Eight years ago when I was pregnant with my eldest son I embarked on my first ever embroidery design. Well my first since I cross stitched a forever friends bear when I was going through an angsty teenage break up and needed something to take my mind off things.
It truly was a labour of love, I started a beautiful birth sampler, Noah’s Ark, cross stitch after my 12 week scan and finished days before he was born.
Hours and hours I sat, holding my embroidery hoop, painstakingly pushing the needle back and forth. Washing the aida cloth in a mix of lemon juice and fairy liquid before pressing the cloth after my sticky chocolate digestive hands left smudges across the white space.
Ever since then it has taken pride of place in his room.
Along comes son number two, and with him all good intentions. Yet today as I was looking for the remote that son number three had hidden somewhere I found the birth sampler for my middle child.
Still not finished.
. Heck he turned FIVE just two months ago. And his beautiful sampler?
And the poor baby hasn’t even got an UNOPENED embroidery designs for me to leave languishing in the cupboard until he reaches five.
But anyway, back to ,my half finished design. This lockdown I am determined that I will finally finish the farmyard pattern before buying a third sampler for my third son.
Who knows. Maybe I’ll get them all finished to hang up pride of place when they’ve all flown the nest!
My top tips for beginner cross stitchers
With that said, I wanted to share my top tips for those of you, like me, are setting out on your embroidery journey. Hopefully you won’t take five years to finish your second piece…
Invest in an embroidery hoop
First up, you need to invest in an embroidery hoop. It’s next to impossible to cross stitch without one. I once improvised using a broken picture frame and duct tape but it definitely didn’t do the trick.
An embroidery hoop will stretch your aida fabric taut so each stitch is even and the finish design won’t be puckered. There are a variety of hoops to choose from, size matters after all, and although wooden hoops are the most traditional there are hoops made of other materials. Struggling to get your head around hoops? Try this embroidery hoop guide, but the general feeling is one that feels comfortable in your hands. If you’re not comfortable you’re not going to be sat there stitching away!
Choose a design that you love
Either pick an embroidery design that you absolutely adore, or has a special meaning to you such as a birth sampler, because chances are as a beginner you’re going to be spending a LOT of time looking at that pattern.
A great place to start is by browsing Design Bundles. With nearly 5000 different designs available with both cross stitch, hand stitch and machine embroidery there really is something for everyone. From quotes, to monograms, to alphabets to design your own, there is something to inspire everyone to pick up a needle. And the more you love it the more you’ll love watching it bloom on your aida fabric.
Use a highlighter rather than a biro
On your embroidery pattern rather than crossing out with a biro when you’ve completed the row of stitches use a highlighter. That way, if by any chance, you’ve used the wrong colour (happened to me more than once) when it comes to unpicking the stitches and starting again you are still able to follow the pattern!
Wash and gently iron your finished design
Even with the best of intentions I often found that my aida fabric was a bit grubby, along with the threads.
Once my design was finished I set about washing and ironing out those stubborn hoop marks.
Following cleaning methods found online I let the aida fabric with my completed embroidery design sit in a bath of soapy water (using just a tiny bit of fairy liquid) before gently rinsing, leaving to dry flat, then ironing on a cool setting between two towels.
I was particularly precious over this, after all it had taken me six months to complete!
So what’s next?
Well I think I better dust off my hoop, pick up the needle and set about finishing the second birth sampler… before picking up a third! Maybe in the next ten years hey?