I have been cross stitching on-and-off for over 25 years. I was introduced to the craft at university by a friend who was also new to stitching. At first I thought it was an old-fashioned old-ladies' craft but once inside a cross-stitch store realised how wrong I was and how many lovely pictures could be produced. So, instead of partying or frequenting the many local pubs I would spend my money and spare time relaxing and stitching. It was definitely good for the brain!
After university my stitching continued as a hobby until work, study commitments and then family took over my life. I tried to do a little here and there, but commuting, studying for professional exams and then starting a family meant time was limited. When my children were young I joined a cross stitch club. But having to rely on others for lifts each week (I do not drive) was a burden and I left after a year or so.
My next hobby was scrapbooking. This was a new venture, very enjoyable and perhaps (dare I say it?) even more satisfactory. I belonged to a scrapbooking club for a few years and progress was good. But then family circumstances took a turn for the worse and the opportunities to scrapbook, or do any hobby, were practically non-existent. I did return to scrapbooking once things had settled down again, but it was never the same. I still have all my stash and hundreds of photographs and ideas for page layouts so the opportunity is still there for me to return to it someday.
My renewed enthusiasm for cross stitching was ironic. In order for me to look after my mother full-time, we moved to a bigger house which would accommodate her needs. This, of course, meant packing away all the cross stitch stash both her and I had accumulated over the years. Between us we had four full boxes of kits. These were sold on eBay but having said goodbye to them I suddenly felt the urge to pick up a needle again. Of course, so much had changed in the intervening years and I now found myself with many new sources of downloadable charts and the ability to see other peoples' work via blogs. Isn't the internet wonderful!
Nowadays life has settled down, the children are more independent and I am able to stitch regularly and for longer periods. The internet has provided so much inspiration through charts and bloggers. And now I'm one of them!
TYPES OF PROJECTS
My early days of stitching consisted of what I would now consider to be small charts by manufacturers such as DMC and Framecraft, along with slightly larger projects by Lanarte and Lavender and Lace. I would faithfully stitch one project at a time and not look for another until the current project was near completion. Then, like most cross stitchers, my stash grew as I saw kits and charts which I would "do one day" or was tempted by sales. Most of these have now been sold and the proceeds used to fund new stash for my current and future projects.
I used to set myself targets for the year for each project, trying to include at least one finish, based on an average stitching time of 10 hours per week (about 1300-1500 stitches depending on number of thread changes needed and/or amount of confetti stitching). This system worked fairly well in 2013 but not in 2014. Since 2015 I have tended to have plans for the year rather than specific targets. Further information about my plans are on the "My Plans" page.
As my blog name suggests, I stitch in ten hour rotations, taking a photograph after that time. I then decide whether to continue on the same project for a further ten hours or rotate to a different WIP. This is usually dependent on which colours I am bored with or fancy stitching.
Each WIP has its own box of threads, wound onto bobbins, so I know that I have everything I need for that project. Yes, this does involve duplicating threads, but in my mind is better than working from a big box of colours or constantly transferring threads from one project to another.
UPDATE 2015 - since joining Debbie's Super Duper Ultimate Crazy January February Challenge 2015 my working pattern has changed - larger projects are still worked in ten hour slots, but the smaller Challenge pieces are worked on an ad-hoc basis until I reach a certain point or simply until I wish to move on. I'm now more of an Ad-Hoc than a Ten Hour Stitcher!
I tend to start stitching in the top right of a project as I work best from right to left. I do not stitch in columns, or rows, or pages, or park threads, but travel randomly as the colours take me. I like to stitch the bigger blocks of colours first so that when stitching confetti I have plenty of stitches under which to carry the thread.
I cross off my completed stitches on the chart as I go, having sometimes highlighted them first where confetti stitching is the heaviest. I know this takes time, but I'm sure it saves time in the end as the place of the next stitch is clearly visible and there is less likelihood of stitches getting missed.
When working on a bigger project I mark out the 10x10 grids using a washable fabric pencil. I have found this invaluable for finding the correct place.
FABRICS AND THREADS
Most of my projects are stitched on 16ct Aida 2 over 1. This is what I am most comfortable with so works well for me. I like to use hand-dyed fabrics whenever practical or possible. Some of my current projects use these as a substitute for background stitching, saving both stitching time and money in the cost of threads. I believe these also give the project an edge, guaranteeing that they are indeed unique. I have recently started using Murano evenweave, especially where lots of fractional stitches are required i.e. some Heritage Crafts and most Margaret Sherry designs. I get on well with it and would consider using it for bigger projects. But I hate linen - I have tried it once and after a couple of hours knew that it wasn't for me.
I always use DMC threads. If a project suggests any other type I always convert. I have the full set of colours, thanks to a birthday present from my mum, but still end up buying loads more!
I work on various sizes of Millennium Frames using the Millennium Floor Stand. I have the small and medium side bars and various sizes of scroll bars ranging from 12" to 30" to fit the size of each project. Each WIP has had the Aida hemmed at the top and bottom for the bar inserts to slide through, ensuring constant tension and meaning that I never have to adjust wonky fabric. After use, the WIP gets removed from the frame, rolled gently and stored in a postal tube until its next outing.
For smaller projects I use the Little Wizard. Q-snaps and hoops are a definite no-no.
I also have the absolutely essential daylight floor-standing lamp - an expensive necessity which has made such a difference to the visibility of the project. It really is worth investing in.
My renewed gusto for cross-stitching was increased by the discovery of internet sites such as Heaven and Earth Designs, Tilton Crafts, Mystic Stitch and Shinysun's Cross Stitching, all of which have provided or will provide me with many charts for many years to come. Finding those sites was probably a BIG MISTAKE!!!
I buy downloadable charts when possible so that I can reprint without infringing copyright laws. I have many projects lined up for when I eventually have a finish and many more on my wishlist. As my tastes change a chart may find itself promoted or demoted on my to-do list but doesn't that happen to everyone?
I talk far to much so thanks for sticking with me and taking the time to read this page!