No one is more surprised than I am that, a year into picking up cross-stitch again, I’m still going strong with it. I have, however, been picking larger & more complex patterns, so even though my time spent stitching has remained fairly steady, my finished projects total is down.
The first half of this post will be the same format as my First Quarter Gallery, but as a little bonus, I’ll also be talking a little about must must-have supplies further down.
*I gave this one a name since the pattern listing was mostly keywords.
Mushrooms by AppleJamStitch on Etsy.
Unfortunately, this particular pattern is no longer available, but there are lots of other really great patterns on their shop.
You Can Certainly Try by Vale Stitchery on Etsy.
This shop is currently on hiatus, but hopefully will re-open soon.
The lesson here folks, is if you see a pattern you have to have – nab it while you can. Sure, a lot of digital items are perpetually available, but sometimes, they just disappear without warning. This policy just led to me picking up a deeply discounted pattern that, if I’m diligent about working on just that one project & nothing else, might take me two years with a finished size of about 2 X 2.5 feet. I have a handful of projects in queue before I can even think about starting this, and I’m guessing that materials are going to run me in the neighborhood of $100. It’s also probably going to provide me with hundreds if not thousands of hours of crafty goodness.
One of the things I really like about cross-stitch as a hobby, is that you can try it out with minimal investment, provided you don’t try to start with an epic pattern like the one I linked above. You can just grab a kit, which comes with just about everything you’re going to need, and most beginner kits won’t cost any more than $10 – $20, even if you’re buying one from a major brand. With that kit, and a hoop that’ll cost you a couple of dollars, and whatever scissors you have lying around at home, you’ll be well supplied for your first dozen or more hours of stitch-craft.
I did quite a lot of cross-stitch in my teens & early 20s, and that was mostly how I did it. Sure, eventually I got sucked into buying a whole bunch of embroidery floss, stock Aida cloth, and some pattern books, but most of my cross-stitch experience before last summer was with kits.
Of course, the digital marketplace is far more robust now than it was then, and I’ll admit that I definitely prefer a PDF pattern to a paper one. Which brings me to my first stitch-craft Must Have.
The Pattern Keeper app is very reasonably priced for a lifetime license – it costs under $10 USD. Buying an Android tablet to have a device to use the Pattern Keeper app on was a little more pricey. However, if you already have and use an Android device, you can skip that extra expense.
Still, I have no regrets. Most digital patterns will be read well by this program, and it makes it super easy to keep track of where you are in your pattern without marking off in pencil and erasing on a paper. You can zoom in and out, highlight sections by thread color, and the information bar down the left side of the screen keeps track of your daily stitch count, and percentage complete. I honestly don’t know how I ever knew what I was doing before using Pattern Keeper. Ah, technology, ain’t it grand?
Once you’ve decided on a pattern, you’re going to need embroidery floss. Now, I’m not a huge floss-snob, but most patterns are charted with DMC colors in mind, and so that’s what I pick up whenever I can, especially in a pattern with dozens of colors. It’s a little more pricey than no-name floss, but that mostly comes in assorted packs. I’d much rather select the exact colors I need than hope I can find something comparable in a lot.
The next thing you’ll need is some fabric. There are tons of brands out there, and they all have slight variations in feel and stiffness, but in the end, it all comes down to personal preference. However, once I decided I was okay with getting a little spendy for my cloth, I discovered Picture This Plus, a company that hand dyes Aida, Evenweave, and Linen fabrics for cross-stitching. The fabrics are both gorgeous and a dream to work with. Picture this Plus doesn’t sell direct to consumers, so I get mine through 123Stitch.com.
Next, you’re going to need to grab some needles. Don’t just buy a needle – that’s the best way to guarantee that you’re going to lose it in the couch or something. You’re going to want to grab a pack or two of tapestry needles, and the size you want to get depends on the fabric count you’re using for your project. If you’re unsure what size to get, check out Stitch Modern’s guide to needle size.
I used to cheap out on needles, figuring they were all about the same. Then I picked up a couple packs of Bohin needles on a whim, and I never ever want to use anything else again. They’re easy to thread, don’t bend or warp, and they feel really good in the hand.
You can also grab these on 123Stitch.com while you’re picking up cloth and floss. I’m a big fan of one-stop shopping, supporting small businesses, and also, paying shipping only once per project.
The last thing you probably are going to need is some sort of hoop or frame to keep your cloth taut while you’re working. I’m a big fan of Q-Snap frames. They’re a little more spendy than your basic wood or plastic hoop, but I find them far easier on the hands over extended stitch sessions. There are knock-offs, which are not as good, but still better than hoops for me. Over time, the plastic will start to feel loose – you can just pop them in the dishwasher and they’ll be tightened up again.
If you don’t already good lighting set up, or even if you do and your eyesight isn’t what it used to be, I’d also recommend looking into a magnifying lamp. I picked up this desk-mounted one from Amazon, and it has made everything so much easier. In fact, I hardly ever want to stitch away from my desk where the lamp lives because I’ve gotten so used to how much easier it is to work with it.
Of course, getting all of these things is a little more investment than just grabbing a kit at your local craft & hobby store, and I wouldn’t recommend any of it unless you are already sure you enjoy the hobby. Except maybe for the needles – they’re really good needles and will serve you well even with a kit.