To Cross-stitch or Not to Cross-stitch?
November 27, 2020 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I love knitting and I'm considering picking up a new crafty hobby. I think I might like to try cross-stitch but I have a couple small questions/concerns.

As I said, I knit but I don't sew. As such, I'm used to doing something that doesn't require me to stare closely at my hands as a lot of knitting can be done by touch. My eyesight is poor so I want to know how much of a strain cross-stitch causes on one's eyes. How intensely are you staring as you go? I'm near-sighted with lots of astigmatism. Is this a bad idea for me? Will I just give myself tons of eyestrain and headaches doing this?

Secondly, if I try cross-stitch, what are your recommended starting kits?

Thirdly, what do most people do with their projects? Make pillows? Frame them?
posted by NotTheRedBaron to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It does take some eye focus. A very strong task light helps a lot, to increase contrast between the fabric and holes. I have astigmatism and bad eyesight and I do get some eye strain without a light. With practice you can count the stitches by feel. You can also start with a lower count fabric/pattern. Lower count = bigger stitches.

You could also try something like needlepoint.
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am also near-sighted with astigmatism although I don't regularly wear glasses. I do wear some "reading" glasses when I do cross-stitch (I want to say they're either 1x or 1.5x -- I don't remember now) and they do help me focus. If you do wear glasses/corrective lenses, they do make magnifiers you can set up that would help.

Good lights helps, absolutely.

I don't really do much with my projects after, but yes, framing them or making them into pillows works.

Starting kits are a matter of taste, but I like Stitched Modern. I'd pick something like this one that seems easy enough but is not so super simple. It would give you a taste of it to see if you like it.

I do enjoy it but I do have a project that's been languishing for about a year. I don't mind that, though -- I like that I can pick it up when I want.
posted by edencosmic at 7:43 PM on November 27, 2020

I'm a cross-stitcher, and suggest that a good way to start is with a kit from Subversive Cross Stitch. The kit will give you everything you need. And it's extremely simple to pick up. If you end up enjoying it, you can get supplies and patterns quite easily, including digital patterns that can be downloaded instantly.

However -- I do think this is indeed a hobby that requires keeping a close eye as you work. I limit myself to working at times and in places in my living area where I have a lot of good light. (For me that means only during daylight, in spots where the light is strong.)

I've made framed pieces, had one canvas turned into a pillow, and did a Subversive project on a pillowcase.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:43 PM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I found needlepoint, which uses a mesh grid, to be easier than cross-stitch since you don't have to be as precise in placing the stitches. My mother liked to do bargello which uses geometric patterns which means that it is much easier to do without close staring since you are often placing the stitches next to each other in a predictable fashion.
posted by metahawk at 7:44 PM on November 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

I use a magnifying glass that clamps to my work table for things like this.
posted by rakaidan at 7:46 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I knit and do a little cross-stitch as well! I've found they're really quite different -- like you, I can knit without looking at what I'm doing, but I find for cross-stitch I really have to watch what I'm doing pretty constantly. Also, interestingly, I don't get headaches, but I do get an effect where after I've focused for a long time, my vision is quite blurry when I look up, and it takes a bit to readjust. It's not painful, but it's kind of odd and I don't like it much.
It is meditative, and enjoyable, and I like creating something so detailed and pretty, but it's something to listen to a podcast to, say, rather than watch a show or a film.
posted by kalimac at 8:57 PM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am super nearsighted but I can cross-stitch just fine and I do it pretty much every day. The fabric, called Aida, comes in different "counts" which equals how many stiches per inch. Stick with 14 count and you should be able to see it.

I also like Subversive and Stitched Modern, they both have patterns that are easy for beginners but not boring.

It's a fairly inexpensive hobby to try out to see if you can do it comfortably, for example a Deluxe Kit from Subversive is $20-25 and includes everything you need to get started.

