First Year Stitchiversary

It’s been 1 year since I’ve started cross-stitching! I’ve made 30+ pieces, 70k+ stitches and had an uncountable amount of fun. Check out all of the finished pieces below, in addition to timelapse videos and a spreadsheet full of statistics

A Year in Cross-Stitch

I really didn’t expect this to be such a fulfilling hobby for me. It, of course, helped that there was a global pandemic preventing me from doing any of my outside hobbies, but I didn’t expect how relaxing this hobby would be, even outside of that. Early on in the Goose pattern, when I was watching my friend play video games, I was shocked by how much progress I was able to make just from doing normal hanging out I was already doing. Since then, I’ve made boring meetings and slow movies go by so much faster as long as I have lines of fabric to raster along.

This is also my first visual art hobby where I’ve actually felt empowered to create what I want. For drawing or video editing, there’s always been a bit of a skill gap between what’s in my head and what comes out. Cross-stitching has been amazing for reducing that gap to the point where the second pattern I ever did was a self-drafted one. Granted, this was with a GIMP plugin, but it was still really surprising to me how quickly I could make the jump.

Somewhat relatedly, it’s been super surprising to see how much programmers seem to be into cross-stitching, subsequently building tools for these systems that are under-utilized by the community. Most people that I see on /r/CrossStitch and other stitching groups gravitate towards pricey design software or simplistic picture to pattern software, even though there’s actually many good, full-featured, and free alternatives like KXStitch or CS-Pattern’s tools. It’s really weird to recognize (1) that given my background as a female engineer, (2) that cross-stitching is a female-coded activity, and (3) that computer programming is a male-coded activity, I might be one of the few people who can take advantage of these resources. After all, I only found out about the GIMP tool when my housemate suggested I program my own solution, finding that someone else did a way better job than I did. I fully recognize that asking someone with limited technical skills to futz around with GIMP plugins or install Linux just to use KXStitch is a tall order, but it’s so weird to see this whole world of useful tools completely hidden from the people who would benefit from them the most. Perhaps this is just a larger parable of the free software movement and engineering in general — that without fully being able to meet people where they are, even the best contributions will be left behind.

Data Analysis

I didn’t expect to keep detailed statistics of my stitch rate, but it became too cool to just see the shapes gradually appear over time. I really appreciate it though because it’s really helped me give much better estimates of how long it takes me to complete pieces, making it easier to communicate for commissions.

  • My stitch speed on average seems to be around 80 – 100 stitches. The “Try Not to Murder Anyone” piece was one that I was intentionally trying to speedrun for a deadline, but I only managed to get my speed up to 110.
  • The smaller the piece, the slower my average stitching speed is. This is a bit counterintuitive for me since I usually do small patches to help break up the monotony of focusing on one large piece for a long time, knocking them out in 1.5 hrs or less. This is more evidence that color changes and counting is really what racks up the time.
  • I’m amazed at how similar my speeds were across all of the full coverage meme alphabet pieces. I chose to do a comparison across them since the canvas meant that all of them were the same size and stitch count, giving an accurate comparison. Since I couldn’t compare stitch rates by percentage of stitches completed, this comparison was done by time percentage. Even though J took nearly twice as long of passing time as, say, S, their slopes are extremely similar — suggesting I took the same amount of time and number of sessions for them. D is so much faster than the others because it also had the largest hours per session average of everything that I’ve cross-stitched, so fewer sessions were required. E had an average stitch speed, but was probably comparatively slower because of the amount of confetti.
  • I’m amazed that despite setting some pieces down for a long time, I still average 60 stitches a day, aka. nearly an hour of stitching a day. I really was addicted to this hobby ^_^”
  • The graphs for designs that I intend as gifts are particularly funny to look at because you can definitely see sharp spikes as I realize that the deadline is getting a bit close for comfort ^_^”””

Helpful Tips

  • USE WRIST BRACES. Only reason I don’t have RSI at this point
  • For any fabric count over 20, get a light / magnifying combo. It’s just not worth it.
  • For regular working hoops, aim for smaller rather than larger. Your hand will get tired supplying all that torque. Also, don’t get the ones with the screw in them because it’ll be a big pain if you have to move it. These quick release style ones are the way to go.
  • “skein” rhymes with “rain”. It’s not “sky-ne” or “skeen”
  • If you’re pulling thread from the DMC skein directly, pull from the side that has the number! The idea is that you want to pull from the inside of the loop to avoid tangles. While DMC is standardized this way, if you have off-brands, you’ll have to inspect which is the correct side. (For example, Janlynn is on the logo side.)
  • Hoops are an easy way to frame things for cheap. Just make sure that when you size your fabric, if you’re going to the corners, then the hoop needs to be as large as the diagonal. (ex. a 8″x8″ square needs a 12″ hoop)

Goals for 2021

  • I’d like to get better at embroidery and other techniques beyond cross-stitch. Embroidery is really neat to me because of the cool textures you get out of it, but I’m having difficulty understanding where I could use this best. This seems to work best for organic things like flowers and fur, but every time I see someone doing a hella satin stitch over a huge area, I just think “why didn’t you just cross stitch?”. I’ve got a couple of commissions lined up that have so much detail that the only feasible way to approach them is embroidery, so hopefully I’ll get some more stitches under my belt.
  • I’m curious whether my speed will change at all when the lockdowns lift. I suspect that the average stitching speed will remain constant but the real time passing will get longer
  • I’d like to try my hand at some two-sided designs, whether through slip-stitches or reversible from the outset.
  • I am probably doomed at this point to get / make myself a hoop lap stand. The designs on the market confuse me though because of the sheer amount of articulation they have and also how large the hoops are. Both those and the scroll stands seem really geared towards people who are stitching large things. I love my 5″ hoop and don’t understand how people work with the large ones.
  • Consider THE CONE

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