07 March 2012

Cross-Stitching in the Noughties

Whilst I spent the 90s stitching tapestries, somewhere in the noughties I morphed into cross-stiching. Not particularly clear about its beginnings, I suspect it might have had to do with my membership with Doubleday Book Club where I purchased Cross-Stitch Designs from China by Carol Phillipson as a result of my appreciation for oriental designs.

I chose a simple project from the book as a way to sample whether I will enjoy cross-stitching. The papercut design of a black dragon was simple enough and lots of fun to stitch. Instead of a single dragon, I chose to stitch two of them facing each other on red aida cloth (red being our favourite colour). The mirroring dragon encountered some counting issues, followed by some unpicking but I soldiered on and in a short timeframe the black dragons were completed.

During that time I did a short framing course, so I had the pleasure of framing my first cross-stitch myself and then gifting it to my husband for Christmas who loved it. John has always shown genuine interest in my craft making it a pleasure and easy to chat about.

Twin Chinese Dragons (2001)

From here, I upped the ante only slightly by tackling another project from the same book with 11 colours instead of one. The Mandarin Fish design, originally in different shades of blue on white Aida, came from a Ming Dynasty dish showing the fish among weeds. I chose to stitch this project for my dear friend, Bec, who loved green and loved fish. First step was to alter all the shades of blue to shades of green. Instead of Aida, I wanted to try out plastic canvas as I was attracted to the idea of not using a frame. Ughhh that was a big mistake. I didn't consider that I would have to stitch the background, an unnecessary step, had I just used cloth instead of plastic. Needless to say, I never used canvas again and the attraction instantly vanished.

In order to spice up the fish, I chose red as the background colour. For some, the colour is probably too strong but it sure helped me persevere and stitch over every single plastic hole. I am delighted to know that the cross-stitch continues to hang in my friend's home eight years later.

Mandarin Fish (2004)

My best friend was always fond of the Twin Chinese Dragons, so for the third time I opened the book to look for an alternative dragon design and came across two mirroring dragons with a circle in the centre.  The design was found on a jade 'Bi' disk from the Zhou period (1050-221BC).  The author describes the dragons as a "symbol of heaven and apparently the hole in the circle is supposed to allow lightning to flash through so that it acts as a form of protection from evil spirits for the dead".  It used one multi-coloured floss which was extremely fun and very easy to use with great effect. 

Zhou Dragons (2006)
Image credit: Cross-Stitch Designs from China

My nephew spent his early years as a Thomas the Tank fan and played with them for hours on end day after day.  At one point his kinder teacher expressed concern regarding his exclusive interest in trains only.  Given that he is now ten, into Lego, sports and friends it is obvious the concern was unfounded on this occasion.

As a train enthusiast myself, I came across Jeanette Crews' 55 Trains One Nighters Design.  This delightful collection of steam engine and diesel trains are great to use for making birthday cards but I took on a greater challenge by wanting to stitch all of them on one cloth.  With no positioning instructions, I spent a lot of time counting and recounting positions.  Whilst stitching each train was quick and uncomplicated, the backstitching was extremely time consuming.

It took me close to a year to complete and shortly before my daughter's birth I put in the final stitch.  Unfortunately by this time my nephew was eight and onto Lego with trains a thing of the past.  So I decided to make a bit of an heirloom out of it by inserting the three main family surnames (my husband's, my sister's and my own) along with my daughter's and nephew's first name.
55 Trains (2008)
A year later we travelled to Bali with my sister and her family to celebrate my daughter's first birthday.  We went to Fiji for my nephew's first, so we thought the timing might be fun and a story that the kids could be told as they grow up.  Whilst staying at the Club Bali Mirage Resort we met a Welsh couple whom we spent a lot of time with.  The bloke was a keen dragon collector and he enjoyed drawing what he saw as a way of remembering his holidays instead of photographing.

When I returned home, I decided to check out the Welsh flag and using PC Stitch convert it into a cross-stitch pattern with a vague thought that I might send it to him.  Again not a complicated pattern, consisting of only three colours (red, black and green), the project only took two months to finish.  My husband, also a dragon enthusiast, liked it so much that we kept it.  We posted a very nice Christmas card to the Welsh couple, unfortunately never heard back from them.

Historically, Henry VII used the flag with the Red Dragon along with the Tudor colours of green and white at the Battle of Bosworth (1485).  A defining moment in English history, through Henry's victory, the battle ended the War of the Roses and gave rise to Tudor reign. 

Of all the countries in the world Wales and Bhutan are the only ones to have a dragon on their flag.

