Remnant Rehab: 'Babies ain't free' cross-stitch offers dose of reality

In college, my cousin Leanne came to visit me in Lawrence. During her time here, we happened to see a commercial for that stuck with both of us.

In the commercial, a guy is on stage ranting and ends with, “Some of ya gonna have to work two jobs — ‘cause babies ain’t free.”

Since then, we’ve regularly reminded each other of that. Leanne was the first to find it out first-hand. When she had her second daughter in October, I decided to make her a “Babies ain’t free” cross-stitch.

My starting point was a book called “Subversive Cross Stitch” by Julie Jackson. Her book is full of patterns with snarky sayings on them — I’ve made “Kiss my grits” for another friend.

She also has one that says, “Babies suck.” I used that to figure out the lettering for my own saying, and I also used her pattern for the border and pacifier.

The colors I used were black for lettering; light pink and dark pink for the pacifier; and light purple and dark purple for the border. I don’t know exactly what floss colors they are because I just went with what I had. You can change the colors for what suits you or the recipient best; for example, change some colors to blue for a baby boy.

Download the pattern and watch the inspiration commercial at


  • 14-count Aida cloth
  • 5 embroidery floss colors: black, light pink, dark pink, light purple, dark purple (or substitutions you choose)
  • Embroidery needle (has a blunter tip and bigger eye than sewing needles)
  • Pattern
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery hoop, optional
  • Iron
  • Frame


These are general cross-stitching principles that you would apply to making this pattern.

  1. There are different sizes of Aida cloth, which refers to the number of holes per inch. Using a different size will change the finished size of the design.
  2. Cut a piece of Aida cloth to about 6 inches wide by 8 inches long. That way you can be sure it will fit within a 5-inch by 7-inch picture frame.
  3. Fold the cut piece into quarters and mark the center of the piece. Work from there to stitch your design. I didn’t mark the center of the pattern, but roughly, it’s a little below the “n” in “ain’t.” (The pattern is 49 squares wide by 61 squares tall.) You’ll probably want to start stitching either “ain’t” or “free” first and continue working off of that.
  4. Choose the first color of embroidery floss. I always measure a piece to work with by holding the end with my fingers and running it up to my elbow, then snipping it off there. That gives you enough to work with comfortably without so much that it will get tangled.
  5. Embroidery floss has six strands wrapped together. In this pattern, you always use two strands at a time. Pull off two strands together and thread the needle. Save the other strands for later.
  6. Decide where to start stitching. Start by pulling the needle up through the cloth from bottom to top. Leave a tail on the bottom — you don’t need to knot it; just catch the tail in your first few stitches.
  7. It doesn’t matter which way you choose, but make sure to cross all your stitches in the same direction. If you start in this direction, /////, always have the opposite stitches, \\, on top. Choose whichever direction is easiest for you.
  8. I’m not an expert, so I don’t know the best way to stitch lettering, but I do one letter at a time. I did the lettering first, then the pacifier, then the border.
  9. When you come to the end of a thread, run it under a few stitches on the back of the cloth and then snip off the excess.
  10. Aida cloth is fairly stiff, but you can use a hoop if it helps. If you use one, it doesn’t have to be bigger than the whole design — when you’ve covered the area inside, just take off the hoop and move it to the next area you’ll work in.
  11. When you’ve finished the piece, you’ll need to iron it, especially if you used a hoop. The iron should be hot, but don’t scorch the finished product! I do the back first to make sure it’s not too hot, then flip it to the front and press.
  12. Cut the cloth to fit in a frame and hang it up — as if you needed one more reminder that babies ain’t free!
YouTube "Babies ain't free" commercial


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