Cross Your Heart, Cross Your Fingers

Knitting and crochet get the bulk of crafters’ love, but I’ve never been able to get the hang of either one. Believe me, I’ve tried; my hands just won’t do what they’re supposed to! Don’t kick me out of the needlework club just yet, though — I express my creative side with counted cross-stitch, an old-school pursuit that has evolved over time, from decorative borders and samplers to snarky slogans and pop culture patterns for every fandom imaginable.

Avengers design by Ivan Petroff of Amazing Cross Stitch - click through for his Etsy site.

Avengers design by Ivan Petroff of Amazing Cross Stitch – click through for his Etsy site.

It’s fairly easy to pick up: if you can count, you can do cross-stitch. And teaching yourself the ropes is easy with help from the Library’s collection of instructional manuals and patterns. Here are a few suggested texts for DIY Xstitch 101:

Cross-Stitch: A Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Techniques and Motifs, Charlotte Gerlings. Just in case the word “beginner’s” didn’t give it away, this stitch1is a great place to start if you’ve never picked up a needle. Covers the supplies you’ll need, different types of stitch and stitching techniques, and reading charts. When you’re feeling confident in the basics, Gerlings throws a few advanced techniques at you, but nothing overwhelming. Includes 30 charts.

The Two-Hour Cross-Stitch series, Trice Boerens. Once you feel comfy with the basics, you’ll want to move on to small, easily-finished projects. Boerens’ series contains a variety of small patterns for animals, flowers, and decorative motifs that you can knock out in a few hours and feel good about. The overall aesthetic is vintage/retro, and each volume contains refreshers on the basics, in case you need them. Want something a little more modern and/or easier on the eyes? Swap in Jacqui Pearce’s Big Stitch Cross Stitch instead.

Next you’ll want to grab Julie S. Hasler’s 500 Alphabets in Cross-Stitch, partially to get the hang of stitching letters (still quick and easy!), but also to stitch3spark inspiration for your own designs. If you have a favorite quotation, song lyric, or even personal catch-phrase, you can  easily turn it into a clever design piece. Your only real problem will be choosing a font, as Hasler’s not kidding about showing you 500 of them. Overhwelming, but in a fun way.

stitch2When you’re ready for slightly more intricate projects, but still feel you need a little guidance, try Dorothy Wood’s Cross Stitch: Skills, Techniques, 150 ProjectsClocking in at 250+ pages, it’s a bit hefty; however, the 600+ instructional illustrations more than make up for it.  These projects will take a little longer to finish, but by the time you’re done, you should feel confident enough to try more complicated projects.

Now you’re ready for the tricky stuff! Where to go next depends entirely on your personal taste; your choices range from the traditional to the fanciful, and if you enjoy making homemade gifts/crafts for Christmas or babies, you are definitely in luck. With over 300 options to choose from — including digital patterns — you’ll have plenty of ideas to keep your hands occupied during the long, cold winter, and beyond.

Not seeing your fandom/interest in the Library catalog? A well-constructed internet search will usually do the trick. Try:

” X” cross-stitch

where X = the patterns you’re hoping to find. For example:

“Legend of Korra” cross-stitch

“Welcome to Night Vale” cross-stitch

Steelers cross-stitch

“heavy metal” cross-stitch

Try it for your special interests! Then run the same search in Google Images to make sure you don’t miss anything good (often a web search will offer a link to the image search as the first option).

Keep in mind that not all patterns will be free (artists need to eat!), and that anything you make from a copyrighted/trademarked design should be kept for personal use or gifted, not sold, unless the designer explicitly gives you permission (it’s complicated, but this blog post does a great job of explaining the essentials).

Think you’ll give it a shot? Already an avid-stitcher? Tell me about it in the comments. And if this adventure isn’t quite your thing, no worries — when it comes to hands-on learning and new DIY projects, Library staff are more than happy to point you in whatever direction strikes your fancy.

–Leigh Anne

whose own stitcher grail is Teresa Wentzler’s  The Lady of Shalott



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15 responses to “Cross Your Heart, Cross Your Fingers

  1. Lee

    OMG, I love that you wrote this article! I’m an avid needleworker myself, and although I appreciate the knitting and crochet arts, sometimes I feel like they get all the press. How nice to see an article about our art!

  2. I really don’t have the patience for counted cross stitch. However, I love, love, love to do those stamped quilt patterns that you sew together. I listen to a book on CD and do those. Talk about relaxing! :)

    • That DOES sound like fun! I’ve been meaning to listen to more audio books, and learn to quilt, so, two birds, one stone! Thanks for suggesting it. :)

      And thanks for reading and commenting!

      Leigh Anne

  3. Currently knitting a fez, but I’ve done cross stitch once or twice. It is easy and fun! Thanks for the tips. 😊

  4. Beth L

    I can only dream about when I had time in my life to cross-stitch. I made so many gifts–pins, placemats, Christmas ornaments–one day I will return to having leisure time!

  5. sitanaik

    Am an avid cross stitcher; have done a no of fairly demanding projects. I live in India and suprisingly for a country that has a still thriving and live craft tradition, there is no ‘leisure’ craft work. I cannot even find a shop to buy craft materials – except for the kid stuff.

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