“Winter” Cross Stitch Finished!

The fiber crafts have been my lifelong passion. I learned to crochet when I was a child and became a doily and potholder entrepreneur, peddling them to the neighbors. I learned to knit in my twenties, and my kids got socks. At midlife and beyond, it was quilting, spinning, weaving, felting–all of which are lovely but require space. A lot of space. More space than our small cottage affords.

So for the past five or six years, my passion has been counted cross stitch, which satisfies my soul and can be done in my reading chair. My idea of a blissful evening is a cross stitch project in my lap and an audio book in my headset. Pure contentment.

I like large pieces (I don’t have to spend time looking for the next perfect project) with a lot of visual variety (to hold my interest) and some challenge. (But not too much. I don’t handle frustration very well.) The large (14″ x 19″) project in the photo (a kit called “Winter: Birches”) took 13 months and was a cool pleasure to work on over a very long, very hot Texas summer. I intended to take it for framing last week, but Covid-19 nixed that plan.  So much for intentions.

The next cross stitch project: “European Bistro.”  It’s a little larger than “Winter,” so it should occupy me for another year. I’ve started by gridding the fabric (16 ct. Aida) with a slick red polyester thread (Sulky Sliver) to make it easier to figure out where I am. (You can upsize the photo if you want a better look.) The threads are easy to stitch over and they pull out easily, too.

I’m a hermit by nature and cherish my home, which is also my workplace and my play space. So the Covid stay-home directive hasn’t measurably changed the routine of my days. We live in the country, away from the human-built environment, so it’s easy to forget about what’s going on elsewhere. And spring this year happens to be especially lovely here at Meadow Knoll, a poignant counterpoint to the catastrophes of the pandemic. Because I don’t see the crowded ERs, or the shuttered businesses and vacant malls and empty schools, it’s easy to forget about them or pretend they don’t exist. But they do. Every illness and death, all the closed classrooms, cafes, and shops–each one and all together, all are tragedies. We’ll survive. But this painful event will tear huge holes in our lives. It’s going to take courage and faith to get through it, together, alone.

At this time of Passover, Easter, and Ramadan, many of us are missing our congregations. But please remember that it isn’t just churches and synagogues and mosques that are holy. Home is holy, too. Stay there, please, unless you are doing urgent work out in the world. But at home or out there, be safe and be well.




51 comments on ““Winter” Cross Stitch Finished!

  1. Susan, you may already have seen this when you were doing the background research for A Plain Vanilla Murder: the New York Botanical Garden has magnificent virtual tour of its orchid show in which a vanilla orchid is pointed out and the seed pods discussed. Other readers of that great book might enjoy the tour too!

    Nina Garrett

    • Thanks, Nina–when I find the link, I’ll put it on the Vanilla book page. Always delighted to be able to add more resources.

  2. Your Winter cross stitch is beautiful! I’m looking forward to seeing your Bistro when it’s finished, or as you go along.
    I love to cross stitch, and my in-the-works project is on 32 count linen. I almost gave up because the small weave really bothered my eyes. Then a friend of mine who makes and designs intricate patterns told me to use my magnifying loop and/or a light on my lap shining up through the fabric. This has been a big help to me and I’ve gone back to working on my 32 count project. I’m really looking forward to finishing it.
    I’m also looking forward to another Susan Wittig Albert book! 😊 I have all of them except the e-books.
    You and Bill please take care and be safe.

  3. I love your finished piece and look forward to seeing the next one in progress! When my husband and I were stationed in Germany in the 70’s, we lived in a small village where an older American couple lived. They invited us to their home and there were many large framed cross-stitched beauties on the walls and hooked rugs on the floors that HE had done. They explained that he had been hospitalized years before for a long stay and was so bored. He asked his wife to bring him something to occupy him. She was a cross-stitcher, so she brought him that and he got hooked. He later got “hooked” on making rugs as well. His work was exquisite.

    • Sue, I’ve heard from several men who enjoy this craft–most seem to have learned the practice in a therapeutic situation. Thanks for this example!

  4. Your cross-stitch work is really beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I so enjoy all your books – have read pretty much all of them – and so look forward to your latest inspirations. Blessings and continued good health to you and your family.

  5. I did counted crossstitch for years! Now I quilt but I miss counted crossstitch soooo much. I used to stitch over 2 on some of the specialty fabrics. I did some amazing works, many of which I still have.

  6. So you put the red part in and then remove the thread later? When do you remove it? Sounds great. I’m working on a project now and I have to unstitch a bunch that was in the wrong place, oh my.

    I love to stitch as I watch tv. “Watch” but mostly listen I suppose hehe. I need something to do with my hands most of the time.

    • I’ve pulled it all out at the end, most of the time. It’s tedious to put in, yes. But such a helpful thing. It won’t guarantee that you’ll get it right 100% of the time, but it’ll be harder to get it wrong. 🙂 Like you, Sophia, I love having something to do with my hands. Either a keyboard or a needle–perfect for me.

