Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring 2: How I tackle large cross stitch projects

This is  what I’m stitching at the moment – the Lavender and Lace ‘Celtic Spring’ cross stitch design.

I thought I’d explain this week about how I tackle large cross stitch projects such as this one, as I think that being organised makes it much easier to attempt a design this big (it’s about 18 inches high by 9 inches across on 28 count fabric, just for the stitched area, and the Autumn one in the same series took me about 90 hours of stitching).

Spring 1

With a design this big, I always use a rectangular rotating frame to mount the fabric on – it keeps the fabric taut (very important when I get to the stage of adding the beads), and it means that I can rest the frame comfortably on my Stitchmaster floor frame, so that I am in a comfortable position while I’m doing all that stitching!

I’ve been getting very committed to doing at least a couple of hours on this each evening, and if I tried to do that with the fabric in a hoop, holding it with my left hand and stitching with my right, I’d have a frozen shoulder by now, and my chiropractor would be telling me off!

You can see from this image that I have scanned in the chart and printed it out onto white paper (the original chart is a large piece of beige paper), and I’ve then coloured in the page with coloured pencils. To my brain, it’s easier to tell different colours apart than different black and white symbols.

I have several needle minders holding down the chart paper – not because they’re necessary, really, but because I love needle minders!

The ‘grime guard’ along the bottom edge is an elasticated rectangle of fabric with casings made along each long edge, with elastic threaded through in one loop, so that I can hook the ends of the elastic over the vertical bars of the frame and protect the bottom roller from any dirt while I’m working on the cross stitch.

Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring cross stitch

What really saves me a lot of time when I’m working on a piece of embroidery with many colours is that I use one needle per colour – so I use one of these, which is a LoRan needle holder – a plastic triangle (like a Toblerone!), with a foam centre to poke the needles into, and a removable paper strip that has the black and white symbols for this project drawn on. You get about a dozen strips with the needle holder, and refills are available too, but if you’re careful you can rub the symbols out and re-use the strips a couple of times, as they’re made from quite sturdy card.

You can just about see that towards the left hand end of the bottom row there is a yellow pearl-headed pin – I use this to mark the place of the needle that I’m using at the moment, so that I know where to replace the needle when I’m finished stitching (when shades are similar, it’s easy to get confused!).

Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring cross stitch

I keep all my skeins in this – my lovely embroidered workbox. I did the stitching for this about twenty years ago, and my husband made the box. I love using this! It’s about ten inches by seven by three – big enough to keep whole skeins in, plus scissors, etc.

Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring cross stitch

This is it when it’s open. Very simple inside – I didn’t want lots of compartments that nothing really fitted into – just one space.

If you’re REALLY OLD, you might recognise what I keep my supply of tapestry needles in – it’s a black and green plastic canister for 35mm film, for a very old camera! I’ve never found anything better than that for my needles ….

When I start a large project, I also make cards listing the shade name, number, and add a tuft of the thread so that I can cross-check this with the skeins I’m choosing.

Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring cross stitch

Of course, I also need some embroidery scissors! I’m kind of addicted to buying scissors, so with each new project that I start, I exchange my scissors for a different pair from my collection. I bought these ones from Mace and Nairn, about five years ago. The scissor fob is from the Carolyn Pearce ‘Home Sweet Home Workbox’ project that I described on here a couple of years ago as I made it.

Embroidery scissors with scissor fob

So, that’s all the stuff I use…how about you? What can you ‘not do without’ when you’re stitching?

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11 thoughts on “Lavender and Lace Celtic Spring 2: How I tackle large cross stitch projects”

  1. I’ve noticed that you reference mace and nairns in several of your posts as suppliers. Asbimbsurebyou know they are no longer in business. Do you know if a similar supplier for items for the home sweet home box and this blogpost. If you have any info I would appreciate it. Thank you

    1. Hi, yes, Mace & Nairn seem to have been bought out by Golden Hinde (goldwork suppliers/retailers) now. Not sure how that’s going to work. It’s getting really hard to buy good quality embroidery supplies in the UK any more. I used to always recommend Sew and So, but they have had a change of management now too, and they have really gone downhill. Barnyarns is still good for threads. Tandem Cottage is good for supplies, especially fabric (they even have a real shop, in the Peak District!). Fobbles and Peakside Needleworks are good for US chart imports. About 15 years ago, when I used to supply my dollhouse needlepoint kits to the trade, rather than just sell them myself online, I used to supply over 200 shops, just in the UK. Now, I don’t think I could name even ten that would be worth selling to. They have nearly all closed. And no, I don’t think it’s the ‘fault’ of the internet – I think it’s a complex problem, with many strands.

    1. Neither did I, till I tried to explain what ‘real film cameras’ were to someone in their thirties, and they looked at me as if I’d just landed here from Mars. I’m 56.

  2. It is difficult for me to tell from the picture, but do you roll you fabric in two different directions on the needlework frame? It appears that the top of the fabric is rolled ‘under’ and the bottom is rolled ‘over’ the rod. Do you then place the grime guard over the lower rod (which is rolled ‘over”)? It certainly seems it would be easier to stitch using that method because the lower ‘roll’ would not impede your hand/wrist. I hope I have made myself clear…

    1. The way I do it is to put the rollers on top of the fabric, and roll the fabric around the outsides of each roller, if that makes sense! So, the fabric looks like it sits at the ‘bottom’, as it were, of the roller frame, if you place it flat on a table. Then I put the grime guard on. It’s up to you how you do it though.

  3. A lot of great tips! Let me add my own….(Since I recently completed a WIP that was tucked away half finished for many years)
    I had basted the center cross hairs of my canvas, and around the outer edge of the design I basted off every 10 rows from the center out. I only pulled the basting out when it really became necessary to avoid it becoming set in. I also found that positioning my worklight over the right shoulder helped a lot.
    The finishing up was a particular joy, since I started it about 8 years ago!

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