Looking for a craft to work on that’s uncomplicated, totally relaxing, and highly rewarding?

You’ll find all of that and more with the fun craft of cross-stitch.

The art of cross-stitch was so popular when I was a young mother in my 20s. I remember getting hooked on it as a relaxing way of spending “me” time while my toddler napped in the afternoon. 

This was a lot of fun to work on, with all the different colours.

It was easy to learn, simple to do, and always produced the most rewarding results. A finished cross-stitch looks a lot like a painting—but instead of paint, you use different colours of embroidery floss (thread) and follow the very clear pattern instructions by simply stitching X’s onto the little squares in the cloth.

For all the gardeners out there!

Over the years, my love affair with cross-stitch fell by the wayside as I experimented with other pursuits such as quilting and sewing, painting and drawing, and crochet. But every time I caught sight of one of my finished cross-stitch pieces, I felt a strong yearning to get back to it. 

This comes out of storage every Christmas.

And didn’t it take a pandemic to reset my focus on cross-stitch again after all these years! I have some storage bins filled with cross-stitch supplies that I’d had been keeping in the cellar for the past 15+ years. As I sorted through them, I rediscovered a beautiful kit that I’d bought eons ago, that I’d put away to work on “someday.” 

Still have to frame this one. Would look lovely in a child’s bedroom.

Well, “someday” had finally arrived. 

Last summer every time we went out on our boat for the day, I took my cross-stitch project along. Talk about relaxing. Cross-stitching while lounging in the middle of a lake, listening to the gentle sounds of water lapping against the side of your boat is stress relief on steroids!

This takes centre stage on my fireplace mantel.

By September, I had completed the adorable “Beach Babies.” Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of being out on my boat during the summer of 2020—it’s proof that beautiful things can still come out of the bleakest of times.  

“Beach Babies”, summer of 2020

Cross-stitch is the oldest form of embroidery, practiced as far back as the middle ages. Here’s a link with some fun facts about the art of cross-stitch: https://crossstitchacademy.com/fun-facts-history-of-cross-stitching/

Loved working on “The Toy Box”.

I would love to see cross-stitch taught in elementary schools to both boys and girls—needlework skills offer so many benefits to kids: improved fine motor skills, patience, self-confidence, improved math skills, and stoking imagination and creativity, to name a few.

As a writer and editor by trade, I couldn’t pass this one up!

Think you might want to learn how to cross-stitch? You’ll find lots of instruction on the web, but here’s a good YouTube instructional video for beginners offered by Bucilla, a popular needlework supply manufacturer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Kiuy4ZwIDI

I made this cross-stitch into a cushion for my dad for Father’s Day. He loved it.

It’s easy to find cross-stitch supplies online at your local craft store sites. Beginners can buy a kit that contains everything you need: the pattern, Aida cloth, floss, and cross-stitch needle. 

Worked on this while sitting in the stands during my daughter’s baseball games.

Try it. I guarantee you’ll love it!

This is a tribute to my good buddy, Otis.

Here are some of my finished projects from the past. I have good memories of working on every one of them.

A change of perspective might help. Try seeing this as an Isolation Vacation

With all social activities shut down, most people working from home, and everyone holed up in their homes 24/7, the words “I’M BORED” are becoming the most-repeated words in the English language (second only to “pandemic”).

BORED is just another word for OPPORTUNITY.

As an introverted type who is quick to choose seclusion over socializing (unless my spouse drags me forcibly out of the house), I have some suggestions to help you bust through your boredom. Even if one of these isn’t typically your thing, give it a try. You might discover a new interest that you would never have believed you’d enjoy so much!

Give your inner child a chance to come out and play.

When you were a kid and there was nobody around to play with, what did you do? Draw pictures? Make paper airplanes? Work on a jigsaw puzzle? Bake cookies? Write a poem?

I remember sitting in my room as a kid with a department store catalogue (remember Eaton’s?) and a pair of scissors, cutting out the pictures of models and turning them into paper dolls with different outfits, also cut out of the catalogue. Nowadays, I’ve seen some awesome projects online where people have used pieces cut from magazine pages to make art collages—there are so many inspirational ideas out there, even if you don’t consider yourself to be creative, some of these ideas may pique your curiosity. We all have some form of creativity buried deep inside, ready to be released with just a bit of encouragement. When you were a child, you did this without even thinking about it. Go online and check out what other people are doing. The ideas there are endless. Try to see self-isolation as an opportunity to meet up with your long-lost inner child and allow yourself to have fun playing again.

It’s never too late to learn something new.

Is there something new you’ve wanted to learn, but never had the time? Well, now’s the time! Thanks to YouTube, there are endless instructional videos online covering just about any topic. Think of a new skill you might like to learn, and look for an online video tutorial. Try learning a new language, a new recipe, tackling a small home repair yourself… the options are infinite.

Get a jump on your spring cleaning.

It’s definitely an ideal time to clean out and organize your closets and cupboards. Or tackle some early window cleaning. Or dismantle and wipe down your light fixtures. My window blinds throughout the entire house had about an inch of dust on them, so I took an afternoon to clean every one, as well as all my light fixtures. I need to wear sunglasses inside my house now! Put your confinement to good use, and by the time this pandemic is over, your house will put Martha Stewart’s to shame.

