Thursday, February 3, 2011

Death by Cross-Stitching!

This person had the right idea. Nice and simple!
Original picture here.

So the next textile project I decided to tackle is cross-stitching. Truthfully, I wasn't really fired-up about the idea because I'm not really interested in the final cross-stitching product. There is something about the tiny, anal little stitches that seem too- dare I say it- Colonial American. Little pictures of Holly Hobby, bunnies and kitties, bible verses and messages about what makes a house a home. Not really my thing. Cross-stitching to me, is something little old ladies do to pass time on the gambling bus to Reno. But if Im going to be an art teacher, I ought to give it a try, right?

Subversive cross stitch! Original picture here.

So I hunted around for ideas in the internet before I started, and I discovered that like knitting and Yarn Bombing and Stitch-and-Bitch meetings, Cross- stitch is also finding it's way into Post-Modernist thought. Just google 'Subversive Cross Stitch" and you'll see that the potty-mouths of the world have picked up some Aida cloth, needles and thread and have expressed themselves beyond anything their grandmothers ever dared attempt! Though there are some clever cross-stitched pieces- ETSY is full of cross-stitched buttons with contemporary designs, people have subverted the idea of the cross-stitch sampler by stitching computer keyboard icons or subversive sayings instead of the sampler alphabet. Some of it's pretty funny stuff. But I wasn't really interested in stitching swear words or the like, personally.
Okay, I'm just throwing this in here, but if I can find one piece of cross-stitch work that excites me, I only have to look at Cocoon in Turkey. (Have you guys decided to hire me yet? I'm your biggest promoter!) This is an Uzbek hat. If you'd like to see more of Cocoon's tribal collection, you can join their facebook group.

How to cross stitch: Original picture here.
This is pretty much all you need to know about cross-stitching. A row of diagonals one way, and an opposite row of diagonals in the other direction.

My stash of embroidery thread.

So I went to pick up some Aida cloth. This is kind of a cross between mesh and cotton- a little bit stiff with holes to guide you in perfect cross stitched X'es. And the stuff wasn't cheap either. Twelve bucks for a quarter meter!

"What kind would you like?" We've got about twenty different types of Aida Cloth." The clerk ran her fingers along packages of Aida cloth.
"Does it matter?" I asked?
The clerk lifted her eyebrows. "Yes, it matters. A lot, actually. You don't actually know what you are doing, do you?"

"Not at all! Give me whatever's easiest." I confidently told her. "I only really want to spend an afternoon or two on this." IF the clerk laughed out loud or guffawed at me at this point, I don't remember. But she would have had every right to, I was about to find out.

My Design on the Aida cloth. Shouldn't take too long to stitch up, right?
It's not exactly the Mona Lisa.

So I took out all the Embroidery thread I had and laid it out to help me decide what to do. I decided to go with a simple Islamic geometry. I drew that on the Aida cloth and got to stitching.

What you see here, is actually about ten minutes of work, and I'm not talking about the design.
I'm talking about how long it took me to get the stiff Aida cloth into that rubber hoop.

And then the stitching began:

This is the first hour or so. Looks pretty good! Looks pretty perfect at this stage.

Three days later. Three days of aggressive cross-stitching and not much else.

Two weeks later.
I had to try to cut down the amount of hours I cross stitched, my back was beginning to hurt.

Two and a half weeks.
I decided here than if I continued with the same colours it would be super boring.
So I switched it up a little.

Three weeks-ish.

A month later, this is where it's at.

I thought about cross-stitching it into a square and one day making it into a pillow or something, but for now it's going to sit in my textile book. You can see how dirty it got during all the handling of sewing it. I'm afraid to wash it though because the embroidery thread is cheap and I'm not sure how colour fast it is. After all this time, why risk it?

In the end, If I were to do this again, I'd probably take more care in choosing a design. Though mine doesn't look bad, it's a little on the boring side. If you are going to put the time in, go for something fancy or less time consuming.

I am completely humbled by the cross-stitchers of the world. It's an amazing amount of work and this kind of blood, sweat and tears isn't truly appreciated and recognised. If I were to sell this little cross stitch according to the time I've put into it, it would be worth a thousand bucks at least.

But I'd rather be painting. So If you'd like any of the Aida cloth I didn't use, you are welcome to it!



  1. For all your effort, it looks good. *Note to self- cross cross-stitching off of my "learn to do" list!

  2. Oh my, a month to make it? I sure learn a lot through your posts, and your humor always keeps me in stitches, of course.

  3. Lol, I'm glad you think my posts are funny, Nemo! I sometimes wonder if they aren't a little "needling." ; )