Click on the link below for some suggestions on selecting threads for different types of projects.
(What it took me 20 years to learn, yours in an hour)
My Philosophy of Stitching
Is there a philosophy of stitching? Well, I would say that stitching is to be enjoyed. Why do something that is not fun and relaxing? The bottom line is to enjoy yourself while steeled away from the problems and routine of everyday life. Stitching can become a corner of the world that is just for you. It often becomes an obsession, a productive one, that leaves you with something to show for the time invested. This is good. The time you devote to needlework gives something to show at the end. Most of us have a closet full of unfinished projects. Stitching should be fun. If you enjoy starting pieces, by all means do that. Do not feel guilty about having many projects unfinished. That is what I mean about stitching being fun. Whatever you do to enjoy this hobby, do it.
Now I must throw in a caveat. I recommend that you try to stitch as well as possible and have a completed piece that is technically correct. Why? We often go back to our completed work and ask ourselves, how could we have done this? This and this and this is wrong with my stitching. Strive to stitch so that your work is flawless. Very few of us will ever really get there, but we can try and that is the purpose of this guide to stitching hints. These are all the little things that make a finished piece look better so you can be very proud when you display it.
Permission is granted to duplicate to your hearts content
Mounting the Canvas or Ground Fabric
I am a firm believer that what you are stitching on must be firm (pun intended.) Many stitchers can stitch in hand. This is handy when you travel. I did not have a grandma to teach me to stitch like this. When I began to stitch it was so much easier for me to stitch on a frame of some sort. What I discovered later was that my stitching looked so much crisper, for lack of a better word. It is really hard to describe the difference, but when I compared pieces that I had stitched with the original designers' stitching (pieces done in hand) mine looked better. The designers were women with vast experience and I was amazed at what effect having a drum tight ground fabric/canvas to stitch on did for the quality of the piece. There are two different ways to mount your canvas or ground fabric. One is on roller frames and the other on stretcher bars. Stretcher bars seem easier. You get four of them, put them together in a size that matches your canvas and tack or staple the canvas to the bars. But after a while the canvas becomes loose. It relaxes and is also affected by heat and humidity. When this occurs you should pull out the staples and mount the canvas again. Roller frames are more expensive and a little more clumsy to carry around. They make it much easier to keep your material taut. Whenever it relaxes, you just need to twist the top or bottom roller. Also you can lace the sides for extra tension. Your ground fabric should be like the sergeant bounding the proverbial quarter off the recruit's bunk. The higher it bounces, the better it is stretched. If it is necessary to mark the middle of your piece, do this before you mount it.
Here is a little hint for mounting canvas on a scroll frame. Mark the top and bottom centers of the canvas and the center of the scroll bars, or tapes. Pin the center of the canvas to the center of the scroll and then pin the two ends, pulling out and stretching the canvas as you pin. Do this for top and bottom. Then baste the canvas to the material attached to the scroll bar, keeping the basting stitch straight across.
Whenever possible use a floor or table frame. It is far easier to control your yarn when you stitch with both hands. With a floor frame there is no distraction trying to balance your work on your lap or between a table and your body. Two-handed stitching looks better in the end. Again we are going for a crisp, clean look. The yarn should be pulled straight up and straight down through the canvas. Cradle the yarn in one hand above the canvas as you come down, not letting it rest on the canvas. This will protect it and prevent wear. Never pull the fiber through at an angle. Not only does this wear the fiber quickly but also tends to distort the hole that it is traveling through. Two handed stitching is also quicker. Have one hand underneath the canvas and one above. The Japanese insist that the dominant hand be above and the other hand below. I taught myself just the opposite and it seems to work.
Keep It Clean
The best way to avoid cleaning your work is to never get it dirty while working on it. Easy to say, right? There are steps that one can take to help prevent soiling. Use Grime Stoppers or some sort of material on the top and bottom of your work. Where your fabric/canvas is stretched over the roller bars or the stretcher parts there is a very good chance that it will get grungy in these spots. Always wash your hands before starting to stitch, even if you think they are clean. There are natural oils on your skin which will get on your work. Cleaning puts chemicals into your work and there is always a chance of the colors bleeding. Also it is very hard to find a dry cleaner that can handle needlework. If you have a piece that has become dusty you can vacuum it, however lay a new piece of screen mesh over the piece and then vacuum with the mesh between the wand of the vacuum and the stitched piece. When not stitching keep your piece in a cloth bag of some sort or a pillow case. Best of all, keep your needlework clean as you stitch.
