I must confess that up until a couple of years ago I disdainfully considered cross stitch as something only a grandmother would take up to fill in those idle moments. Now before you cross-stitchers grab your pitchforks (ummm… needles?) and have a go at me, let me present my defense that the only patterns I had been exposed to until then were old fashioned, flat and repetitive. I have since been enlightened that cross stitch is an incredibly modern and constantly evolving craft form. Today’s patterns somehow manage to re-create stunning pieces of art ranging from Van Gogh to Whitney and everything in between. Easy now… gently place those needles down. My eyes have been opened to the truth.
This post is going to be a flashback of sorts. A look at how I first got into the craft of cross stitch and how I have grown by leaps and bounds over the past year or so. Seeing as how cross stitch is my current favorite hobby you can expect to see a LOT of posts on the subject in the days and weeks to come.
Disclaimer : This post is going to be LONG! So buckle up and let’s take a journey through the past…
Getting started in cross stitch
The first cross stitch project I ever did was a small tea coaster for art class in school. For the life of me I cannot remember what grade I was in so let’s just leave it at ‘I was too young to even remember what grade I was in’! Teacher P.,one of my favorite art teachers of all time, walked into class one day with an armful of 14 count white aida and a book of small cross stitch patterns. We were told we would be making a tea coaster by selecting patterns we liked from the book The more enthusiastic among us made a beeline for the book, quickly had our patterns finalized and before we knew it fabric was starting to get divvied up.
As with all my assignments, I however conveniently waited until the very last minute to start working on my chosen design. While many of my classmates opted for floral/fruity, pink/green combos I went in a dramatically opposite direction and chose a more geometric design with bold black and primary colors for my piece. I do remember that by the end of my assignment I was completely enraptured. I couldn’t wait to hand in my work so that I could be rewarded with some leftover fabric and hopefully complete not just one but an entire set of coasters (By this point many of my classmates were already finishing up their second coaster). So imagine my absolute dejection when Teacher P. informed me that I was too late and she had already run out of fabric. What made matters worse was when she commented that mine was one of the best in the class and she too wished she had more fabric to give me. Now I promise I am not bragging but as someone who had never, ever received a commendation in art class before, this comment was cherished by wide-eyed, innocent me as a Life Highlight. Looking back on that moment a part of me is convinced that there was birdsong and the sweet smell of roses in the golden hued air (Cue : Roll your eyes and think ‘How lame is this dame!’) .
To this day that little tea coaster remains one of my most prized art projects and for many years it continued to be unearthed at the occasional spring cleaning at my folks’ home. I am sorry that I don’t have a picture to share with you. Which is probably a good thing. In my head I have built up that little coaster to the epitome of perfection. I shudder to think of how uneven the tension must be, the bulky knots that must riddle the back and the abysmal coverage of 2 unseparated strands of floss on 14 count aida. But nevertheless I am beyond proud of my little project and hope to see it again at the next big cleaning spree.
A year older, a year wiser
A birthday gift
As much as I enjoyed that project cross stitching for some reason was never something I followed up on. My leftover floss was relegated to a forgotten corner only to get pulled out and enhanced when somewhere along the line I took up making friendship bracelets (another one of those abandoned projects I seem to get myself into). Those threads once again got put away until I stumbled upon THE perfect pattern for a friend’s upcoming birthday.
Looking at it now I am horrified at how amateur-ish it looks. But back then I had a wonderful time switching out floss and choosing my own color combos (partly because I wanted to use up colors I already had in my meager ‘stash’). For the life of me I can’t track down the link to the original pattern but I do remember it was a freebie at the time. The piece was simple, pretty and an absolute joy to work on.
Parting is such sweet sorrow
A farewell gift
Fast forward to 2013 when a colleague I consider a mentor and friend had an upcoming birthday. For whatever reason I decided that nothing would do as a birthday gift but a unique handmade piece from yours truly. And so I tackled my biggest project yet. A cross stitch conversion of The Praying Hands by the lovely Ann. I loved the story behind it and it was perfect for my colleague. Once I started it though, there were days when I thought I would never get through it. It was too big, too unwieldy and by the end of it I would be happy never to see another shade of brown in my life. It was the first time I had ever tackled a multi-page pattern and the first time the fabric was large enough to warrant a splurge on a 6’’ hoop. I never did get it done in time for the birthday but gave it to him instead as a farewell gift when he left the company.
I was beyond proud of my work and parting with it was very, very difficult but seeing the emotions on his face made everything totally worth it. The more astute among you will notice many, many errors in the piece – areas I was too lazy to frog and that were fudged to obviousness. But what with the time constraint and my passionate dislike of browns by the end of the piece I left them untouched. Parts of this finish still make me cringe and I wish I had better pictures to show. But the joy it brought was invaluable and for this reason I will always cherish it, mistakes et al.
Succumbing with gleeful abandon
The point of no return
The Praying Hands as it turns out would become the pivotal piece that would well and truly suck me into the cesspool of cross stitch. Somewhere along the way I became a serial starter (all freebies at that point) and had way more WIP’s on the go than is reasonable for me. That 92×103 piece I had once considered a monster would get left behind in the dust as I discovered behemoths like Heaven And Earth Designs (HAED), Love Thy Thread, Mystic Stitch, Paine Free Crafts and others. Having seen me agonize through my last piece though, my DH (and deep down me too!) saw no hope of me ever completing such a massive undertaking and so I behaved. I would spend hours salivating on the HAED site and it took monumental willpower to refrain from making any purchases. Said willpower however crumbled into non-existent smithereens when HAED announced a 50% off sale. By the end of that sale I had inexplicably become the proud owner of not one, not two but THREE new HAED patterns!
