Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stitching with Perle Cotton

Do you think perle cotton is an easy thread with which to stitch?  There is no need to use a laying tool, so that makes it easier.  And there is no concern that the thread will knot up when you pull a strand from a cut skein.  Right?  And you don’t have to start and stop a lot because the thread is nice and long.  What could be easier?
I’d like to show you how perle cotton may not be as easy to work with as you think and give you some tips on how to use it.
Here is a picture of straight gobelin stitches on 18 count canvas with #5 perle cotton.  I am skipping a thread between stitches so that I can return and put in the stitches at the end of the thread on my return trip.  As most people do, I cut the skein of perle cotton in half at the knot and pulled one strand out and started stitching.

Now, as I get to the end of my thread, I am going to stitch in between those stitches from the beginning part of the thread.

I have marked with arrows the last stitches I made with the thread.  Do you see a difference?  I see that in the stitches at the end of the thread, which is the part of the thread that has rubbed against the canvas and other stitches, the thread is fuzzy.  If the thread is fuzzy it will not reflect the light the same way as the non-fuzzy thread.  It will look like it has less sheen to it.
Sometimes perle cotton untwists, this can happen with the looser twisted size 3 perle cotton.  This untwisting will also affect how the light reflects off of the thread.
So what should you do?  Give up on perle cotton?  No!  Just take precautions.
Here are some suggestions:
1.  After you cut the skein of perle cotton in half, cut it in half again.
If you cut the skein in half and pull out a strand to stitch with, do you know how long that strand is?  It is 1 yard in length.  That is a long piece of any type of thread to stitch with, especially if you are going into and out of the canvas holes a lot.  So, cut that thread in half.  This means that you will need to start and stop a lot more, which many people want to avoid, but consider that you will produce a nicer looking stitched area.
Some people may say that you can compensate for the twist of perle cotton loosening by giving it a twist as you stitch.  I have never been able to match the original twist of the skein to my satisfaction with this method.  If you are able to do that, great, but not everyone will be successful.
2.  Use a larger needle.
Use a size 20 or 22 tapestry needle for #5 perle cotton, for #3 try size 18 or 20.  The purpose of the needle is to open the hole in the canvas enough so that the thread will slip through while reducing any wear on the thread from rubbing against the side of the canvas threads.  If you tend to use smaller needles with thicker threads you will need to stitch with very short lengths because canvas is rough on threads.  Too large of a needle will push the canvas threads apart farther than the thread requires, it creates too large of a hole.  If you feel that you are tugging awfully hard to get the needle through the canvas at the eye (where the thread is doubled over) then use a larger needle.
(The number for the size of the needle, i.e. 20 or 22, gets larger for smaller needles.  So a size 28 is a very small needle, while a 16 is getting rather large.)
This same advice goes for using Watercolours.

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