Welcome to another Tooled Up column where we aim to bring you reviews of cool gadgets and fun products from all over our crafty world.
Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.Desiderius Erasmus
One of the most controversial topics in the world of cross stitch is how tidy the back of your work should be. It is a topic that can strike fear into many a stitcher, and I thought I’d enlighten you on the topic, with a bit of help from the Daylight Company’s Magnificent Pro 3-in-1 magnifying lamp.
I’ve been using the Magnificent Pro for quite a while now, as my trusted companion when I’m relaxing on the sofa and getting my stitch on. It can be set as a table lamp should you wish, but I keep mine tucked in a corner of the room, where I barely notice it’s there until I need it.
It’s an attractive lamp with a magnifying lens/light fitting that makes it really easy to see what you’re stitching. The light itself has three brightness settings which is great if you have a penchant for working with darker materials, while the flexible arm and easy twist head mean you can position the lens close to you, without the light affecting those around you.
Using good light and a bit of magnification is quite the game changer for the ardent stitcher; while it’s not that taxing to stitch in normal light, the Magnificent Pro makes it so much easier to see what you’re doing, it’s quite hard to go back. You don’t have to spend as much time fiddling with your needle to find the right hole to stitch through, and if you’re into precision embroidery – I’m thinking goldwork, blackwork, that sort of thing – this really enables you to easily arrange your stitches with care.
It also means you can see when things go wrong, and this brings me back to my starting point – the back of your work.
The back of your work tells the story of how you created the piece. It’s an interesting version of events as you can see the transition of thread across the work, and, gasp, you can also see where things go wrong.
In my book, The Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch, I created a design called Back in Black. It’s a reversed question mark, and the intention is that you stitch it as normal, but you display it so that the back is showing…!
It’s a brave decision but if you dare, it creates a design that is also a documentary, and something that shows your stitching style in all its glory.
If you’re an average stitcher and you stitch the design in a single colour, you’ll probably expect to see something like this, with a fairly uniform pattern and the loose ends nicely tucked away…
If you’re a bit more obsessive, maybe you’ll pride yourself on a really tidy back, with nary a thread out of place.
But if you use lots of colours, like in our rainbow example, then the back of the work is going to be jam packed with action and, to be honest, it looks like a ton of fun!
Historically there have been types of embroidery, such as shadow work, where the back of the work is intended to look the same as the front and, as you become more competent as a stitcher, you might expect your back to become more organised.
But it is very important to understand that it does not matter what the back of the work looks like!
This red and grey piece is the one I stitched for my book – shout out to the mighty model stitchers who made the others! – and you can see that it’s got a mistake in it. There’s a tangled mess on the back of it that I didn’t notice until it was too late, and I couldn’t face unpicking the work to sort it out.
Thanks to the magnifying lens of the Magnificent Pro, it’s even easier to see that mess in all its tangled glory.
The thing is, I let that mess remain, and I have lived to tell the tale. Sure, it would have been nice to have a really neat back, but the pleasure of stitching it would have been compromised by the discomfort of fixing the mistake. So, I kept it in, and I even put it in the book as a confession to all.
With the Magnificent Pro, there’s a possibility that I may have noticed the mistake earlier. But without a doubt, what it does help me do now is look at that mess and come to terms with it.
And I can really really look at it. I can stare at the chaos of it in intricate, well-lit detail, and I can celebrate the joy of it, and how I fought the “back of your work” demons and survived.
Life is short, cross stitching is great fun, and the Magnificent Pro makes the job a lot easier. Even when you are using it as a therapeutic tool. Do yourself a favour and get one today.