Maybe Swearing Will Help: Relax And Curse Your Ass Off In Cross-Stitch by Weldon Owen Publishing

Back when I was a lass, sometime between fifth and eighth grades, cross-stitch became A Thing at my school. I lusted after the beautiful kits some of the other girls had, and remember in particular running my hand longingly over a sampler kit of yellow roses at a notions store. I’m not sure if my parents ever gave in and let me buy any of them, tho I do distinctly remember miscounting the interior bit on some red roses at some point while working on a cross-stitched piece of my own. I agonized over my mistake — mostly because I didn’t have a lot of thread to fix it with — before realizing that no one could really tell unless they were looking hard for something to criticize.

Going to boarding school cut short my opportunities for working in smaller fiber arts, tho I do remember having an art project with either a loom or similar wooden frame that smacked me in the face after I accidentally knocked it over one night during one of the rural school’s periodic blackouts. I only got back to crafting for myself about a decade later, taking up knitting in an effort to occupy my restless hands. More recently, the pandemic had me and countless others looking into even more crafty pursuits.

So when I got the opportunity to review this book, I absolutely leapt at the chance to take up my old hobby as part of properly evaluating it. The focus of the book — swearing — isn’t going to be for everyone, tho is definitely part of the irreverent aesthetic that began taking hold in mainstream fiber arts around the turn of the century. I, for one, welcome more books like this. As a grown-up, my tastes have definitely changed from the staid romanticism of my tween years. ‘Pretty’ just doesn’t cut it any more for me, especially given how easily this craft in particular lends itself to making statements. I knit in order to keep my hands busy while my brain is otherwise occupied — I’ve been working on a Perpetual Blanket for years now — and I draw/color/paint mostly to illustrate a text or a place. Cross-stitch, on the other hand, is the place I can lean in to being, well, cross. The patterns here encourage that, allowing needleworkers to let go of negative emotions while still honoring them as valid. It’s also gratifying to know that people like the esteemed Dame Judi Dench, in addition to the 13 designers and teams who dreamed up the 24 patterns plus alphabets in this hilarious and extremely helpful book, enjoy a saucy take on the hobby too.

Geared towards beginners, Maybe Swearing Will Help is a delightfully potty-mouthed introduction to cross-stitch for adults who enjoy a little profanity. Illustrated in full color, it starts with an introductory overview of cursing in cross-stitch, before getting into practical advice for starting the hobby. As someone who hasn’t stitched in ages, this was a helpful refresher on the basics. The book is also very reassuring about making your own choices and mistakes, with helpful tips on what to do with your pieces during and after the creative process.

I decided to try out the What The Actual Fuck pattern by Happy Sloth (and ordered enough material to also try Oh Hell No by Grandma Girl Design.) Besides my fondness for the Roy Lichtenstein-inspired design, I figured working in a single color — black — would make this a fast and easy project for me. I started in January and, um, still haven’t finished it yet, lol. Granted, I haven’t had the most time to work on it. Cross-stitch is a craft that requires both tactile and visual attention, unlike knitting which I can do while reading or watching sports. That makes cross-stitch great for getting me to slow down and focus on conversations and other aural input. Unfortunately, that isn’t something I have the most time for given my busy, multi-tasking schedule!

I was also super rusty to start, not understanding AIDA/counts and having a really tough time centering the project, as you can tell from the photo I snapped (above) once I was eight hours in. Yes, it took me eight hours to stitch a simple border and two words, tho in fairness, there was a lot of ripping done before even getting to that part. I did feel quite accomplished, and was almost tempted to stop at that point as it was already a minimalist masterpiece.

But of course I pressed on, and this book was super lovely in helping. The finished projects are beautifully showcased but what I really appreciated were the clearly marked counted cross-stitch patterns, with repeat sections included for those working from a physical copy of the book, where the patterns spread out over two pages (I have an electronic ARC, so was impressed by how well the patterns print out too, making my work that much more portable.) The only thing I wish this book had, as most other crafting books do, is a suggested difficulty level for each piece. They’re not arranged in any seeming order, and while some projects definitely look more difficult than others, I’m not sure whether I was right in assuming that this was the best place for me to start. It was definitely the cheapest tho, with only three skeins of one color floss to purchase!

I’ll keep going with this project, tho I’ve definitely messed it up already and am too lazy to do any more ripping. Hopefully, my poor cross-stitched lady won’t look too gaunt with her accidentally shifted features. I will post an update here when I complete the project, whenever that is!

Overall, this is a terrific book for encouraging grown-ups to get into needlecraft, with easy to follow patterns, clear instructions and tips, and a relaxed attitude about what should ultimately be a relaxing time. There’s also a nice section in the back on the pattern authors and their other pursuits, which helps point the way for stitchers who want to know/do more once they’re done with this excellent book.

Maybe Swearing Will Help: Relax And Curse Your Ass Off In Cross-Stitch by Weldon Owen Publishing was published March 7 2023 and is available from all good booksellers, including

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