The origins of cross stitch embroidery are shrouded in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in China and spread to the Middle East, where the earliest examples were found in tombs in Upper Egypt. It is likely that returning Crusaders brought it to Europe in the Middle ages, from where it was taken to North America by settlers some three centuries later. Cross stitch embroidery continues to be popular today, make welcome gifts for all occasions, especially for home warming. These can vary in size and complexity, depending on the time available and the age and experience of the embroiderer.
Photo taken by funadium on Flickr
Cross stitch embroidery lends itself to a range of materials, but those with clearly defined threads like aida canvas and linen are the most popular. These have an even number of threads per inch, with the numbers constituting the "count". They range from coarse fabrics with a low count to extremely fine ones with as many as 40 threads per inch. Designs can be worked on any fabric, including felt. The choice of threads depends on a number of factors. Hard wearing wool is best for items like cushions, whereas intricate decorative items are best worked in mercerised thread or silk.
Cross stitch pictures and wall hangings
Photo taken by mabith on Flickr
There are any number of patterns to choose from. The more creative and experienced embroiderer can easily produce a house design using graph paper. This can be a traditional type copied from older samplers, or a representation of the house newly acquired by the recipient. There are also innumerable ready made kits which contain all the materials required and a design, which can be printed on the fabric or separately on a sheet. These range in size and complexity, so there is something for every taste and ability level.
Picture samplers can also be very simple, with just the word "Welcome", or more elaborate ones with short poems, quotes and Bible verses, nursery rhymes, proverbs or humorous lines. Alphabet patters are available in differing styles, as well as patterns for decorations. These can be anything from animals and birds to flowers, or just borders, which can be simple or complex. The more experienced needle worker can give wider expression to imaginative ideas, but even the most basic design will create a charming home warming gift.
Wall hangings can be anything from simple hearts with a ribbon loop for hanging, to replicas of the Sistine Chapel or the Bayeux Tapestry - the possibilities are endless! These can be easier to produce than pictures, which require careful mounting and framing. Hangings can be backed onto fabric with loops or rings attached at the top, or Velco fastening, which can be attached to a wooden batten fixed to a wall.
Photo taken by craftapalooza on Flickr
These are always useful and easy to make. Again, ready made kits and patterns are available in all manner of designs, with flowers, sea shells, all kinds of animals, birds, reproductions of famous paintings, as well as geometric patterns, many based on Islamic tile designs. Cushions are usually worked in wool, which is hard wearing and can be dry cleaned. More elaborate cushions, intended for decoration rather than daily use, can be embroidered with mercerised cotton or silk threads.
Photo taken by Karen Roe on Flickr
Practical items, like teapot warmers, egg cosies, tissue box covers, clothes peg bags, key holders and fobs, address books and pen and pencil holders with cross stitch covers, provide a homely touch and would make a very charming home warming gift. The simpler items can be made by children learning to stitch. Egg cosies with embroidery on felt can be produced by learner embroiderers. Their efforts will be all the more pleasing and endearing. Table and sideboard covers are also sure to delight.
In an age of soulless, mass produced items of inferior quality, an original, hand-made home warming gifts are sure to be welcomed. They will provide years of pleasure and may become a valued, much loved heirloom. Whether it is small and simple or elaborate design, it will be made with love. The time and trouble taken will show how esteemed and valued the recipient is, that alone speaks volumes.
Claire is a keen craft blogger who often makes crafty creations using cross stitch patterns from the web