Sampling cross stitch

Or, as I prefer to describe it, trial by cross stitch. Ellen Mahon has several cross-stitched samples in her sampler book (you can see the whole thing here) – whether that is because she particularly enjoyed cross stitch, or whether she was made to do a lot of it, we will probably never know. Having done it myself, I suspect the latter rather than the former.

cross-stitched samples by Ellen Mahon, 1852-54

I drafted a chart on A3 graph paper, which in itself took longer than you might think. I used an alphabet from The Workwoman’s Guide (1843) and a floral band motif that I adapted from a design in the Antique Pattern Library – set aside plenty of time if you follow this link, you can easily lose a few hours looking at all the vintage and antique needlework patterns.

Cross stitch sample for 19th-century-style sampler book

I stitched it on 22-count hardanger fabric with one strand of embroidery floss. It measures about 5″ x 6″. Lots of people out there enjoy counted cross stitch. Regrettably, I am not one of them. I don’t generally like following charts and patterns, I prefer to set out with a vague idea and let the thing evolve in its own way. I made a fairly significant mistake and didn’t spot it until quite late on in the proceedings, by which time I had neither the patience nor the inclination to unpick a whole section and re-stitch. This is not a good attitude, but there we are. I decided life is too short, and getting shorter by the day.

cross-stitched sample based on 19th-century designs

More optimistically, I have quite a collection of samples now and will soon be able to think about how I’m going to combine them in book form.

Author: Karen

Textile and mixed media artist

4 thoughts on “Sampling cross stitch”

  1. for the life of me, I cannot find the “significant mistake” and would respectfully ask that you not point it out lest if become all that I can see … and that’s the thing, right? When one is so close to a work, it can become overly familiar. I daresay, years from now you will do one of two things: either continue to see the mistake to the exclusion of the overall piece of work (which is delightful, by the way) or have trouble finding it. Perhaps we can/should take a cue from painters, who step back from their work or even look at it reflected in a mirror to take the mind off the close-up view … then we might better realize that mostly the work will be viewed from afar and/or too briefly to make small details irrelevant

    all that from someone who has undoubtedly stitched twice as much as ever got to see the continued light of day … like words deleted from an online missive (or worse, a book manuscript that that vaporizes when the hard drive crashes), those thousands upon thousands of unpicked stitches are absolutely and irrevocably gone

    1. Gosh, that’s deep… stitches undone, words unsaid… but don’t worry, my secret is safe with me 🙂 I’m not going to point out the mistake, and it doesn’t really bother me, actually. This sampler book is only for my own amusement in the end, just seeing out of curiosity how the samples were made and to experience the process. I’ve reached the point where I will be glad when it’s done, so there isn’t much further to go on this. But coming back to the cross stitch mistake thing, this is one of the things that annoys me about cross stitch (makes me cross, ha, see what I did there): in intuitive sewing, there are no mistakes. There may be irregularities, but they’re not wrong. Working from a chart, where every stitch sits in relation to a neighbour, if you put one stitch out of place, the others no longer fit as they should. I found the experience quite frustrating.

  2. I, too, failed to find the mistake, and I am absolutely with you about cross stitch. Although I was greatly relaxed, on the last piece I did, to remind myself that since I designed the chart, no-one else would know if I did get it slightly wrong!

    1. Excellent. The mistake is really obvious to me, of course, but it doesn’t really matter. As you say, if you make the chart you can get away with a few liberties 🙂

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