The Point of Counted Cross Stitch

At first glance, counted cross stitch seems like kind of a silly pursuit. Explaining it to someone usually starts off enthusiastically, and then trails off towards the end once the incredulous stares of the listener have broken through my outer crafting haze.

“So, I’m going to look at hundreds of tiny little boxes with different symbols in them on a big piece of graph paper, find the color thread that corresponds with that symbol, and then create an exact replica of the graph paper, box for box, on a piece of cloth with tiny stitched ‘x’s!” Right…

There are times when I am working on a cross stitch piece that I am baffled. ‘Why exactly am I doing this?’ I ask myself, ‘and why is it so freaking fun?’ It doesn’t look, sound, or in any way remotely seem like it would be an enjoyable pursuit. This craft can cause pain in the wrists and hands and inflammation in tendons from repetitive movement. It strains the eyes and can cause back and neck pain from bending over the cloth. This is a craft of patience; larger pieces require hundreds of hours to complete and often go unfinished for years. It is not a craft for the faint of heart.

And yet… I have gone for weeks at a time happily cross stitching for 8-10 hours per day, every day. I have used up whole vacations on cross stitching, and I sometimes find myself staying up until 3:00 in the morning with a looming 7:30 wake-up call, zoned into my work completely. Its simplicity is addictive, its rhythm mesmerizing.

Unlike knitting, where the end of a row can easily be used as a good stopping point, calling for a break in cross stitch is much more arbitrary. It is easy to get into a mindset of “just one more stitch, just one more” or “I’ll go to bed after I finish this section, this flower, this color….” Before you know it, five hours have gone by – and your piece looks practically the same as it did that morning.

Finishing a big cross stitch project is like running a marathon: you feel completely relieved, proud of yourself, and like you probably won’t do something like that again for a long while. But, as with those addicted to the rush of a good run, we cross stitchers inevitably get the itch in our fingers, start taking down the pattern books and idly flipping through pages. We are driven by the promise of a good cross stitch pattern – a rewarding finish, and a fantastic journey.

Below are some pictures of my current cross stitch project – a medieval sampler by my favorite fantasy cross stitch designer, Teresa Wentzler, in her book, The Best of Teresa Wentzler: Fantasy Collection. It’s got everything I like in a pattern – a story, a lot of detail, and an eye-catching finished piece.

A portion of the pattern
What the finished product will look like
My progress so far
Detail

 

Fun Fact: The only cross stitch piece I’ve done that I still have (read ‘have not given away’) is a tiny image of Henry Vlll that I picked up at the Tower of London last spring; it hangs on the wall of my apartment. The one of Queen Anne, still in its wrapper, sits un-stitched on my bookshelf after my boyfriend’s mom pointed out that it would probably be some sort of bad karma to have those two hanging up side by side in our place of residence.

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Filed under Cross Stitch, projects, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects

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