Practical and personalized: Cross-stitched bibs make for simple but unique baby gift

Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Cross-stitched bibs, like those shown here, are easy projects for beginners hoping to make a keepsake but wearable gift.

It seems everyone's having a baby these days.

I suppose I'm at the age where that begins. Most of my friends have been paired off long enough to reach that stage. And, as a single, I bear the burden of buying for baby alone.

I've bought expensive dresses to wear in their weddings, and I've thrown high-priced bridal showers. I refuse to pitch in on another $200 changing table. I've reached my limit. My mom used the floor, it was free, and I turned out just fine.

So, I put my nifty thrifty mind to work. When I was younger I took up cross-stitching. I'm not sure why, though I think it had something to do with the cross-stitch angel my mother made for our Christmas tree. I always thought it was beautiful.

Anyway, I started out with bookmarks and moved on to wall hangings. I've always been a fidgeter so it was the perfect thing to keep me occupied while watching television. In my teens I put it away and didn't think about it much over the brooding adolescent years.

But when the baby boom struck, and I was desperate for yet another gift, I pulled that hidden talent out of the back of my craft box and tried my hand at some baby gifts.

Bibs are my best bet. They're quick, cheap and easy. A traditional tie bib will cost about $2, with a slipover bib going for as high as $7. Slipovers will probably be used more often, while tie-on bibs will be more sentimental (Keep this in mind when you choose your design).

Cross-stitching -- at least the type I do -- is simple to learn. The hardest part is keeping count of your stitches. After you've chosen your design, you count the total stitches across and divide by two; do the same for the total stitches from top to bottom.

The numbers you derive will be the number of stitches you count over or down, respectively, on your pattern to find your center (where the two counts intersect). It's easier to find the center on your bib: Simply fold in half and then half again. The corner of your square that is the innermost of your cloth is your center -- mark it.

When you unfold your bib, the mark will be your starting point, corresponding with the center of your pattern.

The rest is a matter of counting. Make sure to check the colors of your pattern often. Most patterns go by symbols, though the ones I have offered today are based on color gradients.

The only other thing to remember is that you never knot in cross-stitch. When you pull your first needle through, leave about 1 inch of thread on the back side. Loop your next few stitches around the thread to hold the thread in place. When you get to about 1 1/2 inches of thread left, pull your needle through stitches on the back side of your fabric to hold that end in place.

And a final note about thread: a skein of cross-stitch thread is actually six strands wound together. The skein is typically 3 yards long and costs about a quarter. To complete a typical cross-stitch pattern, use two strands at a time. For a thicker stitch, use three strands; anything thicker than three strands tends to bunch too much. For backstitching (like the smile in my sun pattern), use one strand of thread.

Now you're ready for the onslaught. And with these bibs, people won't only be oohing and ahhing at the baby.

Vanessa Cook is a former copy editor for the Southeast Missourian.

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