Beginning and Ending Threads
If you are not careful when you start threads they will pop out and be visible on the front of your work. This seems to happen most often after the piece has been framed. To avoid this secure your threads on the back of your canvas with diligence. A waste knot or away knot is best. Leave a long tail on the back of the piece that can be stitched over or buried later. If you are stitching something where burying the ends of the threads will disturb the stitching on the front, you can also end with a knotless waste thread. You would then stitch over this when you start your next thread. Tension is important when beginning and ending your thread. Be very careful that you do not end with a tug that distorts the canvas, or too loosely, leaving a floppy thread.
You must also be careful with rayon and slippery threads. Use a Bargello tuck when starting going one way and then another and then back under your work. I am not a purist and if I am stitching with a very slippery thread I put a little knot on the end, trim it close, and bury the thread. While most people consider a knot a no-no, if the knot is smaller than the thickness of the thread on the back of the piece already stitched, the knot will not show. There will be no bump. Please do not think that I am condoning indiscriminate use of knots, but they can be used sparingly.
Another little hint to help bury thread when you have stitched it to the last possible fraction of an inch is to loop a piece of thread in your needle, slide the needle under the stitching and catch the tail in the loop, pulling it under the stitched thread. Be careful not to distort the holes where the thread goes. In other words, be gentle.
I suggest the hardest thing to learn, and the most important, is tension. Proper tension comes with time and experience. The stitch can not be too tight, as it will pull and distort the canvas, and can not be too loose, as it will show as lumps on the front. Take a close look at large areas of basketweave. If they are smooth, and there are no lumps, your tension is good. If there are no pulled areas, great. Mood also affects tension. When you are frustrated, angry or upset you can tend to pull harder. If you don't have a care in the world, your stitches can be loose. If you are around other stitchers, watch how they stitch. Look at the expressions on faces and the grip on the thread and needle... what an interesting show they can provide.
Two Handed Stitching
Stitch with two hands. This almost necessitates a stand of some sort. Threads wear easily, and often the more unusual a thread the more it will wear. Always come straight up and straight down through the canvas. Cradle the thread and guide it through the canvas. Sometimes using a larger than normal needle will push the canvas threads apart and there will be less friction on the thread. Remember, friction is your enemy.
You do not want to wear your thread as you stitch. The last stitch should look like the first stitch. This is hard. First, use shorter pieces when stitching. How short? Experience will guide you. A rule of thumb is from the hand to the elbow. I find that this is a bit too short, but a good place to start. The stitching length will vary depending on the stitch. If the stitch uses a lot of thread, your length can be longer. Basketweave goes in and out of every hole, satin stitch does not. Therefore the stitching length can be longer for the satin stitch. Fuzzy threads should be shorter as they wear easily. Thick threads should also be shorter. Most stitchers hate to start and stop threads, finding it too time consuming. However with short lengths you are taking less time pulling the thread through the canvas. It all balances out in the end and the shorter lengths look better.
You must also take care with mercerized threads. The shine seems to wear quickly. A good hint is when you get close to the end of the thread, say about a quarter of the length left, start skipping stitches or parts of stitches. If you are using thread from a kit you want to use as much of a stitching length as possible so as not to run out. For instance, if you are doing a band of satin stitches, when you near the end of the thread, skip a couple of stitches, stitch a couple, skip a few, stitch a few skip a few. Rethread and then go back and pick up the skipped stitches with the new thread. If you are doing a composite stitch, do the base stitch first . Then do the stitches on top with the new length of thread. You will be surprised how nice this will look. There is no more line in your work showing where you started and stopped the threads.
Normal stitching twists threads. Stitch awhile and let your needle fall free on the back of your work. It will start to untwist. Look at the direction it untwists and as you stitch, twist your needle in the opposite direction. Why is this important? Twisted threads look bad. They thin as they twist and give poorer coverage. It is such an easy correction to make that soon it will become a habit.
