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.