  7. Hey Susan, I’m not your typical cross stitcher. I’m 59 year old cancer patient who needed something to do following surgery and chemotherapy. Yard work was to strenuous so I tried whittling but was to messy so I tried a small cross stitch project. It was fun to see it all come together so I tried a intermediate level. Feasting Frenzy caught my eye and reminded me of the bird feeders I have on my deck. I recently finished it and chemo has finally ended. The birds came out so nice. But as I show off my work people are astonished that an old man with big old working hands could make such art. Just wanted to let you know that cross stitching got me through a tough time and was great therapy. Troy Rogers

    • Glad to hear that stitching helped you through a difficult period, Troy. We could all use some of that therapeutic magic now! And it’s easy to find workable, inexpensive project kits and supplies online–unlike when I was a girl and Woolworth’s was the only place in town where you could buy a little embroidery floss (not even all the colors) and it was pre-stamped tea towels or pillow cases or nothing!

  8. You nailed it for the best comfort zone for me…. knitting, in my case, and an audible tape. On my list now is the rest of the series you and Bill wrote together. Thanks for this timely blog.

  9. In scrolling up on your page here, I just remembered there are some Robin Paige books on audio now! I’ve read them, but would love listening to them. Thank you!

  10. I love your finished piece! And the new design you’ll be working on. I just rediscovered the joy of counted cross-stitch with the stay-at-home directive, which isn’t tough for me, either. And another joy I’ve added, just like you, is listening to audio books while I cross-stitch. I was struggling with not reading like I should in the evenings due to being hooked on cross-stitching again. This is the perfect answer!

  11. I am in awe by your piece. I just recently started cross stitching & I am inspired by you hopefully one day I can cross stitch a big project like yours. Would love to see your European Bistro progress in the near future

  12. Susan,

    Thank you for your story. I am the same way. I suffer from depression and Cross Stitch and a good sermon or music is a relief. I am a Registered Nurse, and that is how I got started. I am not otherwise artistic, but when I graduate nursing school in 1986, I started in the ICU on nights. The night shift back then wasn’t quite as busy, so there was down time. I worked with other nurses that enjoyed doing crafts, and I became interested. They tried to teach me crochet and knitted and I wasn’t very good. Then they bought me a small cross stitch kit, and showed me how to get started. I really enjoyed it, so much that I completed it that night. I have been hooked every since. I love to cross stitch and don’t worry about what people thing about me being a male, RN, and do stitching. Oh by the way, I am married with 3 adult children. Rosie Greer, a football great, did cross stitch back in the day.

    Thanks for letting me share. Keep up the great work that you do. Maybe you can teach me how to blog about it, so that other men might want to pick it up especially during these times.

    • Al, it’s lovely to hear from a guy who stitches! More power to you–and yes, it’s a healing discipline for the mind and the soul.

  13. Congratulations. This is amazing job. I love cross stitch too. Now I am working in Taste of the Mediterranean pattern, 18 in x 15 in .

  14. Loved seeing your work and reading your story. It was a blessing for me to come across. I too have a kindred spirit of love for cross stitch and an audio book. Peaceful and therapeutic especially in these times.

  15. I have stitched the Euopeon Bistro. It is such a magnificent piece of needlework. The stitching did take me much longer than other pieces but so worth the time. It is framed and proudly displayed on a wall in my living room. Enjoy

    • Virginia, thank you for this! Good to know that it can be successfully done–so much detail work (all that backstitching!). But I love it already and look forward to every hour I’ll spend on it. If you have a photo of your framed piece, I’d love to share it. My email address: susanalbert01 at gmail dot com.

  16. When can we expect a new Darling Dahlias book? I have been re-reading all of the old ones while we are quarantined.

    • I’m working on The DDs and the Voodoo Lily now, Karen. Hoping to have it finished for e-readers in early October, print a little later.

  17. Hi Susan, your cross stitch is amazing. A good project in the very hot, very long Summers, here in the Hill Country. I look forward to your writings each month, and am just finishing nobody. Look forward to the next. Happy Spring, and hope you and your family stay well.

  18. What a contrast between Winter and European Bistro. For me, Winter is wow and EB is WOW! Looking forward to seeing it in progress.

  19. What a lovely Easter gift for us, Susan. Thank you for sharing. That gridding idea is genius. I too love cross stitch, but prefer small projects such as Christmas ornaments. You are an ambitious stitcher. Inspired now to get out my threads. Been coloring lately during this odd time we are in the world. Coloring always gives me joy!

    • Thanks for a lovely read. It makes me want to haul my cross stitch supplies out. Please stay well–we need your words.

