On the way to needleweaving

June 8, 2009

Hemstitching is my normal preparation for needleweaving. On the way to doing this preliminary work for Sharon b‘s May Stitch Explorer, I was sidetracked by substitutes. All sorts of thoughts about other stitches that could gather threads began to swirl about in my mind. Here is a quick look at some stitches I’ve been trying.

A sorbello variation, I think. If it’s some other stitch whose name I forgot, please let me know. I will correct it.



double back stitch 
This has created a raised ridge, unfortunately not detectable in this photo.


feather stitch


As you can see I double wrapped some of the stitches to gather the threads of the ground fabric more tightly. I didn’t do this in all the experiments. And the decision to go to the double wrap seems to me to be based more on the ground used than the stitches. All my first experiments are cream on cream and didn’t seem to lend themselves to good photos for explanation.


September 10, 2008

I’ve been working on SharonB’s TIF challenge this summer but haven’t been posting any of the work. I thought I’d take today’s post to catch up on June’s theme. Sharon’s final instruction was think about stories that are and stories that are possible. 

I like to look at the back of needlework as much as the front. Some people may think I have an obsession with a tidy back. I like a tidy back, but my obsession is with patterns. And frankly, sometimes stitching patterns on the back of the fabric are as interesting as the ones on the front. To me while looking at the front of the embroidery tells one story and looking at the back possibly tells another.

The double backstitch is one of those stitches that while one side of the work looks like a closed herringbone stitch the other side shows two very nice neat rows of backstitching. This is taken advantage of in the alternating double backstitch where commonly three stitches are make with the herringbone to the front and then the stitching is reversed so the double backstitching appears on the front. This is often used as a decorative border stitch. In samplers, I’ve seen this worked as a small separating line between rows of the alphabet letters.


My June’s TIF sketch has to do with looking at the back side of the embroidery.   

Here’s the first sketch

There is a reason I had a “D” in spelling when I was in fourth grade. The teacher sent an alarming note home to my mother, but I see it failed to do much good. I still don’t know how to spell.

The most recent version

As you can see I’ve made notes about how to approach the work. I’m stuck on the two different ways of doing the project. I don’t know which one will win out in the end. But at least I’ve written down the ideas…I captured them.

There is actually an idea in the initial sketch that I edited out along the way. While I was getting the post ready today. I said that’s not such a bad idea. Maybe I could do something with that later.

Next post should be up on Friday (us west coast).

Off grid in back stitches

March 21, 2008

The back stitch and double back stitch work I began earlier in the year is still fascinating me. My energy levels are just so drained with the new work that I’m doing, that I feel insufficient to pour what I should be into the posts.

But in today’s post there is a little more of this “off grid” work. It is without many comments that I might wish to make. Some of it shows a little of my explorations on incorporating the double back stitch shadow work into some off grid pieces.




School girl at recess

March 18, 2008

What do I do when I can’t stand being in school girl mode on my stitch trials one moment longer? I always have a few “off grid” things in process.

I’ve been working almost exclusively with the back stitch. Fortunately, most of these things end up in the discard pile after a while. But I always learn something while at recess and it gives me a keener edge for “on grid” stitching when I return.




I’m sorry the colors are all a little off today–too orange or too yellow?

Double back stitch trials and errors

January 31, 2008

I had such a nice surprise in my mail from Paula at The Beauty of Life (much missed and not available any longer) –beautiful silk threads from Australia. Sparkles and shine are hard to capture in a photograph but this is my best efforts with the photograph. Totally unexpected and totally delightful. Many thanks, Paula.


Last week I began working on some pulled work that was based on the double back stitch. I was trying to do a staggered double back stitch. And it turned out to be a pulled chevron stitch. I still can’t find what I did wrong, but I know somehow I missed a step. I looked at the back side of the work and liked it so I stitched the pulled chevron stitch on the back of the fabric so it could be seen. I’ve been working with two other stitches that remind me of the chevron stitch and the sorbello stitch. While looking through another book this morning I found another similar stitch connected with the herringbone stitch.


Here is a double back stitch with little to no pull and then below the same pattern with a firm pull.



Double back stitch patterns continued

January 25, 2008

I’m continuing to do a lot of work with the double back stitch. Unfortunately, weather is keeping me from photographing much of it. The wind was so strong that I could not keep my fabric anchored long enough to photograph more than a few things. I’m hoping we will see a few sunny, calmer days around here before any more rains.

Because I had so many comments inquiring about what fabric I like to use for pulled work, I tried to take pictures of that. But I couldn’t manage that today. I’m going to try and explain what type of fabric I like for my pulled work. And it is not the kind you are seeing in these photographs. The fabric I prefer to use has more space between the fabric threads and has a nice stiff feel.

