So, it's been a while (again!) but I have been pretty busy. I have spent just about every waking moment I've had free for the last six weeks on my first crafty love, cross stitching. More specifically, Jane Greenoff's Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Chart Cross Stitch Kit. A set of four charts designed specifically to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee:
It has been a long time since I have attempted any cross stitch, let alone anything so intricate and complex. The last major project I did would be almost a decade ago, before I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands and subsequently lost a lot of my fine grip. Those chart though, I fell in love! Even better, I knew my grandma would fall in love with them too, so the finished items would make a great gift for her.
Initially, I'd aimed to have two charts - the coach and crown - completed for her birthday in August, but soon realised that was a pipe dream! There was too much detail in the coach to stitch at any speed even if I'd been physically able to do it. Saying that, I was surprised how well I coped with the project; lots of sitting still and intricate work should not be good for me. I did get the coach finished in time (just) and I'm really pleased with the outcome
I had adapted my technique considerably from the way I used to stitch, and it seems to have really helped me, so I thought I'd share some tips.
- Do not use an embroidery hoop! This is the worst thing I can use while I'm stitching for two reasons: firstly, they are a pain in the bum to take on and off and tighten by hand, and secondly, they encourage me to hold my work with one hand and my needle with the other so all the fine grip is taken by the same hand.
- Instead, I use what's best described as a makeshift tapestry frame. Take 2 strips of cardboard (cereal box weight is ideal) and use clothes pegs to attach them to the sides of your work. This works especially well if you have extra fabric at the top of your work - roll it up and attach the top ends of the cardboard to the roll. The whole construction sits nicely on a lap tray Using this, I can have one hand underneath my work and one hand above, sharing the strain evenly
- Use shorter lengths of thread. I don't have to struggle with separating strands, or keep pulling loads of thread through the work, which would strain my wrists and elbows, and I don't end up with tangles and knots that I have to cut out, wasting thread, so that's a fab tip even if you don't have dexterity issues.
- That last tip does mean you end up starting new threads a lot, so instead of knotting my thread when I start or anchoring it behind the next few stitches, I take one strand of thread out of the floss, half it, then thread my needle, so there's a loop at the end of the length of thread. Make the first stitch carefully, making sure the needle goes through the loop at the back of the thread. This uses a lot less thread than anchoring or knotting, and personally I think it looks neater. To finish threads I do still anchor behind my previous stitches, mainly to make sure I don't end up trying to manipulate a short piece of thread.
I think that's pretty much it, all my tips for wrist friendly stitching. Actually no, there's one more. Don't do what I did and start with quite a big project. Start with a small kit, get used to the methods and then progress!
I really hope something here helps someone back into an abandoned craft, or just inspires people to give it a go - Happy Stitching!