If you look at this stitching, 1 strand #5 perle cotton on white canvas, I think we can all agree that there is a problem with canvas coverage.
How about this stitching?
I’ve increased the number of strands of perle cotton to 2, same stitch over 4 canvas threads on white canvas. I would say this example still illustrates poor canvas coverage. Why?
The white canvas shows through between the two rows of stitching and is visibly distracting. Did you know this is incorrect? The reason I ask that is I’ve seen a lot of this type of stitching everywhere, even by teachers who should know better. I have to assume that stitchers just don’t realize that this is wrong.
This idea of visual distraction is important. Just what do you want people to be looking at - the white canvas showing through, or how nicely stitched it looks?
OK, now that you know this is incorrect stitching technique, how do you solve this problem? There are several ways to eliminate seeing the white canvas through the red thread.
Let’s discuss why this happens first. Much of the poor canvas coverage comes from a tight stitching tension. Some people are able to adjust their tension and eliminate this problem. However more people either do not or can not adjust their tension. Stitching with perle cotton and loosening your tension is one thing, how about if you are stitching with 8 strands of floss in your needle and using a laying tool - it is a little harder to loosen your tension and maintain a smooth stitch.
The other issue at play here is the thread itself. Some threads, whether it is because of thread type or thread color does not provide enough canvas coverage. Choosing another type of thread may be all that you need do. However, a problem arises when you want to use a specific type of thread and you can not achieve suitable canvas coverage.
Here are some ideas to solve this problem. One or more of these ideas may be employed at the same time.
Use a thin, strandable thread along with the perle cotton, both the same color.
This technique can be used if you must keep the perle cotton and you do not want to increase the number of strands of perle cotton. Here I have used 2 strands of cotton floss along with 1 strand of perle cotton to increase the canvas coverage. The floss falls closer to the canvas while the perle cotton lays plumper on top, so unless you are magnifying the stitches, you will not see the floss.
I have almost solved the problem of between stitches coverage, I think if I used 3 strands floss it would be fine, but I still have the issue of between the rows of stitches problem. You will need to use a laying tool with this technique.
Backstitch between the rows of stitches using a strandable floss in the same color.
I have used this technique many times myself, as I am one of those stitchers who use a tight tension.
If I were judging both of these examples, I’d still say the 1 strand of perle cotton is not providing enough coverage, though it is not as obvious, especially when not magnified. The reason I say this is because the threads are far enough apart that they do not touch and for this stitch they really need to be touching (it creates a different problem in that a vertical pattern results - this may be too much to understand at this point, some other time I will discuss stitch patterning.) For the second example on the right, using 2 strands of perle cotton, I would be fine with the between the rows coverage because the painted canvas is the same color as the thread and therefore there is no visual distraction as before when it was white canvas.
For this example I used a Copic marker, found at art supply stores. This is a paint marker, not just a sharpie. I would not use a sharpie, ever. Just because it is permenant does not mean it will not run if wet. There have been people who found this out the hard way. You may also use acrylic paint thinned with water to the consistency of milk. I’ve used Liquitex and Golden artist acrylic paint, also available at art supply stores.
No matter what you use, if you plan to get it wet, with wet blocking, then test a sample to see if it runs. I’ve not had problems with acrylic paint once dry, but have heard that some new acrylic paints will run. Here’s how to test it: paint a small piece of canvas, let dry. Get it soaking wet with water and place on a white paper towel. Press both sides with the paper towel. Now, look at the paper towel, see any color on it? I did this with the Copic marker and then was a slight reddish color on the paper towel. So I would not wet block anything I used that Copic marker on. Use a frame for your canvas - it will eliminate the need to wet block. You may still dry block, but I just stretch my canvas when I frame it and it is fine. I do not block first. Anyone using this idea on fabric or linen, check to make sure there are no problems first. There are other types of paints that you may use that may be heat set but I don’t want to digress too much at this point.
Use a thread that spreads out to provide coverage.
This is an option if you are willing to use a different type of thread. Some threads spread more when you stitch with them than others. Perle cotton is a twisted thread, it will not spread. Wool is a thread that will spread and any strandable thread may have the number of strands increased until you achieve the coverage you desire.
The wool is working great here while the floss still shows a tiny amount of white canvas. However, this is magnified and it is visible, when seen without magnification there is no visible distraction. I could go to 9 strands of floss and that would probably take care of the problem. The laying of 8 or 9 strands of floss can be problematic for some people though. Just keep that in mind with this technique.
Lastly, I want to show you where this problem may crop up in your stitching that you might not have thought of - bargello.
In the next blog entry I will illustrate some other examples of coverage problems with other types of stitches.