Today I’m going to talk about something I don’t normally talk about here, aside from my monthly updates – cross stitch. If you’ve ever taken a look at my cross stitch posts, you’ll see that, in addition to progress and final pictures, I include a bunch of information and stats about the design and the project. Even though I may not be very good at analysing them, I love stats! Last month, I posted a new finish – Chatelaine’s Mystery VIII Tryout – and shared the link on the ‘official’ Chatelaine Designs Facebook group. On that Facebook post, I received the following comment about how I track cross stitch progress.
“I really liked your page, do you have some software to keep track of your designs, or you do it one by one manually?”
~ A. Matis on Facebook
I gave a brief response but also thought it would be a good idea for a blog post.
Earlier this year, I moved all of my cross stitch to a word press blog, which will make it much easier to update! Before that it was just a set of regular webpages on my site and those dated back all the way to my free Geocities site back in 2000 (if not earlier).
Before 2001, I didn’t record any stats about the designs at all. I don’t even know where most of the designs came from, let alone the designer/publisher or how long it took to stitch. Some of them I even had to guess the day I finished it. At some point that year, I started keeping the stats that would morph into what I have today. Those first projects were small, so there wasn’t a lot to statisticize (I know I just made that word up) and I still wasn’t tracking the time spent.
That was a long time ago and I can’t remember exactly when things happened. I definitely had a website (hooray Geocities!) pre-2001, but can’t remember when I started putting my stitching on there. Around 2004, my cross stitch site morphed into the beginnings of what you see now. The main changes, content-wise, were additional stats as I thought of them, and larger photos (when photo size stopped really being important).
The Website Now
Now, when I complete a design, or I’m ready with the first progress photo, I just create a blog post for the design and add all the stats that I have written in various places. I update that post with new progress pictures and information until it’s complete. When a project goes from ‘WIP’ (work in progress) to ‘complete’, I change the published date to the completion date. That makes the ‘archive’ a way to search the designs by completion date. I use designer/publisher as the category so people can search by designer that way. Finally, I (try and remember to) tag things with all the statistical information so people can search the designs that way, as well.
How I Track Cross Stitch Progress
My cross stitch project pages today feature the following information:
- Design size
- Specialty stitches
- Specialty threads
- Cost for materials and finishing
- Designer and publisher
- When I started and finished the design
- How long it took me
- Any other notes about the project
- Award information
Let’s go through these one at a time.
This doesn’t really require a lot of discussion. I measure the piece myself, instead of just using whatever size the pattern listed. I may have used a different type of fabric or did something else that would change the size. And They Sinned is pretty much as tall as I am. (That’s not saying much. I’m short.)
I list as much information as I can about the fabric I stitched on. This can be a big help to other stitchers about to gather supplies for the same project. Hopefully I have kept all the information about the piece of fabric, but if it’s just some random piece from my stash, I’ll give my best guess and even try to figure out the fabric count size. (That’s a term that probably only matters to other stitchers.)
Your basic stitches used in cross stitch are backstitch (short straight stitches (-) used for outlining and emphasis), long stitch (———), half stitch (/ or \) and, obviously, cross stitch (X). In this section, I list any type of stitch (there are so, so many!) that is not one of these. I think the design I’ve stitched so far with the most amount of different stitches would be Theresa Wentzler’s Heart Sampler.
When I’m creating the post on my site, I refer to pattern and include the ones listed there. If I make any substitutions as I go, I change the list. I have been known to do that especially with pieces I’m putting into the ‘specialty stitch’ category in our local Exhibition. Pieces for that category require at least five different specialty stitches and if the piece I’ve chosen has less than that, I might find some way to alter the design to make it fit.
The thread most commonly used in cross stitch is regular six-stranded cotton thread. I use DMC, which seems to be the most popular. Anchor and Coates are other brands of the same thing. I use a lot of other types of thread in my stitching! Silks and hand-dyed/variegated threads; metallic threads and more! I list anything that’s not your basic DMC here.
Oh man, I love sparkly cross stitch! The more, the better! Here, I include the amount of beads, crystals, charms, whatever, used in the design. I don’t always love getting that number, however! The exact number is rarely included in the pattern/instructions (at least the ones I’ve seen so far). If I’m really lucky, I can google that information. Usually, though, I just have to count. I get a pad of paper and keep track of the beads as I stitch them in.
The most sparkly design I’ve stitched so far is Chatelaine’s Snowflake Nativity. It features over 2000 beads, 29 crystals and charms, and even a dozen quartz chips! So, so sparkly.
I try and keep track of how much the materials cost, as well as the cost for framing or finishing. A lot of times it’s way more money that should be spent on a hobby. The most expensive projects so far have been Chatelaine’s Misty Morning Vineyard and Exemplar Dames Design’s And They Sinned. Materials for each came in at $225-$240 and the framing $130-$175.
