Monday 14 July 2014

The Secret Language of Stitchers

The Secret Language of Stitchers

Yes, you read that correctly.
There is, and has been for some time, a language hitherto undiscovered by modern man.
It's sometimes bewildering, occasionally confounding while also being innovative and insightful.

It is only recently that I have begun to grasp the intricacies of this forgotten language and so I have taken it upon myself to share what I have discovered with you, Dear Reader.

Firstly, however, I must recount details of a recent experience.
(Some details have been changed to protect the innocent)

The other day I was visiting a practitioner of dentistry. My partner (who shall remain nameless) and I were discussing our secret addiction to the art of cross stitch.

Having recently learnt some of the stitching world's secret language I took it upon myself to utilise it's masking effects. The conversation played out thusly:

Myself: "I've never been RAK'd"
My Partner: "How does that happen?"
Myself: "Someone just has to want to do it"
My Partner: "Maybe you'll be RAK'd soon"
Myself: "Maybe. I've got loads of WIPs so it's doesn't matter"

A portly lady sat nearby leaned over and asked - very politely - if we could keep our voices down as she felt our conversation was inappropriate in polite company, especially that of her child - a rather glum looking specimen of boyhood by all accounts.

I refrained from my instinct to laugh when I realised the disapproving woman was deathly serious. My my, what a predicament!

Quickly, and with no small amount of embarrassment, I explained that I was talking about sewing as my friend and I had recently had to learn it's skills to enhance our careers aboard ship. Her look of confusion - while probably familiar to her, was irksome to me. I further had to explain that a 'RAK' was a Random Act of Kindness, in which one person gave a gift of a cross stitch related item and that a 'WIP' was just another way of saying a 'Work in Progress'.

I'm not sure she saw the funny side (to be honest I'm not sure she ever saw the funny side of anything) - but my explanation was sufficient enough for her not to call a constable to arrest the suspected deviants.

A lucky escape, indeed.

So that you, Dear Reader, may avoid such terrible predicaments I am including below a compendium of terms that may better aid you in understanding those who sew:

BAP - Big Ass Project
FAD - Fun & Done!
FFO - Finally Finished Object
FS - Forgotten Stash
HAED - Heaven and Earth Designs
KK - Kustom Krafts (Canadian Chart Seller)
LNS - Local Needlework Shop
McBAP - Massively Complicated Big Ass Project
MSWD - Must Stitch with a Deadline
ONS - Online Needlework Shop
ORT - Old Raggedy Threads / Orphaned Random Threads (this is derived from a real middle English word meaning remnants)
PAD - Project All Done
PFC - Paine Free Crafts
PFO - Pulled from Oblivion (for those projects you haven't worked on in a long time)
PHD - Project Half Done
PIGS - Projects in Grocery Sacks. Used for when you put your own kit together from fabric threads and pattern. (with tote bags aka PIT.)
PINF - Projects I'll Never Finish
RR - Round Robin (the act of passing a project from person to person until completed).
SABLE - Stash acquired beyond life expectancy
SAL - Stitch Along (when a group of people all stitch the same design or something from the same designer)
SALLY LIDOFF -  Here's one I made up today: Stitch A-Long Like Your Life is Dependent on Finally Finishing
SEX - Stash Enchancement Experience
SINS - Stuff I'll Never Stitch
SIP - Stitching in Progress
STASH - Special Treasures All Secretly Hidden
STD - Stitching To be Done (aka Stitching to Do) (Special thanks to Sue Wilkie Thompson for this one!)
TOAD - Trashed Object Abandoned In Disgust
UFO - UnFinished Object
USO - Unstarted Objects
WHIMM - Work Hidden in My Mind
WISP - Work in Slow Progress
WTF - Waiting to Finish

ABLE STRETCHER - a specific hard plastic type of cross stitch frame available from Viking Loom in the UK.
CONFETTI - stitching term for all those single stitches and fractionals!
COUCHING -  There are differing opinions on the proper definition for this one, but all things say one thing that's the same: it's the act of a piece of thread (yarn/piping/cotton etc) is laid over your existing stitching and fastened into place with tiny stitches, giving a 3D effect.
FROG - the sound made when unpicked stitches are ripped out (Rip it, Rip It)
STITCHY BUDDY - Any animal that "helps"(hinders) your WIP by sitting on, in, or near materials needed on a consistent basis.
NEEDLE MINDER - decorative magnet attached to your fabric to keep your needle safe.
PARKING - the act of stitching with multiple active needles, each threaded with a different color. Especially useful with Confetti.
QSNAP - type of frame comprised of plastic tubes with snap-on grips.
RAILROADING - The acto of passing your needle between your two threaded strands to create the effect of two threads laying next to each other, like a railroad this gives a flatter, neater look to the top stitch.
TANTO - the Tanto Thread Organiser is a specialist tool used to keep your thread sorted while working.
TWEEDING - the practice of using two strands of different colours to create a different effect. 

