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How do you teach someone to Cross Stitch? Part 3 – Tools of the trade

Hi Everyone

Following last week’s post on learning styles and learning disabilities, this week we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the different tools of the trade that may assist people with different abilities.

While you’re getting to know your student and you’re both trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, it’s really important to check with your student regarding any health ailments they may have or restrictions they have on their movement or if they are left handed or right handed. This is regardless of whether your student has any obvious or hidden disabilities, because you don’t want to aggravate any existing injuries or ailments such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, arthritis or any skeletal or muscular injuries or defects. Alternatively, you or your student may have experienced or suffered from a medical trauma such as a stroke, diabetes or epilepsy. This conversation may be awkward or uncomfortable to have with your student, but it’s an important one to have because it will help you and your student set achievable goals during the sessions you have, such as the length of time spent stitching. It will also help both of you to figure out what tools of the trade will help .

Tools of the trade

Scissors, needles, fabric, threads, really good light and a pattern are the basics of what we all need. Personal preferences and our comfort and abilities kick in when we start looking at:

  • Hoops
  • Q-snaps
  • Stands
  • No hoops or Q-snaps
  • Fabric colour and count size
  • Needle size
  • Needle Minders
  • Brand of thread (e.g. DMC, Anchor, silks)
  • Where our lighting comes from (e.g. natural sunlight, LED over-the-top lighting, regular light bulbs)
  • Needle threaders
  • Type of scissors
  • Magnifiers or glasses with lights attached to them
  • Unpickers
  • Thimbles

Janet M Perry for example, wrote a post titled ‘Stitching Aids for Stitchers with Strokes‘ on 16 April 2016. Janet writes from experience because in her post, she states that she has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and for 5 years she had been misdiagnosed as having had a stroke, until she had her second attack. She also acknowledges that in one of her classes, she had been asked about some of the aids available for people who have had a stroke which formed the basis of her post.

Automatic Needle Threaders

One of the things Janet talked about in her post, was an automatic needle threader that is made by a company called Clover. I never realised or thought of such a tool existing! But it makes sense and I’m really happy that this tool is out on the market because there’s a pretty strong chance that I might need it one day or someone I teach may need it.

Automatic Needle Threader made by the company Clover – image and description found on the Amazon website as of 2 December 2019


When we’re talking about craft related scissors we have a really nice variety to choose from to cater for people who may left handed or right handed and various strength levels and mobility in either hand. Many of the smaller craft scissors on the market now (we can use for cutting our threads) have been designed for left or right handed people.

One of the things that Janet suggests in her post, is the use of shears for people who may have difficulties with using regular scissors.

Hoops, Q-Snaps and Stands

As crafters, I feel like we can be spoilt for choice. We can choose to use hoops, q-snaps, stands or nothing at all to help keep the tension in our fabric. Additionally, if we choose to use a stand or frame, it can take the weight off our hands while stitching.

Images of various hoops and stands from a Google Image search – as of 8 December 2019

Depending on the ability of your student and their preferences, a frame or hoop may make it easier for them to learn how to cross stitch and potentially for longer periods of time.

Personally, I use the Stitch Smart Stand that you can see in the top left corner of the above image. My stand doesn’t have the magnifier or pattern holder attached to it, but I have the option to add them if I want and can use a variety of sized hoops with it. To access the back of the project to finish off a thread or commence stitching with a new thread, all I need to do is turn the hoop to the left or right and I can see what’s happening. Using this stand takes the weight off my left hand (that I use to hold the project) and I can just use my right hand for the needle and thread. I still use my left hand to lightly hold the project and give the project the extra bit of support.

Additionally, regardless of whether I’m using the stand or not, I definitely use a hoop for all of my projects. I find that the tension for the project is a lot better than when I’m stitching without one. I have stitched one project without a hoop and I felt naked without it!

Magnifiers, lights or glasses

When you can clearly see what you’re doing, it can make the task you’re doing so much easier and hopefully a lot more enjoyable! When it comes to embroidery glasses and magnifiers, there are a number of options on the market which include:

  • the 5 Lens Loupe LED Light Headband Magnifier Glass LED Magnifying Glasses that can be worn like regular glasses and they have a light embedded in the bridge of the glasses and enables you to light up your work. The 5 lenses means that you’re able to adjust the strength of the lenses to suit your eye sight.
  • Giant Large Hands Free Magnifying Glass with light LED which is a rectangle magnifier on a stand that you can use if you’re sitting at a table or on the couch and your work can go under the magnifier. Alternatively, (based upon the images on the internet) the magnifier can hang from your neck.
  • If you choose to use a stand to hold your work, some models enable you to have magnifiers and lights attached to them.
  • Magnifiers that lay over the top of the paper pattern (if you choose to have a paper version or copy) to help you clearly see the symbols and see where you’re up to.