Needlepoint can be easier as metahawk mentioned, and it's nice that the pattern is painted right on the canvas—although it's a much more expensive hobby. You could probably find a small kit to try it out.

I have done different thing with finished pieces. Framing is easy, you can buy adhesive-backed foamcore specifically for framing needlework, and most patterns are designed for standard frame sizes. If you can sew, they also look nice in pillows. I have also made them into little wall-hangings.
posted by radioamy at 10:08 PM on November 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'll add to the recommendations of starting with Subversive Cross Stitch kits. I'm not always a huge fan of the "cross stitch chart but with swearing" style of designs out there, but they have great instructions and got me started cross stitching! Etsy also has a great selection of kits.

I don't get eye strain or headaches from stitching, and I've been known to literally stitch for 8 hours at a time, but it can definitely be difficult for me to see sometimes. My eyesight isn't that bad, but I am super prone to headaches from computer work. However, I do usually work on 18-count aida or 28- to 32-count linen, which is on the smallish end. (The bigger the number, the smaller the fabric "grid.")

I frame all my pieces for display, so I generally pick something I want to hang in my own house. I do make cross stitch gifts occasionally, but only if I find a design that I really think someone would like.

One thing that kalimac mentioned and I definitely agree with is not necessarily being able to watch TV while cross stitching. I used to knit and I would watch so much Netflix while doing it! At least for me, it's impossible to watch anything while cross stitching, so I listen to podcasts and audiobooks instead.
posted by miserable-mild at 4:08 AM on November 28, 2020

you can get lights with magnifying glass on like arms just for this sort of precise handy work.

I also recommend getting a sort of stand for your hoop or frame. It will be closer to you and less of a strain on the neck and shoulders. Because you don't have to look down with knitting it causes less neck and shoulder pain than cross stitch, which you MUST look at, so head off the pain now and try to make it as ergonomic as you can afford.

Also! I too love Subversive Cross Stitch. I have one completed, framed, and hanging, above my toilet. Feel free to guess which!
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:48 AM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Bright light on your work helps a lot. It makes your pupils contract, making your eyes more like a pinhole camera and increasing what's called the depth of field - the range of distances that are in focus. If your eyesight is poor because of focussing problems, this helps bring the close end of your focussed area nearer to you, and is exactly what I discovered I was doing just before I got a reading prescription. You can combine this trick with reading glasses or a magnifier on a neck strap for extra effectiveness.

I can't take my eyes off of sewing work when I'm doing it, and cross stitch involves a certain element of precision so you're looking attentively rather than, in knitting, staring through the work at the TV without properly focussing because mistakes tend to be quite obvious. However, to reduce the precision you can use fabrics with fewer holes per inch (much like in knitting where it's easier to knit worsted than laceweight).
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just started a cross-stitch kit, and I find it to be really much more eye intensive vs. knitting/crocheting. Maybe it's my kit, but the pattern I'm following is small-ish and the stitches I'm laying down feels really tiny. I find myself counting a lot of little tiny squares. :) I was gifted my kit, so maybe the other comments suggest some ways to find less fiddly kits

I might suggest crocheting (assuming you've not ruled it out). I find it a lot more free form than knitting, and same as knitting, you can go for a much thicker yarn, bigger hook, and more or less feel your way without too much staring at your work. You can also make fun things like doilies.
posted by ellerhodes at 8:39 AM on November 28, 2020

You might like embroidery. Kits come with the design stamped on make it very easy. Stitches can be of various types and sizes. I find it easier to see than cross stitch.
posted by ChristineSings at 8:19 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Light is important - I recommend getting a head-mounted torch so you can shine a light directly where you're looking. I think they're usually marketed to cyclists? But mine is nice and strong and much easier to direct than a standing lamp or a lamp clipped to the back of my chair.

I also have a magnifier that I can hang around my neck and prop against my chest, but this is untested as yet. Might work for you, though!
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 9:36 AM on November 30, 2020

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