Starting any new hobby can be overwhelming.
Doing a new thing is scary because, well, you’re not good at it yet. Not being good at something means you might “fail” at it.
And feeling like you’ve failed at something just plain sucks.
this is exactly why I can’t stand all the ‘cross stitch rules’
You wouldn’t tell someone learning to swim to beat an Olympic record their first time in the pool.
That’s crazypants, right!?
Someone just starting out learns the basics. They establish a basic foundation of knowledge and builds on it every time they practice their new skill.
Cross stitch should be no different.
If you hold yourself to an impossible standard, you’re just setting yourself up to fail – or feel like a failure.
New stitchers shouldn’t pay attention to any of these intimidating cross stitch rules.
Nobody should! If these “rules” don’t suit your cross stitch style, don’t give them a second thought!
break this rule #1: the back should look like the front
I’m reminding myself to breathe as I type this because this rule straight up pisses me off.
This isn’t even a rule to break – it’s a flat out myth that needs busting!
If you’re cross stitching correctly, your back WILL NOT look like your front.
Not possible – it’s not how it works.
The stitches on the back won’t form x’s, they’ll likely be vertical or horizontal lines.
I don’t even know why this is something I still hear and read. It’s complete crap.
Again, your back will not look like the front.
You’re not doing anything wrong.
break this rule #2: the back should be pretty
Yup, I’m still reminding myself to breathe. In, out. In, out.
Seriously, wtf is up with the obsession with the backs of cross stitch projects?!
It’s the flipping back, people! This is ridiculous!!
Start thinking about the back as the “wrong” side of your cross stitching.
It’s not the part that matters.
Most beginners are going to see a mess on the wrong side of their stitching.
That’s totally normal. You’re new.
Also, there is no standard for what’s considered a “messy” back and what’s “pretty.”
Trying to aim for a goal that isn’t even defined is just silly. Don’t bother!
If anybody ever goes out of their way to both look at the back of your project and then criticize it, they’re truly a garbage person and you need to remove them from your life, like yesterday. I’m serious.
Now, some people will say that the backs should be pretty because that means they’re neat.
There’s a grain of truth to this. Having a neater back means you’re less likely to develop tangles or knots, but I still believe that it’s not something beginners need to worry about.
And it brings me to the next cross stitch rule:
break this rule #3: don’t carry your floss
This rule is actually one that’s got good intentions, but it’s just noise to a beginner.
The problem with this cross stitch rule is that, again, there’s no real guidelines.
Some people will say it’s okay to carry floss as long as it’s less than half an inch. Some are totally cool with 1 inch. Some don’t care if it’s 10 inches.
The reason this is a “rule” in the first place is that having those carried threads on the back can make it easier to get tangles or knots.
It’s something to be aware of, but it’s a balancing act. If you enjoy the actual cross stitching, but can’t stand the whole stopping and starting between colors or areas, then you probably should carry your floss.
Always pick enjoyment over the rules. Always.
Another reason, and a far less valid one, is that you can see the carried floss from the front.
I find this is rarely the case with 14 or 18 count Aida. But, if you’re using a high count linen, you might notice something.
Personally, I’ll still carry floss – maybe an inch or two – on 28 count evenweave!
It just doesn’t bother me! I’d much rather be stitching than hassling with starting a new thread.
break this rule #4: don’t bury dark under light
Pfft. I bury the tails from my dark colors under my light colors all. the. time.
Again, it’s on the back, people!
You can’t tell from the front, I promise.
There’s both a layer of fabric AND a layer of cross stitching on top it to hide it.
Even if you had white Aida, and white cross stitches on the front, and you buried black floss underneath them on the back, you wouldn’t see it!
This rule is just silly. Ignore it.
break this rule #5: fix your mistakes
About 10 years ago, I took a beginning quilting class. I had this amazing teacher who’d been quilting for over 40 years. Something she said will probably stay with me forever.
“Every quilt I make has at least one mistake. If I don’t make one accidentally, I’ll add one intentionally to give it character.”
She wasn’t just saying this to make a room full of first-timers comfortable. She had example quilts, and she pointed out the “mistakes” she made on each one. Some were definitely mistakes, others I never would’ve seen had she not showed us.
But the message was so important.
These quilts were something handmade by a real human, not a machine. She didn’t think her flaws were a fault, they were stories.
Humans aren’t perfect. We make mistakes, so let’s embrace them!
I’m not telling you to go out of your way to add a mistake to everything you stitch. (I don’t).
I do believe that this advice is especially worth translating to cross stitch, though!
Cross stitch is almost too fixable.
We can simply rip out and carefully snip the threads that are giving us grief, and aside from maybe a few stretched out holes in the Aida, nobody would ever know.
If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself unable to accept anything that doesn’t look “just right.”
Let’s say you end up with a huge, knotted tangle of floss – and it’s on the front of your project – yeah, you’ll probably want to fix that.
But if you misread your pattern and switched up two similar colors. Or you stitched the tops of your x’s going in the “wrong” direction. Maybe your floss got a teeny knot on the front… none of these are a big deal.
Going forward, stop and think before fixing your mistakes.
Maybe instead of undoing it, you could celebrate it instead.
If you want to learn cross stitch the simple, easy and no-stress way, grab a copy of my Cross Stitch Roadmap. It’s great for beginners, and has more great advice to help you learn a new hobby and have fun doing it!
what do you think?
Which cross stitch rules will you start breaking?
Did I forget a rule that you like to break?
Are there any you disagree with me on?
Reply and let me know in the comments!