Our latest Craft Sanctuary, Stitch into Spring, has just been announced. Teaching on of the workshops is cross stitch pro Hannah Sturrock of Bobo Stitch.
Hannah will be teaching guests to stitch DMC threads directly onto jute to create a unique little bag, perfect as a gift…or to keep for yourself. We caught up with Hannah recently to get her top tips for this.
Hi – I’m Hannah, designer/maker and chief tea girl at Bobo Stitch. If you have read my previous blog post for SewandSo detailing my top ten tips for soluble canvas, you will know that I love to try and think of the best ways to create cross stitch projects that you can actually use in day to day life. A cross stitched ‘bag for life’ really is a perfect example of that.
One day while out getting some groceries, I noticed that my jute shopping bag offered a natural regular grid, exactly like Aida. In that moment I totally forgot all about my shopping and skipped off home mulling over the endless design possibilities that this presented. And boy is it effective.
It is easy to stitch into a jute bag as long as you bear a few things in mind.
- Think about the bag itself. Make sure whatever you are stitching onto has been sourced ethically and is well made, preferably with a thin plastic lining on the inside which will help the bag to stay clean and hold its shape.
- Choose your pattern carefully. Jute bags aren’t made with cross stitchers in mind so unlike Aida and other cross stitch fabrics which have very straight lines, occasionally the weave may go for a wander. Try to buy the bag in person rather than over the internet so you can choose one with a reasonably straight weave but be prepared to alter your pattern with a stitch here and there to prevent any oddities in your finished design.
- Use a large blunt needle. A size 22 tapestry needle is perfect. It needs to be robust enough to be able to punch through that plastic lining with each stitch. (If a little plastic comes loose every now and again whilst you are stitching don’t worry too much).
- Use two strands of good quality thread (I use DMC). By using two strands you can begin each length with a knotless loop start – a really, really handy way to start off when you have limited access to the reverse of your stitches which will be inside the bag.
- Keep working thread lengths reasonably short. Jute is a natural material which is rougher than normal stitching fabrics, so with longer lengths, you may get a touch of wear on the threads by the last few stitches.
- Rather than reaching in from above to stitch, if you are right handed turn the bag so the opening is on the right-hand side, and vice versa if you are left-handed. This is a much more comfortable way to stitch. Don’t forget to turn your pattern so it is on the same orientation. If you are happy stitching this way then don’t switch between stitching at this 90-degree angle and stitching from the top of the bag, however tempting, as your bottom and top half stitches will not lie in the same direction leaving a messier finish. (Remember in general you can turn your stitching project 180 degrees or completely upside down and your stitches will stay in the same direction as if it were the right way up. If you rotate your work 90 degrees, the stitch direction will be opposite to normal.
- The trickiest thing about having limited access to the back of your stitches is securing the thread. Normally I would always recommend running your needle under the back of a few finished stitches to hold the thread in place but this can prove a little tricky with a bag and the laminated plastic lining can make this even harder. So on this type of project, you can get away with tying a knot at the end of the thread. Run your needle under the back of a single stitch twice, then pass your needle through the loop created and pull tight before snipping off any excess. This will secure the thread without being too fiddly.
- Complete the stitches at the bottom of the bag first and work your way upwards. This keeps your stitches clean while you’re working.
- Similarly, you might want to use a piece of scrap material to cover your fingers where you are holding the bag to keep it nice and clean.
- If you find that your bag is developing a couple of wrinkles while you are stitching, don’t worry at all. Once finished you can flatten it out again by placing it under heavy books for a day or so, just like flower pressing.
This type of project really is the best way to show off your cross stitching skills while you are out and about so throw your beautiful bag over your shoulder with pride and await the many compliments that are bound to be coming your way! Happy stitching!