Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thread Shadows

Here is a picture of one of the most common faults in needlework with unstitched areas- threads shadowing through to the front.

The red arrow points to a thread end shadowing through to the front in an unstitched area while the blue arrow points to travel threads shadowing through to the front.  This blog post will be about the former, the next post about the latter.
Threads showing through from the back are unfortunately too common in cross stitch, counted thread and needlepoint in which there is unstitched fabric or canvas.  Borders and isolated motifs are the most common areas that this type of error occurs.  

I have thought about this a lot and I think that most people know that these ending threads should be secure, and they were correctly ended in the piece when it was initially stitched.  However, with washing of fabric or blocking of needlepoint and the stretching of fabric or canvas in preparation for mounting some of these ends pop out.  
Here is my advice:
1.  While you are stitching:  The end of whipped stitches are highly susceptible to unwrapping and popping out.  These stitches are perpendicular to the thread on the back of your work.  You want the thread end to lie in the same direction as the stitches on the back of your work to hide them better.  After you whip the stitch to secure the thread, slide the needle inside the stitches on the back in the direction of the stitching for about 1/4 inch if possible, then cut.  If you do this and the thread loosens it will simply slide further underneath these stitches.
2.  After you stitch:  After stitching and washing/blocking but before you mount the needlework, check the back again for any ends that are coming out.  Take a length of sewing thread the same color as the fabric or canvas and whip the thread end to the stitches on the back.  Then slide the sewing thread in the stitches on the back along the direction of the stitches.  If this sewing thread loosens, it will simply slide further underneath the stitches.  If the sewing thread comes unwrapped it most likely will not be seen if it is the same color as the fabric or canvas.
3.  Prior to framing:  After you mount your needlework, inspect it.  See any thread ends shadowing through?  If so, take the needlework off the mounting board and follow the instructions in #2 above.
4.  After giving it to the framer:  What if the framer mounts it?  You may ask your framer to view the needlework after mounting it and prior to framing to check for any thread ends.  You will need to pay to have it remounted though.  If you don’t want to pay this fee, learn to mount the needlework yourself or live with it.  

If it will be judged - fix it!  Judges look very carefully at needlework when they judge.  You will not be able to sneak this error past a judge.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Scotch Stitch Tips

Many stitchers could stitch Scotch Stitches better if they know two things, and both have to do with thread tension.  These two techniques may also be used for Cashmere Stitches and Pavilion Stitches, basically any stitches that have short stitches and long stitches.
Both issues can be seen in this example.  The first issue involves that short stitch - it really needs to be plump or else it will be buried by the stitch next to it.  This is due to too much tension placed on the (typically) first stitch executed in the Scotch Stitch, though I have pointed out the first stitch on the right and the last stitch pointed out on the left.

To solve this problem, ease up on the tension for that diagonal stitch over one canvas thread.  This should leave that small stitch plumper.
The second issue is that the middle stitch wants to lift up higher than all the other stitches, basically  because it is longer and the tension is just not maintained well.  
The picture below shows one stitch in the upper right hand corner that pulled up, while the other three are not raised.  You may find that placing a tacking stitch just before stitching the longest stitch will solve this problem.

The tacking stitch is underneath the Scotch Stitch and therefore hidden.  Remember the thread type may mean that you can not use this technique, only those threads that will lay low enough to be hidden when stitched over will work.
Here is a stitch diagram of a typical Scotch Stitch:

These two stitch diagrams show where to place the tacking stitch during the execution of the Scotch Stitch:

Next time you see these two issues with your Scotch, Cashmere or Pavilion Stitch, try one or both of these tips.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Be Consistent

One of the things that will keep your stitching looking its best is to always be consistent in how you stitch.  What do I mean by this?
Recently, I taught a class and one of the stitches was a Large Upright Cross Stitch that was spread out, I diagrammed the stitch to be executed diagonally.  Here is a portion of the stitch diagram:

Traveling diagonally down, the first two stitches include numbers for execution.  What happens when you travel to the next diagonal up row, the red arrow points at the next stitch in the progression.  
Interestingly, many people wanted to start this stitch with this numbering sequence, stitching that first vertical stitch from top to bottom:

This actually caught me by surprise because the previous stitches were started at the bottom of the stitch.  When I asked about it, one of the students explained to me that she chose the shortest route to begin stitching.  OK, this makes sense - BUT, we are back to How the Stitch  Lies on the Back of the Canvas Affects How it Looks on the Front.
I wanted the stitch to be executed like this, which is the way all of the other stitches were executed, stitching the vertical stitch from bottom to top:

What actually made things worse, is that after stitching the first stitch of the second diagonal row with the vertical stitch executed from top to bottom, most of the stitchers switched back to stitching the vertical stitches from bottom to top.

