On Cross Stitch

A couple of decades ago I stumbledacross a book by Jo Verso called Picture It in Cross Stitch and was so taken by her designs and approach that I made a bespoke wedding sampler. Then I cross-stitched the family story behind Nonsuch at Hogsback. Three individual birth announcements in cross stitch followed over the next couple of years before I packed away the cross stitch fabric (hardanger) and my embroidery threads got used up for school projects.

The book was first published in 1988 and my copy is a second impression from 1991. It is probably out of print, but I found advertisements for second hand copies on the internet.

The appeal of Jo Verso’s book is that she encourages you to make your own designs and not to blindly follow a set pattern. Along with clear instructions, the book contains a pattern library to help you along. For instance, if you want to add a dog to the family line-up, there are examples to copy onto the graph paper of your own design. She advocates the use of the half stitch and this is enormously helpful for getting the ears of the dog to be nice and pointy.

The years passed and my interests shifted to quilting. Recently I rediscovered how pleasant it is to work in cross stitch when I coveted a biscornu which a friend had made as a fob, to tie onto her embroidery scissors. She kindly lent me the pattern and, before plucking up the courage to make those tiny cross stitches on evenweave linen, I practised on the larger blocks of the hardanger from my stash.

The smaller one measures 2 cm square. It nearly got lost forever under the cushions of a friend’s couch when it came adrift from my pair of scissors. Stitching this made me realise that I will never become a fine embroiderer. I had to borrow a magnifying visor from the woodworker in order to see what I was doing when I stitched it.

Despite these challenges, my interest in cross stitch was rekindled and the next project I tackled was a depiction of my favourite bird, the African hoopoe. Another kind friend had given me a pattern and I started stitching with great enthusiasm. This time there was also a problem with scale. Because the pattern was enlarged I stupidly thought the work would be the same size, until I started counting blocks and measuring. The thread count of my trusty stock of hardanger produced a small bird of 15 centimeters. Then, yet another generous friend gave me an unwanted tapestry kit and I am restitching the hoopoe on this larger grid. (I have ignored the original pattern of leaves that are painted onto the fabric of the kit and am stitching the hoopoe on the reverse side, using the same embroidery threads as for the little fellow, and following the cross stitch paper pattern. The different greens of tapestry thread that came with the kit will be used for the background.)

The completed hoopoe and the start of the larger version

I have another embroidery kit of a bowl of roses, which I found at a vintage stall at a market and could not resist buying. The fabric in the kit is fine evenweave linen and I knew it would be madness — or hours and hours of stitching time — to make it up. But still I could not resist buying it.

You must agree that this a beautiful bowl of roses and the stitching of it would be most pleasurable, had I “but world enough, and time”, as Andrew Marvell’s love-lorn young man wished when he tried to woo his coy mistress. So I decided to stitch just one of the roses and turn it into a pincushion.

Oops, the close up photograph shows where my stitching went a bit wonky.

The friends mentioned above have collections of beautifully embroidered pincushions which nestle together in a bowl. I would also like to start a collection of pincushions and plan to stitch the white rose from the kit on to black Irish linen. This is going to be a challenge, but if I can pull it off I think it will make a good companion for the red rose pincushion.

Finishing line

While we were at away last week I finished stitching a small tapestry, designed by Jennifer Pudney.

The tapestry is called IF I COULD SING, I’D BE AN OPERA SINGER and measures 16 x 11 cm.

I found the kit for the tapestry amongst a stash of embroidery and tapestry threads that were given to me by a friend after her mother had passed away. I could not resist the delightful pattern and plan to frame it and give it to her as a momento of her mother.

Aren’t I lucky to have such generous friends.

11 thoughts on “On Cross Stitch

  1. You mentioned you had eye issues before when your eyes were ‘younger’…so what about now. How are you accommodating their current needs? I noticed a larger grid for the actual embroydery work, but are you using a magnifying glass of some sort during stitching?
    BTW: that opera singer is such a free spirit! Passing it back to it’s original owner in remembrance of her mother after completing it is such a touching gesture. And the idea of having a pin cushion collection is great.

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    1. Luckily my reading spectacles are all I need mostly. It’s only when I tackle very fine work that I need the magnifying glass that is built into the visor, which also has a convenient headlight! (It’s not the most elegant headgear.)
      Yes, isn’t the opera singer gorgeously bohemian.
      Thanks for your comments Laura ♥️

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  2. Mariss, I am so interested to hear that you also do cross stitch. I do it too although sometimes years lapse between one project and another. It is absolutely the only ‘sewing’ or ‘handcraft’ that I am any good at, at all. At school, I was Miss Perk’s worst nightmare in sewing classes but ironically it was another Clarendon connection that got me started on cross stitch. Do you remember Miss Dickie, the librarian at the Primary School? She gave me a sampler she’d made when Kevin and I got married and then also made samplers for each of my children. All three of these are framed and hanging in my home. Long after her retirement, when her eyesight had deteriorated, she gave me (without my asking) all her cross stitch patterns and books and something told me that this was something I could try. I have since made many samplers and am busy with two at the moment. For me, it is also a form of mindfulness.

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    1. Ah Jacqui. We were so lucky to have those teachers. I do remember Miss Dickie well. I associate her with books. She tried to persuade me to read authors other than Enid Blyton.
      Enjoy your stitching. 🧵xxxxx

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  3. Hi Mariss – I am catching up after our trip away! I love the sense of continuity with our foremothers that crafts like cross-stitching create. I like all these examples, and the hoepoe is amazing. By contrast, I find I struggle to keep up even with mending – I am old-fashioned and frugal enough to do mending – and doubt I will ever tackle such detailed and creative projects, though I understand the attraction.
    Perhaps subliminally or by some kind of osmosis from your blog on stitching of various kinds, I was inspired only 2 weeks before we went away to make a camera bag-cum-handbag. It has multiple pockets and two divisions and I drafted it out on paper carefully and the construction went quite well. I found a great YouTube tutorial on making a zippered inner pocket. I used off-cuts of a variety of shwe-shwe fabrics I had stored away, and inspired by one of your freely hand-stiched items I decorated it on an external pocket with fabric cut from an old Indian skirt.
    After using the bag while away, I find I made one construction error (never take shortcuts!) that I can correct quite easily and I like the bag – so thanks very much for the inspiration!

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    1. Dear Carol, I take it as a huge compliment that my musings on stitching inspired you to both make and decorate a camera bag. Creating is much more fun than mending (although I am also frugal enough to mend clothes and socks). UTube is a remarkable resource. It is so much easier to understand instructions in 3D.

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      1. Well thanks for the inspiration. I agree that mending is not much fun though it can be satisfying after the fact 🙂 I agree that video tutorials can be very helpful, and its great that one can pick approaches that suit one’s own learning style.

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