I’ve just begun the stitching project of a lifetime

A few months ago, I bought the chart pack for this wonderful design called ‘A Stitch In Time’ by Aimee Stewart, who designs for HAED (Heaven and Earth Designs). Isn’t it gorgeous? But it’s huge. When it’s finished (and I’m going to stitch it on 25 count Lugana evenweave, which is quite fine) it will measure almost three feet by two. That’s about 340,000 stitches.

I know, I know. Do I have enough life left to finish it? Hope so!


When I first got the chart pack, although the instructions gave DMC thread information in the colour key, I decided to use Anchor, as I use that brand for all the miniature needlepoint kits that I produce, so I have the whole range anyway, so I thought that would be better.

I did have flu at the time, so that’s my excuse for deciding to do something so daft  🙂

So, I spent a sniffy weekend working out the thread equivalents for myself, and cutting all the threads, and winding them onto bobbins.

They looked really nice in the box that I found, to keep them in.


But then I did a sample area (if you’re going to invest years of your time on something, it’s good to do a quick sample). And I found that as the design had been made to use DMC, it just didn’t work as well with Anchor, as, for some colours, I had to duplicate them, so the subtle shading wouldn’t have worked the same.

So, I treated myself, and ordered the thread pack from HAED in the USA. When it arrived, it was beautifully packaged. There was even a little fabric pouch with a wooden needle holder in, and a needle threader (which I am now addicted to using – more about that in another blog post!).


This design is BIG. I attached my fabric to the largest rectangular frame that I own – it’s got 30 inch horizontal bars. Even so, I am having to stitch this design sideways, or the fabric wouldn’t have fit the frame at all. Still, it looks nice in my stitching corner, ready to go.

On the round table next to my chair, you can just see the two Pako thread organisers that I use with this design. I use one needle for each colour, and store them in the triangular organiser. otherwise, I’d spend most of my stitching time changing the thread in my needle.


As this design is so huge, and the chart pages are solid with stitches, you need to have a plan when you tackle one of these. I watched a few YouTube videos first, and it was suggested that you grid your fabric into 10 x 10 areas, so that you can count from the chart easier. I don’t usually bother to do this, but this design has 87 colours (and this is the SIMPLE version – there’s a detailed version available too, with 235 colors!!!). To grid, I used Sulky Sliver metallic thread (that’s not a typo – it really is called Sliver, and I used the purple shade), which is like a strong filament (a bit like Balger). It pulls out very easily when you remove it after stitching an area, but doesn’t split if you catch it with your needle whilst stitching.

I made an acrylic pattern ‘window’ to place over my chart, with a 10 x 10 square area highlighted at the corners with a permanent pen, so that I can quickly see which part of the pattern I am working on. I hold it in place with a needle minder magnet, and can slide it around on the chart when I need to.


When I actually started stitching, this tiny area took me 4 hours to do. I’m doing it in tent stitch, rather than cross stitch, as it will take half the time to complete that way, and the stitches are so tiny that coverage is good. In the first 10 x 10 area, there are 37 different colours. This is going to be a slow project  🙂


I must admit that until I started to see a bit of something recognisable emerging, I did wonder if I had lost my mind completely. But as the detail started to emerge into something that I could make out, I got really hooked on doing this. It’s an exercise in concentration, and just focussing on the little bit in front of you. But the design is just amazing – so many details in it.

This is where I am up to, after three months. Yes, that’s three months. I average a page a month. And there are 84 pages for this design. That’s probably about seven years, if I don’t get bored with it along the way. I also have to allow extra time to colour in each page of the chart with pencils first. I know that a lot of people use pdf software these days to highlight the areas of a chart that they’re working on, and then use an iPad or something to work from, but I like to do it with pencils and paper, as I can really get into the detail of that particular page before I start stitching. And I love colouring with pencils, too (another blog post, I think).

I stitch using the ‘cross country’ method. That is, I stitch all the squares of one colour over the whole page, then pick the next colour and do that again, until the page is finished. As each 10 x 10 block is completed, I cross it out on the chart. Some people stitch using the ‘parking method’, where they stitch all the squares of one colour in a small area (such as one 10 x 10 block), and then park the thread in the next box at the point where the first stitch using that colour occurs, unthreading the needle and letting the thread hang loose. But just the thought of all those untidy threads does my head in! I have to keep things tidy! The part I’ve stitched so far measures about seven inches high, to give you an idea of the scale.


The part I’ve stitched so far is the very top left hand corner of the design – here is a part of the original painting again, to show the area I’ve done. Except for the bottom left hand corner. That’s another month’s stitching, then.


It’ll be lovely when it’s finished, but the journey is great, too. What do you think?


