Monday, February 27, 2012

Part 2 of Open Stitch Pattern Difficulties

Or I should say Canterbury Cathedral Aisle Vault Pattern Step 2?
All of the stitches used in this pattern are stitched in the backstitch/running stitch style, like blackwork, so hiding travel threads is part of the stitch technique.
Here is Step 2 of the pattern:

To travel from one vertical channel of cross motifs to another you may do one of two things: bring your thread outside of the pattern area or travel on the back, behind stitches on the front, inside of the pattern area.  If the area around the pattern will be covered by another stitch, then you can hide the travel threads there.  Use two pin stitches to maintain the tension after stitching one section and before stitching another section.

I would only use pin stitches if the thread lies flat, such as a stranded floss.  I would not use pin stitches for metallic braids or perle cottons that are raised.
Next time I’ll cover Step 3 of this pattern.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Open Stitch Pattern Difficulties

As a needlework teacher, I get asked a lot about where to stop and start threads and how to carry travel threads in an open stitch pattern.  So let’s take a look at just such a pattern.  I have created a stitch pattern from the Canterbury Cathedral Aisle vault.  It is a beautiful pattern and it will create many different looks depending on your thread choices.  
Here is a picture of the pattern I developed.  We will start with the first step in this blog post and will follow with the next two steps in future posts and I will discuss how to determine where to start and stop threads and how to carry the travel threads so they will not be seen.

Canterbury Cathedral Aisle Vault Pattern

Here is the stitch diagram for the first step: the gold crosses, or diamond shapes, depending on how you look at it.

I used Kreinik #4 Very Fine Braid #102, pearl gold on 18 count lt. blue canvas
With an open canvas design, knowing where to anchor threads is always an issue, and this is how you determine the location of your waste knot.  First, you want the angle of the start of stitch 1 to be the same as stitch 3 which is slanted in the same direction on the front canvas.  This is a very important concept to stitching - the angle the thread on the back of the canvas makes with respect to each stitch should be consistent, this angle affects how the stitches look on the front of the canvas.  I will cover this more in depth in a future post, but for now, this is enough to get started with this stitch.  The angle you want your thread at prior to bringing your needle up at the place marked 1 on the diagram is shown by the red dot below:

So place a waste knot diagonally off to the lower left, keeping to the true diagonal of the canvas.  This will help you see how the first stitch should lie, so when you cut that knot off you will remember that the thread should be anchored in the direction the thread lies.  If there are stitches to the left of the pattern, then cover the waste thread before cutting the knot off.
OK, that works if there are stitches to the left of stitch 1, or there will be after future stitching.  But what happens if there are no stitches there?  Then the starting thread must be anchored behind the actual stitching of the open canvas pattern.  Which means you will need to have the thread lie directly behind the stitches on the front side of the pattern.  Open patterns are not very good at holding the ending threads (especially with correct tension), because they are not very dense, so another means of securing the threads is necessary.  Also, metallic threads tend to be thicker threads and do not always hide well behind the stitches on the front of the canvas.  
So here is how I handle the ending threads, it is a multi-step process:  
  1. Begin with an away waste knot (I leave about 4 inches for this technique) as before.  When Step 1 is complete, cut off the waste knot, this thread will be called the thread end.
  2. Use a sharp needle and either 1 strand of floss or sewing thread, place a knot in the end of this thread, I’ll call it the sewing thread.  Run this thread through the metallic thread end on the back (as in inside the metallic thread) for about an inch.
  3. At the end of this run, stitch 3-4 buttonhole stitches through the thread end, piercing the thread.
  4. Whip the thread end to other metallic threads on the back of the canvas, make sure the tension on the thread end is taut.  Pierce some of the metallic threads on the back of the canvas so the end thread won’t wiggle sideways.
  5. Place 3-4 buttonhole stitches in a metallic thread on the back of the canvas and run the sewing thread through the metallic thread on the back for about an inch.  This way the ending thread will not loosen and be seen from the front.  Pull the sewing thread taut and cut at where it comes out of the metallic thread.  Cut off any remaining thread end.
  6. Cut the knot in the sewing thread from step 1 by pulling the knot taut and cutting the thread where it enters the thread end.
  7. With this method, the angle of the starting thread will look more like stitch 2 (a backstitch), which is OK because it will keep the hole where stitch 1 starts clean (i.e., it will wrap around the lower canvas thread.)
The same technique is used when you end your thread.
As for travel threads for Step 1.  I am using a running stitch/backstitch method of stitching which will hide the travel threads behind the threads on the front of the canvas.  Two items to keep in mind:  first, starting and stopping at the edge of the area you are stitching is preferable, it is easier to anchor those starting and stopping threads; and second, this method needs to be stitched with consistent tension on the running stitch part and the backstitch part.  Many people have a very taut backstitch but the running stitch is a little more loose.  This shows on the front by a little bit of raised running stitch.  So watch the tension - practice will help and knowing that this happens does as well.
If all of this seems rather like a lot of work - it is more work than starting and stopping threads when using a stitch that fills an entire area (called a filling stitch.)  However, the open canvas patterns can be truly beautiful and you’ll be so much happier if you can’t see any threads that should be hidden on the back.
Do I use this technique all the time?  No, sometimes I am lazy.  However, I can tell the difference when I look at it.  If you want to submit a piece in a judged exhibit, take the time to do the more time consuming method.  I’m a needlework judge, it makes a difference.
Next time I will cover Step 2.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Compensating Stitches

Stitch Compensation
Many stitchers have trouble with stitch compensation and one of the reasons why is that there are exceptions to the basic rule that compensating stitches are stitched just like regular stitches, but the length of the stitch, or part of the stitch is just shorter.  While that is generally a correct statement, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Exception #1
Don’t let compensating stitches pull previously laid stitches out of line.   Here is an example of what I mean.

Look at the Double Straight Cross Stitch. It is a stitch made up of four separate parts, a vertical stitch, a horizontal stitch and two slanted stitches. I have diagrammed the stitch and numbered it in the way that it is normally stitched.

If you are at the edge of the area you are stitching and cannot complete the right half of the stitch, how is this stitch correctly compensated? If you followed the advice to stitch it so that the right side of the stitches are not as long, but keep to the same way of stitch execution you would have a stitch that looked like this:

The problem with this stitch is that your first stitch, the vertical stitch from 1 to 2, will be pulled out of shape by the compensating stitch from 3-4. How then should this stitch be compensated?
If you break up the stitch from 1-2 into two parts, each part going into the shared hole in the middle, then the vertical stitch will be straight. A diagram of the stitch is shown below:

One more thing, notice that the stitch execution has changed a bit. I have not stitched both sides of the vertical stitch before stitching the horizontal stitch. I changed the numbering so that there is no thread pulled behind the shared hole of all the stitches. This makes for a much neater appearance to the compensated stitch.