Designer and Publisher
Pretty self explanatory. I didn’t design these things! Props to those who did! I just follow directions. Where possible, I link straight to the design, or at least the designer/publisher’s site. To continue the ‘most’ thread here… The designer I’ve stitched the most is Martina Webber of Chatelaine Designs. Aside from Chatelaine, the publisher I’ve stitched from most is the awesome British magazine Cross Stitch Collection – my favourite cross stitch magazine.
Also fairly self explanatory. The longest I ever spent on a design was Mighty Samurai that I worked on from 2003 to 2011. Obviously, I wasn’t working on it all that time! I’ve got one or two on the go right now that, if I ever do finish, will probably beat that record! I have little progress sheets (below) that I record the dates I start and complete the design. Framing and finishing dates are not included in this.
This is a project page from my stitching organizer (which I’ll tell you about later). I usually make these up for designs that I have to actually go out and buy all the stuff for (i.e. not kits). For kits or super small designs, I include the information at the top somewhere else.
Mighty Samurai may have taken eight and a half years to finish, but I only spent about 260 hours stitching it. It’s the hours spent actually with needle, thread, and fabric in hand where you get a true sense of the work involved.
I use a ten hour timer on my watch. I start it when I’ve put in the first stitch and stop it whenever I take a break. If I get distracted by the TV, I stop the timer. If I’m confused by the pattern for more than a minute or so, I stop the timer until I’m ready to start again. When the inevitable happens (because it will, at least a handful of times, no matter the size of the design) and I need to redo a section, I stop the timer until it’s taken out and restitched and I’m ready to move on. I keep track of this on a timer sheet.
First off, you’ll see a grid of squares, broken into ten hour sections. Each square is one hour. You can see in the photo here where I might have done half an hour, three quarters of an hour, whatever. I get bored easily so, to keep things interesting, I currently have three projects in progress. Unless I’m coming up on a deadline, I like to rotate through all these projects. I work on one design for ten hours, then switch to the next one. This “ten hour rotation” is a popular rotation method, which is why the page is already set up like this.
We must return, again, to And They Sinned. It took just over 453 hours of actual stitching to complete.
Did I change the design? Substitute materials? Is there a companion piece to it? Anything else want to tell people about it? All this goes in the notes section.
Every project will at least have a photo of my completed piece. I might also include close-ups of interesting parts of the design, or a photo of it framed or finished (if applicable). Larger pieces also get progress photos.
In that timer sheet above, you see the increments of 30 down the side, some with dates. I take most of the progress photos every thirty hours and add it to the blog post along with the date and current amount of hours. If I don’t upload the photo right away, I put the date next to it so I can locate the photo later (I store my photos by date). Some patterns, like many from Chatelaine, come in ‘parts’, and so I sometimes take photos after each part has been completed, instead of every thirty hours.
I really only enter my cross stitch into the Annapolis Valley Exhibition, but I always come away with something. If a piece wins an award, I include placing and category information, as well as what the prize was. After each exhibition, I also do a wrap-up post featuring all of my wins.
The Ultimate Stitcher’s Organizer
The pages above, and many more, are part of the Ultimate Stitcher’s Organizer. Kelly Brown put together this organizer – a collection of downloadable, customizable pages – back in 2002. (Look at that Geocities link, y’all!) The organizer also includes pages created by, or adapted from, other people (with credit given). I tried to see if this still existed somewhere, but couldn’t find it. If anyone knows where this might be located, please let me know! (See updates at the end of this post!)
To meet my needs back in the day, I split my organizer into two – Projects and Stash. I don’t use either of them much anymore. I have my three current projects in the project organizer and so I use that one whenever I’m stitching.
The stash organizer has sections for all the different companies I bought materials from and I used it to keep track of what I had. This made things a lot easier when I wanted to buy new stuff, or gather materials for a new project. I can’t remember the last time I opened it. I do not have the money right now to randomly buy stuff for my stash, only what I actually need for a project. I have even, especially with small designs, substituted all the materials for whatever I happened to have on hand. For the last couple of years, I’ve mostly been trying to work through the many kits that I have in my stash. Saving money, getting rid of stash, completing cross stitch – all at the same time!
At the end of the year I add all the information from the designs I stitched that year in a binder. This way, if anyone needs to know what all these designs are, and I’m not around to tell them, they have all the information they might need. I take print out the stats from the post on the blog and attached all the project/timer sheets, receipts and any other documentation for the design.
I also keep track of the time I spend stitching each day (not enough!) on a daily time tracker sheet in the organizer. Just for fun, I keep track of all the time statistics from each year and compare that to previous years. Because I’m weird like that.
So, yeah, that’s everything you could possibly want to know (and a whole lot more!) about my cross stitch!
tl;dr: it’s all analog. And I’ve been doing it pretty much the same way for the past 15 years.
Do you keep crazy stats for your hobby? Do you showcase that hobby anywhere online? Share!