ve talked about above i.e. video game cross stitch kits, unusual or unorthodox patterns and unlikely subjects and actually encouraging your friends and/or those in your local vicinity to crank it up a notch is a very much a plus. Whether you choose to use Facebook or other Social Media sites to attract members, Google Hangouts for live sessions free-from-distant-boundaries or your local venue for some face to face creation, spread the word and your works for as many to see.

That’s my vision for the future of cross stitching, or at least, one future. Having been raised on the classic cross stitch kits from Anchor, DMC, Maia and more, I certainly don’t want the current market to be swept under a rug, but a new more inclusive industry could perhaps be a way to save this hobby for later. Maybe you don’t think it’s possible for an easily distracted age to take to the craft, or perhaps you feel drawing away from the core audience is not advised.

Do discuss in the comments what you would want to see change in the cross stitch paradigm, and what else you think could be done to entice it. Thanks for reading!

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    • profile image

      Lord Libidan 13 months ago

      Firstly thanks for the mention!

      However, I feel in the UK in particular the concept that cross stitch isn't a hobby for the young or men seems to get in the way a lot. I know of a few people that have taken up needles but due to peer pressure gave up. It would be good to see a ground up approach to gender defining hobbies similar to what msdielise has suggested.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 23 months ago from Glasgow

      I have just started looking at cross stitch. I haven't even learned how yet, but I have stocked up on my supplies. I will be trying to make tattoo themed pieces and skulls. These will be mainly to display in my house (my hallway is tattoo themed, the lounge is skull themed). I really wish this was a skill I had learned when I was younger! Great hub!

    • Amelie Abels profile image
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      Amélie Abels 3 years ago from England

      Thanks for the comment mdielise :)

      I though there was something else I could have talked about! Yes definitely learning to do it and early and having fun completing patterns at school would probably lead to a more people continuing it later on. Of all the schools I went to, it was only in secondary did I start learning textiles, and it was more making practical items like bags than just decorative needlework.

      If nurseries or elementary schools tried a cross stitch day, with patterns that the 'boyish' boys would enjoy doing, then who knows...

    • msdielise profile image

      msdielise 3 years ago

      Exposing them as early as elementary will make them do cross stitch since it is done in school. I learned cross stitching when I was 10. Since then I always do it but since I entered college I don't have the time anymore. I miss stitching, but I am into embroidery now. Quite a time-killer when there is no internet or no electricity supply. That's when I do these hobbies, silly me! :)