How Many Cross Stitch WIPs Should You Have? Exact Number Revealed

Posted in Stitcher's Guide

How Many Cross Stitch WIPs Should You Have?

You know the drill. You find that perfect cross stitch pattern and you’re dying to get started. To craft a truly beautiful piece of art, you purchase the fabric, the skeins and prepare a bucketful of enthusiasm for the road.

Already half way through the cross stitch chart when your brain sends out the alarming signal: it’s your BFF’s birthday next week. At that moment you hit the road looking for a new cross stitch pattern that you can stitch up as a memorable birthday gift – maybe something funny, maybe something unusual. You purchase the fabric, the skeins and have all the enthusiasm in the world, setting your previous project aside to be continued on another day.

In a perfect world one active project would keep a person busy and focused for the duration, minimizing the risk of entirely abandoning their stitching work. But honestly, who lives in a perfect world anyways?

Justified Situations

Let’s look at some situations which can prompt you to have multiple works in progress at a time.

The special occasion

There’s nothing more heartwarming than receiving a handmade gift from a family member or friend. To know that somebody actually took a few hours of their life to create an item especially for me, tailored to my personality, will always outweigh other gifts with even significantly higher monetary value. It’s OK to put aside your current project to make your loved one’s special day even more memorable.

Cross stitch on the road

Chances are, that you might be a person who does not get intimidated by larger, more complex cross stitch charts. An individual, who is intrigued by a large number of skeins and aida fabric of considerable proportions. That’s commendable, but what do you do when your spouse loudly presents you with the orders: “Put your gear on honey, we’re going camping!”.

Well, that’s when you need to grab that smaller embroidery hoop, tiny fabric and the limited color palette of skeins. Now you can enjoy the best of both worlds: having a stitching project to work on while not filling the camper to capacity with needles, floss, scissors and cloth. Besides, you still need some space for the fishing rods, right?

The never-ending pattern

This is for those of you who not only don’t get intimidated by larger, more complex cross stitch charts, but actually prefer them to mundane, 100 by 100 size patterns. We’re talking anything above 500 stitches in width or height. Depending on the count size of the aida you choose, a project with this number of stitches can turn out to be somewhere between 40 to a whopping 100 inches (101 – 254cm) in width. Now that’s a large piece of canvas!

Rather than stitching onto this grandiose piece of fabric on a day-by-day basis, we recommend working on it alongside other, smaller designs. This will avoid you getting bored of looking at the same pattern each day, while still getting that feeling of satisfaction of a work well done from the side-projects you stitch up of smaller cross stitch patterns.

One that makes you happy

Cross stitching is your hobby, you’re supposed to enjoy it. And you do, but not all cross stitch patterns are created equal and some are closer to our hearts and minds as others. If you find a pattern that screams: “This is so me!”, put everything aside and stitch it up. Go ahead, we won’t judge. It’s often these designs that will make you smile on dark days and they will surely not go unnoticed by people visiting your house.

Testing the waters

You might be perfectly happy working on a single project and not have any intentions to move onto other ones. But you have to know a good opportunity when it comes along, and there are plenty out there offering a cross stitch kit, embroidery patterns or some floss at a significantly reduced price. If you really love the product you bought but want to give it a test ride before writing a review on the seller’s website, it’s a good idea to first open the box, thread the needle and put a few stitches in before you express your opinion to the world. Honest reviews make or break websites, and you can be a great contributor to a fantastic product if your opinion is honest and authentic.

Cross stitch started projects

So, are two WIPs OK?

Yes, two is ok. In my experience two is better than one, for the following reasons:

  • if you run out of a crucial color on the current project but don’t feel like stopping the flow of stitches pouring out of you, then you can just switch to the other hoop and carry on stitching
  • some patterns can get pretty complex, requiring intense focus. I don’t always have the same level of motivation and sometimes I just want a quick fix but at the same time watch the presidential debate. In those cases I stitch the easier one. Other times I’m happy to devote all my attention to my floss and fabric
  • two projects will keep you more entertained
  • if you’re just starting out, you can translate what you learn from one cross stitch chart to the other. That’s simultaneously expanding your knowledge and doing the hard work
  • you can rotate your setup depending on the time of day to protect your eyes. Stitching the larger count aida in the evenings and putting tiny stitches in the 25 count fabric at daylight will put a lot less strain on your eyesight

Are three works in progress acceptable?

Three is acceptable, but know your priorities. Three WIP’s are usually for situations where one has a clear purpose for all three finished pieces. Maybe you do one for a special event, another to decorate your newly bought crochet basket, and the third to cover up a burn stain that somehow found its way onto the kitchen towel.

To keep you on track and avoid clutter when having three WIP’s, it’s helpful to have strategies in place to organize you projects. One way of doing this is keeping a Work In Progress Journal. This is just a piece of paper on which you jot down the details of your project:

  • pattern name,
  • destination (gift to, decoration for, upcycling clothes, etc)
  • the time you started
  • the colors and fabric your stitch chart calls for
  • any other info you deem worthy for the cause

Any old notebook will do for this purpose, or I have a nicely designed template you can download for free here and start using immediately.

As someone who cross stitches regularly and has a moderate to high level of self-discipline, I find that 3 and 3/4 of WIPs is the ideal number.

Now I hear you ask: Oh why so technical? What does that even mean? Well it’s really simple.

The definitive answer, explained

I usually have the solid three works in progress. However, there is this one I started back in 2016 of Mr. Spock that somehow remains in its almost-ready state, three quarters done. Right now it resides in the murky grey area of not-yet-abandoned-but-not-on-the-table-either state.

If you have been cross stitching for a while, it’s likely you have one of these pieces in your stash somewhere too. They are sort of WIP’s that don’t get worked on, so they don’t deserve the full recognition of a WIP. But they aren’t abandoned either, because when the right time comes…

How about four, is four too much?

We are getting into dangerous territory here.  Remember, the more projects you start, the higher the possibility of you abandoning one of them.

It’s all good if you have little minions in your house. You know, those that come out at night and finish the cross stitch patterns you started stitching. If you happen to be blessed with them I implore you to catch a pretty one and send it to me. I’ll take good care of the little fella I promise. I will send it back to you with a plate full of freshly baked chocolate brownies.

If you’re not one of the lucky few, be careful with four; it’s possible to pull it off, but you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. Remember, cross stitching is your hobby, not a chore. Don’t let it turn into something that needs to be done, or must get finished.

Cross stitch works in progress

Okay well, is five insane?

Do you need five? Do you really need five WIP’s? If your honest opinion is yes, you must have a very good reason for it. To have any hope of finishing them all, you must be very organized and plan your cross stitch journey ahead. My advice is to set a deadline for each project and try to keep yourself to them so you don’t fall off track. You can do this by adding another entry to your  Work In Progress Journal. If you use our free template that’s downloadable for free here, it has that column included already. Fill it out.

I have more than seven

Frequently, people who have anything above the magic number of seven have been stitching for a good number of years. Sometimes life gets in the way, priorities change, projects get suspended. Know when it’s time to let go of a piece you’re not interested in anymore. If you however plan to finish all seven of them  no matter what, be prepared: you don’t get to fall in love with shiny new patterns and impulse-stitch them anytime soon!

If you have seven projects and still plan on starting another, then you my friend, are in an uncontrollable cross stitch craze!


So there you have it! The magical number of 3 and 3/4 is the ideal number in my opinion, but I’d love to know how you all feel about this. Please leave a comment below and tell me how many WIP’s you have and how you manage to keep track of each one. What helps you complete them or what makes you abandon them entirely?

Posted In Stitcher's Guide

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