Sunday, May 19, 2013

Compensating Diagonal Stitches - Part 1

This blog post will cover compensating diagonal stitches at a straight edge.  The next post will cover compensating diagonal stitches at a curved edge.

I am going to use the Diagonal Scotch Stitch as my example for Diagonal Stitch Compensation, but there is nothing special about this stitch and the information is applicable to diagonal stitches (on the true diagonal) in general.

Let’s look at the Diagonal Scotch Stitch:
 Diagonal Scotch Stitch

The gray lines on the right hand side and along the top of the stitch diagram are the edges of the stitching area.  My advice to stitchers is to start stitching whole stitches in a long diagonal line so that you can establish the stitch pattern.  Don’t worry about compensating at this point.  In fact, do not start your stitching with a compensating stitch, the probability of making a counting error is very high.

The red arrow, in the diagram above, points to where the last whole stitch can be placed.  The next stitch is going to be compensated, but since the stitches are on a diagonal and I have established the pattern I know what the next two compensated stitches should look like - just stitch as long of a stitch as I can (because the stitches are longer than the area that I am allowed to place them.) 

Partially Compensated Diagonal Scotch Stitch

Here is a picture of my stitching so far:
Partially Compensated Diagonal Scotch Stitch

The red arrow, in the diagram above, leads me to ask a question - is this where the first compensating stitch for the next row goes?  If you are not sure, just leave it for now and begin stitching your next row where you are certain a whole stitch goes - forget about compensating for now.  It is always easier to compensate at the end of a stitched diagonal row, especially if the stitches are contiguous with other whole stitches, than at the beginning.  It’s those stitches that jump an intersection or two away from where you are stitching that are so hard to figure out.

However, be warned - you can’t take this approach if you are using an overdyed thread!  The thread forces you to compensate as you go.  In this case, get out a piece of graph paper and chart out the compensated stitches.

When I start my next row, this time traveling diagonally upwards, I am going to place my first stitch where I know how to start the pattern - that means, I will place my first short stitch (over one canvas intersection) under the last longest stitch - which happens to be a compensated stitch.  If you can't figure out that stitch placement, it doesn't matter where you start, so begin farther up if need be.
Second Row Partially Compensated Diagonal Scotch Stitch

I have three arrows pointing to different areas of the stitch diagram above, let’s look at each of them:
Red arrow - Should I be worried that maybe I could have fit another Diagonal Scotch Stitch in there?  No - I can always fill it in later.
Green arrow -  Now I see where some compensating stitches from the first row belong.
Violet arrow -  I did put in a couple of compensating stitches at the end of the second row, because it was contiguous with the other stitches, so I knew where to place them.

Here is a picture of my stitching so far (I changed thread color so it would be easier to see where the first and second diagonal rows of stitches were placed.)

Second Row Partially Compensated Diagonal Scotch Stitch

You may continue stitching the whole area this way, always stitching under the last diagonal row.  
Stitching Next Diagonal Row

Note the arrows:
Red arrow - The row above has some compensating stitches that need to be filled in.
Green arrow - This row was started again under the longest diagonal stitch on the row above it, so there is an area open that needs to be filled in later.

Let’s say you are done with stitching all of the diagonal rows below the original diagonal row.  Now you have compensating stitches that need to be filled in as well as stitching above the first diagonal row.   And how you stitch the areas above the first diagonal row and how you fill in those compensated stitch areas is important.  You want to keep the same pull on the stitches that you have already stitched.

What does this mean?  Well, the row above the first diagonal row will have to be stitched with the needle coming out of a hole with thread already in it.

Stitching Above the First Diagonal Row

In the diagram above, I have started stitching the row above the first diagonal row (again I changed color to make it easier to see what is happening), going in the same direction of stitching as the row just below the first diagonal row.  I have also started with the smallest stitch, a tent stitch, placing it above the longest stitch of the row below.  Note the two arrows:
Red arrow -  There are some compensating stitches at the beginning of this row that will need to be added later.
Green arrow - Since this area is so close to where I last placed a stitch, this should be the first place I fill in using compensating stitches.

So putting in those two tent stitches:

Starting to Fill in the Compensating Stitches
Red arrow - Since this is the next closest area that needs to be filled in, go here and fill in these compensating stitches.

Can you see how to place these next compensating stitches?

Continuing to Fill in the Compensating Stitches
If you have trouble placing the first stitch as I have indicated in the diagram above, remember that this stitch is contiguous with the previous stitches and you need to follow the pattern, after a tent stitch (dark green stitch) you need to stitch one over two thread intersections (orange stitch) - the start of the compensated stitches. 

In the diagram above, there are two arrows:
Red arrow - Compensating stitches need to be placed here.
Green arrow - Compensating stitches need to be placed here.

So which area to go to next?  Theoretically it does not matter, but logistically, putting in those two tent stitches first (green arrow) is a better choice.  Remember, when stitching tent stitches, you want to stitch them in the continental method, not the half cross stitch method.  See blog post about Tent Stitch - Part 1 for the reasons why.

The diagram below shows how to put in those two tent stitches:

More Compensating Stitches Filled In

A word about traveling thread on the back of your canvas: The first two areas that were filled in were close enough not to cause problems with very long threads on the back of your work.  If you are traveling very far, more than about 4-5 canvas threads away, slide the thread under some stitches on the back to maintain stitch tension.  Remember to just skim the thread under the stitches, not dig down deeply into them.

Also, remember that the pull of the last stitch must be the same as the stitch before it, so you may want to take a tacking stitch after that last stitch to maintain the stitch direction (the way the thread lies on the back of the canvas affects how it looks on the front of the canvas.)

In the diagram above, when you place your first stitch, the pull on that stitch must be the same as if you had been stitching this line of stitches (red violet stitches) all along.  So place a tacking stitch on the back to set up for the first stitch of this compensation.

Then, the final area to fill in may be stitched, as shown in the diagram above with the red arrow.  The compensating stitches are shown in the diagram below.

Final Compensating Stitches Added

If you find that you don’t like stitching above a diagonal line of stitches, then you need to start your stitching in the upper right hand corner (for this example) and then have all of the stitched rows placed below that.  This will add a slight complication to your stitching because those first stitches may need to be compensated right away.  If that is the case, perhaps a piece of graph paper that allows you to draw out the compensation would be the way to go.