Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Is Cross Stitch Difficult?

This is something I was pondering yesterday when the Mater was waxing lyrical over my latest finished object.
Cross stitch sampler
To put this in context, Mumsy still praises me excessively when I manage to stand up without holding onto the furniture, a skill that keeps me one step ahead of my mini-niece (of whom more tomorrow). She is always very complimentary about the various things I make and assured me that she could never do cross stitch and there aren't many people who could do one like I had etc etc. I countered that cross stitch is easy because you get a grid of different colours and you transfer that grid onto gridded aida fabric and use the same stitch throughout - a simple cross which uses the holes provided. She wouldn't accept this though and so I started to ponder the various cross stitch projects I knew of. For example:
Anchor First Cross Stitch Kit for Beginners - uses 8 count aida which means 8 stitches per inch. With this stitch count you would use the whole of the embroidery thread so you just have to follow the printed chart and use the right colour on the right square.
green one hundred sixty four
(For those who don't stitch - embroidery cotton like this comes very loosely plied with an even number of plies - usually 6 or 8 - which you can subdivide to give you a thinner thread for working on smaller squares. For example, if you use 28 count aida, which means 28 stitches per inch, you would probably only use 2 plies together.)

I can imagine that you need to be a certain age to achieve a basic pattern - the reviews for the one above suggest about 10 years old is a good starting point. But then surely from there you simply need sufficient eye sight and time to complete a project? Scaling up to larger patterns is just a matter of spending more time on it. Smaller squares mean a greater degree of hand-eye-coordination is needed so perhaps you'd need to be 15 or so to do those, but after that, isn't it just putting crosses on fabric in the colour you're told to use?
Cross stitch thimble close up
I think a lot of crafty people tend to underestimate the skills they have because often, and usually after years and years of practise, it comes easily to them. But I always thought I had quite a good grasp of my own skills. I am a very good knitter. I am a good sewer. I can crochet, but nowhere near as well as knitting. I can embroider in a variety of different ways. But cross stitch being difficult? I really can't get my head around that.

One thing I did find difficult to work out before I sat down and read the instructions in this tutorial, was smocking.
Smocking try out
Top right in the red embroidery thread - that was me without instructions thinking "it can't be that hard to figure out". The blue stitching is where I read the tutorial. I am making my Mum a peg bag and she has a great love for both red gingham (or in fact mostly any gingham) and smocking so for the first time I have learnt the technique and put the two together. It is so easy on what is basically a gridded fabric although I have seen it done with my own beloved polka dots in a japanese book and also on plain fabric where I guess you'd have to draw on a grid first in a removable medium. These are some examples from Flickr - click on the images to read more about them and see who did them.
Polka Dot Smocking Pouch
Image from page 37 of "The Priscilla smocking book, a collection of beautiful and useful patterns, with directions for working" (1916)
McCoy smocking design
Naturally there are Blythe dresses in this style too.
Spring's Final Frost Daisy Group
Gosh, there's even a magazine!
smocking
Amazing.


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