When I’m not writing, I’m… cross-stitching

Although I’ve published two novels and am attempting to finish the third and final in the series, I spend a lot of time not writing. Sometimes that bothers me, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have other hobbies. One of them is cross-stitching. This doesn’t mean I do it regularly, and perhaps I buy more patterns than I’m ever likely to finish, but I enjoy the creativity, the supreme concentration required, and the total satisfaction upon completion. Or… when the stitching finally starts to look like something!

The first ever thing I stitched was a horse head, which became a cushion. I did it back in the 80s and, being a hoarder, I still have it. Fourty years plus and it’s only the yellow border around the cushion edge that’s really failed.

First cross-stitch I completed.

There was a long time between that and the next completed project, a stamped cross-stitch. It’s where you simply stitch over the pattern on the material. Stamped stitching isn’t necessarily easier than counted stitching, since you have to make sure your threads cover the pattern!

Although I don’t follow horoscopes, I’m interested in star sign traits. I am a Capricorn through and through! This cross-stitch only took a year or two to complete, and I had it framed because I was chuffed that I had actually completed it.

Heavens are the truest heralds – stamped cross-stitch

The early 2000s was peak pattern-buying time. I was on a roll after finishing the one above and I wasn’t quite back into writing yet.

The Kiss was my first ‘serious’ cross-stitch, and definitely the first with beads and metallic thread. It’s with Aida (12 count, I think) and DMC thread. It’s thrilling to do faces for the first time and have them actually look like faces! As I got closer to finishing, I worked on it all weekend and often in the evenings. And, for a while, I had my sister and brother-in-law doing cross-stitches alongside me. That was pretty cool.

The Kiss – thanks Dad for holding it so mum could take the photo

The Kiss has a triple matt board frame because the big beads required the spacing. I gave it to my parents for Christmas back in about 2006 or 2007, and they still have it on a wall.

While I was still completing The Kiss, I had already started three other projects. All Mirabilia designs, but only one of them is finished!

Spring Queen belongs to a seasons series by Nora Corbett. Despite having the set, I’m not sure that Summer and Winter will ever be started. Spring Queen was a complete kit–pattern, material, thread–which made her a fairly ‘easy’ buy. The material was new to me – linen – so I had to have far better hand/eye coordination because the squares were not at all regular. Like The Kiss, she is full of beads and metallic thread. When I started her in April 2003, I did the beading and metallic thread as I went. Coming back to her after a long hiatus, I simply did the general thread. Metallic thread’s nasty at the best of times and it seemed best to leave it til last. The beads also make it somewhat hard to roll tidily on a frame, and I didn’t want to damage them.

Spring Queen

I had some big gaps working on this cross-stitch, but it is still nuts that I started in April 2003 and finished in March 2021! She was on a frame for so long that I had to wash her several times in different combinations of cleaners to get the linen mostly the same shade of white! I did this before I completed the metallic thread and beading. She is currently in a simple white frame with no matt board. Safe behind glass but not necessarily stunning (and, certainly unironed).

Her companion season–Autumn–was started in July 2003, but I didn’t complete much before stopping. I chose the grey/green linen because it really matches the greens, browns and purples. Having recently finished sewing beads with ‘invisible’ thread onto white linen, I’m pleased with that choice. Hopefully, the colour will make the thread easier to see.

Autumn Queen – before the restart

Autumn Queen also has a crazy amount of beading and metallic thread. As you can see, I did do the beading and metallic thread in the beginning, but the remainder will be left until the end. She also has a whisper-thread cloak. It’s a beautiful fluffy white thread which I’m totally dreading stitching in! I have one skein, but I need three and I’m not sure I can even still buy it! Over the weekend, after a few minutes just trying to figure out where I was on the pattern, I completed about 300 new stitches. I feel like I might be on a roll.

When I’m done (say, in ten years time), she will look like this. Gorgeous, right?

Autumn Queen – image from the pattern pack.

I also have other patterns either half started or waiting for me to start. It’s not like I couldn’t work on them, but I find it takes a lot more energy to cross-stitch for hours than it does writing.

So, this is just one of the things I do when I’m not writing. I’m just as slow as it as I am at finishing a novel, but it’s satisfying and calming nonetheless. And stabbing yourself with a needle is a valid reason for swearing now and then.