Each project you make builds your confidence. As you move from simpler pictures of just a few colours and a small area to complex ones with a hundred or more colours, blended floss, specialty stitches and multiple page charts, it is important to track your progression.
Most people start cross stitching as a relaxing way to pass an evening and to have a handmade gift for someone special. In fact, the most common question I'm asked when working on a project is "Who is that for?"
While working on a pillow for a friend's wedding gift, it occurred to me that this isn't an inexpensive gift. The material cost may be low:
But how much time did I invest? I had no idea!
People liked my gifts - but were they aware of the time I put in? Was I? Was my gift that took at least tens of hours to make as appreciated as the coffee maker or cordless drill?
So I began a stitching journal.
The very first entry is January 3, 2005. I took a copy of my grandparents' wedding photo, printed it onto graph paper and began stitching. It took 201.5 hours, and I finished stitching on April 3, 2005 - which is good because their 50th anniversary party was 3 days later!
Since the photo was in black and white, I did the stitching in similar colours, with some pops of colour on their skin and flowers. I took a few in progress pictures, remembered to note the hours worked and added them to the book.
My grandparents love the picture - they bought one of those art gallery lights to spotlight my work - which is on display in their living room. My Mom found a frame and had a mat cut that everyone at the anniversary party signed.
The picture is worth every minute I spent on it!
For each project, I record the pattern name and designer, associated costs, start and end date. I also mark each hour spent working.
Each half hour spend working is recorded. Sometimes it's more of an estimate - if I spend an evening with the hockey game on, it's 3 hours, but if it's a Downton Abbey marathon I'll record 1 hour. I'm realistic - if I only stitch during commercials, I'm only working 1/3 of an hour!
Sometimes I add comments about the pattern/kit. Perhaps it's really easy to read the graph - the symbols are unique, the printing across several pages is easy to follow, the kit was well packaged and easy to sort the floss. I also comment if I didn't like the pattern. It's good to know that a certain company's the floss naming and sorting was a nightmare, graph is hard to read, or that the ink smudges easily.
Or I might love the designer. Maybe the colours blend really well, the details are appropriate to the image, and instructions are very well written. I have all the information I need to search out other patterns or themes.
It's nice to look back at the projects I've started and finished. I see the problems I overcame and the evolution of my stitching style. Knowing how a new tool or technique made a difference - or not - in time and finished appearance.
I stitch faster with the floor frame. I stitch slower when using a laying tool to ensure the threads lay completely flat on every stitch.
The cross stitch journal has opened my eyes to how long I spend crafting. One wedding sampler took 84 hours. I made sure to write on the card "May you have one happy year for each hour I spent stitching - 84."
The new wife kind of choked, and said "This is going in the living room!" It was on the living room wall in their first place, now is in the dining room. I really appreciate they display it where many of their friends and family can see it.
You need to document your work for the recipient. Most people can't imagine spending 100 hours on anything! Make your time well spent by telling people how hard you worked!
I think if someone won't appreciate your efforts, don't give the gift! I live in Ontario, Canada. The minimum wage is now $11/hr. My time is worth at least that. Every project takes organization of time and material, material costs, and takes up physical space in my home. I've got years of experience with projects in difficulty ranging from easy beginner to patterns of 12 (or more!) pages. I only want to have meaningful projects around me, and I want my work to be respected by others.
Another aspect of documentation is signing your work. I try to backstitch my initials and year on every item I stitch. Usually I can find a spot on a bottom corner for this information.
On framed projects, I've sometimes asked the framer to enclose an index card with information inside. I've also written on the paper back of the frame the pattern, designer, publishing company, hours worked, occasion gifted, date and my signature. Who knows - maybe in 50 years someone will find one of my projects and I'll become famous!
I may not be an original artist - yet - but I am making something important to me.
So please, start or continue documenting your work. That way future generations will know who to thank for your contribution to making this world a more beautiful place!
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