Three Easy Ways to Outline

Originally posted 2011-01-25 07:11:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

needlepoint fall maple leaf stitched from outline by janet perry

This little fall leaf shows off a number of easy needlepoint techniques. The outline of the leaf was taken from a coloring book page and traced onto canvas. It was then filled with an alternating stitch using two threads.

The background, done in two colors of Watercolours, is mitered. This pulls your eye to the focal point, the leaf. (Click the links to learn how to do these techniques.)

But when I had finished the background I felt as if the different areas didn’t pop enough. So I added a stem, outlined the leaf and then outlined the diamond inset.

All three of these outlines are whipped, or wrapped, stitches. They give wonderful definition to any needlepoint area you want to define.

Wrapping a stitch is a simple process. After you make a line of stitches, you bring the needle out from the canvas under the first stitch, allowing it to emerge one one side of the stitch (the first side). Then bring your needle over the first stitch and under the next stitch, allowing the needle to emerge on the first side of the second stitch.

Continue wrapping in this way until the entire line of stitches or the entire outline is wrapped. But do not allow your needle to go back into the canvas until the line is wrapped.

What does whipping do?

  • It smooths out the stitch so that lines can be curved.
  • It hides the joints between stitches so the line looks solid.
  • It tightens the stitches, making them smaller and standing them up a bit from the canvas.
  • By being a solid, curved line, it smooths out the abrupt changes that happen in the outline of the needlepoint.

Besides all this, by using a different color of thread for the wrap, this stitch can become a decorative accent as well. You see this in the diamond outline.

I have found this to be a very useful technique. I used Whipped Backstitch (below top) when I want a thin outline. You can see it around the leaf. I use Whipped Double Backstitch (below middle) when I want a slightly thicker, but still delicate outline (not one leaf). Finally, I use Whipped Chain when I want a bold outline (stem on model).

whipped backstitch diagram
whipped double backstitch diagram

whipped chain stitch diagram


  1. Marlene says

    Your leaf needlepoint is gorgeous. i am going to look at coloring books for designs. Would like to make a set of coasters using various leaf designs or using your bargello theme. Would prefer not to use the acrylic coaters you see in stores but do not know how to turn a small piece into a finished coaster. In future, posts,can you possibly post an article on finishing something as small as a coaster? Appreciate any hints.

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