As cross stitchers, we love to create personalised cards for our nearest and dearest on birthdays, at Christmas or other special times. The chances are that these cards are much appreciated by the recipients, displayed prominently for a few days, and then perhaps placed in a drawer or a cupboard, where they will stay for many more months, rarely seen. Here's an idea...
Why not start creating bookmarks instead for your friends? The advantages are that they will be used as often as the recipient reads a book, and will be associated with good leisure time. Also, your message of friendship will be reaffirmed every time your friend or relative opens the book. It will be useful as well as being ornamental.
There are a few principles to bear in mind if you are considering making bookmark presents.
Firstly, your chosen design should have a great appeal for the recipient. What is the favorite color of this person? A favorite flower? A hobby? You can make the bookmark with these things in mind. Do remember that this will be a quick project, however.
Bookmarks are small, and therefore, you will not be able to incorporate every aspect of the person's likes and dislikes into this design. If your friend has lots of interests, you may consider what he or she most enjoys reading about.
Children may be encouraged to read by being given their very own bookmark, with a favourite cute character stitched onto it to make it personal for them.
The easiest way to make a bookmark is to buy a bookmark kit, choosing the most appropriate design for your friend. In any case, buying a kit for the first bookmark you make is probably a good idea, as it will contain all the necessary threads, fabric and instructions you need. You will be able to get some information from this as a sort of template for your future projects.
Traditionally, bookmarks are long and slim in shape. It is important that they are not too bulky or scratchy, as this could damage fine paper pages. You will need to consider what sorts of books your friend reads.
Paperback books are usually smaller than their hardback counterparts, and therefore you need to take this into account when considering the size. As a general rule, it's advisable to make your bookmark between six to nine inches long and two and a half inches wide.
You will need to cut your cross stitch fabric (aida or evenweave) to the right size. In order to prevent the edges from fraying, you should stitch a piece of binding or ribbon to the edges. If you prefer, you can use a larger piece of fabric and deliberately fray the edges yourself, keeping the edges symmetrical and neat in appearance. You can then stop further fraying by spraying with a fray-stopping product.
As for the design, you can either pick a small design from a magazine or book, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can try drawing your own design. To do this, you will need a page of graph paper, with every square corresponding to a potential stitch. Make sure that you leave a small gap between the edge of your design and the edge of the fabric.
Stitch the bookmark as neatly as you are able to, and when you have finished, stitch a piece of ribbon to hide the back of the work. Make sure that there are no lumps or bumps of thread on the back of your work, as this will show as a bulge through the ribbon. You will also want the ribbon to stick evenly to the bookmark.
To give your bookmark added interest, do consider folding the bottom of it into a triangle shape instead of a straight line. You can add a tassel, some beads or a shell to the end, to make it look unusual.
Do not forget to iron the finished bookmark carefully, between two towels, so that it does not become overheated.
Once you have experimented with making one bookmark, you will be surprised how easy the next ones will be -- and how quickly you will complete these projects.
I'm sure you'll agree that making a bookmark for a friend is a great alternative to stitching a card. Individualising the design can be great fun, and also give lots of pleasure to the recipient of your gift.
John Wigham has been a professional author and editor for 20 years and is a co-founder of Patterns Patch an online cross stitch club dedicated to counted cross stitch. The website has a small team of writers who are devoted to our cross stitch club and enjoy writing about their hobby.