I was lucky enough to be contacted by the publisher of the newest cross stitch guide to hit the market, The Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch, and asked to give my honest feedback. I was thrilled to be contacted, I’ve been a big fan of his for years and have worked with him on a few projects for his fantastic modern XStitch magazine. Jamie “Mr X Stitch” Chalmers used to have a regular column in CrossStitcher magazine, and his TEDX talk on cross stitch is so good. I knew his book would be good, but I didn’t know how good until I got my copy. 🙂
First off, I have to give a shout out to the wonderful photographer Stacy Grant, her photos are so awesome (I’m very jealous and wish I could take such nice photos of my own work). The whole vibe of the book is fun and relaxed, and definitely there’s no trace of being pretentious or “precious” as some craft books can be. Jamie’s personality shines through in his writing, and many times I laughed out loud at the way he phrased something. This section about the back of your work really made me lose it…
There’s a myth going around town, an urban legend that says the back of your work should be as neat as the front. Usually started by a friend of a friend who knew an old lady with loads of cross stitch, who said that unless your back is really tidy, you’ll all be sent to hell and your children will all have gills.
But what’s in the book you say? Jamie has done a great job of not only covering the techniques and materials of cross stitch (with really clear photos and easy to understand instructions), but a wide variety of other topics that are part and parcel of stitching. He covers basic colour theory (perfect if you’re wanting to experiment with colours in your projects or make your own), how to frame your projects, and explains how glow in the dark threads are seriously under-utilized and how to use them more easily. He even goes into why stitching is important in our lives, whether it’s purely as a means to relaxation or connecting with our traditions of the past, but also as a means of “craftivism” and making change in your community and society.
The book also contains a ton of useful information if you’ve ever considered making your own patterns (including a variety of examples of one pattern produced at different sizes). He also delves into stitching on non-traditional materials, whether that’s by using waste canvas or soluble Aida, or drilling holes into materials like leather, wood, or metal and stitching on that.
Jamie also features some really innovative cross stitch designers, and shows how they are pushing the boundaries of this craft. Lord Libidan‘s work in 3D stitching is featured, as is the fantastic metalwork stitched art of Lithuanian artist Severija Inčirauskaitė-Kriaunevičienė (cross stitched car, anyone?). Also featured is embroidery artist Zoe Gilbertson with her beautiful abstract colourful pieces, heavy metal inspired UK designer Kate Blandford, and street installation artists Les Deuz’Bro.
Throughout the book, there are sample patterns with full colour photos of the finished projects, and they are labelled according to difficulty level. There is a wide variety of fun projects, from a simple question mark that’s meant to be displayed with the back showing, to a little version of the Mona Lisa. No matter your stitching level, there is something in this book for everyone, and I learned a lot reading it. If you’re interested at all in cross stitch and its context in modern society, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy. 🙂