Here is—hands-down—the BEST way to relax…

Indulge in the extreme pleasure of curling up on the couch with a cup of tea or coffee and a really, really good book. There is no better way to unwind. The public libraries may be closed, but their online resources are not! If you have a library card, go online and check out your public library’s database of ebooks and audio books. You’ll be absolutely amazed by their selection of everything from fiction to memoirs to DIY manuals and so much more. There are no late fees like there are with hard copy books, and best of all, EVERYTHING THERE IS FREE! If you don’t like the book you borrowed, just click on return and borrow another one. As long as you have an electronic device (laptop, tablet, phone), all you have to do is download the borrowing app (you’ll find easy instructions on your library’s website) and start borrowing.

Your public library doesn’t just lend books—you can also borrow online magazines as well as music and videos! They even offer an incredible selection of learning resources and correspondence classes on just about every topic—all electronically. Again—everything is FREE. I’ve always said that most people don’t realize the great value they have at their fingertips in our public libraries; well now is a good time to make that discovery.

I’ve recently developed an addiction to audio books that I listen to while going for long walks outdoors. It’s like being a kid again and having somebody read stories to you—it’s honestly the most zen way to spend a chunk of time.

Get back to nature.

And speaking of being outdoors—you won’t get COVID19 by getting outside. Go for strolls around the neighbourhood (keeping social distancing in mind as you pass by other walkers) and clear your head with some fresh air (one good thing about this pandemic is that it has had a positive effect on the environment, since most cars are now confined to their driveways instead of clogging the roads and the air we breathe). Slip on some boots and go on a trail hike in a regional forest. There’s nothing better for the soul than getting out into the great wide open; it’s the most natural pick-me-up you can treat yourself to.

You can still enjoy lots of social time with friends.

Are you going crazy without face-to-face social interaction? That’s the beauty of Skype and FaceTime. A few times a week, I get a cup of tea and sit down in front of my computer for a FaceTime session with my girlfriends. It honestly feels no different than if we were sitting in the same room together. Sometimes we hang out on-screen for a couple of hours at a time. It’s so much fun… and I don’t have to clean the house before they come over 🙂

P.S.: The phone isn’t just for texting—you can also call people and actually talk to them!

Music is medicine for the soul and body.

To me, music is the ultimate mood lifter. When you’re feeling antsy, put on some of your favourite tunes and dance! Not only will your spirits lift, you’ll get in a great workout too. A friend of mine dug out her old skipping rope and plans to skip every day to burn off some of her restlessness. I have a bunch of old workout DVDs collecting dust in a cupboard. I may just dig them out and try different types of workouts for a change. Getting yourself into the habit of some form of daily exercise is guaranteed to give you more energy, improve your mood and boost your immune system. You will also sleep better than you’ve slept in years.

There are still many reasons to count your blessings.

No matter how bad things get, there will always be something to be thankful for. In the face of all of this doom and gloom, I challenge you to write down at least one thing that you’re grateful for every single day. There will always be something. You are alive and in good health? Be grateful for that. There are still sunsets to watch, and flowers that will bloom, and birds singing their songs, and people who love us, and there’s always hope if you keep the faith. I wish I could remember who wrote this impactful saying—I’ll leave you with it now: “The best often comes after the worst happens. You can either move on, or you can dwell on the things you can’t change. Either way, life will go on.”

F.Y.I.: I highly recommend the books below. They are among some of my favourites:
An Embarrassment of Mangoes – Claire Bidwell Smith

Around The World in 60 Seconds – Nas Yassin
The Light Between Us – Laura Lynne Jackson
Behind The Beautiful Forevers – Katharine Boo
Falling in Honey – Jennifer Barclay
From Broken Glass – Steve Ross
The Gratitude Diaries – Janice Kaplan
After This – Claire Bidwell Smith
I Heart My Little A-Holes – Karen Alpert
Humans: A Brief History of How We F—-d It All Up – Tom Phillips
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Messages – Bonnie McEneaney
Our Kind of Cruelty – Araminta Hall
Pandemic – Sonia Shah
The Accidental Veterinarian – Philipp Schott
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers – Annie Kagan
The Cow in the Parking Lot – Susan Edmiston
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
The Joy Plan – Kaia Roman
The Killer Across the Table – John Douglas
The Noticer – Andy Andrews
The Pull of the Moon – Elizabeth Berg (ALL of Elizabeth Berg’s books are AWESOME)
The Rabbit Effect – Kelli Harding
The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd
The Sex Lives of Cannibals – J. Maarten Troost
Getting Stoned With Savages – J. Maarten Troost
Messages From the Masters – Brian Weiss
Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian Weiss
Lessons from the Light – Kenneth Ring
An Invisible Thread – Laura Schroff
Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt
The Geography of Bliss – Eric Weiner
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
Night – Elie Wiesel
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – Susan Cain
Sht My Dad Says – Justin Halpern
The Soul of an Octopus – Sy Montgomery
Until I Say Goodbye – Susan Spencer-Wendel

And there are so many more. I would need thousands of pages to list them all.

 

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