When I do regular embroidery I prefer the fabric threads be fairly close together and a more pleasant–firm but soft–feel to the fabric. The closer fabric threads, allow less worry about back threads showing up if I carry them. And this also means when I frame it or use it in some small item. There is less show through to what ever is behind the fabric, whether it is a mat board or batting. The thing I try to balance here in considering the work is how many threads and what type of thread will be commonly be stitched in to one hole in the fabric. Only if the pattern is dense or uses a lot of heavier threads, do I consider getting fabric with more room between the fabric threads.

When doing the pulled work a high contrast background is generally used to help make the pulled work design more apparent. I look for a balance between two things. I want the pulled work pattern to show up easily. If the fabric fibers are close together, the pattern holes created will be smaller. I tend to compensate by pulling the fabric threads too close and pinching them rather than holding them together with the stitch. However, the further the fabric threads are apart the more of the fabric or mat board behind the pulled work fabric will show through, not just where the pulled work design is but everywhere. In my mind this detracts from the overall appearance. Everyone has there own comfort level with this type of thing. For me stitching a little test and laying it against the final background allows me to adjust before hand and then to anticipate the finished project correctly.

Please don’t hesitate to ask any additional questions. However, please keep in mind I’m not an expert in this area, just a fellow stitcher.  Also if you have something that would be helpful for me or others to consider please feel welcome to leave a comment. I would appreciate it.

Now to turn a corner for samples.

A small grid with little to no pull. I see a flower center just waiting for embellishment.


There is little to no pull on the back stitched ric-rac patterns and firm pull on the satin stitching between them.


Medium pull on this grid pattern. I double wrapped some of this work. The camera reveals I missed a lot of it, too. since it was an after thought.


Little to no pull on the same pattern with a colored thread.


Double back stitch patterns

January 19, 2008

My apologies for being so far off schedule and missing a post yesterday. I’ve just finished taking 3 posts worth of photos to make sure I have some back up posts in the future. Yesterday, I didn’t started editing my photographs until I was ready to start the post last night. A very bad idea. I had to retake a number of them this morning. And, of course, there were other duties to be done for today. It’s been rather non-stop around here.

Today’s post is about a special type of back stitch called the double back stitch. It is a pattern that can be used for regular, pulled fabric/thread work and shadow work. It’s a easy concept and I’ve tried to provide some rough stitch diagrams to illustrate it here. These diagrams do not show any amount of pull exerted on the fabric threads. Naturally, the amount of pull exerted will affect the look of the completed work.

Below is a stitch diagram of the basic double back stitch pattern. This shows the stitch worked over three threads but it may also be worked over two threads. It just depends upon the fabric being used and the look you want to achieve. I will try to use some other fabric in some of the upcoming posts to give an idea of that. The fabric in this post is not the best for pulled work but on the other hand it is what I use for other embroidery. These samples reflect what would happen if I incorporated the pulled work into my normal stitching. If I was doing strictly pulled work I would tend to chose a different fabric.


No pull on this sample.


The green stitching is done first; below is a diagram.


Then the blue thread is used over laying the green thread on the back of the fabric, if using the double back stitch. However, the regular back stitch may also be used.

Very firm pull and I should have put it in a hoop to photograph.


No pull


Medium pull


The beginning of a diagram for the above stitching the second row of stitching is staggered so the lower points of the first row meet the upper points of the second row. Some stitchers prefer to leave two fabric threads between the rows.


In the sample below the double back stitch is worked with one straight line of back stitch making up the first stitch (and all odd stitches) of the double back stitch and a diagonal stitch the second and all even stitches). The second row is then mirrored. The pull here is medium.


This is a more traditional white on white with a gentle to medium pull.


Back stitch and pulled fabric work

January 12, 2008

Today post shows some more pulled fabric (pulled thread) work using the back stitch. However, I’ve had interesting comments about this type of embroidery. I want to do two things in response. First, explain some of my reasons for wishing to learn pulled thread work more thoroughly this year. Second provide some on-line resources for those interested.

I decided to look into pulled thread work this year due to a couple of factors. First, it is one way to provide wonderful texture in embroidery. It also figures heavily in work for table linens. I have done some work in this area but nothing extensive. I wanted to explore the back stitch this year and it is a stitch used in pulled thread and shadow work. Next week I’m hoping to have time to do work with the double back stitch. Once I am more familiar with the basics, I plan to be taking things off grid and have a lot of fun exploring there and adding color to the mix.

Update: I just noticed a great comment from MargB at Maggie’s Textiles in regard to pulled work and texture. She says in part, I have been trying out various pulled thread stitches as they can give such effective backgrounds for emphasising negative space. So true. Many thanks to MargB for this comment!

The following on-line resources are from a quick search today and some work I did in October and November when thinking about goals for 2008. I’m not affiliated with any of the commercial sites that I point to nor am I able to endorse them not having not personally purchased anything from them.