Flag of Wales: The Red Dragon (2009)

This next project is a Semco design and was inspired by my daughter's affinity for butterflies.  The colour combinations are vibrant and very appealing.  I especially enjoyed stitching the large butterflies.  Throughout the project I encountered a couple of snags.  The thread provided kept fraying.  An unusual experience and a little disheartening.  Perhaps why I keep to DMC floss.  It has not yet let me down and has an enormous collection of colours.

My second problem was with the border.  Using two threads instead of one, I ran out of floss with 60 stitches to go.  I needed to match the colour with DMC floss and whilst I got pretty close and you would really need to look to find the difference, I know it's different.  I put it down to a quirk in the design and just live with it.  For the second time, Ikea framing came to the rescue (55 Trains is the other one).  I find the white boxed frames (Ribba) with mounting boards included very nice, simple and reasonably priced.  It now hangs in my daughter's bedroom amongst all her other colourful (and often pink) items.

Butterflies (2010)

The same year I was further inspired to stitch my first Chrismas project.  I came across Christmas Cross Stitch by Claire Crompton which included 500+ motifs and designs.  From leftover threads and cloth, St Nicholas with his bag of toys came to life.  Stitching his red floor length coat and white fur trimming was just bliss (have I mentioned how much I love red).

Having moved abroad indefinitely very few of my needlework were shipped.  Most of them are sitting in storage back in Australia.  Not intending to have a Christmas tree in Singapore, I left all my tree decorations behind as well.  I only shipped decorations that could be placed on furniture and with that in mind St Nicholas was shipped as well.  He proudly came out Christmas 2011 and sheepishly I admit that in the end we did have a tree.  Why?  Because my sister with her 10 years old son and husband came to share Christmas with us and my now 3 years old girl, who actually understood the occasion (more from the perspective of lots and lots of pressies rather than the spiritual or religious aspect of it).  Did I wish I had my baubles with me now?  Yes, it would have saved me having to go out and buy some new ones.

St Nicholas (2010)

My aunty purchased the Semco designed Dragonfly Dinner cross-stitch kit during her visit from Italy in 2009.  She asked if I was willing to stitch it for her and as usual I obliged (and yes, I had fraying issues with this one too but managed to work around it).  It took me a year before I started it and did so simply because I wanted to get it out of my To Do basket.  Of course with other distractions such as selling our house, selling our home contents, packing and shipping or storing the rest of our goods, choosing to stitch a tapestry called Illumination for a christening meant that it took another year before I seriously committed to completing it and posting it in time for Christmas along with a small Christmas Robin which I snuck in (pattern was from the same book as St Nicholas).  Unfortunately, Italian postal services being as they are, very very slow and unreliable, the cross-stitch reached my aunty two months later.  At least she got it.

Dragonfly Dinner (2011)
Christmas Robin (2011)

And this brings me into 2012.  Numerous projects are awaiting my time.  My husband believes I need another couple of lifetimes to complete all that I have.  My laptop is brimming with digital patterns, my bookshelf has nicely stored lever arch folders with new patterns along with half a dozen cross-stitch books, my study drawer has several small ones of Disney princesses and birds for my aunt and finally my floor frame has an exceptionally painful tapestry that I am literally doing battle with.

The detail on the tapestry is so fine that I need to use the included chart to stitch.  It is very difficult to work with a chart on a printed canvas because the stitches don't match up with the canvas but I can't work without the chart because there isn't enough definition on the canvas.  Had I known this beforehand, I would have opted for the cross-stitch pattern and I wouldn't be distracted by the printing.  I may have even finished it by now but after two years I am only one-third complete.  This will take a while as I am already eyeing off alternative projects to restimulate my mind.

Here are some of the designs waiting for my time which I look forward to stitching one day.

Deck of Cards Queens by Maxine Gadd (www.mysticstitch.com).
One day they will hang in a rumpus room somewhere in this world.
Misaki & Sakura (www.maia.com)
Velvet & Steel by Maria William (www.shinysunscrossstitching.com).
This warrior with raw steel is for my hubby.

Couple in Love by Vervaco.
Notice the red theme continues.

My Fair Lady (www.maia.com)
Allegory of Wealth (www.kustomkrafts.net)
You might note that the complexity level has just skyrocketed.  Perhaps why I keep looking at them and not stitching them.  The day will come....

Here are some terrific websites that I have done business with and have been very happy with their service and their products:


This list of websites I monitor and visit regularly, simply because I like the work represented.  However, I honestly can't buy anything further until my current projects have been stitched.  It'll be very hard to resist.


Share your stories with me, tell me what you think.  Would love to hear your trials and tribulations in the world of craft or art, whether it be needlework, quilting, knitting, jewellery making, artwork etc.

We are only limited by our imagination
Resist procrastination and start that next project
The end result guarantees personal satisfaction and accomplishment

On that note, I hang up my keyboard for now and return to do battle with my tapestry.