It is a dark and stormy night and I am relaxing under a blanket as I stab the shit out of something hundreds of times. Stab stab stab. I can’t let my hands be idle, so I stab and stab as I listen to the rain and a podcast. When I’m done, I will post my horrible creation on social media and my friends will marvel at what a little stabbing can achieve. Man, I love cross stitch.
Wait, what did you think I was talking about?
I hate calling a craft “not your grandma’s” whatever. First of all, respect the grandmas out there. Second of all, nothing could be more badass and punk rock than making stuff with your very own hands. I know comic book artists that knit stunning hats and scarves, I know metalheads who can sew a quilt so beautiful you’d cry in awe. We’ve somehow been convinced as a society that crafts are things old ladies or children do but I am here to tell you that nothing is cooler than making something yourself and hanging it on your wall or gifting it to a friend.
I do cross stitch. A friend taught me after I experienced a long illness a few years ago and was bored out of my mind. It’s a very cheap hobby. $20 at Michael’s set me up for my first project, and I was hooked. It’s a deceptively easy craft to learn. The cloth you stitch on, called aida cloth, has little boxes formed by the weave, and you take colorful thread and stitch little Xs in those boxes. After you do that a few thousand times you’re left with a fantastic piece of art. It’s incredibly meditative as well, especially if you have anxiety (like I do). It’s an opportunity to get cozy and slow the world down for an hour or two, focusing on the tiny stab stab stab of your needle as you watch TV or listen to music.
I used to think of cross stitch as, yes, a grandma hobby full of alphabet samplers and pieces with farm animals or flowers. Thankfully the craft has moved on from such humble beginnings to become a vibrant type of artwork for every genre under the sun. And, if you are a horror junkie jerk like me, there is no end to gruesome patterns to stitch. Some people still stitch cute baby announcements or Victorian ladies but there is a huge corner of the cross stitching world that make patterns featuring skeletons, horror movie icons, and some good old fashioned gore.
The two best horror-focused pattern makers are The Witchy Stitcher and Night Spirit Studio. Both gothic visionaries sell their patterns on Etsy and their own websites and have crafted patterns that cover everything from Jason Voorhees to vampires, guillotines, and satanic goats. Both designers are the nicest women imaginable and have put so much care and love into their designs. I’ve stitched many of their patterns and their work is easy to follow and visually breathtaking.
Patterns are the blueprint for every cross stitch project. They’re often sold online as PDFs and contain a breakdown of symbols and colors that you follow to create the design with fabric and thread. They are usually reasonably priced and easily downloaded, which means I have so many that I will never be able to stitch all of them no matter how long I live. I own nearly every single pattern put out by Night Spirit Studio and The Witchy Stitcher because their quality and artistic compositions can’t be beat. Cross stitch pattern-making is an art, and they are two of the best horror artists in the business right now. Don’t you want to stitch a grim reaper for your very own wall? There’s something subversive and exciting about taking a craft thought of as prim and demure like cross stitch and using it to create an ode to Freddy Kruger.
Horror is a genre that can be many different things. It bends and weaves to suit multiple different purposes. It can be an ’80s movie in garish neon, a novel from 1860, a haunting video game teaser, or an internet cryptid created on a message board. I’d like to see the genre also embrace the crafters in its community. People who use thread and felt and cloth to create horrible works of art that embrace the ghoulish, inventive spirit of everything the genre stands for. I’m in awe that you can stitch blood splatter that looks dynamic and realistic or use simple little Xs stabbed into fabric to bring to life a monster from your nightmares.
Crafting is on the rise right now since we’re all stuck at home because of the pandemic and winter is snapping at our heels like a hungry werewolf. Cross stitching is one of the few things keeping me from climbing onto the roof and howling at the moon. It keeps me sane, distracted, and keeps my hands busy. I heartily suggest grabbing some supplies at your local craft store or picking up a cross stitch beginner’s kit, grabbing a pattern from Witchy Stitcher or Night Spirit Studio, and giving the craft a try. Being creative right now is such a positive feeling, and a completed cross stitch is proof that you’ve accomplished something in this dreary Hell Year. Don’t know where to start? There are tons of great Youtube tutorials out there, or come find me on social media and I’ll help get you started.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish this festive Pyramid Head stitch. Happy stabbing, friends!
All cross stitch photos embedded in the article were stitched by the author.