How did I get into cross stich?

Counted cross stitch embroidery is one of my hobbies. I post photos of my completed projects on Instagram. The photos of my finished projects are also archived on my photos website. Which, incidentally, is overdue for an update.

A few weeks ago Leticia Mooney, the Queen Pixie herself, asked me via Twitter, how did I get into cross stitch?

It’s an interesting question. One which I’ve been thinking about a lot. It sparked this introspective post. I plan on writing more of these types of posts, as a form of self reflection.

For those that may not know, cross stitch is:

a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches in a tiled, raster-like pattern are used to form a picture. The stitcher counts the threads on a piece of evenweave fabric (such as linen) in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance.

An important aspect for me and my projects is that they’re counted cross stitch. I don’t use pre-printed fabric. My approach is to:

  1. Put my evenweave fabric in a hoop.
  2. Use a temporary stitch to mark the centre point of the fabric.
  3. Identify the centre point of the chart.
  4. Start counting and stitching from the centre point out.
  5. Mark the completed stitches on a printed copy of the chart using a pencil.

This is not to say that my approach is better than any others. My firm belief is a stitcher must use the techniques that work for them. For example, I know other stichers grid their fabric. They also use digital charts and special apps. For me the physicality of paper, pencil and the empty fabric is important.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve had this hobby. I first started counted cross stitch back in the early 2000’s. I had a friend who was into cross stitch and they introduced me to the hobby. I completed some small projects and gave a lot of them away.

After a few years I stopped stitching. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Except to say, my life felt fulfilled in other ways. In the following years I tried to pick up the hobby again a few times, but could never get back into it.

In October 2018 I picked up the hobby again. My first project was a cheap little kit of a butterfly that was an impulse buy. It’s now hanging on my pin-board at work. I have now gone from not stitching, to always having a stitching project underway.

I have a growing collection of charts, patterns and finished projects. I get my charts from various sellers on Etsy. Two of my favourite designers are FangirlStitches and HarpSealCrossStitch. I now avoid kits and source most of my fabric and floss from online retailer Itchy Stitchy.

To get back to the question at hand. What is it that got me into cross stitch? I have identified three main reasons.

First, I find it a positive experience. When I’m counting stitches and following the chart I find it easy to slip into a flow state. When I’m ‘in the zone’, my chaotic thoughts slip away. I can come away from a stitching session feeling energised and positive. Spending as little as five minutes to do a few stitches is always rewarding.

Many times focussing on stitching gives my mind the space it needs to work through stuff.

Second, I work in IT. My time is spent working on things which are ephemeral in nature. Such as software code, documents, and datasets. With a click of a button all of my work can disappear. Leaving nothing behind, not even a puff of smoke.

Working on a cross stitch project is a physical activity. It makes me feel good to spend my time on an activity that produces a tangible result. Something that is more than bits and bytes in a computer, or pixels on a screen. I can look at and touch a finished price and say ‘I made that!’.

Third, I enjoy being able to give completed projects away. As I recently did with a Deadpool inspired project that I gave to my friend and colleague Mark Drechsler.

After he retired my Grandfather worked on and completed many tapestries. Some of them are quite large and very intricate. They’ve become precious works of art that are family heirlooms. I like to think that someday my own daughter will keep some of my work, like we have kept many of his.