Cross stitch is one of those crafts that I have a real soft spot for, but rarely do any more. It earned the special place in my heart for various reasons.
First off, it’s a really simple craft that’s easy for anyone to do. I learned how to do it as a child and my first project involved cross stitching a basket of flowers as a gift for my mum for Mother’s Day.
I think the picture came as part of a kit, which included an embroidery hoop that doubled up as a frame. My mum loved it, despite the slightly grubby stain in one corner where my not-so-clean child’s hands had held the fabric. I remember thinking aida was a very clever and helpful fabric by creating obvious holes for my needle.
Anyway, my mum loved the picture so much, she hung it up on the wall, above the television (a spot reserved only for the most special of mementos) and it’s been there ever since – we’re talking about 20 years! And yet it doesn’t seem to have aged one bit.
The second reason cross stitch is special to me is Cross Stitch Collection magazine.
From the moment I saw Julia Sawalha bossing around the staff of the student newspaper in the TV show Press Gang, I wanted to work in newspapers or magazines. So you can imagine my joy when I landed my first editorial job in 2001, on Cross Stitch Collection magazine. It was like a watershed moment in my life, leaving my childhood behind and opening the door to a career I’d always dreamed about.
I worked on the magazine for almost two years, learning the trade from a very wise, kind and patient editor, Cathy Lewis (whose advice still echoes round my head!). I moved on to other adventures, but I never forgot my experiences on Cross Stitch Collection and occasionally glanced at it nostalgically in WHSmiths.
When I returned to freelance work in June 2011, after a six-month sabbatical, Future Publishing welcomed me back to the fold and to all the craft magazines I knew so well (I’d worked on them all over the years!). One of the first to welcome me back was Cross Stitch Collection – my friend had started working on the magazine and commissioned me to write some features.
I’ve been writing regular features for Cross Stitch Collection ever since and every time, it feels like slipping on a familiar pair of comfy slippers – and I like to think that some of the readers might recognise my smiley face from all those years ago!
I’ve written about Christmas Gifts (issue 203), New Year’s (cross stitch) Resolutions (issue 205) and How do they make that? (issue 207), a behind-the-scenes feature about how DMC make their stranded cotton. I’ve just finished another feature for them about Olympic cross stitch projects (for issue 209) and am now working on a new feature with a travel theme.
This new feature has got me thinking about travelling, the journey we take through life and the places we stop along the way – I’ve been so lucky to have stopped at so many lovely places, like Cross Stitch Collection, which gave me the knowledge, experience and confidence that has shaped my whole career. And that’s surely the definition of special.
Here are some low res examples of my features for Cross Stitch Collection, to tease you: