Yes, cross-stitch can be hazardous, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many factors that can affect your cross-stitch experience like anxiety, perfectionism vs. laziness, posture, environment and stimuli, skill level, and subject matter. Cross-stitch should be a soothing and comforting experience, but sometimes we let negativity get into the mix and it doesn’t pan out well.
Anxiety: Anxiety about an underlying problem you are experiencing can have an effect on your stitching. If you are experiencing emotional problems, the best thing to do would be to talk about the problem to someone who cares like a licensed counselor or your pastor. Anxiety can affect how you hold the needle in that if you are tensed up, you will have a tendency to break a lot of needles or they will turn black from finger sweat. (I have seen this happen to my daughter who sometimes stitches when she is tensed up). Stitching should be a rewarding thing, and if done right, it can also bring relaxation in itself.
Perfectionism: I will admit that this is something I have. If I make a mistake in my stitching, I cannot stomach the idea of just glossing over it and not taking the time to correct my mistake despite the fact that if someone were looking at my work, they would never be able to tell I had made a mistake. However, the perfectionism in me would see it as a glaring error, and I would go out of my way to correct it. I have also seen this perfectionism come out in me when it comes to crochet. If there is a new stitch that I want to learn and I’m having difficulty with it, I will stay up into the wee hours of the morning punishing myself with sleep deprivation until I’ve learned it and mastered it. I have since then used common sense and have realized that I am only hurting myself as I will not be alert, bright and chipper for the following day’s activities. Not all perfectionism is bad though because it drives you to accomplish excellence in tasks that you undertake, but when it starts to affect your health, that’s when it’s not so good. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, you can be one of those lazy stitchers who doesn’t care about the quality of stitching, has a messy underside with floss tails wagging all about and none of them weaved in, and a host full of uneven stitches. If that’s you, then don’t expect to win any prizes in cross-stitch competitions, and you’re free to enjoy the not-so-accurate end results yourself.
Posture: Having your back supported while you stitch is a must! My daughter likes to stitch on top of her bed with nothing to support her back. This can cause quite a bit of strain in the long run. If you’re crooked over, your body is leaning forward, and you will have a tendency to tense up as your body grows tired and stiffens up to support this posture. You are affecting your head, neck, back, shoulders, and forearms all the way down to the hands. When stitching, your back should be supported and your feet should be firmly planted on the floor (unless you’re stitching in a recliner). That way your shoulders can relax, and your arms all the way down to your fingers are in a relaxed mode to better facilitate good stitching.
Environment: Environment plays an important role in your stitching too. If you are stitching in a zone that is not noise-free where loud sounds are blaring at you left and right (kids screaming, dogs running through the house barking, teens playing loud rock music, etc.) you will not be able to relax enough to enjoy the experience. Find a room, if you can, where you will be all by yourself free from loud disturbances, and you will be surprised by how much this matters. Loud noises increase stress which will show up in your project like it or not.
Skill Level: Sometimes your skill level can be a hindrance to stitching. If you are at the beginner level and you’re trying to stitch something far more complicated and out of your league, then after several tries, it can become a roadblock and a negative force to the point where the project gets thrown into a closet, collects dirt and dust, and never gets stitched again. Or another fate would be throwing in the Goodwill bag for someone else to feel sorry for it and seek to complete the project you gave up on. Learn to stitch at your level until you feel absolutely comfortable about moving to the next level. It may take a while, but it’s do-able.
Subject Matter: The subject you are stitching should be one that you personally really like. If it’s something that’s boring or does not have enough colors in it to keep you stimulated, then stitching can become a chore and a challenge and you will see the project as a punishment instead of something enjoyable.
The Ideal vs. Crappy Environment
The Ideal: Everyone has their own personal ideal. My ideal setting when I cross-stitch would be to stitch by a window where there is an abundance of natural light, and beyond that window is a picturesque scene, bucolic in nature, with rolling hills, trees in formation, a well-landscaped vision of loveliness that carries my mind to uncharted pastures. I am stitching using a large floor frame, and I’m wearing something comfortable, loose-fitting, and flowy. Next to me is a small table with a pitcher of sweet tea, and my favorite pet (my lop-eared rabbit) snuggling right next to me at the foot of my frame where she gazes up at me lovingly. I stop every now and then to feed her a snack or two, and before you know it, I am making tremendous progress. Classical music is wafting in the background, or I am watching a good documentary on TV. The window is slightly cracked open to allow the faint breeze of a summer wind. These are the seeds of productivity for me and enjoyment.
The Crappy Environment: On the other hand, a crappy environment for me would be unfavorable conditions where there are gloomy skies by the window, and not enough natural light thus necessitating the need for several artificial light sources. (Now normally I like cloudy, gloomy days, but for stitching in my loft, the weather needs to be fair and filled with sunlight). More problems for me would be a fold-up chair with no padding in the seat, grease spots on my aida cloth from eating chips and messy foods or sitting on my bed trying to stitch without my back being supported with nothing good on TV, and the phone keeps ringing from crank callers and solicitors. Another bad scenario is if I’ve eaten too much and my pants are painfully cutting into my gut, or I’m gripping my needles so hard that they keep breaking. Soon, those needles that survive start turning black from the sweat of my fingertips. Luckily I haven’t had too many situations like this.
Exercises for Stitchers: Take breaks from stitching to stand up and stretch and give your eyes a break for goodness sake! And don’t sit until your backside gets numb before doing this. During that time, take time to perform wrist rotations or circles, flex your fingers (an open and grasping type of maneuver) to get the blood flowing again. After a long day of stitching, you may want to soak your hands in a basin of warm water scented with lavender essential oil or chamomile. Or, you could work on another craft like crochet or a jig-saw puzzle, something that changes up your finger grasp because in these instances, you will be holding your hands in totally different positions than when you are grasping the needle to cross-stitch. Another stress reliever is to get together with some of your friends who like to stitch and have a stitch’n-bee at your home or theirs. Just getting together with friends or family to stitch is relaxing, and you can strike up a pleasant conversation with them. Just hope that you don’t get into a disagreement over something, then in that case, the relaxation first achieved goes out the window. In any case, enjoy stitching for what it’s supposed to be, a time of relaxation, reflection on oneself, communing with God, or just thinking pleasant thoughts. Remember, take time to enjoy it! How do you cope with stitching fatigue?