Getting Back into Cross Stitch

I think I was 15 the last time I did some counted cross stitch. That was more decades ago than I’d like to think about. It isn’t that I am hung up on my age. It’s just that I think I should have kept up the habit of doing this craft. Anyway, I don’t even remember what the last thing was that I cross stitched. I never kept the finished objects. I always gave them to my mom to use. I’m not exactly sure why I abandoned it. Knitting and crochet probably just distracted me. One memory that I do have is that I used to get frustrated looking for patterns at stores. There were always plenty of Biblical quotes and religious things, which often put me off. I have nothing against religious people, things, or the Bible, it’s just that neither have ever really been my preference for stitching. I think, also, I was too young to understand the history of cross stitch and therefore just too ignorant to appreciate these more traditional patterns, which were part of peoples’ educations for quite a long time in history. Cross stitching samplers with alphabets, motifs, borders, and sayings was the way a lot of children learned at school in the 19th century.

Unlike me, my mom has always been a cross stitch fanatic. I think it is her favorite thing to do even though she’s a very skilled knitter and crocheter. She loved to stitch up big wall hangings. I remember how her old-fashioned Santa Claus pictures came out, especially. She bought a book with several different ones and she made all of them.

Of course, my mom taught me how to cross stitch. It’s an easy craft to pick up, in my opinion, and a fun way to keep children busy in the summer months. She taught me because I complained about being bored with my paint-by-numbers and coloring books. Obviously, I came to view cross stitch as a form of coloring with thread. I never had my own supplies, except for a kit here or there. My mom always gave me prepared fabric and strands of floss from her huge stash.

I am lacking in stash for cross stitch, that’s for sure. At Christmas in the USA I did buy some precut DMC Aida cloth, but that has not helped curb my budget to get my first project started because one isn’t the right count (it’s 18) and the other is the wrong color (it’s 14 but plain white). I had to buy everything: floss and 14-count light-coffee-colored fabric. Shopping for a first project, although expensive, is worth the money because then I will have leftovers (fabric and floss) to be used for another, so I’m not too worried about the money.

It’s a low-cost hobby, as a matter of fact, which is just one of its benefits. Another is that you can make some really nice things to decorate the house or add embellishments to things you make or have around. A little cross stitch motif can spruce up just about anything you’re tired of looking at. It has lots of possibilities, even greeting cards. I decided to get back into it because it’s just suffocatingly hot this week and I need something else besides crocheting with cotton to keep me occupied when I have a free moment. This, above all, I think, is one of the best advantages to cross stitching: it’s comfortable all year round. It is definitely not a huge wool afghan to roast you more than necessary on an already unbearably hot afternoon.

So, I got going on my project I picked out, which is a Celtic cushion, and I’ve begun working on it. This is the first time in my life I have ever actually got myself organized to cross stitch something since my mom always gave me stuff that was ready to go. Anybody who is curious about the steps to follow before even beginning to cross stitch something can check out this captioned photo gallery:

A lot of people swear by beginning to cross stitch a project from the center of the fabric. I’m not into that. I like to follow a chart from corner to corner, from bottom to top, and stitch away at the design in ten-square blocks or so. It keeps me from getting lost. I do believe however, in the importance of finding the center of the fabric. It’s easy to do: fold the fabric in quarters and crease it, then open it up. The point where the four creases meet is the center. From here, I just counted the number of squares necessary to find the corresponding bottom-left corner on my chart and marked it with thread. All I had to do was count to 70. On some sweaters I’ve had to cast on and count to 270. Piece of cake.

Getting ready for a project that requires fewer colors, of course, is a lot faster. Also, as you acquire more threads from doing different projects the organization is less involved.

And now I’m going to get something cold to drink and cross stitch for a while as I wait and see if it gets cool enough to work on my wool sweater. If it doesn’t that’s fine. I’ve got a sock and a crochet cotton table cloth to work on.