11 October 2013

A Day in the Life of Mr X Stitch

Finally - this month's A Day in the Life interviewee is a man. A man who embroiders atop mountains, no less. Mr X Stitch, aka Jamie Chalmers, is known as the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery. Making a living as a stitching blogger, curator and artist, he's basically living the dream. Wanna know which vitamin keeps the kingpin's fingers nimble? Read on, my friend...


"Life as Mr X Stitch is very full. As well as running Mr X Stitch, the world’s best embroidery and needlecraft, I also run Rollin’ News, Europe’s best roller derby news site, so it’s fair to say there’s a lot of variety.

I try to wake before 6am if I can, as it gives me an hour to do some retweeting and processing of emails before I wake my girlfriend with a cup of tea. We have eggs for breakfast most days, scrambled with all kinds of veg in it. It took a while to get used to but it’s lush, and we have a Berocca each day to get the essential 971% of our daily allowance of B2(!) Once Mary has gone off to work as a physiotherapist, I get the house to myself, as I work from home in a nifty home office. We’ve recently moved into the countryside from living in Milton Keynes and are enjoying village life. Honesty boxes filled with fudge for £1.50 a pack are the new rock’n’roll.

There are several strands to being Mr X Stitch, and while I’d love to say that I spend my days stitching in a sun-filled room, it’s more than likely that I’m staring at computer screens and squinting for the first half of the day. I’ve become a bit of a coffee snob, having been to Guatemala and Indonesia and learning about how coffee is grown. I’m also an Aeropress convert and so I run on good quality caffeine until the middle of the afternoon.

There are innumerable factors that affect how the working day progresses, but on the whole I try to process as many little bits and bobs in the morning, to allow time for more profound writing before Mary comes back from work. On Mr X Stitch, there are over a dozen contributing columnists, so before I’ve even starting writing my own posts, there’s usually an amount of admin in keeping on tops of things. The site is over five years old and there’s a lot of updating to be done – it’s the little things like correcting the SEO on images that you uploaded four years ago… Exciting stuff!

Lunch and I are strange bedfellows. If I’m travelling around I’ve trained myself to buy little salad bowls from M&S, as they are filled with superfoody stuff and I feel fancy when I eat them. When I’m at home there’s no knowing what I’ll have. Mary and I both like cooking, so sometimes there are some pretty groovy leftovers to be warmed up the next day.

In the afternoon I’ll try to get some blog posts done. Some things come easily; the stitchgasm posts are short and sweet, whereas the Cutting (& Stitching) Edge posts are more like mini art reviews and take some critical thought. I just tend to do whatever comes next in my list of things to write about, so if something gets too challenging, I stick it in a safe place and come back to it later. Most times I can get a fair few things done, and of late I find I’m doing interviews and writing for magazines, including my monthly X-Rated column for Crafty, so I can usually find something to suit my mood.

If I get really stuck, I’ll pick up one of the various cross stitch projects I’ve got on the go and get my stitch on. The meditative quality of cross stitch is great for helping process your mental workload. I’ll often sit for half an hour with my Moleskine next to me, stitching and writing down the ideas that bubble up from my subconscious. It’s a great way of getting rid of the mental clutter and as a fan of Getting Things Done I value that process. On a good day, I can fill my notebook with things to do and get the head space to get on with them, which is much nicer that whirling around my Inbox getting nowhere.

Mary gets home around five, and I try to make sure that I can stop when she comes back. I’ve spent a long time working too many hours in the day and I’m realising the value in stopping from time to time. I might end up doing other bits of work in the evening, but the pause when we cook dinner and catch up is an important one. In an ideal world I might go for a jog before dinner as a way of compensating for being sat on my butt for most of the day; it’s either a good health choice or a form of punishment, I still can’t quite decide. Evenings are spent trying to design cross stitch patterns, relaxing in front of the TV with a bit of cross stitchery, or getting out and about. I still do the odd bit of skating with a roller derby league or if the weather’s good I’ve even been known to do a spot of impromptu weeding at our allotment.

Making a living from a website is great if you can manage it, but it’s a neat trick to generate enough revenue to pay the bills and not something I’ve completely mastered yet. I’m really proud of how Mr X Stitch has developed into a great resource of embroidered inspiration and ideas, and has enabled me to bring out a book – PUSH Stitchery – as well as get to a position where I can teach cross stitch and do presentations to all kinds of great people. I’ve taught 8 year olds to cross stitch and I’ve taught 80 year olds, and it’s an honour to introduce people to the power of embroidery. I call cross stitch a gateway craft, as it leads you on to harder crafts, and it’s fantastic to see people connect with it. I’ve been stitching for over ten years and I still enjoy it, however there’s an irony to my life in that my love for cross stitch led to the creation of Mr X Stitch, which keeps me so busy that I rarely get time to cross stitch!

If I’ve learned anything from the Mr X Stitch experience thus far, it’s that you really must love the work you do, particularly if it’s a craft and you want to make a go of it, because you’re going to be doing it for a long time. I didn’t necessarily think that Mr X Stitch would still be going after five years, but we’re going from strength to strength and it’s great to be a part of the movement that is changing the way people think about craft and helping everyone engage with the power or making."


Thanks for sharing your day with us, Jamie! I'm feeling inspired to bust out that embroidery hoop...