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29 thoughts on “I’ve just begun the stitching project of a lifetime”

  1. Oh! I’m so glad we get to follow you on this mammoth stitching journey. I love Aimee Stewart’s work and I was so tempted to buy one of her charts from HAED several months ago but decided to finish all my other stash before jumping into something so huge. So I’m looking forward to all your progress updates. Kudos to you for taking up such a challenge…your work is simply gorgeous!

  2. Love, love, love. I admire you for undertaking such a large and complex project, and your approach is perfectly planned. I am reminded of a quote I have in one of my many sewing workbaskets from Jerusalem Jackson Greer, A Homemade Year: “I am reminded that everyday I have the chance to pick up a needle and some thread and add to the story. To stitch together something beautiful and unique, to patch a small scrap of fabric to the story, to the Story of God, that will be retold again and again for all of eternity.” Enjoy your journey!

  3. Janet, I just read this post and had a good chuckle – – – because I’m not even nearly courageous enough to start something SO BIG!!!! – but I sure am going to enjoy the ride with you! Well done for deciding to have a go! I’ve just signed up to receive your blog posts so I can keep up to date.

  4. I think the project is stunning! And the trip you will take making it will be memorable. It looks spectacular. I love it. Good luck to you on your journey.

  5. So pretty… I use fine fishing line to grid my fabric for large projects. I got it at Sears, really cheaply. It comes in different colors (I use fluorescent pink), different thicknesses, and different yardage. I bought a huge reel, but realized I overbought, since I can re-use the fishing line for another project after I pull it off the finished one. Looking forward to seeing the progress on your lovely project.

  6. My goodness that is quite a project! I’m with you as regards untidy ends … I have tried the thread parking method, but I always accidentally catch the long threads somewhere in my stitching and I’m pretty obsessive about making the back nice and neat! 🙂 I like to tack out a grid for large cross stitch projects as well; it does take a lot of the worry out of placing the pattern accurately. One question: is the design worked entirely in tent stitch or is there some surface embroidery worked over the top to enhance the details? I couldn’t work it out from the pattern photo. I’m looking forward to seeing this grow across the canvas gradually! 🙂

    1. It’s all tent stitch – no other stitches used, if you do the pattern as per the chart. The detail is amazing, so it probably won’t need highlights in other stitches, once it’s done.

  7. Wow! That will be a commitment. I’ve bought a few charts from HAED but haven’t had the courage to stitch one yet. Are you stitching with 2 threads?

  8. You have done a lot, even though the design is enormous. It looks lovely. Are you working on 25-count over one or over 2 threads? How many hours a day or a week do you spend on this project?

  9. When you do your grid, do you tie off each row or ??. I like to use a grid even for small projects but usually leave long ends that get in my way but if I leave short ends, I pull them out. Just wondering how you do it. Thanks!!

    1. I had never gridded before, so I had to work out my own system. I ended up using long lengths (about a yard), and making sure that I went up and down across a whole PAGE WIDTH of the chart (i.e. not the whole length or width of the design). That way, as I finish each page, I can cut the threads of the grid and pull out the Sulky Sliver without leaving short ends that will work loose. It seems to be working so far!

  10. Absolutely gorgeous start! I’ve thought of doing this pattern and just purchased her museum shelf but don’t know when/if I would do this one. I’m excited to join you on your journey 🙂

  11. So lovely! I just started the supersize version of “A Stitching Shelf” (this same image but without the central medallion) on gridded 28-count using a single thread of floss over one thread of canvas. I still had to put it sideways into my 30″ stretcher bars, and I need to use my magnifier, that’s for sure! I figure I’ll mainly work on it when I get bored with simpler designs, since I tend to have multiple projects going at the same time.
    I don’t see an update anywhere on your blog – would you mind saying how this project is going?

  12. I have at times wondered about this project. You did quite a bit though. What is the count of yours, Janet? I cannot remember.
    Is the supersize version even bigger?

    1. I did just over two pages of the chart (out of 84!!!). I think it was on 28 count. The supersize version is bigger, and uses more colours. The version I was doing had just under 100 colours, I think.

      1. Over one thread or over 2? And using only one thread of floss?
        84 pages!!! I was fascinated by that project though.
        Will you definitely never go back to it?

      2. I think it was over one, with two strands – tent stitch, not cross stitch, because I knew that would be twice as fast, and even then I gave up on it! It’s such a gorgeous picture, but I don’t think I’ll go back to it, simply because there are so many other things that I want to make. I’ve kept the fabric and threads in a box, though….

  13. I just started the supersize one (88 colors, 999 x 714 stitches, 170 pages of chart) over one thread, 28-count, with a single thread of floss, cross-stitch. I’ve begun doing such pixelated artworks this year, and what you’ve gotten done so far is inspiring, Janet! Some of the charts I’ve attempted have horrible color-matching, so they’re tedious AND awful-looking. This looks like it will be worth the effort for me… even if it takes a few years and a gazillion audiobooks…

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