Gloves or wrist supports

Cross stitching for extended periods of time (e.g. hours at a time) and over the course of many years, many of us may become susceptible to ailments such as RSI (repetitive strain /stress injury) and arthritis. Internet searches have shown that there are numerous types of compression finger-less gloves available to provide support to provide support to hands and wrists.

Project Bags

Your student is going to need to put their project somewhere when there not working on it, and be able to easily pick it up and go if you’re meeting somewhere to do a stitch ‘n’ bitch session! The bag can be anything that makes it easy for them to store their stash, ranging from a backpack with many pockets through to a calico bag that may have been used to purchase their new crafty items.

However, if they want something really special, an internet search on project bags for cross stitch will bring up an enormous amount of options such as:

A very tiny sample of cross stitch project bags available on Etsy by various talented people – image taken on 8 December 2019

Alternatively, you and your student may want to try your hand at making a project bag yourself and thankfully, there are many videos on YouTube that can help you with that!

Make your won project bag by Making Life Count – Posted on 2 January 2017

Storage Options

Thankfully there are a lot of different options when it comes to the way we can store our collections – especially depending on whether the projects are actively being worked on or not. The way in which your student chooses to store and manage their floss (aka, cotton, silks or skeins) can make it easier or harder for them to know which colours they need for different parts of the pattern. Additionally, depending on their preference, it may make it easier for them to ensure their strands don’t get tangled. For example, will it be easier for them to be put onto bobbins, remain as they are, be stored in boxes and tins or hanging from hoops?

How to organise embroidery floss and wind on floss to bobbins – YouTube clip by Peacock and Fig – uploaded on 25 October 2015

Technology or paper

Similar to the lighting and magnifying of patterns and projects, your student may have a preference for seeing the pattern on an IT device or on paper and how they mark off the areas they’ve stitched will be impacted by the IT device or paper.

There are a number of apps available to enable people to view and use patterns on their IT devices. I’ve not used any of them before, so the information listed below is based upon searches from the internet:

  • GoodReader – available on Apple only
  • ezPDF reader – available for Android and Apple
How to use the GoodReader app for cross stitch (on ipad) – by Carolyn Mazzeo – uploaded to YouTube on 3 January 2015
EzPDF Cross Stitch how to highlight and remove highlight by Leeleered – uploaded to Youtube on 16 September 2018
My Favourite Cross Stitch and Diamond Painting Apps and why they’re useful by Crafty Lisa – uploaded to Youtube on 21 September 2018

Alternatively, your student may prefer the feel of pencil and paper, photocopying and enlarging the pattern can make life a lot easier if the symbols are quite small or there are a lot of them on the one page.

It’s important to note that there will be limitations around the number of copies you can make – especially for paper based patterns. Additionally, not all patterns are available digitally. Which means that some extra steps will need to be taken to digitise the patterns to enable them to work with whichever app you or your student chooses to use (if using an IT device).

Parting note…

If you’re teaching someone who has never done any form of sewing or embroidery, it may be worth taking a trip to your local craft store so that your student can get a feel for what is right for them.

Meanwhile, next time in Part 4 of this series, we’ll take a look at pattern choices, starting a cross stitch project and the different ways to do cross stitch.

Until next time, happy stitching!

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Do your cross stitch patterns and projects have a shelf life?

Hi Everyone

Have you ever considered if your crafty collection has a shelf life? For example, the patterns or kits we purchase to stitch and create, state that we can make one copy of the pattern to use as our working copy. When I’ve done this, I’ve held onto the original copy I purchased and put the working copy into the shredder or recycle bin. That way I’ve got a reminder that I’ve done this project – especially if I forget to take a picture of the finished project and have given it away to friends or family. Alternatively, is it your changing tastes or preferences in what you want to stitch that end up dictating the shelf life of your patterns and projects?