You have to use some sort of laying tool when stitching with more than one ply of a thread or with flat threads. Untwisting and laying your yarn gives smoother and better coverage to your piece. Threads twist, and a laying tool is the best way to get your threads to lay flat. There are several types of laying tools. The Japanese one is called a Takobari. It has been duplicated in the US and is called The Best Laying Tool or BLT for short. There are wooden ones that work very well with ribbons. A trolley needle is another type. It is like a thimble with a large needle attached and is worn on the finger while stitching. There are several other types which all serve the same purpose. You can even use a rug needle. The goal is to have your stitches parallel on the canvas. Often this is hard to accomplish without a tool of some sort. Sometimes women are lucky, they can also use a fingernail.
Dye Lot Variation
There will usually be dye lot variations in threads. If you start a project, and then put it in the closet to finish later you are unlikely to be able to match dye lots. So buy enough at one time. How can you be sure you have bought enough? Divide your supply of thread into two parts, or even four. When you have stitched half or a quarter, respectively, of the design, you should have half or a three quarters left. If not, you can rush right down to your needlework shop and buy more. If you do this in a reasonable time there is a better chance you can get the same dye lot. A year from now, when you want to complete your piece, there is less chance getting the same dye lot. Watch out, especially for overdyed and space dyed fibers.
How Dyes Affect Fiber
Different color dyes affect fiber or the threads differently. Check out black (310) DMC floss. It is thinner than most of the other colors of floss. Dye takes to the fiber differently depending on the chemicals used to color and set the yarn. There are times that you will need to adjust the number of ply. To achieve the same coverage you may need to add another ply, or take one out.
Never believe that any thread is color fast. It might be, and then again it might not. Why take the chance if you are going to wash or block your work. (Keep it clean and you won't need to wash it; use roller frames and you won't need to block it.) Fiber is usually dyed in hanks. Where the hanks are tied together they may be tied too tightly. After dying the fiber is washed. If those threads were tied too tightly dye might remain after washing. This dye will come out when you wet your piece and run. Before you start stitching run a damp paper towel down the length of a piece of thread and see if any of the dye comes off. Then soak the thread in water for a while and repeat. If there is color on the towel, the dye will bleed. Be especially wary of dark reds and deep blues.
Metallic Chainettes vs. Braids
Chainettes have the advantage of covering canvas well and are less expensive than braids. They are more difficult with which to stitch. However, practice and patience makes stitching with chainettes easier. You can use a larger than normal needle or fray check the ends of the chainette. Practice will give you a feel for the yarn and will result in less unraveling. If it does unravel, stop stitching and move the needle past the ravel and cut the unraveled piece. Remember to get any pieces of the metallic out of your work before continuing. Braids are easier to stitch with and maintain their shape. However, they will not spread out on the canvas. You have to pay particular attention to coverage. Braids give a clean, sharp appearance.
Furry and Fuzzy yarns give dimension to your work and make it so realistic. There are hints about working and fluffing up these yarns. First, you must stitch straight up and straight down through the canvas to prevent wear. I know I have repeated myself, but this is important. You can also use a Bunka brush to fluff up the fibers after you stitch them. A Bunka or nap brush is a wiry thing that brushes the yarn. After it is brushed you can shape it by trimming. Always stitch the fiber to be brushed first, brush it and then stitch the surrounding area. It is near to impossible to try to brush an area without also brushing the stitching around it. If the area that you brushed is getting in the way of your stitching, use hair dressers tape, the pink stuff, to hold the fuzzy stuff out of the way. Use long stitches when possible. Use stitches that leave more thread on the front of the canvas, there will be more fur to be seen. Basketweave pulls too much of the fuzzy to the back of the canvas.
Direction of Stitching
This is a bit hard to explain and much easier to show, but here goes. When stitching you often have a choice of where the next stitch will go. If so, stitch so that the next stitch is at an angle to the one just placed. In other words, try not to stitch with the thread traveling in the same direction like a darning pattern. That way your thread will position itself in the hole in the same place for each stitch.
