Crafting is seeing a major upturn in popularity during the coronavirus crisis. And among the most popular is cross-stitch, with huge numbers of people ordering beginners' kits on the internet and showing off their efforts online.
Online retailers agree the trend is rising, with crafting giant Hobbycraft revealing that it has seen an increase in traffic to its online Ideas Hub and 'Get started in’ series.
"Customers are looking for ways to keep themselves entertained and are using this time to either take on new projects, learn new skills and reignite old passions," says Katherine Paterson, customer director at Hobbycraft.
"Searches for cross-stitch kits have skyrocketed up by more than 345%. We’ve also seen searches increase for ‘cross-stitch for beginners’ up 729%, ‘cross-stitch thread’ up 499%, ‘cross-stitch patterns’ up 150% and ‘cross-stitch frames’ up 85%."
So if you're feeling inspired to take it up, where should you start? Is it as easy as it seems?
Craft influencer Loti Fuster-Bradley says: "When I started cross-stitch, it was because I was heavily pregnant, fed up and I wanted something to do while I was balancing on a gym ball trying to 'bring on labour’.
"If you can count, and thread a needle, cross-stitch is easy, so accessible for just about anyone. I think it would be a nice thing to do [in this time] because you totally get lost while you’re counting and it gives you something to think about other than the worries that might be troubling you."
Paterson agrees: "Cross-stitch is a form of counted thread embroidery that has been around for ages, and it is one of the easiest forms to learn. Learning how to cross-stitch can be easy, because there are projects suitable for various skill sets.
"The products you need to start are fabric, needles, hoops, thread, scissors and, of course, a pattern. You can buy all of the projects individually or handy kits are also available."
It's a mindful craft
"The word 'calming’ is a word often used when our customers talk about their cross-stitching projects. The simple technique of pulling coloured floss through the fabric, doing that same type of stitch over and over can be seen as a type of meditation. There is also something really fulfilling about creating something with your own hands," says Paterson.
Indeed, picking the image you want to stitch can be inspiring, too. A beach scene, or a hopeful mantra – or even ‘stay home’ can be a positive way to pass the time.
"When I started out, I was worried about having my first baby, what the labour would be like and what it would be like looking after a tiny human," says Fuster-Bradley.
"I found cross-stitch took my mind somewhere else, and passed the time as the waiting game when you’re heavily pregnant is the slowest time ever. I’m sure people have very similar thoughts on the lockdown, wanting to pass the time and so on, so yes, it’s a fantastic hobby to start now."
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Finding a pattern
Fuster-Bradley explains: "For a beginner, I would really recommend the Caterpillar Cross Stitch 'stitch-a-longs' (aka SAL). The cross-stitch is released to you month by month and everyone starts near enough the same time. On their fabulous Facebook group you can connect with other stitchers, ask for help, update each other on progress and help spur each other on to finish the next part.
"Alternatively, if you’re not feeling so brave for a bigger design just yet, I recommend picking up a magazine and trying out the little samplers you get on the front, or maybe purchase a card kit which has just a small design that you can then stick on the front of a card and send to someone to brighten their day if you’re missing them."