Are you curious to know what patterns were my undoing? Would you like to find out about the irresistible art that called out to me and my stash acquisitions since then? Stay tuned to future posts to find out more about my pattern soft spots.
17 thoughts on “My cross stitch journey”
I’m so impressed with your finished pieces (‘the praying hands’ is amazing! It has also made me realize how much more I have to learn! Just out of curiousity, do you know how to do french knots? I really struggle with them. xo
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Awww… thank you so much hon! :* It’s quite an addictive hobby isn’t it? There have been many nights where chores have been ignored and hubby left hungry as I put in ‘just one more stitch’ 😀 You too will pick up loads as you go along 🙂
And french knots? Yes, I can manage them. There is a great tutorial on Youtube that I found really helpful. Let me see if I can dig that up for you later tonight.
I love those tea coasters! Thanks for following me at http://stitchesneedlesthreads.com. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work. Blessings to you and yours. Marie
Thank you so much! It’s always nice when handmade pieces are also functional 🙂
It was so much fun to read about your cross stitch journey. Trust me your initial pieces are way better than mine. All I made was table covers with simple borders for the same reasons as yours…lack of cross stitch patterns and supplies .
P.S. You thought you would go away without telling me that you have started a blog, I’m afraid that’s not the case…See I found you 😉
Hi Mini… Thank you so much for your kind comments! 🙂 Thank goodness for the Internet and online patterns. Wherever would we be without it? 😀
Lol… so happy you found me 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement! Still new at this so wanted to learn my way around before I made any big announcements 😉
I too enjoyed reading about your cross stitch journey. I hear the art is dying, but I just know that people like us will keep it alive. I am looking forward to seeing your WIP’s and your stash. I am dying to know what HAED designs you have purchased. I have a couple of their freebie bookmark designs, but realistically, I don’t think that I will ever do one. I did start one a few years ago and put about 15 stitches into it. It was going to be a bookmark for hubby, and I am afraid I still may have to do it as he does ask about it now and then. I look forward to your future posts and thank you for following my blog.
I have definitely got a post lined up for the future with my stash revelations. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) I live in a place where cross stitch supplies are practically non-existent. While my stash is nowhere close to what some people seem to have, it is large enough that it drives my husband batty sometimes 🙂
It’s so sweet that your husband lives in hope of seeing his bookmark finished. Thank heavens he is the type who encourages your passion! 😉
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Where in the world are you located? I have a couple of options for cross stitch supplies and I do help to keep them in business 😉 Though I have to drive about 40 minutes to each, I do take my time and shop when I do get there. And then there is the internet…The enormous black hole where one can get lost in for days. Looking forward to your future post. I love seeing what everyone has in their stash 🙂
Woah… 40 minutes is a long drive! I’m based in the UAE. Thankfully I have a local store roughly 20 minutes away that stocks DMC and Anchor floss (Yippee! :D). Fabric options here are practically non existent and the few options we do have are ridiculously overpriced. Let’s not even get into patterns and kits! My stash cravings are satiated thanks to the ‘black hole’ 😉 While not a large stash by any means I’ve now got enough to stitch my entire lifetime 🙂 Will put up some stash posts as soon as I get a chance to click some decent pictures 🙂
I love visiting the 2 shops that I can. One of them has stitchings from ceiling to floor and is a pretty good sized store with a 2nd floor. I love just going and looking at all the beautiful stitchings. I always see some new things when I go. I could spend hours in there. Unfortunately, my hubby or my friend who go with me, do not share my love of cross stitch, so my visits are too brief. I can’t wait to see all of your stash.
Gasp! Floor to ceiling inventory! And 2 floors! I would have to be dragged out of there kicking and screaming 😀 I don’t have anyone to shop with either. Sigh… what a lonely hobby we have picked :p
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It is amazing that it is a lonely hobby. Many people that I have talked to that stitch, don’t have friends that stitch either. I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful stitchers on the facebook groups. I even have a best stitchy friend that I met doing a Round Robin. And meeting people on their blogs is a great way to meet stitchy people also. Like you 🙂
Awww Ginny… I love you already! 😀 🙂 I’ve joined a few of the FB groups myself but am a rather quiet member. Love seeing all the WIPs and have learnt so much… not to mention all the stash enabling that flies around 🙂 I’m just starting to realize how many wonderful blogs there are out there. Been looking around and have already started following quite a few. Yay! So much stitchy goodness to read about!
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I so enjoyed reading about your cross stitch journey! It certainly has changed through the years, hasn’t it? I took a 10 year “break” from it while raising my sons and was shocked and delighted to find all that was new when I returned to stitching in 2003–overdyed threads, gorgeous new fabric colors, fantastic new designers to suit anyone’s taste. I was hooked again 🙂
Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog–so happy to have found yours, too! Good luck and welcome to blogland 🙂
Thank you so much Carol! And welcome to pen2needle 🙂
Yes cross stitching really has moved with the times. I’m so glad because the few friends I do share my obsession with are always amazed at the level of detail and amount of work that goes into a piece. None of them have yet been enticed enough to join the dark side though 😉 Hence my venture into blogland to find like-minded souls 🙂