Sunday, April 1, 2012

Darning Pattern Tips

While this blog entry is titled Darning Pattern Tips it is more about How the Thread on the Back of the Canvas Affects How the Stitch on the Front Looks.
Let’s look at a simple darning pattern:

To work this pattern, start in the upper right hand corner and stitch across the top row following the numbers a1-a2, a3-a4, etc.  The red lines indicate compensated stitches.  The second row starts at the left hand side following the numbers across the second row, b1-b2, b3-b4, etc.  The third row starts at the right hand side again, following numbers c1-c2, c3-c4, etc.  Continue on in this way to fill the area you want to stitch with the darning pattern.
On the surface, no pun intended, this looks like a very straight forward way to stitch and there should be no problems.  Here is an example of what this pattern looks like stitched just like the diagram shows.  On the right hand side is the edge of the design, marked by the vertical pencil line.  On the left hand side is another stitched area in a light colored thread.  The darning pattern is stitched on 18 count canvas using black cotton floss.
Bad Darning Pattern Example

The red arrows point out some problems with this stitching.  A darning pattern needs to have the thread travel on top of the canvas and on the back of the canvas all the way across the row, from end to end.  Arrows numbered 1 and 2 show white areas behind the canvas because there is no thread pulled behind those holes.  Arrows numbered 3 and 4 show where the thread is pulled at an angle to go from one row to the row below it causing that thread to look bad.  All of these issues need to be fixed.
Good Darning Pattern Example

This stitched sample looks correct.  All the holes have black thread behind them.  There are no threads pulled at a wrong angle.  Notice the red arrow is pointing to an area outside of the stitching area.  This is where I placed my turns on the right hand side so that the thread lines up from one row to the next.  I brought the thread from row 2 out past the end of the stitching area and took a vertical tacking stitch down to row 3.  This lines the thread up on the right hand side for both rows 2 and 3.  If this area is going to be covered by mat and framing, then you do not have to worry about these lines or that thread knot, they will be covered.  If this area will be sewn into the edge of a pillow, these threads will also be out of sight.  Good to know because you can’t start or end your threads behind that darning pattern area.
But how did I make those turns on the left hand side?  Let’s look at the back of the canvas for both the bad darning pattern example and the good darning pattern example.
First the bad darning pattern example:
Back of Canvas - Bad Darning Pattern Example

Notice that arrows 1 and 2 are pointing at threads that are at an angle.  If you see this on the back of your darning pattern, you know there is something wrong.  There should only be horizontal and vertical threads shown.  Arrow 3 is pointing out the ending thread buried deeply underneath the lighter colored thread.  I’m just lucky that you can’t see this thread shadowed through to the front.  You should never bury dark threads deep down in light threads.
Now, look at the back of the good darning pattern example:
Back of Canvas - Good Darning Pattern Example

Arrow 1 shows only horizontal thread lines, no diagonal thread lines.  Arrow 2 shows what I have done with the threads on the side with the stitched light thread.  I buried them very shallowly in the light colored thread to make the turn.  Arrow 3 shows that I took the ending thread and also buried it shallowly in the light colored thread.  Alternatively, I could have whipped that ending thread to the back of the light colored thread with a thin light colored thread, like cotton floss or sewing thread.
If you use these tips next time you stitch a darning pattern, you will see improved results.

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