Monday, September 24, 2012

Ripping Out Stitches

Whether it is due to the wrong color thread, the wrong type of thread, the wrong stitch or incorrect stitches, we’ve all ripped out stitches.  The question is: just how do you rip out your stitches?

Are you one of those stitchers that does this?

When stitches are ripped out like this you will hear the thread scraping against the sides of the holes on the canvas.  Depending on the thread, it may be quite loud.  Now, stop and think:  if you can hear it, just what does that mean?

It means that the entire length of the thread is being excessively worn by the friction from the canvas holes.  Further, you are putting excessive pull on the stitch you made before the one you are pulling out, which will give you bad stitch tension.  Let me just say, that even if you don’t hear the scraping sound, and with some silks, you may not because some of them slide so easily, you are still placing excessive wear on that thread.

The worst part of this issue is that those stitchers will then rethread that pulled out thread into their needle and stitch with it.  The only thing I can say to this is: Don’t.

If you must pull out your stitches this way, cut the thread very short and pull the stitches out.  You should not reuse this thread ever.  If you cut it very short, the tug on the other stitches will be lessened because you are not pulling the thread a great length.  It is still not an ideal way to rip out stitches.

What should you do?  And can you ever reuse the thread from a bad stitch?

As I see it there are 3 options:
  1.  Never reuse thread you have pulled out.  This means take the stitch or stitches out, end off the thread and start a new thread.  This will ensure that there is never any thread wear from ripping out stitches.
  2. Unstitch the stitches, using the needle as a guide to unstitch.  This option will work if you have not caught any other threads on the back in the thread you are removing.  The probability that this is the case is small, but there are times that this technique will work.  I still would not reuse the thread if I unstitched a lot of stitches.  How many is a lot?  Probably not more than five, but that depends on the thread type, how far I’ve already stitched with that thread, etc.  Use your best judgement.  When in doubt: Don’t.
  3. Unthread the needle and turn the canvas over, pull the thread out from the back.  Turn the canvas over, pull the thread out from the front, and continue in this fashion until all the stitches are ripped out.  Again, how many stitches?  With this technique I’d say only two to three.

Really?  Is the thread worn that badly?

You really need to be the best judge of this yourself.  And just yesterday I caught myself using the third technique on a dozen stitches and then rethreaded the needle with that same thread.  I did stop myself and ended off the thread - it is a bad habit that requires diligence to break.

Can you see thread wear?  You may not see thread wear on the thread prior to stitching, but when it is placed next to stitches without wear, it will be obvious.  There may be less sheen on the stitches with thread wear, the stitches may look dirty if there is thread wear, there may be more fuzz and frizz on stitches with worn thread, worn thread may look thinner and it will be weaker.  It is the unfavorable comparison to surrounding stitches that is the most damaging issue when thread wear is apparent.

Let me assure you, your stitching will look better if you do not reuse thread from ripped out stitches.  It is as simple as that.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thread Wear

We are in the midst of exhibit season, what with county and state fairs, and the ANG national seminar exhibit.  These exhibits offer a good look at just what stitchers are doing right and what they are doing wrong.  One of the areas that stitchers need to take care with their stitching concerns thread wear.  

There are many different ways that stitchers cause excessive wear on their threads.  We have discussed thread wear in a previous blog concerning perle cotton threads.  I also mentioned that Watercolours acts a lot like perle cotton, and you need to be careful of thread wear.  

Knowing how to stitch with a particular thread requires practice and testing that thread in different environments.  What do I mean by this?

Have you ever considered stitching a sample prior to stitching on your canvas?  Perhaps the usual long length of thread you use will cause undue wear on it from pulling it through the canvas many times.  A shorter thread length may be needed.

Do you stitch with a large length of the thread doubled over in the needle and then move the needle along the length of the thread as you stitch?  This technique will produce thread wear on the thread where the thread passes through the eye of the needle.  If you move the eye of the needle along the thread, you are creating many areas with excess thread wear.  Again, a shorter stitching length may be needed.

How about when you stitch your arm, shirt, or hand rubs against previously stitched areas of the canvas?  Do you realize that this friction causes thread wear?  You need to protect previously stitched areas from thread wear.  Cover previously stitched areas with tissue paper.  I cut a piece of tissue paper large enough to cover the areas that need protecting and then either tape it to my wooden stitching frame or tack it to the frame.  Some people prefer to use clear plastic, either the kind found in the grocery store or a thicker type that won’t easily tear can be found at fabric stores.  Again, tape or tack to your frame.  I know that some needlework teachers that work in silk and metal cover all silk threads that have been stitched onto the canvas as they continue to work their pieces.

How about when you stitch and the thread drags along the top of the canvas?  Canvas is very rough on threads, and not just when you pull the thread through the canvas.  Lift the thread above the canvas with your free hand to reduce the chances that the rough canvas will cause wear in your threads.  For those two handed stitchers, one on top and one on bottom, this technique requires both hands on top - which may slow you down a bit.  Or cover the canvas with plastic or tissue paper.  The results are well worth the little extra work required.

Just what did I see that leads me to this topic - obvious thread wear on Watercolours.  The stitches were the raised type of stitches commonly referred to as Jean Hilton stitches, or curved stitches.  These stitches are especially susceptible to wear from friction because they are higher off the canvas, and the exposed thread is long enough so that fibers are easily rubbed loose from the strand that was stitched.

Look at a strand of Watercolours compared to perle cotton.  Notice the looser twist and the longer fibers that actually stick out from the strand of the Watercolours.  Both of these characteristics make the thread soft and enjoyable to work with - but care must be taken not to create a lot more and longer fibers that stick out from the thread - which creates fuzz.

So shorter lengths of Watercolours and protect those stitches once you place them on your canvas.  The results are well worth the little bit of extra work.

Other threads that may need a little more care:  Vineyard silks, Silk & Ivory - these both have loose twists to them.  Any silk thread.