Sunday, August 12, 2012

Laying Threads

Anytime you are stitching with more than one thread in the needle you should use a laying tool.  However, while this is necessary to ensure threads are layed smoothly and evenly, it is not sufficient.  Many people wonder, do you stroke the thread?  How do you guarantee that the threads will lay nicely?

There are several things that you can do to ensure that your laid threads look their best.

1.  Make sure that the threads in the needle are not twisted.
If your threads are twisted, pull the threads out of the eye of the needle, smooth them out, or let them untwist by letting the thread hang free.  You may want to separate strands if they kind of stick together - this may happen with cotton floss.  Then put the threads back into the needle.  The problem of twisted threads usually happens after you have been stitching for awhile.

    2.  Try to position the canvas so that you are laying threads away from your body.  

  1. Turn the canvas if necessary.  This technique is especially important when you are laying long lines of threads in the same direction - especially in a border.  Stitch problems in border areas really pop out at you.  Here is what I mean:

3.  Stroking the thread.
  1. Place your laying tool underneath the thread at the hole it came up through the canvas, stroke it in the direction that it is being stitched.  Do not stroke back and forth, this may cause wear and a little fraying of the thread, especially some short staple silks and cotton floss.

    4.  Maintaining tension on the thread you just laid.
    Use the laying tool to maintain the tension on the thread by placing the tool at the place where the thread went through the canvas to the back.  Keep the laying tool there until you bring the thread to the front of the canvas through the next hole and can apply tension on the thread.  Obviously, those who like to use extremely long lengths of thread may find this difficult - another reason not to stitch with really long lengths of thread.

    5.  Turning the corner
    If you are turning a corner - turn the canvas so that you are laying threads away from you.

    6.  When threads need to be laid in several different directions for a stitch.
    It makes sense to turn the canvas if you are laying a long line of threads all in one direction (I’d say more than 2 to 3 stitches.)  However, if you are stitching a cross stitch, there is no way that you can turn the canvas for each stitch.  So use common sense.

    Some people ask about 2 threads in the needle, do you need a laying tool?  Is using your finger or thumb sufficient?  What about railroading the threads?
    My advice is - use a laying tool.  The more you use it the more used to it you will be and eventually it will be more natural to use one than not.  And the threads look best when you use one.


  1. This is exactly what I needed!! Thanks for posting it. Great instruction!!

  2. i am having laying four threads that are on the diagonal and in order to lay away me, the stitch has to come up in a hole that has thread in it from a tent stitch in the previous row. the hole is pinching the thread and it simply won't lay flat. i tried stitching laying the thread coming toward me as the beginnig of the stitch starts in am empty hole. of course to make it more difficult the direction of the design changes from horizontal to vertical 4 times. i have ripped out this part of the design more than once. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    i really enjoy your blog and have learned a great deal from it.


    1. Lara,

      Turn your canvas 180 degrees so that the top of your design is on the bottom and the bottom of your design is on the top. Bring your needle up in an empty hole and lay the thread away from you going down into the hole with the tent stitch. I would turn the canvas for each horizontal and vertical section which is bothersome but will produce a better result.
      It is OK to stitch some stitches upside down.

  3. Thankyou - this is really really useful - I'm using a laying tool for brick stitch/AVAS Soie Ovale at the moment and I think my stitching will look better after taking up your tips.

  4. I just found this post. Thanks for the clear directions. I will use my laying tool more often. I sometimes just use another needle as a laying tool but I will try and get used to my wooden one. I also have the type that looks like a large tapestry needle attached to a band that you wear on your finger. I have not developed a comfortable style with this one yet but I will try again.