I enjoy doing many types of needlework, though I’ve done counted cross stitch most extensively. It find it relaxing, as I get into the rhythm of poking the fabric with the needle and pulling the thread to form the cross. I can stitch for hours on end, either watching—ok, mostly listening—to television or listening to music.
Counted cross stitch involves creating a picture with small crosses of threads on fabric, often by following a printed grid. Beginners usually find Aida cloth easiest to learn on, since the holes to place the needle are readily apparent in the fabric. Other stitchers prefer stitching on linen or evenweave fabrics, where one needs to count the fabric threads to help with placement of the stitches. Fabrics are labeled by the number of threads in an inch of fabric, e.g., 32-count linen has 32 threads per inch. The higher the number, the smaller the grid, and the final design is smaller than the same design stitched on a lower count fabric. In my case, stronger eye magnification and natural lighting are also needed!
At first it was difficult to follow the pattern grid and translate it onto the fabric. I’d lose my place on the chart and do a few rows from the entirely wrong area of the pattern. Or instead of stitching 14 stitches in a row, I’d accidentally do 13 or 15, thus throwing off the pattern. It took discipline to remove the erroneous stitches immediately upon discovery and to count and recount when starting a new section of the design.
However, once the initial pattern is laid down, one can place subsequent rows without having to count every single stitch, but rather by working off the relationships between the rows. For example, after stitching a row of 14 crosses, I can see from the pattern that the next row below is one stitch longer on both ends and so I can stitch that row without counting but rather by the spatial relationship between the first row and the subsequent row. This style of stitching allows my thoughts to drift to other topics, which adds to the enjoyment of the activity. It works best with less complex designs than ones with lots of detail, shading, and color changes.
I have greatly expanded my stitching skills via the resources available through both the Embroidery Guild of America [http://www.egausa.org/ ] and the American Needlepoint Guild [http://www.needlepoint.org/index.php ]. If you’re so inclined, please take a look at their websites.