In the Full Hole, Out the Empty Hole
It is usually better to go up through the canvas in a empty hole and down in a hole that has thread from another stitch already in it. This keeps tension on the individual stitches and prevents a sloppy appearance. Can you always do this? No, but try. Also, when stitching with fuzzy or furry yarn violate this principle. Come up through an occupied hole. That will help to drag the little fibers to the front of the canvas.
Whenever possible the tent stitch of preference is the basketweave stitch. It is worth learning and if you are a stitcher of experience and do not do the basketweave you will be surprised how easy it is. Most stitching books have instructions on how to do the basketweave. The direction you move on the canvas is important. If you look closely at an intersection on mono canvas you will see one thread is on top, and one that goes underneath. The next intersection will be the opposite. When the top thread is vertical it is called a "pole." If the top thread is horizontal it is a "step." As you stitch on the diagonal, go up the steps, from the bottom to the top of your stitching. As you go down the diagonal stitching line, slide down the poles. Up the steps, down the poles. This will prevent ridges from forming and cause less distortion. I end a length of thread in the middle of a diagonal row. That way I know which direction to stitch when I start a new thread. Always start and end your thread horizontally or vertically. This will prevent a ridge from showing on the front of your work.
Grain or Nap?
Most fibers have a grain or nap. Nap is the direction that the little fuzzies stick out. If you are stitching with a very furry fiber the nap is important. The best way to determine the direction of the nap is to run it through your fingers both ways. If one direction feels smoother, that is the way you want to stitch it through your canvas. Now I am going to write something that is blasphemy in the world of stitching. It is not always important to find the grain or nap. Let me explain. Rules tend to be passed down without being re-evaluated. Years ago wool yarns were rather rough and grain was very important. If you stitched against the grain your work would look uneven and the fiber would wear quickly. The wools we have today are of a much better quality. I know, it is written in stone and was handed to Moses, that you must stitch with the grain of the fiber. When you do this you can not double wool over in your needle. If you are stitching a piece that calls for four ply of wool, the rule dictates that you put four separate ply in your needle. Not having taken classes, and needing to teach myself how to stitch, I figured that you had 8 ply of wool going through the hole for part of the time and it was harder to control the tension. Also, most of the time I was guessing at the direction of the grain. If I use two ply doubled over in the needle there would only be 4 ply going through the canvas at any one time. Try this experiment. Stitch a small square in basketweave with four ply of wool going with the grain and stitch a small square with two ply doubled over. Whichever square looks better, stitch that way. My two ply doubled over looked better and that is the way I stitch. There are exceptions to this. Pearl cotton is much easier to stitch if you go with the grain. Fuzzy and furry yarns also need to go with the grain. Just note, the establishment will rail against the idea of doubling in the needle, so do what makes you feel better about your stitching.
When I taught beginners, the two stitches that gave the most trouble were the basketweave and French Knots. French knots are not difficult to do and the secret is to always do them the same way. When stitching a French Knot, wrap the thread around the needle, not the needle around the thread. Then always pull the remaining thread off in the same direction as you pull the needle to the back of the canvas and gently let the knot form. I always stitch the knot over an intersection and if a large area is to be filled, stitch it in the same manner as you would basketweave. Try to keep the tension the same and all of your knots will look the same.
Bullion Knots seem to give stitchers a headache. Use a milliner's needle. This is a needle where the eye does not form a bump, as it does with tapestry needles. That way the thread slides off the needle quite easily and you do not have to tug to get the Bullion Knot past the needle's eye.
Some threads need to be wetted to get the kinks out. Rayon generally needs to be wetted. If you have a creased thread dampen a piece of paper towel thoroughly, pull the thread through the moist towel, then let it dry before you start stitching. If the fiber needs to be stripped, do that first and then wet each strand. When you know that you are going to use a lot of a certain yarn that needs this preparation, wet several strands so that you do not have to start and stop stitching after each length of fiber.
Can't Pull the Needle Through the Canvas?