Beth Gardner did an brief article on Pulled Thread for the Greater Pacific region of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America.

Jean Farish Heart & Home provides a nice primer on pulled thread work. She includes stitch diagrams of some of the common stitches involved in this type of work.

Introductory material and a free lesson is available at Carol’s Needlework Tips and Techniques. As I was working down the google list I found a post SharonB did in October of last year pointing to this same resource and going into a little more detail on some other techniques also on the site. Some of you might wish to swing by to see what Sharon said there.

While the work at this exhibit at Lacis Museum is not exclusively pulled work it has a wonderful display of many whitework techniques including pulled work. The slide show may be a place to spend a couple of hours or just browse through just a few of the many pieces they have. If you’re interested in the wider field of white work, the exhibit catalogue opens up in to a wonderful 12 page pdf explaining various areas and providing detailed samples. If you aren’t familiar with these techniques it will help you identify the various types of works in the exhibit itself. If you are familiar with this lace museum you might wish to check around for other things that may be of interest to you.

Samples:One thing I admire so much about the back stitch is its range of motion. This is what can be done with an over two threads stitch. Going to over three increases the range may still make a useful stitch depending on the fabric count.


The first pulled work is based on this pattern. However to make everything come out as it should be for the pulled work the diagonal stitches are repeated while stitching. On the journey back the vertical stitches are done for the second time. On the repeated rows the horizontal stitches are done the second time. For any vertical or horizontal stitch along the perimeter of the filling area, repeat while stitching.


This is the ringed back filling


The small ring back


And a small stitch pattern that I decide to try myself. It may have a name, I just don’t happen to know, unfortunately.


Back stitch and the festoon pattern

January 10, 2008

Another Constance Howard update: JoWynn of Parkview 616 gave a lovely tribute to Constance Howard and another of her books, Inspiration for Embroidery. If you haven’t seen this already I encourage anyone who has been following the discussion that SharonB started to swing by and see this post and also if you haven’t caught Kay Susan‘s updated post on Constance Howard, please do that. Kay Susan has provided some great links. Many thanks to all of these ladies! Everything I’m learning about Constance Howard makes me wish to learn more.

The back stitch is the stitch used for a great number of pulled fabric patterns. One of those is the festoon pattern. As with many pulled stitches you don’t have to pull, but may use it for a stitch pattern. The samples in today’s post show a bit of work with both kinds of stitching.

The simplest way to show the basic pattern it by this unpulled piece.


A couple of fill patterns.



Mirrored with various degrees of overlap starting at the top where the pattern is completely over lapped.


Pulled work



First back stitch explorations extended

January 3, 2008

Today’s post is focused on finishing work with the back stitch. Due to rain in the valley, I had to pull some old pictures and move up this post without all of the examples I’d planned. Therefore, there is more talk than illustration.

As I mentioned in an earlier post use the back stitch for finishing a lot of small items. I know these days that perhaps most people would prefer to use a machine but I enjoy the thought that the whole item is stitched by hand. And I can do the back stitching involved in those spare moments that require very little attention to the needlework for the most part. I consider it a good project for my travel bag since it’s easily stopped and started.

The back stitch is a sturdy stitch and it can carry stress. This pincushion is definitely over stuffed.


Here is the seam.


The back stitching is done with a firm pull not distorting the fabric and allowing for no more play than for the needle to slip through the back stitch on the front. The stitching is done on both pieces, exactly on the seam line. And this is counted work. The stitch count on both the front and back should match. If they don’t a compensation stitch must be discretely taken.

I use a Perle cotton for the back stitching and the whipping. And for the whipping I try to make the thread long enough to go around the whole piece. Fortunately, Perle cotton can generally stand up to this treatment. Naturally, on some larger items breaks must be made.

To determine the size of the Perle cotton I generally go by the size closest to the average size thread of the fabric. If something seems questionable I have this other formula. If it’s for a seam under no stress or a finishing fold line, I round down. If it’s for a seam under pressure, I round up. However, please keep in mind, I’m not an expert in this area. I’ve never tried a Perle 5. I’m always trying to decide between a Perle 12 and 8.

Another reason the back stitch has become a favorite is because I can put it on the front side of the work. With the back stitch there is no putting right side to right side, stitching, leaving a small gap for adding stuffing and turning everything right side out again. While I have to whip stitch the gap together if stuffing was added, that spot becomes all but invisible because it does not vary from the rest of the work.


In this photo I’ve got the back stitching done, the seam allowance folded and the back stitches aligned. The wrong sides are together. On the left you can see how nicely the back stitch is showing up. You will begin whip stitching taking the needle through both back stitches as pictured. This should be a firm whip stitch however nothing so tight as to distort the fabric.

Here is the finish with the seam allowance folded back on each side. I don’t always iron these seams either before or after I stitch. Often hand pressing will be sufficient.