See his autobiography, Connecticut Yankee (1943).
The most frequent use of a cross is among Christians, to whom it recalls the crucifixion of Jesus and humanity's redemption thereby. The Christian form of blessing by tracing a cross over oneself or another person or thing originated before A.D. 200. The oldest Christian remains contain drawings of crosses and cruciform artifacts, and the fact that the cross was the Christian emblem before the toleration of Christianity is shown by the vision of Constantine I. His mother, St. Helena, is supposed to have found the True Cross at Calvary in 327, and the event is commemorated on May 3 as the Finding of the Cross. Splinters of the relic are widely distributed and honored by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. In 614, to the scandal of Christendom, Khosru II of Persia took the largest piece of the relic from Jerusalem. It was restored by Heraclius I in 627; the anniversary of this event is Sept. 14, the Exaltation of the Cross. The relic was lost in the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem. Use of the cross was one of the popular practices attacked by Byzantine iconoclasm and vindicated (787) by the Second Council of Nicaea.
The crucifix—the cross with the figure of Jesus upon it—had already been established in use; at first, the figure was painted or in bas-relief, a style surviving in the Christian East. Older Western crucifixes often presented the Savior reigning, in robe and crown. The realistic dying figure, dating from the Renaissance, is now universal in Roman Catholicism.
Devotion to the cross as a symbol of the Passion is an outstanding development (from the 11th cent.) in the history of Christian piety; it has ever since been an essential part of the public and private religious life of Roman Catholics. Protestants have been generally sparing in using the cross and do not use the crucifix, but the symbolism has been retained in their literature (e.g., in the hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross). The cross was the badge of the Crusades and was adopted as the emblem of the Templars, of the Knights Hospitalers (Knights of Malta), and of the Teutonic Knights. It became important in heraldry, flag designs, and decorations.
Examples of artistic effort spent on crosses are seen in the monumental crosses of market, town, and wayside in Europe (e.g., at Cheddar, Malmesbury, and Winchester, England) and in the wayside calvaries of Austria and Brittany. Some of the finest art products of the Celts were stone crosses. (For the later Eleanor Crosses, see Eleanor of Castile.) Processional crosses (on poles) lend themselves to elaboration. Crosses are also worn for personal adornment. Pectoral crosses and necklace crosses have given scope for fine enameling.
There are many shapes of crosses. The Latin cross, the commonest, has an upright longer than its transom. With two transoms it is called an archiepiscopal or patriarchal cross; with three it is a papal cross. A cross widely used by Slavs and by others of Eastern rites has two transoms and a slanting crosspiece below. The Greek cross has equal arms. St. Andrew's cross is like an X, and the tau cross is like a T. The Celtic, or Iona, cross bears a circle, the center of which is the crossing. The Maltese cross and the swastika (an ancient and widely diffused symbol) are still more elaborate.
Cross-stitch is a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which X-shaped stitches are used to form a picture. Cross-stitch is usually executed on easily countable evenweave fabric. The stitcher counts the threads in each direction so that the stitches are of uniform size and appearance. This form of cross-stitch is also called counted cross-stitch in order to distinguish it from other forms of cross-stitch. Sometimes cross-stitch is done on designs printed on the fabric (stamped cross-stitch); the stitcher simply stitches over the printed pattern.
Cross-stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery and can be found all over the world. Many folk museums show examples of clothing decorated with cross-stitch, especially from continental Europe and Asia.
In the United States, the earliest known cross-stitch sampler is currently housed at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The sampler was created by Loara Standish, the daughter of Captain Myles Standish, circa 1653.
Traditionally, cross-stitch was used to embellish items like dishcloths, household linens, and doilies (only a small portion of which would actually be embroidered, such as a border). Although there are many cross-stitchers who still employ it in this fashion, especially in Europe, it is now increasingly popular to simply embroider plain pieces of canvas and hang them on the wall for decoration.
There are many cross-stitching "guilds" across the United States and Europe which offer classes, collaborate on large projects, stitch for charity, and provide other ways for local cross-stitchers to get to know one another.
Today cotton floss is the most common embroidery thread. It is a thread made of mercerized cotton, composed of six strands that are only loosely twisted together and easily separable. Other materials used are pearl cotton, Danish flower thread, silk and Rayon. Sometimes different wool threads, metallic threads or other speciality threads are used, sometimes for the whole work, sometimes for accents and embellishments.
Other stitches are also commonly used in cross-stitch, among them ¼, ½, and ¾ stitches and backstitches.
A specialized historical form of embroidery using cross-stitch is Assisi embroidery.
There are many stitches which are related to cross-stitch and were used in similar ways in earlier times. The best known are Italian cross-stitch, Celtic Cross Stitch, Irish Cross Stitch, long-armed cross-stitch, Ukrainian cross-stitch and Montenegrin stitch. Italian cross-stitch and Montenegrin stitch are reversible, meaning the work looks the same on both sides. These styles have a slightly different look than ordinary cross-stitch. Two-sided cross-stitch looks exactly like regular cross-stitch, but is also reversible. These more difficult stitches are rarely used in mainstream embroidery, but they are still used to recreate historical pieces of embroidery or by the creative and adventurous stitcher.
The double cross-stitch, also known as a Leviathan stitch or Smyrna cross stitch, combines a cross-stitch with an upright cross-stitch.
Cross-stitch is often combined with other popular forms of embroidery, such as Hardanger embroidery or blackwork embroidery. Cross-stitch may also be combined with other work, such as canvaswork or drawn thread work. Beadwork and other embellishments such as paillettes, charms, small buttons and speciality threads of various kinds may also be used.