Here is how each one looks actually stitched, side-by-side (18 count canvas, 2 strands Impressions):

Let’s look at just the inconsistent stitched sample in depth:

The red arrows point to the tops of each vertical stitch.  When the stitch execution is from top to bottom there is a little hole space between the top of the thread and the upper canvas thread (tighter tension means more space between stitching thread and canvas thread.)  If you look at the bottom-most stitch, the vertical stitch has a different slant to it than the vertical part of the other stitches in that diagonal row.  That’s because the thread pull on the back of the canvas is different from the other stitches.
Further, if I change back to executing the stitches from top to bottom after the bottom-most stitch, (the stitch to the left of the bottom-most stitch), I have the same issue.  It would have been better to stitch all of the stitches in this diagonal row with the vertical portion either going from top to bottom or bottom to top, but not changing after the first stitch.  A tacking stitch underneath where I am going to place that first vertical stitch would be best if I want to change the execution of the vertical stitch from bottom to top to top to bottom.
Here is what I mean by a tacking stitch (the tacking stitch will be hidden by the actual Large Upright Cross Stitch):

So, going from top to bottom or left to right is not the issue, the issue is changing from top to bottom for one stitch and the next stitch from bottom to top.  Same thing if you change executing the horizontal stitch from right to left to executing the horizontal stitch from left to right.
I admit that this is a subtle difference.  Remember that your eye will discern that there is a difference.  This difference makes the viewer look more closely at that spot to try to determine what is different instead of gliding smoothly over the entire area.  Magnify this difference by many rows and your eye will look at the edge of the stitched area more closely than usual, which is not what you want.
Be consistent in how you execute your stitches and your stitching will look better.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Straight Stitch Compensation and Canvas Coverage

I am updating the blog postings to have labels attached to each post, it is at the bottom of the post underneath the comments.  The labels will indicate the general topic of the post.  For this post the labels are stitch compensation and canvas coverage.  Now, if you want to see all the posts about stitch compensation, then click on the label “stitch compensation” and all posts with that label will be displayed.  In this way you can view the posts in a more organized manner.
This post will discuss the issue that befalls everyone who compensates straight stitches, in particular, straight stitches over one canvas thread.  We’ve all been there, and here is an example of stitching the Parisian Stitch with just such compensation (2 strands Sheep’s Silk on 18 count canvas.)

The stitched sample shows two problems with compensating straight stitches over one canvas thread.  The first problem is that the stitches are not as plump as the regular stitches while the second problem (caused by the first problem) is that the canvas shows between this compensated stitch and the stitch next to it.  Here, row 3 is the compensated stitches and the canvas shows between the long stitches of row 2 and the stitches of row 3.
Many people have heard that you just stitch over the compensated stitch and that should solve the problem.  Yes and no.  Yes, it will solve both problems most of the time if done correctly.  And no, if not done correctly, it just exacerbates the problem.  
Here is an example of a correctly overstitched compensation stitch:

Notice that the compensated stitches are as plump as the regular stitches, and there is no canvas showing next to these compensated stitches.
The correct way to overstitch these over one canvas thread straight stitches is to stitch the row of compensated stitches, here shown as row 3.  If you follow the numbering (black lines) you will be traveling from left to right.  Then take a tacking stitch on the back and stitch over the top of row 3 again, following the lettering in red (and lines in red), traveling from right to left.  

Do not stitch the compensated stitch and then stitch over that stitch as your next stitch.  This simply wraps the thread more tightly around that canvas thread.  Have at least one stitch, or a tacking stitch between the compensated stitch and the overstitched stitch.  This extra work will prevent the wrapping of the thread, providing a plump stitch with better canvas coverage.

Difficulties arise when you are using a variegated thread.  In this case you may need to take a tacking stitch after every compensated stitch, then overstitch the compensated stitch.  This is more tedious, but it will maintain a correct color flow from the thread.