In a Stitch

May 7, 2020 – Adrianna Holt, Adult Services / Passport Agent

Are you in a stitch and have to stay at home because of COVID-19? One of the hobbies that I’ve been taking an interest in is cross stitch (sometimes called counted cross stitch), which is a type of counted thread embroidery. As the name implies, the pattern is in a cross or X-shaped stitches and each stitch should be exactly the same. Another type of cross stitch is stamped cross stitch where the stitcher already has a pattern to stitch over. Nowadays, most cross stitch is created on a fabric that has a weave of squares with holes for one to insert the needle into that is called Aida cloth. This craft has endured throughout history, with some of the earliest fragments being found in Upper Egypt from the sixth to seventh centuries. 

Throughout history, embroidery and cross stitch have been utilized for many reasons, including depicting religious or historical events, embellishing clothing and household items, and for educational purposes. Some of the earliest examples of cross stitch that have been found are dated back to the sixth or seventh centuries AD in Upper Egypt. One of the most famous Tapestries in existence, The Bayeux Tapestry, that portrays the events of the Norman takeover of England in the early eleventh century (1064-1066), incorporates both embroidery and cross stitch in its roughly 230 ft length.

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.

Another way that this craft was utilized was to decorate the clothing of royalty. Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, took such care to embroider some of his clothing as an act of love (even though he employed over 20 people to do the same exact thing). Embroidery and cross stitch “samplers” were educational tools for the young (mostly women). Before the printing press made printed pattern books, people kept bits of their favorite stitching to teach morals, the alphabet, geography, and decorating household items (mostly linens).

An example of a stitch sampler from the 16th century.

Even though this craft has had its ups and downs throughout history (due to such things ranging from the sewing machine to war), it was revived back in the 1960s and has become somewhat popular again today. Most of my information on the history of cross stitch was written by Jo Verso in her article “Threads of History“, if you’re interested in reading more.

There are pros and Cons to participating in this craft on a regular basis. If you don’t have adequate lighting while you’re working on whatever piece, then it can really damage your eyesight. Another con is that if you work on any piece of cross stitch for an extended period of time, you can get hand cramps. Anything in life requires balance. Cross stitch does take up a lot of time which makes it a good hobby to do while in quarantine. If you feel like you’re not being very productive while binge watching Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Hulu, or Netflix, cross stitching can make you feel a little more productive while watching TV. Another pro to cross stitch is that you can make your loved ones personal gifts that they can truly appreciate.   

I’ve always leaned towards the crafty side of things, but cross stitch is the one hobby that has been pretty consistent throughout my life (besides reading). A wonderful woman called ‘Grandma’ taught me when I was very young how to cross stitch to calm my antsy hands and fuel productivity while spending hours with her. She started me off with small projects such as embellishing household items such as handkerchiefs and pillow cases. When I became older, I started my own projects, which include a lot of bookmarks. Cross stitch and embroidery will always have a very special place in my heart alongside my lovely Grandma.

Some of my own handiwork

Why not place a hold on one of our many cross stitch books to pick up through the drive-thru? There are also issues of The World of Cross Stitching available to check out using the Libby app.


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