Cross stitch: getting started with a mug rug

Thank you all for your kind, funny and enthusiastic comments about our fish house. We continue to enjoy our time on the frozen lake, particularly when the neighbors wander over to visit and share their snacks. It’s like a block party on the ice.
Since my blog post, Stitching while Ice Fishing, I’ve taken baby steps back into cross stitching.  I have to tell you, I felt like a newbie, all awkward and unsure of what I was doing. After some minor struggles, I stitched a small practice piece which I made into a mug rug.
The Jack Frost’s Tree Farm kit (see earlier post) from Fat Quarter Shop included a large piece of Portobello Studio Line 30 Count Linen, more than I needed for the project sampler. So, I used a small section of that linen for my practice piece, and stitched up three trees from the kit patterns. This mug rug will serve as my inspiration to march forward with my revived hobby!
Here’s what I’ve learned so far. 
My eyes aren’t as young as they used to be. The last time I cross stitched was more than 20 years ago on Aida cloth, which has a defined woven pattern, making it easy to see where to place your stitches. While I love the flat, even weave look of linen, I had a difficult time finding the correct holes for my stitches, even with my progressive lens glasses.
So, I ended up purchasing an OttLite lamp with magnifying glass. (Luckily, I found it 50% off at Joann Fabrics, so keep watching for sales.) The one I purchased can be set up as a floor lamp or a table lamp. I use the table lamp format, but I place it on the sofa next to my hip, positioning the magnifying glass/light between my face and my stitching. I may look like a dork, but it works so slick. I will probably use this for quilt binding as well.
Right off the bat, I goofed up.
On my practice piece, I accidentally switched direction in my stitching. (I clearly do not have the left to right, right to left habit down yet. I’m hoping that with more practice, this will become automatic.) I didn’t even notice my mistakes until I was sewing the piece into a mug rug. Oddly enough, the mistakes make me love it even more. I look at it fondly as inspiration to always do better. And heck, the little trees are still as cute as can be!
I have to pay attention.
I forgot how much counting and re-counting is involved with cross stich. I won’t be able to let my mind wander or go on autopilot nearly as much as I do at my sewing machine. On the plus side, I realized it’s very inconvenient to snack when stitching. So, this could possibly count as part of my weight control/exercise program. Ha!
I didn’t know which size and brand of needle to use.
This was another aspect of cross stitching that I couldn’t remember. After a bit of online research, I found that some people like a #24 needle, while others prefer a #26. I had Clover brand gold eye #24 needles on hand, so that is what I used for my practice piece. I also ordered Bohin #26 needles to test them out on the sampler.
I needed other new notions.
While researching the needles, I learned that linen cross stitch fabric can distort if using a hoop that is too tight or rigid. Many stitchers, including Kimberly Jolly, were recommending the Q Snap tube frames, so I ordered two of those as well. I didn’t need any type of frame for my small practice piece, but I’m sure this Q Snap system will come in handy for my big sampler project.
If you are thinking about joining (or rejoining) the world of cross stitching, I hope this post will help you take your first steps. I would highly recommend starting with a small practice piece where you can work out the kinks.
Now I’m feeling confident enough to begin the Jack Frost’s Tree Farm sampler. I’ll keep you posted on my progress and any struggles I encounter along the way. Wish me luck as I get carried away stitching. I will wish the same for you!

21 thoughts on “Cross stitch: getting started with a mug rug

  1. I also reentered the cross stitch world last spring. It had also been over 20 years. I also stepped into the linen realm. I am still an Aida girl, I think. It is a deep black hole and I did far more stitching than quilting this year. Need to find a balance. Agreed, the eyes are not what they used to be. I will be checking out this light now with so much less daylight in these winter months of Minnesota.

  2. The mug rug is adorable. And what a nice touch that trim on the left side is. The size, shape, and fabric choices really magnify the beauty of the cross stitch piece.

  3. Thank you for this post Taunja! I used to love embroidery and cross-stitching so very much, but then my eyes became weaker, and it became a real struggle to see such fine projects. I did finish one of Lori Holt's cross-stitches recently, but even with extra lighting – the eye strain became painful. I have been eyeing the lamp you have shown – or maybe a miner-type lamp :)! Our son got one for Christmas to use when working with his tiny computer tools and when building his model boats. Those tiny cross-stitch holes get smaller all the time :)!

  4. Loved your finished project! What a great way to use small cross stitch patterns. I too have been doing more cross stitch lately and find the small work becoming more difficult. Thanks for recommending this lamp. I have been thinking that it might be what I need and your post has confirmed that.

  5. Hi Lori! It's kind of comforting to me to hear you share a similar story. 🙂 And now today you are like me I'm assuming . . . all hunkered in due to the snowstorm. A good day to stitch or sew!

  6. Thanks for both of your comments Sigi! I was actually dismayed at how my eyes struggled with the linen at first. I mean, obviously I knew they were \”aging\” just during every day use that's obvious, but the degree to which I could pick out those little holes was a BUMMER! I about gave up, but then took a leap and invested in that lamp. Had it not been on sale, I don't know if I would have. I do know that i can only stitch maybe 30 minutes an evening. But that's okay. No rush! I hope you are having a nice winter weekend. We are in a blizzard here. Tons of new snow, frigid temps and 30 MPH winds. Oddly, the sun still peaks out now and then. Anyway, thanks again for always stopping in! 🙂 🙂

  7. Thanks Shelley! I saw online that there are also magnifiers with lights that hang around your neck, but I don't even like wearing heavy necklaces, so I didn't think that would be for me. The lamp was pricey, but when I found the store carrying it half off, I took the plunge. I hope it works well for you too! I'm thinking my husband and I will likely find it useful just to have in the house when needing to fix something tiny! Have a great weekend!

  8. I just picked up cross stitch after a long absence, too! Yes, the old eyes aren't what they used to be. I have a light without magnifier, but I need to watch for a sale!

  9. It's been almost 30 years since I did any cross stitch. And I used a lighted magnifying lamp back then. I worked only with linen making sampler reproductions. Your mug rug turned out cute!

  10. Taunja, your mat turned out beautifully!!! As i was reading, i was remembering all those same struggles with my early pieces. They are now fond memories, not sure i felt that way at the time 😊 i can tell you, that the automatic way you cross will come with time. I have picked up a couple of Lori Holt's patterns to do some new cross stitching. Thanks for sharing such a sweet project. Well done!!

  11. It looks great!! I love the little trees, and I love how you finished it into the mug rug: the fabric you used is so perfect! And I've found a brand of needle that is wonderful: It's called Pat's favorite needles. I've used them through several projects this year and they don't irritate my skin, and they haven't tarnished or bent. Here is a Cross-stitch site that sells them, and many, many cross stitch patterns and threads. Enjoy!

  12. This mug rug is just breathtaking! The colors are exactly my favorite color scheme, pine trees are my thing, and I love cross-stitching on linen because the finished product is always so satisfying. Is there a pattern for this little mug rug?

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