Sometimes it seems impossible to pull the needle through the canvas because there are so many stitches already in a whole. Get a piece of a child's rubber balloon and use that to grip the needle and it will pull right through the canvas. There is also a commercial product from Rainbow Gallery called a Needle Tugger that you can use. It has a clip to attach it to your scissors for convenient access. Simply pull apart from the dual magnet clasp for use. Then slip the clear tube over the point of your needle, squeese, and pull it through.
Changing a Design
How often have you wanted to change a design but were afraid to do that? Just because you have a kit or chart doesn't mean you can't make changes. Personalize your project. If you have an idea that a different fiber or a different stitch or a different color would look better, try it. You are probably right and, if nothing else, the change will make you happier. Nothing is written in stone. You may have more of a palette of yarn to choose from than the designer did. Also you might want colors that go more with your home decor. Often times a designer only has the threads that were sent from the manufacturer. The designer may have been asked to keep the cost of a kit down or to only use common threads that are easy to find.
A story I like to tell is about the Marbek Nativity. I stitched that piece, a rather large, time consuming project. Finally I got to the portion with the manger. Above the Christ child's head a beam of yellow blending filament comes all the way down from the top of the piece. It is 8 or so cross stitches wide. About an inch above the infant's head it goes to 2 cross stitches wide. I stitched it like it was diagrammed and for years wondered what was the great design secret. Why did the bolt of yellow go from wide to thin? I was fortunate to meet the designer and the first thing I asked was why she did this. I was ready for a lecture on the secrets of color, balance, and beauty. With a straight face she said "I ran out of yellow blending filament." If you think something will look better, be brave and make the change. Designers work with what is available to them. You may have access to different threads which will improve the design.
Support Your Needlework Shop
As the Internet grows there has been movement away from local business. The number of needlework shops has been diminishing over the years. I think that most of us would be lost without a shop to go to. All the threads and charts and accessories are there for us to see. Most shops have knowledgeable owners and employees to help answer questions. In other words, there is a wealth of information and items that we can touch. I might also add that it is wrong, actually illegal to duplicate charts. It is not fair to the designer and not fair to the shop.
To Frame, With or Without Glass?
When a piece is framed with glass there is a chance for moisture to condense and mold to form or rotting to take place. Having been in the Army I moved a lot and found that the few pieces that I framed with glass had a lot of discoloration where moisture had condensed. This happened even though spacers were used and the needlework did not touch the glass. I suggest not using glass unless the home has smokers in it. The pieces I have without glass are still bright and crisp with no apparent damage.
Basting the Sides of the Canvas
Here is a little hint that will save you time. The purists will say that you should not do this. Rather than spending time basting the sides of my material or canvas, (hold on), I use Elmer's Glue. I run a finger wide strip of glue around the material to prevent unraveling of the edges. After the piece is stitched I cut the glue off so the little bugs that are so common in parts of the country will not have a free meal. I just hate to spend time preparing a canvas rather than stitching. After the piece is finished and the glued part is cut off, there is nothing that is left to show that I prepared the canvas in this manner. This also strengthens the sides so that they can be laced.
Carrying Threads on the Back of the Canvas
If you move from one area to another, end the threads on the back of the canvas and start again. There are two main reasons for this. First, it is often hard to frame a piece and get the lumps out with a lot of thread traveling from one spot to another. It changes the tension and will make the finished piece lumpy. Secondly, if the design has open work the thread will show through on the front. This really detracts from a finished work of art. If you need to move from one spot to another and there is stitching in-between and you want to cheat, run the thread under the completed stitching on the back of the work. Try not to disturb the stitching on the front. It is really best to start and stop threads as you move from one spot to another.
Get in the habit of having check points if you are doing counted work or cross stitch. A lot of grief will be prevented if, as you count, you have a system to check your work. Start new areas of stitching that are adjacent to those already stitched. It is easier to count two or three threads than twenty or thirty. As you stitch take the time to line up stitches on the canvas with those on a graph. If a mistake can be caught early the fix takes much less time. When you need to count an area to determine the number of stitches to do, or the number of threads to skip, mark it on your chart. That way you are not spending time counting the same area three or more times. Count everything twice to make sure you have the correct number. Count on the chart and on the canvas.
