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.