You guys, I think I've discovered a new obsession - cross-stitch! Just think about it - tiny little perfect x's all in a row. How could I not love this craft? I was recently given this book to review, Cross-Stitch to Calm by Leah Lintz. It has 40 easy patterns, ideal for a beginner such as myself. There's even a section at the front of the book that explains some of the basics. And isn't that little bird on the cover just the cutest?
Inspired to try something new, I ventured out to the craft store last weekend to procure the necessary supplies. Embroidery hoop - check. Needles - check. Embroidery floss - check. Cross-stitch fabric? Nah, I have oodles of fabric at home. There's gotta be something in my stash that will do. Mistake #1. Anything I'm likely to sew with will almost certainly be too fine a weave for cross-stitch. Unless you have perfect vision and the sun is always shining in your living room. I should have read the book's section on choosing the right fabric before I left the house. But I didn't. So I muddled through this first project, squinting all the way, and vowed to acquire something more suitable for next time.
In addition to the need for proper fabric, I learned a few more lessons along the way. For instance, it's better to cut shorter lengths of thread than longer ones. As a knitter, my desire to use the scissors as little as possible actually came back to bite me. A thread too long increases the likelihood of knots and tangles, slowing down the entire process each time you have to pick one of those apart. Furthermore, pulling the same piece of thread through the fabric over and over again can damage the individual fibers and eventually lead to breakage. After some trial and error, I found about 12 inches to be a decent length of floss to work with.
According to Ms. Lintz, you should always start in the center of your design. So I began with the dark pink hearts, and you can see I had lots of knots and ickiness there. The red hearts are a little better, but still not great. Then I moved on to the medium pink, and finally the palest pink is looking pretty darn good. By that time, I had also learned the best way to secure my ends under the nearby stitches on the back side and the fact that tension plays an important role in many needlecrafts, not just knitting. It turns out pulling your thread too tightly can make your hearts shorter, fatter than you might like.
Another thing I learned: pay attention! I got so caught up making adorable little hearts that I lost track of my pattern and made a whole heart where there should have only been half of a heart. See that dark pink half-heart right in front there? Yeah, I had to pick out the other half after I realized what I'd done, but the fabric underneath was left distorted from the stitches. The "pay attention" lesson can also be applied to where one places one's needle at the end of a stitch session, especially if one has a dog (or cat or kid or any other critters) with a history of eating dangerous objects. At least twice I had to get down on my hands and knees and search the carpet for the blasted thing so Laika didn't find it first.
Though there were plenty of mistakes and lots of lessons learned, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process and will definitely stitch up some more of the designs in this book. Like that cute little bird on the cover maybe. For now, I just need to figure out how and where I want to display my heart of hearts.
In the meantime, I've already charted up a few ideas of my own and have started stitching one of them. Details to come!