By Christina VanGinkel
I was first introduced to cross-stitch shortly after I became married. Browsing the aisle of a craft sore, I came across an adorable baby blanket kit. It was made of the softest Aida cloth, with a completely finished edge, just needing to be finished with an assortment of stitched baby bears and other baby related designs, and the pattern showed a spot to place baby's name and birth date. I finished the blanket right before our second child was born, working on it whenever I had the chance, which was not that often with one toddler, another on the way, a job, and a husband! I was hooked though from the very first stitch. The only alteration I made to that first project was to leave the baby's name and birth date off, as I figured that if I had more children, I wanted to be able to use it for that child also.
Some might wonder what is so fascinating about cross-stitch, and after some thought, I came to the realization that for me, working with Aida cloth and DMC floss is as close to painting as someone (me!) who has zero artistic ability can ever get. With threads in every color of the rainbow and then some, a needle, fabric made for cross-stitch, and a small pair of scissors, the possibilities is almost endless. Patterns exist for all types of patterns, from baby to southwest themes, animals to teapots, sampler type sayings, lighthouses, even copies of actual pieces of artwork. What you cross-stitch on is also as varied as the design possibilities are. You can make a piece to hang on the wall, matted, and framed the same way you would any other piece of art. You could stitch a blanket, as I did for my first project. Pillows, purses, even jewelry can be cross-stitched. It is a truly versatile art form.
If you are considering cross-stitch as a hobby, I would highly recommend that you purchase a small kit, such as those that are widely available at stores such as Wal-Mart, that include a needle, Aida cloth, pattern, and all thread needed to complete the project. Most kits make a single ornament, decorative jar lid cover, bookmark, pillow sham, potholder, or some other small item. Once you are comfortable with the basic stitch required when working with a small kit such as this, you should then attempt a larger kit that may include additional stitches such as a quarter or half stitch. When you are comfortable with the various stitches, move on to purchasing just a pattern and assembling the materials to complete the project yourself.
Material will be your biggest consideration when choosing a project on your own. Aida cloth is by far the easiest to work with, as the counting of the stitches into the weave of the fabric is straightforward. If you choose a pattern that will be worked on a fabric such as linen, the stitches will be more difficult to master until you become comfortable working with that particular type of fabric, and discouragement could easily settle it. Working with a larger Aida cloth to begin with will also allow you to see what you are doing, making the possibility of errors much less. Keep in mind if you order Aida cloth online, that the larger the number, the smaller, tighter the weave. For example, size 14 is a good size to start with, not to big, not to small a weave. Once you feel accomplished with this size, you could then try an 18 or 22 count. These will be smaller, making the stitches of your finished project look much more detailed than the same project done on the 14 count.
I highly suggest only working on a cross-stitch project in a well-lit area. A craft light or a well-placed lamp will make this craft much easier and enjoyable to do. A small pair of pointed scissors designed for cross-stitch or detailed sewing crafts will also make creating projects much easier. Thread, often referred to as embroidery thread, for cross-stitch is available from several companies, with DMC, Coats & Clark, and JanLynn popular brands to work with. If you are looking for a new hobby that will allow you to express your creative side, then cross-stitch is worth looking into!