Passive vs Active Cross Stitching | S3E107

In this episode, I am sharing thoughts on something Sarah (a Cross Stitch Club member) mentioned in one of her comments about being a passive vs an active stitcher. I share my take on these two and when you might need to be one over the other. You can listen to the episode below or keep scrolling for the books.

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Passive vs Active Cross Stitching

Neither is better than the other and you are probably both at different times in your stitching journey. Some patterns might even call you to be more active or more passive. There is no right way; as with my past “this vs that” episodes I enjoy looking at both sides and exploring which one is right for you, not which one is right full stop. 

If you have found yourself stuck in a bit of a cross stitch rut, this episode/post might help you. Maybe you just need to change from passive to active or vice versa.

Passive Cross Stitching

Passive stitching is when you don’t have to focus too hard on the stitching. You can just relax and lose yourself in it without thinking too much about what you have to do next.

What a passive pattern might look like:

  • It only uses full cross stitches
  • It uses just a few colours
  • It doesn’t involve a lot of counting (and if you do have to count it’s just how many stitches in a row)
  • It doesn’t have confetti stitches
  • It has big chunks of colour to stitch (block stitching)

Notice how I didn’t mention the size. You can do passive stitching with a large pattern if it includes some of the points above.  

When to choose passive cross stitching

There can be different reasons to choose passive stitching but here are a few that might help you decide if passive stitching might be for you.

You have a stressful job

If you have a job that is quite stressful and you use a lot of your brain all day to focus on different tasks then passive stitching might be better for you. At the end of the day, if you want to enjoy your hobby and switch your brain off then you need to stitch something that will help you do that. Being able to just sit and stitch a big block of colour without thinking about it will help you decompress.

You hate swapping colours/rethreading your needle

If you are someone who dislikes always swapping the colour of your thread and having to rethread your needle everytime then a passive pattern might be better. They tend to use less colours and there are no confetti stitches. You can keep the same colour on your needle for a while and you don’t need to worry about rethreading it any time soon.

If you stitch in small bursts 

Passive stitching is perfect if you stitch during small pockets of time in your day. Passive patterns tend to be easier to pick up and put down. You can usually jump straight into the pattern without having to figure out where you are up to. You don’t have to spend any time counting, finding the right colour etc. 

If you’re travelling

This can be if you’re stitching on the train on your commute to work or on an airplane on your way to a holiday. Passive stitching can be easier during these times because you usually don’t need to spend too much time looking at the pattern, counting, finding lots of different colours etc. 

If you do something else while you stitch

For example, you have an audiobook on or the TV, you’re on a work call or an online meet up for the Cross Stitch Club. If you like to do two things at once then passive stitching is better. This is because you are less likely to make mistakes if you have an easier pattern to stitch. If you have a complicated pattern and have half your mind on something else then the results won’t be great. 

Active Cross Stitching

Active stitching is when you spend a lot of time focused on reading the pattern as well as stitching. You have to engage your mind a little more and stitch almost undisturbed.

What an active pattern might look like:

  • It uses a range of different stitches; fractionals, French knots, backstitching etc.
  • It uses just many colours
  • It involves lots of counting and concentrating on exactly where to stitch something
  • It has some confetti stitches
  • It involves lots of colour changes

It might not have all of the things mentioned above but even just one or two will make it a more active pattern to stitch.  

When to choose active cross stitching

There can be different reasons to choose active stitching but here are a few that might help you decide if passive stitching might be for you.

You find the challenge fun

If you need some brain stimulation for something to be fun then active stitching might work better for you. You enjoy a lot of variation in your stitching instead of just stitching cross stitches over and over. 

You have a lot of time to stitch

Active stitching does require more time, especially if you are new to more complicated patterns. You need more time to read the pattern, to swap your colours around more, and possibly to learn new stitches and for counting. 

You stitch for the stitching, not to finish

Sometimes active patterns can take longer to finish than passive ones (depending on the size of course). This is for the reasons I mentioned in the last point. If you stitch for the enjoyment of stitching then this won’t be an issue for you. However, if you stitch because you love to finish a project it is something to bear in mind. 

You like to learn while you stitch

Sometimes active patterns might have stitches or techniques you haven’t tried before so you get to learn something new while you are stitching. They can also be a good way to just practice those stitches you already know as well. Sometimes you might know how to do a stitch, but it is used in a slightly different way on different patterns and you get to learn these different ways.

You mostly stitch at home

Not only is this better for active stitching because of the time it can take, but you also might need different tools that you wouldn’t have on hand if you were stitching while out and about. For example, adding beads. You are also more likely to make mistakes with active patterns (not always but sometimes) so you might need your seam ripper for example. Or you might just need to go onto YouTube to watch how something is done. This can all be difficult if you’re not at home with your stash and your wifi. 

There are of course ways around everything I’ve just said. For example, if you want to be an active stitcher but only stitch in small gaps then you can make sure you are working on the same pattern for a while so you remember exactly where you left off and you can dive right back in. Or maybe you do have a lot of time to stitch but would still rather be passive because that’s more fun to you. This is your hobby so take what works for you from this episode and leave the rest. 

What I truly hope is that if you are in a bit of a rut, maybe something I’ve said here has given you a little lightbulb moment as to why you’re not enjoying stitching right now. Maybe you have a stressful job, using your brain all day and you have been coming home and trying to relax with a super complicated pattern. Swap to a more passive pattern and see if that helps. Make sure it’s still a pattern you would love to stitch though.

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