Professionally, a part of my role is to appraise information (with the use of resources that has been created by internal and external stakeholders) that has been created by the organisation I work for, to determine how long that information needs to be kept for. The aim of the appraisal is to ensure we are keeping the information that is necessary for the organisation to aid current and future decision making. The retention of the information can also aid the telling of the social history of the organisation and its impacts on the world around it. The outcome of the appraisal can mean the information is ready for destruction now, in months to come or years to come or it needs to be kept forever


I’ve never done a formal stock take or inventory of my personal collection of patterns and kits. The closest I’ve gotten to conducting a stock take or appraisal of my collection, has been when I’m looking for something new to work on or when I’m purchasing something. What I have found however, is that my tastes or interests in what I’m stitching has changed from when I first started stitching to now. For example, the first kits and books I’ve purchased were teddy bears and faeries. Partly because I like both of these themes and I had special people in mind when I bought the kits and books, thinking that I would be able to stitch cards and similar gifts for them. I’ve certainly done that and as the years have gone on, I have found my own interests kicking in and I’ve purchased patterns and kits that I want to stitch for myself. These themes include horses, Christmas, myth and magic, and more recently, quotes I’ve seen on the internet and converting photos I’ve taken to cross stitch patterns.

Are there any consequences?

Professionally, if organisations don’t conduct regular appraisals of the information they hold, then there can be significant issues which include, storage (digital and physical) costs, increased scrutiny from internal and external sources, deterioration of information and loss of control of knowing what is in the collection to name a few.

Personally, the consequences aren’t as significant – i.e. internal or external scrutiny. However, the money you have invested in your collection and to some extent, your health can be affected. You do need to be aware of how your storing your collection and where its stored to ensure you can continue to access it without any issues. And that your collections lasts for as long as possible. For example, have any of your patterns or kits been affected by sunlight, heat, dampness, mites or rodents? If you’re not sure, have you noticed your patterns or books being brittle, discoloured or the texture of them being warped? Alternatively, have any parts of your collection (including works in progress) started growing mold, or do they have little bite marks in any areas?

How do you go about appraising your collection?

There are many different ways you can go about appraising your collection and the aim here is to suggest a few different ways that I’ve found on the Internet and what works for me.

Consider it as a spring clean…

Like you might do it for your wardrobe or on a grander scale, your home, pulling out your entire collection and laying it all out in front of you. You may get a lot of grumbles from your family and friends. If you have pets, they may want to try and ‘help’! Group your collection by patterns, books, threads, fabric, hoops, lights, scissors etc. and putting it into sub-groups such as fabric colours and counts, themes/subjects of your patterns and books and any multiples of your threads. This can give you a visual of what you have in your collection. You will be able to see if you have any gaps in your collection and you will be able to refresh your memory regarding any parts of your collection you haven’t seen or used for many years. From there you will be able to gauge how much of it you really need or want and start moving those parts of your collection to the side.

Another consideration is whether any parts of your collection have started deteriorating because of the way they have been stored, and disposing of those parts of the collection as a result of their deterioration.

KonMarie your collection

Earlier this year there was a lot of hype about the Marie Kondo way of organising areas of your home. This may be a way of helping you to determine if there are any areas of your collection you need to dispose of (if none of it has been affected by the way it’s been stored).

10 Amazing Tips from Tidying Up with Marie Kondo – posted on YouTube on 16 January 2019 by Ms Mojo

Disposing of your collection

Are there any crafty people in your life who could benefit from your collection? What about charity stores, schools, or community groups? You could also begin considering if there are any other crafty people you know who could benefit from your collection that you no longer need or want.

Keeping tabs of what you’ve got

If you’re unable to part with any area of your collection and you’ve found things you’ve completely forgotten about, it may be worth improving the way you store your collection and how you keep tabs on it. Thankfully there is no shortage on how you can organise your collection and the tools you can use to keep yourself organised.

Organizing your crafting supplies and creating a stamp inventory using Evernote by ScrappyDiva – posted on YouTube on 27 August 2018

I use a combination of open bookshelves, boxes, bags, my laptop and a four drawer filing cabinet to store my collection. If I’m running low on any area of my collection – especially threads and fabric, I write them down on my hand or a post-it note so that I can pop down to the shops or order what I need on line. Occasionally I’ll have the pattern I want to work on with me to ensure I don’t miss anything and a pen or pencil to tick off what I’ve gathered.

Storage considerations

As I’ve hinted at earlier in this post, if any areas of your collection have been affected by the places you have stored your collection, before you put away your collection, consider if there are any other areas of your home you could store your collection. For example, are there other cupboards, rooms, boxes or shelving you could use to ensure the longevity of your collection? For your patterns, is it possible for you to scan them and save them to your preferred IT device?

Final note…

I hope that there are elements of this post that helps you with your collection or at least, provides you with some things to think about if you want to update the management of your collection!

Happy Stitching!

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