subversive cross-stitch

Cross-stitch was, I think, the first craft I ever learned to do. When I was little, my mum always seemed to be working on cross-stitches, and I remember her giving me these plastic canvases with blunt needles to teach me the basics. She showed me how to work out the middle of a pattern and the canvas, how to stretch it across an embroidery hoop to keep it taut, how to thread a needle, how to pass the needle through the stitches on the back of the canvas when you were finished with an area or colour. I remember watching in fascination as her stitches came together to create a beautiful picture. I knew how it was done, but I still couldn’t quite get my head around how using a shade just one number higher or lower than the one before it suddenly created gradients out of hundreds of minuscule xs.

As my arm-knitting was a short project and I have enough scarves to last me several lifetimes, I decided to move away from knitting for my next craft project. Inspiration struck when I saw the Christmas present someone I follow on instagram had made for her housemate – a cross-stitch sampler featuring Beyonce’s inspirational lyrics “i woke up like dis ***flawless”. Feminism and cross-stitch? Sign me up.

As always, I knew Pinterest would deliver and could link me to the pattern and as ever, it did not disappoint. After searching for “Beyonce cross-stitch”, I was quickly led to a page featuring “15 Feminist Cross-Stitchings You Didn’t Know You Needed”. It in turn took me to the Etsy page of the cross-stitch designer where, for less than £4, I downloaded the .pdf of the pattern. For anyone who is inspired by this and also requires a daily reminder of how flawless you are, the pattern can be found here.

The next day I headed to John Lewis to buy the supplies needed. Aside from having to do a quick DMC to Anchor conversion while getting in the way of all the other keen would-be cross-stitchers, getting everything up together and getting started was an absolute breeze. All in all, this project cost about £14 for the pattern, the embroidery hoop, the aida cloth, and the 6 threads. But there’s still mountains of thread and cloth, so I’d estimate I could make another two of these, at least – which would lower the cost per project to about £4 plus whatever it is displayed in costs.

I did have a false start when I started bang in the middle of the cloth (like my mummy told me to) before realising how small the finished product was. It seems that that plan of action is best when you’re using a sewing kit or doing a big project, but if your project is smaller, you can afford to pick a corner, make sure you’ve got enough space for your pattern and then some, choose a point and call it centre, and just go for it.

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I’ve done cross-stitches before but they’ve been much bigger and I’ve always run out of steam before I finish – a theme of any of my crafty endeavours, it would seem! This project was pleasingly fast to complete, and because it was so small I was able to see it come together really quickly. I started it on Saturday night and worked for a few hours to get the flowers done. The greenery was actually the most labour-intensive part as it involved a lot of stitch-counting and tying off thread to move to the next section, but still took less than a couple of hours. The flowers were very fast to do, and it really was a joy to have that all finished in under 3 hours.

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I was strangely quite nervous about the lettering, as I’d never done that before, but it really was simple. Ironically, this piece is not entirely flawless as one of the stars is just one stitch too wide, meaning that the bottom line extends by one stitch. This is an error only I – and now everyone who reads this post (oops) – can notice, though, and it’s really not worth redoing the whole line for the sake of one little stitch. The other little mistake is the first ‘L’ in “flawless”- it should appear like the second “L”, but as I did this line at about midnight, I’m sure you can excuse the little mistake.

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I did have a moment when I’d finished the line “*** flawless” when I considered just leaving it there, but thought I’d go ahead and do the rest of the lettering the next morning, and I’m pleased I did! I’m quite tempted to go out and buy a slightly smaller hoop to keep this in for display and use this hoop for future projects.

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I had a great reaction to this when I posted it on facebook and instagram, and I’m itching to do another subversive cross-stitch again soon! My Etsy cart is currently full of patterns that I’m desperate to make for friends and family – and myself, of course. Perhaps I’ve finally found my crafting niche? …Probably not, to be honest.

Anyone else a fan of cross-stitch? What advice would you give to any first-time cross-stitchers?

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