NOTE: While the story above is actually true (yes, that really did happen to me) I have obviously adapted and re-written it to be in keeping the with style of this article. I deliberately wanted to create a feeling of 'period'. Hopefully I achieved that.
I would also like to thank all the members of the "I Cross Stitch and I'm Not Ashamed of It" Group on Facebook who helped me to compile the above list. You're all stars in my book!



  1. how funny to read your experience with a typical conversation about cross-stitch things in front of unaware people :P

    and thank you for your post. it will be very useful for me as I often don't understand acronyms in English language... :)


  2. This made me laugh out loud and it will bring a lift to my day as I head out to my job as a hospital chaplain; which as you might expect can be a rather depressing place. As I go through my day and need a dose of encouragement, I will recall your story and chuckle!

    1. If I can help you get through the day Angela then all is good! :-)

  3. Enjoyed your story (although don't understand the need for the "portly" description) ...I've confused many when talking about my stitchery obsession. They look at me like I'm from another planet sometimes...but the excitement is always apparent. Another term I use is my style of stitching "in hand" which I then often have to explain.

    1. The need for the 'portly' description is simple: descriptive flourish. I used 'portly' rather than 'fat' because of the style of language I was using.
      She was fat. So am I. I don't have a problem with that description. :-)

  4. I have another one for you UFO - UnFinished Object. Abandoned when a MSWD (Must Stitch With a Deadline) comes along and is never picked up again.

    1. Thanks Louise! Don't know why I missed that one off. I've added both of those now. :-)

  5. What a fun read! I even learned a few new terms. McBAP, SALLY LIDOFF and SINS might be a few of my new faves.

  6. Too funny! Years ago a friend and her husband had picked me up at an airport a 2 hour drive away (they were in the area for another reason I wouldn't be so rude to fly into an airport that far away). We hadn't seen each other in months and talked stitching ALL THE WAY! Her husband muttered something about a bloody different language when he got out of the van and went inside. LOL!

  7. Excellent post and very informative. Nice to know that you've decided to join us world of stitchers. It's such a relaxing art and if you love colors, you've chosen the perfect way to express that. I'm your newest follower'

    LindaLee at

    1. Thanks Linda Lee, I've been stitching for over 20 years; but only recently decided to get blogging! I do love it and find it very relaxing. Glad you like my blog, I shall be having a look at yours shortly. :-)

  8. Love it! Hope you don't mind if I share the list with all my stitching friends!

    1. Hi Kerry, I don't mind at all; but, if it's ok with you, could you share the link to the page on my blog rather than copying the text from the page? Many thanks!

  9. Funny ! Enjoy reading you blog, Neil :)

  10. That was funny !!! And thanks for the Stitchers language, I never knew most of them, I guess you learn something everyday !! Enjoyed reading your blog Neil !

    1. Thanks Michelle! Glad you enjoyed reading it! That's what I hoped after all! :-)

  11. Hi Neil,
    I just want to add that i have used the "Parking" method for almost 50years now and do not have all the threads on needles i thread each one as i come to it as it would be a tad expensive and not very safe to have them all threaded at once as i can have somewhere around 100+ threads on the go at one time.In fact i doubt that many if any have them on needles i use hair clips to secure my theads in bundles.Just wanted to let you know,lol.Great idea to post this though hun.Blog is fantastic love it.

    1. Thanks for the tips Sue! And thank you! Glad you enjoy the blog!

  12. Great post! Learned a few new ones reading your post :) I am off to read some more of your blog.

    ps...Kustom Crafts should be Kustom Krafts.

    1. Thanks for spotting that! I'll correct it immediately! :-)

  13. Oh my gosh! I laughed so much! Thank you for sharing!

  14. Excellent! I love this post, came on over from a BB. (I just suggested STD over there.) It is so fun to have these acronyms.

  15. So too much SEX leads to an STD or even multiple STDs?

  16. Thanks for the terms... now I don't feel like an ass asking what a pig is! :0)

    1. You're welcome, and I know how you feel...which is why I did the list! :-)