On this month’s Backside of the Hoop I got to interview someone I’ve admired and followed for several years – how exciting! Jacqueline of Wee Little Stitches creates such fun pop culture inspired cross stitch patterns, and I have stitched up many. You know those little pixelated people you see cross stitchers doing? Well, Jacqueline created the original Pixel People back in 2010. Read all about Jacqueline’s cross stitch story and process below.
Tell us about yourself
Hi, my name is Jacqueline and I’m the owner/designer/jack-of-all-trades at weelittlestitches contemporary cross-stitch. I’m a thirty-something new mama and zookeeper’s wife. I started weelittlestitches in 2010 because there weren’t any cross-stitch patterns out there which spoke to my geeky, quirky pop-culture obsessions. My Pixel People patterns were the first on Etsy to fill that niche. I went full-time with weelittlestitches in 2013 and haven’t looked back.
You can find me on Etsy, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, my Blog, and on Facebook.
When did you start doing embroidery?
I was five when I first learned to cross-stitch and not much older than that when I learned regular embroidery. My Mom taught me to cross-stitch – I was a pretty high-energy kid and I think she was hoping learning how to cross-stitch would be a good way to get me to sit still for a few moments. Luckily it worked. My mom is still an avid cross-stitcher and one of my favourite things to do is to sit and stitch and chat with her. We joke that I’m going to hire her once she retires from her current job. I seem to remember learning regular embroidery stitches in Brownies. That’s where I learned to knit, too. Between Brownies and growing up with a crafty, stitchy Mom and an artistic Dad, there was always ample opportunity to experiment with crafting.
Do you still have the first piece you created?
I don’t, but I do have a picture of me stitching when I was young that I really treasure. I think I’m six in the photo and I’m working on one of those lacing cards. I had a set and I used to stitch them all, take out the stitching, and then stitch them again – over and over.
Where is your favorite place to embroider?
My favourite place to stitch is at the table on our patio. I call it my ‘outside office’. I’ll happily bring my laptop and stitching supplies out there and work all day in the sunshine and fresh air.
Unfortunately, the Canadian weather isn’t always conducive to working outside, so I really only get to stitch there a few months of the year. The rest of the time you can find me stitching on the couch.
Show us your backside…of you hoop!
Have you always finished off your pieces this way?
I haven’t always finished my hoops with paper covering the back, it’s something which I began doing when I started selling finished stitchings in the shop. To get it looking so neat I trim the fabric about a ¼ from the hoop, then use a hot glue gun to glue it down into the inner hoop. Then I cut a piece of kraft paper to the same size as the inner hoop, and use white glue to attach it to the back. It’s a nice, tidy way to finish off the hoop which isn’t too time-consuming.
Have you tried other ways?
I used to trim the fabric and then use a running stitch to gather all the fabric taut across the backside (that’s how my Mom does it) but doing it that way meant it never laid flat enough against the wall for my preference. The Aida cloth we cross-stitch on is thicker and stiffer than a piece of cotton one would use for embroidery, so I never like the lumpiness of that way of doing it that way.
What are the advantages in how you finish your pieces?
Well, it’s nice to hide the messy backside – lol – I try to keep the back of my stitching as neat as the front, even if it’s not going to be seen. I honestly think the tidier the back of your stitching is, the better the front of it looks. Still, it’s nice to hide the backside if you can. Plus, papering over the back of my hoops means there’s a place for me to include my shop info for those hoops going to customers or art galleries.
What are you favorite & least favorite parts of the embroidery process?
My favourite part of cross-stitching is how meditative it is. With a nine-month-old baby in the house I don’t get to do it as often as I used to, but when I can pick up my stitching I instantly relax and if I go a few days without stitching I really start jonesing for it. I’d be happy to stitch in a silent room – I don’t need the television or music in the background. Just me and my stitching is more than enough.
My least favourite part of cross-stitching is doing backstitching. I hate it. That’s why I try to include as little backstitching as possible in my patterns – because I detest doing it and when you’re the designer you can be a bit selfish and design to your preferences. I can’t tell you how many old projects I have lingering in some dusty box in the basement which only need the backstitching to be completed. It’s my shameful crafting secret.
What are your top three favorite stitches?
Well, in cross-stitching there aren’t as many stitches to choose from! I love the actual cross-stitches themselves… I love the rhythm of stitching them. All those neat and tidy rows of x’s make me happy.
I also (rather perversely some might say) really enjoy French Knots. It took me years to learn how to do them – when I was a kid I used to hand my hoop to my mom when a French Knot came around so she could make them for me. Figuring out how to make a perfect French Knot was a real accomplishment for me and I’m still filled with satisfaction every time I get one just right. The French Knot tutorial on my blog remains one of my most visited posts, even years later.
I do sometimes do regular embroidery too, and when I do I love doing chain stitch, because – you know – not a backstitching kinda girl.
What is your favorite brand of floss? How do you organize your floss?
I’m a DMC floss girl all the way. Not only is it the easiest brand to find here in Canada, but I love the wide, wide range of colours available. It stitches up so beautifully too and in all the years I’ve used it I’ve never had it bleed, not even once. I use the bobbin and box storage system – I’d love to be able to organize them by colour like so many embroiderers do, but when you rely on specific colour numbers the way that cross-stitch designers do, then it means they’re best kept in numerical order. It took me a few years, but I now own every colour of DMC floss available. I love looking at them all lined up in neat and pretty rows just waiting for me to design and stitch with them.
Do you create your own patterns?
90% of the time I stitch the patterns I design for weelittlestitches. Between testing out new patterns before they’re released and stitching up pieces for customers or art shows, I don’t have time for much else. When I do get a moment to work on something that’s not weelittlestitches I love to stitch antique French and German patterns. I’m obsessed with old Sajou designs at the moment. It’s amazing to me that something designed in the 19th century can still be so beautiful and relevant today. I also love everything by What Delilah Did, Satsuma Street, and the gals at Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I buy a lot of their patterns, but I never seem to have much time to stitch them.
What’s up next for you?
Well there are always new patterns in the works for weelittlestitches – I’m never not sketching out new designs. We have some new Mini Pixel People patterns coming out in June and July –including a new Harry Potter sampler and some patterns featuring Historical Heroes that I’m really excited about. I just opened a new Etsy shop too – this one focussed on handmade jewelry which used traditional techniques like quilting, crochet, and yes, cross-stitch, mixed with modern geometrics and fresh, bright colour palettes. The shop is called Gable + Finch and it’s a refreshingly new creative outlet for me. I’m really proud of it!
We’re also taking place in two comic book conventions this year – Niagara Falls (Canada) early in June and Forest City Comic Con in London (Canada, not England) November 5-6. Comic cons are great because they allow us to reach a new crowd of people and convert some of those comic book fans to cross-stitch fans.
Thank you, Jacqueline, for sharing your cross stitch process and story with us! Next month I interview Chelsea of Thread the Wick!