Tuesday, 10 May 2016


I've been an avid cross stitcher for the last twelve years. I discovered this delightful art form after being introduced to it by Don's sister who was really, really into it. I fell in love with it. 

I made mistakes at the beginning, as everyone does when they start a new idea. For instance, I didn't realise you were supposed to split your threads. All Skeins are made up of six threads which you use two at a time. If anyone wants me to do a 'guide to cross stitch' blog, please let me know.

But when I got going I really enjoyed it. I am a lot slower than most cross stitchers, mainly because I have an RSI injury which I have to be careful not to aggravate and I'm not as accurate, so I have to be more careful.

Three years ago, I met my hero Bill Neely and thought, "Never done a cross stitch portrait before. Could I do one?" Now was my chance to find out. I made a choice right there and then to do a portrait of Bill. I knew it would take a long time, I knew it would take a lot of concentration and a lot of commitment. What I didn't realise is that it would take three years of hard slog. Very happy hard slog.

May I add a big caveat to Bill that doing this cross stitch has been an absolute pleasure, and the following are just the general gripes of any cross stitcher who is doing a large and long project. There are no regrets involved. None at all.

I've lost count of the number of days I spent in Hobbycraft (or Hobby Lobby for my US friends), looking for different threads, needles, Aida (pronounced like the opera), plastic holders for threads, patterns, you name it. Cross stitch can be a very expensive hobby (no complaint - just an observation).

My Bill Neely cross stitch became my best friend. I took it everywhere with me: to the hotel I stayed in when I went to the London Marathon, on vacation to Northern Ireland, on the train. It has got incredibly yellow as a result.

I have listened to countless audio novels while stitching. To the point where - if I hear any of them again - I'll go nuts. 

I've worked my way through at least ten needles. Most are now hidden in a dark corner or are now in the carpet cleaner. Amazing how much thread I've used: 46 colours, each one at least three times, so that equates to 1.1 kilometre of thread! That's a lot of thread!! I've also used two sheets of Aida, lost and replaced at least two pairs of snips and three quick un-picks. I've accidentally snapped an embroidery ring (didn't use a plastic one after that - too fragile. I stick to wooden ones).

There are times when I've been in the right frame of mind (no pun intended) and managed to get a lot done and there are times when I have thrown my snips across the floor. I have spent many sleepless nights cross stitching. The one time when my chronic insomnia has become a blessing.

My printer has worked overtime, and cost me a few cartridges.

I've laughed when I've completed a bit that was really hard, I've also had my down days wondering if I will EVER get it finished.

But finish it I have, and despite the frustrations, I've loved every minute of it!!

I may have given the impression that cross stitching is nothing but a hassle. Not the case. Cross stitching is fun, and at the end you have created something that you can be proud of and that can bring joy to others, especially if you give it as a gift. But it takes hard work and commitment. If you have that, you can do it too.

When I put that final stitch in my Aida, I was so pleased, relieved and proud of myself. And I got a message from Bill saying, "You've done amazing work", which of course meant everything to me. If the person you make your gift for is pleased, then your time has been well spent.

As I said, it has taken me three years. Three years I wouldn't swap for anything. I'm going to finish some of my others that have been hanging around in a drawer for ages now!

Thanks Bill for your patience and your inspiration! X

My Finished Cross Stitch of Bill