Every now and then you come across a make that is simultaneously super exciting and slightly crazy. For years I have wanted to make something personal for Adam, but the right project eluded me. One magical day in October, while browsing Etsy for inspiration, I come across a cross stitch pattern for a stocking featuring the cast of the Nightmare Before Christmas - a favourite film for Adam. It was perfect. But could something this detailed be delivered in time? I did a quick calculation: a PDF pattern + some DMC threads at home to begin + Aida bought on the way home that evening = might *just* be possible. The trickiest part would be stitching this in secret but I could utilise the couple of hours that I have on my own before Adam gets home in the evening and, if needs be, put in a couple of early mornings.
I purchased the pattern from ExclusiveXPatterns who have some great cross stitch designs. As the design is aimed at those with some experience in counted cross stitch, the PDF download is very basic - the pattern prints fine but the rest of the files containing the colour key, instructions, and letter chart are not well formatted for easy printing on A4 nor do they provide a photo of the finished product. However, you have everything you need to get going. The size of the stocking is provided for 14 count Aida. I chose to use 16 count as I felt the smaller sized stitches would bring out the intense detail more. The design calls for 29 different colours, with some used sparingly for highlight details, and most are quite muted in various hues of black, grey, blue and brown.
Progress ebbed and flowed over the eleven weeks it took for me to complete this. I chose to work methodically: starting on the left hand side and working across to the right, one full page at a time. The first two pages were the easiest due to the large blocks of colour which are quick to count out and to complete as it didn't require continuous rethreading of the needle. The pattern is entirely made of full stitches which also helps to speed things up. I enjoyed the fact the main man, Jack Skellington, started to come to life on the second page.
The third and fourth pages were the opposite - they contained a huge amount of detail and very quickly became frustrating as they are made up of small to minute blocks of colour separated by many other small blocks of different colours. It was very easy to miss a couple of stitches and it felt like I found a skipped stitch every time I looked at it. Due to the level of detail here and my constant close inspection to find holes, I found it very difficult to see the design taking shape until I reviewed the in progress photos I had been periodically taking. Suddenly I understood how the intricate changing of colours had brought Jack's hands to life.
By the end of November, I was finally able to move on to the bottom of the stocking and complete pages five to seven. This section came together fairly quickly as the design didn't take up a full page and larger blocks of colour returned for speedier stitching. I greatly enjoyed the palette change with the focus on much brighter colours. Before I knew it Santa Claus had made an appearance and I was on the home straight. I finally finished the stitching on 15th December after putting in more 5.30am mornings than I care to admit.
In keeping with the colour theme, the stocking is mounted on deep purple cotton. Due to the size of the stocking, I wanted to keep as much of the stitching on show as possible and lost only 5mm when stitching it to the cotton. It is finished with a brown ribbon for hanging. My only, tiny regret in this project is that I completed it on cream Aida as this was all I could get at the time. Surprisingly, it hasn't shown through the dark stitches but it is visible in places at the edges where it is stitched to the cotton.
After putting in so much time and effort, I became slightly anxious that this was a risky gift. On Christmas morning, I realised I needn't had worried as Adam loved it. "It seems such a shame that it will be put away for eleven months of the year." That's the best response I could have hoped for.