Thoughts On Selecting Decorative Stitches

The lettering in this Keep Calm and Needlepoint canvas, expertly stitched by Vicky De Angelis of Mostly Needlepoint, was stitched in tent stitch using a white metallic thread. It draws the eye in. The background is an open stitch. What a perfect blend of stitches and fibers!

The lettering in this Keep Calm and Needlepoint canvas, expertly stitched by Vicky De Angelis of Mostly Needlepoint, was stitched in tent stitch using a white metallic thread. It draws the eye in. The background is an open stitch. What a perfect blend of stitches and fibers!

Today’s post is a guest post from Brenda Stimpson of Needlepoint for Fun.

For you Sunday eye candy & stash enhancement, go visit their sale page. They have fantastic vacation-inspired needlepoint on sale at 10% off. I’m spending my time drooling.

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Planning which decorative stitches to place where on a needlepoint canvas can be daunting. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to stitch selection, and although experience will guide you, much of the artistry involved remains trial and error, even for the experts (which we do not consider ourselves among, I might add).

But, here are some tips that I find useful when deciding how to add decorative stitches to a canvas:

  1. When in doubt, use a Tent Stitch. Remember, you don’t need to cover the entire canvas in decorative stitches and some areas are very tricky to fill, especially if they are irregular in shape or the area is very small. At least until you have a lot of experience under your belt, it can be a good idea to use only 2 or 3 different stitches on a canvas and fill the rest in with a Tent Stitch. That way you get to know a few stitches well and can build your repertoire slowly.
  2. Decorative stitches with strong patterns will attract attention and can be used to this effect to bring out the focal points in your design. However, the reverse is also true. Placing an area of calm (Tent Stitch) amongst a sea of decorative stitches will draw the eye to this less busy place. A simple example of this would be stitching all the detail in Tent Stitch and only using a decorative stitch on the background. The eye will actually be drawn to the center.
  3. Stitches can be made “decorative” through the use of fiber as well as the type of stitch used. For example; textured fibers; those with more of a luster; or metallics, all bring the object(s) stitched in that fiber forward in your design (regardless of the stitch used). So, be careful not to overdo it. Using a highly decorative stitch and a decorative fiber may create more bling than even Kim Kardashian would wear to the grocery store.
  4. A Scotch Stitch covers 3 thread intersections, or 4 holes, which may mean it doesn’t fit evenly within the space you have available. You can use partial (compensating) stitches to fill in the gaps if you plan it out first.

    Count before you stitch! Many decorative stitches cover more than one stitch intersection. It always pays to know ahead of time whether the space you have will accommodate a complete number of stitches. For example, a Scotch Stitch is worked over 3 thread intersections. That means you will need 9 thread intersections (up and down) to accommodate 3 rows of 3 Scotch Stitches.

    What happens if you have 14 thread intersections? Well, you have some options. You can either choose another stitch – in this case, maybe one that works over 2 thread intersections, or you can “compensate” if the stitch you are using allows it. Compensating means you stitch only part of the stitch. Many stitches can be halved or reduced in this way, but there are some that can’t. You will also need to plan ahead of time which edge will receive the compensating stitch, or even whether you will center the complete stitches and “compensate” on both sides.

    As a further tip, if you are stitching a border and you need to compensate, it is almost always better to start at the inside of the border and work outwards, placing the compensating stitch on the outer edge of the canvas where it will likely be concealed by the finishing.

  5. Make a Sampler. Keep a piece of blank canvas as a sampler that you add new stitches to as you use them. Stitch a couple of square inches of the stitch onto the sampler and write notes to go with each. For example, whether you had to thicken the thread, whether or not the stitch gobbled up a lot of thread, whether the stitch can be compensated or if it needs to fit into a space perfectly, etc. This sampler will grow and grow until you have your own stitch library and notes.

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