  20. Susan, it is always a joy to see examples of your needle work and to garner tips from you. I believe the red thread grid would help me know that my eyesight is “aging.” I’ve not worked on cross-stitch or embroidery in so long I’ve thought of what I might do with my supplies when we begin to downsize. I spend most of my hermit time knitting now, especially with the arrival of our fifth great-grandchild, a lovely little girl. I’ve not had a girl to make things for yet, and my fingers have been itching for pink and piquot edges and more. Your lifestyle sounds very similar to ours, and as you say, nothing much has changed except the need to have groceries delivered curbside at the store.

    Happy Easter! And yes, every home is holy!

  21. Counted cross stitch is my passion as well. I love the angels from Marilyn Levitt, Victorian houses, I have made individual Christmas stockings for all in my family. I am currently doing another baby afghan for the newest great nephew who will appear in late May. Stitching relaxes me (and keeps me out of trouble!)

  22. In addition to appreciating your work, I share the joys and challenges of counted cross stitch as well as the pride of accomplishment in completed pieces. In these troubled times it even brings a comforting sense of stability and normality. Having always felt my home to be a place of refuge, current circumstances reinforce the safety it provides. May all find the courage and serenity to persevere.

  23. Blessings to you and yours this Easter. Nice, very nice work on your completed cross stitch. I hope one day to meet you in person. Your China series is the only series I have ever read through to completion. I am currently using Audible for the Robin Paige books. Bye for now.

  24. Your project is beautiful! For me, however, counted cross stitch makes my eyes glaze over. When I had more time (now taken up with park board and other meetings) I enjoyed needlepoint and crewel.
    Now thank goodness for our gardens. Clearing up all the stems left up for the beneficials, enjoying the first flowers…peace amid the chaos. Stay safe.

  25. Today, Easter, it was nice to read those words “home is holy too”. I’m taking a class via zoom on medicinal herbs, painting (rooms) and getting my gardens spring cleaned. Keeping busy, yet enjoying the slow time. I’ve been watching the daffodils and hyacinths bloom and loading up the house. When this virus is under control I promise myself to stop and smell the flowers, not race pass them. My heart grieves for those sick.

  26. Oh, Susan. A heartfelt post with such marvelous examples of the holiness of home and hearth on this beautiful Easter morning and time of Passover. I am outside on our back deck enjoying my coffee but overcome with sadness as my brother in Birmingham, AL was just taken to the hospital (a scary place to be right now) after falling again in his home, weak, injured and incoherent, and in excruciating pain. Your story and commentary makes me keenly aware of the fabric, beauty, and fragility of life. Sending love and thanks, dear friend.

  27. That is truly lovely! Was it based on a picture? I like the Bistro one as well. I was doing a series of animal needlepoints- but had to stop because they really killed my eyes. I may just have to take them up again after your inspiration.

    • I think it was a painting, Suzanne, but I don’t know the artist–the kit came from Europe. Re: eyes. I use a magnifying lamp. It’s the only way I can work on this material. I view my lamp as an essential tool.

  28. I share your passion for the needle arts. Have narrowed them down now to needlepoint and knitting. For some time, I’ve knitted scarves for the troops, a simple pattern that’s warm and easy to knit and a gift from home to those who protect us far from their homes. We live in the city, but the isolation has felt like our time in the country . . . peaceful . . . as do our part to contain the spread. We will miss Easter Mass this year, but God and I talk daily so my spirit will be full.

    Happy Easter to you and your loved ones. Let peace follow you.

  29. What beautiful work and such patience to complete this treasure. I have turned from quilting to face mask assembly for family and friends. After this batch, I’ll make more to give away to whomever needs or want one. Thank you for a glimpse into your stay at home world.

  30. Thank you for the encouraging words Susan. I sit here ready to listen to our church service online with a linus blanket in my lap. I loved counted cross stitch for many years, but my eyes are not great now…but ok…so putting a crocket border on fleece and donating to Linus for children’s hospital ( or how they need the blankets) is now my indoor passion. Never imagined I would be taking a blanket to church with me though! 🙂 Your cross stitch is beautiful!! Anxious to see the progress on your new project.

    Take care and stay well!

  31. Thank you for this email. I love the fiber arts also especially crossstitch but also sew, needletat, quill, and quilt some. Since I am retired, my home is my safe place although I miss going to the lake or driving in the mountains, particularly the Smokies. My husband’s job at the hospital is still essential (clinical engineer) so I am concerned about him and also grandchildren (college junior, high school junior, high school freshman) who are trying to finish the year remotely. Our church has found ways to worship together remotely but we do miss the fellowship. Trying to stay safe and obey the rules. Thank you so much for your books. Reading and needlework and some old TV shows are keeping me calm. Stay safe!

    My mother was a Texan and we spent summers in a little town near Abilene. I spent one year at Abilene Christian College. Daddy was a Tennessean so that’s our home. I love both.

I love hearing from readers, so let me hear from YOU!