Magnets and Brass Tacks
The little blue button magnets are great. I usually have several on my canvas to hold needles and a BLT. I like to have my tools handy and right at my finger tips. There are also magnets that have been painted with cute little motifs. One word of caution, if you are using the magnets to hold your chart while you stitch, be careful when you remove the chart or move it about. If it is printed on both sides and you rip it out from under the magnets you chance leaving printing ink on your work. Remove the magnets first and then the chart.
Always use brass tacks when tacking down your canvas to stretcher bars. They will not rust like thumb tacks can.
The hardest thing about attaching beads to your canvas is that afterwards they wobble. Most designers say to go through the bead twice. What I have found that works better for me is to always use one ply of floss doubled over in my beading needle. I then attach the bead where it goes and then go over it again splitting the floss with the bead (commonly called "railroading".) This anchors the bead so securely it does not wobble. You can use this technique with bugle beads too.
No matter how experienced a stitcher you are, there will be times you need to remove your stitching, or rip. A good term to use is retro-stitching. That sounds a little more positive. I usually cut the stitching on the top of the canvas and pull out little bits of thread until the unwanted stitching is removed. This method keeps dye from the thread from transferring to the canvas. It also removes the temptation to reuse the thread, which will be extremely worn. Be careful when you cut the thread not to cut the fabric. (If you ever do cut your canvas or fabric you can always weave a new strand back in. This is not fun, but it is possible. Take a piece of canvas thread from the edge.)
Stitching On Linen Over Two Threads
When stitching on linen over two fabric threads a good rule is to start the stitch next to a vertical thread. What I mean by this is to come up next to an intersection with the vertical thread on top. See diagram. Not only does this improve the look of your stitching but also helps you keep count. If you go over one or three threads rather than two you will notice it rather quickly.
Stitch Lighter Threads First
So that dye or color does not run off onto your lighter threads that butt up against darker threads, stitch the lighter ones first when possible. If you are stitching an area with a light color that is adjacent to dark threads with a light thread, the whole length of light thread will be pulled in contact with the darker thread. There is more of a chance that the lighter thread will be discolored as it is pulled along the darker thread.
Stitching With Overdyed Yarns
When you stitch large areas with overdyed threads divide the area into small sections and stitch each section completely. This will group colors together rather than having the colors change in lines or diagonally. Think of stitching a brick wall with red overdyed thread. Stitch each brick separately rather than along a line of canvas threads.
When working with overdyes you may want the color run to go faster. Stitch so as a lot of thread is left on the back of the canvas. You might also want to bury a length of thread now and then to get it to go through the color run quicker.
Cut several lengths from the card or skein and rotate through them as a stitching length is generally shorter than the color run. This will help the colors change quicker. Do not double an overdyed thread in the needle, make sure that when you strip the overdyed thread you put the same color ends together. Otherwise you will loose the run of the colors. However, you can also reverse the threads if you want give a mottled appearance with no definite color run.
If you are controlling the color run, always thread the end that you cut. That way the first stitch from the new length will be the same color as the last stitch. Also, if you are doing a geometric, thread the same end of each strand and start in the same place for each part of the design. If there are four quadrants, a four ply overdyed works best.
My preference is not to use needle threaders. I feel that if you need to use one, the thread is too large for the needle. Fold the thread over your needle, holding the needle between your thumb and forefinger. Pull on the thread and pinch as you pull the needle out from between your fingers. Then slip the loop through the eye of the needle. If it just won't go through, get a larger needle. I do understand that many stitchers find threaders essential. By all means, if you are one of those, go ahead and use a threader.
Jean Hilton Stitches
Perhaps the hardest stitches to learn are those made popular by Jean Hilton. She does such unusual things with thread on canvas. I often get asked how to stitch a "Mistake Stitch" or "Amadeus Stitch" or other Hilton stitches. The best advice I can give is to practice on another piece of canvas. Jean's stitches go in and out of the canvas at odd places, slide under already stitched threads, and have all sorts of strange counts and odd sharing of holes. I find that a good picture and directions are necessary when learning a stitch from her that I have not done before. Follow the stitch on the picture as you read the directions. Above all, do not give up hope. There is a pattern in her stitches that will become apparent in time. She has her own unique way of constructing stitches.
