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My Worst Cross Stitch Nightmare: A Cautionary Tale!

Aug 17, 2007
I can read. I can count. I can thread a needle... so why did everything suddenly go wrong with a counted cross stitch project I started last year?

I began enthusiastically enough. I had planned to stitch a picture of a greyhound, as a birthday gift for a friend. Even before I unpacked the kit, I was already imagining her cry of surprise and delight as she opened the gift wrapping to see the picture I had stitched for her.

It shouldn't take long, I told myself optimistically. The greyhound in the design had a sort of brindled appearance -- lots of different colours all merging to make an attractively patterned coat. As long as I made a good start, this should be easy, I convinced myself.

I began in the middle of the picture, as instructed, and made the first few stitches. So far, so good. The dog would soon take shape. Or so I thought. After about an hour of stitching, I became aware that I must have counted my stitches incorrectly.

Perhaps my mental instruction to myself of 'two squares up, and three along' had somehow translated itself to another configuration. It soon became clear that I had made some errors. Stitching gurus such as Jane Greenoff and Sue Hickmott would have undoubtedly wagged their fingers at me and reminded me of the necessity of neatly unpicking my mistakes and starting again.

For some reason, I felt rebellious. OK. I hadn't kept to the instructions of the chart. But hey, the distribution of colours appeared to me to be fairly random. Why shouldn't the dog have a couple of extra brown stitches where grey ones should be? It shouldn't matter -- surely!

So I carried on, defiantly. I soon realised that because I had started a separate line of colours down one side of the dog's face, I had better continue with this pattern to make it look deliberate. And also, because the line of colour travelled down one side of the face, then this meant that the aberration had to be repeated on the other side, in mirror image.

This was more difficult than I imagined it would be. I was not enjoying this task, and I was beginning to wish that I'd unpicked the whole project earlier on. By now, I was feeling stubborn. I told myself that the picture would soon look good, and I would soon be congratulating myself on my determination and creativity.

After completing the head, I flung my trophy on a table, and stepped back to examine my work. My self satisfaction soon turned to shame as I saw the poor creature that looked back at me. If dogs could have mumps, then this dog was surely suffering from an extreme version of the disease.

Its face bulged outwards, and on close scrutiny, I realised that my extra brown stitches had created a disfiguring line down the side of the dog's face. I put the abomination away, thinking that it would probably look OK next day when I saw my work with fresh eyes.

The following afternoon, I revisited my creation, hoping to see the handsome greyhound gazing at me with a dignified air. Instead, it leered at me, its cheeks flaring as if it were playing a trumpet.

No amount of turning this piece to one side to produce a different angle or looking at it with half-closed eyes succeeded in making it look any more realistic. Could I bear to unpick all those stitches? Definitely not.

It has stayed in my workbox, occasionally being brought out to remind myself of the stupidity of creating my own design as I went along.

As for the friend's grateful face when she received her birthday present? Well, I think she was fairly happy with the chocolates I gave her.
About the Author
John Wigham has been a professional author and editor for 20 years and is a co-founder of Patterns Patch an online cross stitch club dedicated to counted cross stitch. The website has a small team of writers who are devoted to our cross stitch club and enjoy writing about their hobby.
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