Monday, April 16, 2012

Tent Stitch - Part 2

In the comments section from the last blog posting, Elmsley Rose brought up a good point regarding the differences in stitching tent stitch on canvas and linen.  Linen is a much different fabric than canvas because the intersections move very easily.  Canvas has sizing in it that creates a bond at the canvas thread intersections, and they do not move easily, unless that bond is broken.  Many people will stitch on canvas with a strong thread tension;  those canvas threads will not move.  If anyone tried to stitch on linen this way, it would look horrible - and it would be immediately obvious.  Therefore, stitchers who stitch on linen are much more aware of their thread tension, and they must be more careful.  So the cautions about tent stitches that distort canvas will not be a problem on linen because you will see the distortion on linen immediately.  Whereas, the distortion on canvas will be slower and grow obvious after much stitching has been completed.
Stitchers who stitch on linen also do not use the same thickness of threads as canvas workers.  Getting thick threads to lie neatly on canvas may lead to stitching with a tighter tension for canvas workers.
One of the goals of stitching on linen or any evenweave fabric is to have as little thread on the back as possible, and therefore, the stitcher will use the half cross stitch.  The canvas worker wants as much thread on the back as on the front and therefore, the basketweave approach is the preferred method to executing the tent stitch.  The pliability of linen allows the linen worker to end threads in the half crosses on the back, or even piercing the linen threads on the back.  This option is not easily available to the canvas worker; it is not that it is impossible, it is just not practicable.
Therefore, these posts on the tent stitch are generally meant for canvas workers, as that is the medium that tends to have large areas of tent stitch (i.e. the background of many needlepoint pieces, especially chair cushions, pillows, kneelers, etc.)  
Now, onto some more tips for the basketweave method of tent stitch:
Many people who work in basketweave and end their stitching for the day at the top or bottom of a row, and have anchored their thread, may have trouble determining which direction to begin stitching again the next time - an up row or a down row?  Here are two approaches that help in determining which direction to begin stitching.

1.  Look at the back of the canvas.  The threads will lie vertically if the last row you stitched was a down row, as shown in this picture.  Therefore, the next row you stitch should be an up row.

If the last row you stitched was an up row, then the stitches will lie horizontally, and you should stitch a down row.

2.  Another way to help you is not to stop stitching at the end of a row, but in the middle of a row.  This way you will be able to see where you should continue stitching, as shown in the picture below.  Here I stopped in the middle of an up row, so I can see that I should continue with the up row.

What happens if you should happen to stitch two up rows next to each other, or two down rows next to each other?  If two rows are stitched in the same direction a depression is created between the two rows, which may appear as a streak of discolored thread.  This discoloration is much more apparent with light colored threads than with dark colored threads.
Is there ever a time when the continental stitch is more suitable for stitching than basketweave?  Yes, when you are stitching a single row, single column or a single thickness diagonal line.  If there is at least 2 rows of stitches to fill with tent stitch, use basketweave.
For anchoring tail ends of the thread:
  1. Alway anchor tails vertically or horizontally.  Never diagonally - it will show through on the front.
  2. Make sure the tail is anchored behind stitches of the same color or darker in color.  You may see darker threads shadowed through to the front if you anchor darker colored threads behind lighter colored ones.
  3. Never anchor more than one tail of thread behind the same group of stitches, it creates extra bulk that will show through to the front.
  4. Never carry a thread more than an inch on the back.  It is far better to anchor it and start a new thread, otherwise the last stitch may not have the same tension as the other stitches, which will be obvious on the front.
One of the more complicated issues with basketweave is the actual working of the design.  If you have long rows meeting other long rows of basketweave, even though you are stitching up rows followed by down rows, you still may see a streak where two long rows meet due to thread tension differences.  This is why tent stitch is not that easy of a stitch to execute - even when you do everything correctly, it still can show streaks on the front.
Where to start stitching?  

Always start stitching in the most extreme right hand diagonal row of the design.  If you are stitching a background, this means the upper right hand corner of the canvas.    Otherwise, the area that you start stitching is:
1.  the upper most right position if you are starting your stitching on a down row (i.e., the first thread you are covering on the canvas is vertical)
2.  and the right most bottom position if you are starting your stitching on an up row (i.e., the first thread you are covering on the canvas is horizontal.)

I will cover how to work designs in the following blog postings.  The last bit of information for this posting is about stitching adjacent areas with a single row of another color in between them.   When do you have this kind of a situation?  How about when you stitch a leaf?  Here is what I mean:

Here is a leaf, and let’s say areas 1 and 3 are the same color of thread, but the line, which is area 2, is another color of thread.  There are two schools of thought on how to execute this design (I’ll get into the details of that in the next blog posting.)  For now let’s say you are thinking of stitching the line marked 2 first, then stitching areas 1 and 3 as one area carrying your thread back and forth over the already stitched line.  This practice adds extra bulk under that stitched line and will cause it to be slightly raised.  Depending upon the threads that you use, it may be very obvious on the front.  So, proceed to stitch area 2 first as you planned.  Then stitch area 1 in its entirety, then stitch area 3 in its entirety.  Unless it is a very small leaf (remember not to carry your thread more than an inch), you will need to start and end your thread in area 1 and start a new thread in area 3.  If it is a very small leaf, you may carry the thread ONCE over the line marked 2.  Only once.
The other way to stitch the leaf is to stitch area 1 in its entirety, stitch the line marked 2, then stitch area 3 in its entirety.


  1. I'm honoured that you followed up on my comment :-) Thankyou for the extra information.

  2. Thankyou for such a clear explanation!
    Are you going to tell us about finishing with an Away Knot? I really like starting with them in many situations, but have a clue how to finish using one.....