Ironing Your Ground Fabric
I am a person who hates to iron. However, it is a good idea to get any wrinkles out of your fabric before you start to stitch. Many times the fabric is folded, especially if you purchase kits. Iron out all these creases. If you find that they just won't come out, wet a cloth in a solution of a small amount of white vinegar diluted with a large amount of water. Place this over your fabric and iron again and the creases should come out. Use a special iron for your fabric, not the same one that you use to iron clothes. A cheap little steam iron that does not have starch or other buildup on it works best.
Traveling With Needlework
Strive to always keep your work clean. In a hotel, keep it covered and out of the way when you are not in the room so that the housekeeper does not toss it on the floor . There is usually much less room in a hotel or motel than your home. If you are sharing with others it is so easy for something to be spilled on your work. Keep it somewhere safe when you are not stitching. Also, bring your own 100 watt or more light bulb. Hotels like the 25 watt bulbs which are impossible to stitch by. Keep your needles in some sort of magnetic case so that they do not fall out on the bed and you find them at 2:30 in the morning, much to your surprise.
Stitching with ribbon is becoming more popular. There are a variety of ribbons on the market. Many are heavy, and it is difficult to get them to lay properly on the front of your work. You must use a laying tool. To make the front of your work look better lay them on the back also. This is an extra step, however when you eliminate all twists on the back the ribbon lays so much easier on the front. Also the little twist as the ribbon comes up through the canvas will go away. The thicker the ribbon the more important this step is.
Compensating stitches are much easier than most stitchers think. Perhaps the most terrifying part of a project is to do compensation. It is easy to stitch parts of stitches if you think of it as doing as much of the stitch as the design allows. Do not run and hide at the mention of compensation. Pretend like you are doing the whole stitch and just do the part where the holes are available. If you have a large area and you know you will need to compensate around the sides, start with a full stitch or motif to establish the pattern of the stitch and work out from there. As you do the complete stitch you learn how it is constructed. When you get to the area that will not allow the complete stitch, you do what you can with the knowledge gained from doing complete stitches. In other words, do not start an area with compensating stitches. Skip to a place that you can do the full stitches. Some stitches do not compensate well and there is nothing that can be done, except to fill in with tent stitches or some other stitch that will not stand out. Pulled stitches and eyelets fall into this category. Sometimes you will have areas that look funny because the pattern of the stitch leaves large parts done in tent stitch. There is no rule except to try and balance the area and watch where the stitching starts and ends. This is truly where experience and the eye of the stitcher comes into play.
Often needleworkers and designers get hung up on terms. I have used the terms fiber, thread and yarn interchangeably. (Yarn is the correct term, but it has the connotation of a knitting fiber.) After all is said and done, we are not in the business of manufacturing the materials with which we stitch, so I believe we can safely use the terms interchangeably and not be racked with guilt. I won't even get into the controversy over ply and strand.
Count Threads, Not Holes
When you are counting on the canvas, count the threads, not the holes. You may need to put your needle in the hole, but in your mind visualize the thread as what you are counting. Most needlepoint charts use the lines to represent the canvas threads.
Copy Your Charts?
When I said that you should not duplicate charts I was writing about reproducing them to trade or so that you would not need to purchase them. However, once you have bought a chart it is often helpful to make a photo copy for your own use when stitching. You can enlarge the copy so it will be easier to follow and mark on it as you go.
Check The Diagrams Against the Master Chart
If a chart includes detailed stitch diagrams it pays to compare them with the master chart. Sometimes you may find differences and following the diagram will throw your count off. This may not become apparent until much later when stitches do not line up. You can save retro-stitching if you compare first.
I have written about different topics in no particular order. These have been the little things, and the not so little things, that I have learned over the years. Hopefully you found some new hints that are helpful. I take pride in my needlework and strive to make it the best I can. There are stitchers that are superior and I admire them. They set goals for us all to work towards. Do I always follow all the things I have shared with you? Of course not. I often violate my own rules. The one inviolable rule is Have Fun.
Rainbow Gallery's fibers, please refer to Jay's Tips
If you have any tips to share please send to info@RainbowGallery.com