Sunday, June 20, 2010

Anchoring Ends When Stitching Light

Yesteday morning I found a question from Melinda in the Comments section. To quote her in full--"This is a beautiful canvas, Jane. Tell me how/where you are anchoring your Walsh thread so that it doesn't show under the blank areas of the background. Thanks!"

Starting and ending threads is one of those basic techniques that are hard to master.  Do you use a knot?  Or not?  [LOL.  Sorry, I had to say that!]  Just how do you end off slippery threads like rayon?  Is it really important to have the back side of your work look as neat as the front?  Etc.

However you normally start and end threads, if you stitch part of a painted canvas with light coverage stitches to allow the painted shading to show, you will find that ending one or two plies of a thread is much different than ending off 4-6 plies.  The less thread you are using, the harder it is to tie off a thread or get one started.  After all, there's not much thread on the back side to anchor a new length in.

Sometimes there is a place nearby where you can start/end threads the way you normally do.  Unfortunately, most of the wide diamond stitches were done before I had stitched anything else so there is no stitched area to start/stop threads in for this canvas.  Even when I have more of Cha stitched there aren't going to be many areas where there is full coverage.  Here is what I do with my one ply of the 5-plied JL Walsh silk/wool thread (but this applies to all the light coverage threads and stitches I'm using on this piece):

To start a thread, I tie as small a knot as I can manage in the new length of thread.  Then I stitch a Locking L stitch in an area that will be covered by one of the long stitches in wide diamonds.  I stitch until the thread is about 2-3 inches from running out.  (If you are using a thread that unravels in the eye of the needle you might have to stop stitching with a length when there are 4-5 inches left.)

Locking L stitches are just a little stitch over one thread followed by a second stitch over one thread next door to the first. Together these two stitches make the shape of the letter L.  (If I am using a really slippery thread, I might make a Z shape from three tiny stitches.)  In most cases, even if you are using only one ply of silk, these tiny stitches will be hidden by the regular stitches.  You just need to figure out where to put them so that the stitch will cover the Locking L.  This is one reason it is smart to do some test stitching in the margin of your canvas if you haven't done the stitch before.  You'll soon have a good idea where to hide the Locking L.

The reason you will want as tiny a knot as possible on the back side is that if you tie a knot that has a little tail sticking out, that little tail will start to poke itself through to the front.  Once you do your starting Locking L and then stitch that first stitch or two, turn over the canvas and check the starting knot to make sure there is no tail to stick out on the front.

If you are stitching one small area instead of the whole background, try starting your stitch in the middle of the area.  That also helps keep any ending thread from showing at the margin of the area you are working.  This is particularly important if your thread is slippery or if it is 100% silk.  Silk becomes more of an escape artist the less of it you use to stitch with.

To end a thread once you have finished a section, use the Locking L stitch again. This time, slide a stitch you've done already over with your needle tip and run the ending Locking L stitches under this thread and its neighbors.  Then turn the canvas over to the back and slip the end of your thread under neighboring stitches, if any.  I often slip my thread under previous stitches on the back going in one direction, then slip it under neighboring threads going in the opposite direction so that there are 2-3 inches of thread ending off on the back.  Trim the end.

Even if they are light coverage stitches, one ply on the back probably won't show.  However, some folks make a point of putting a piece of fabric under their canvas in finishing.  If you layer your canvas over a thin fabric, it helps mask those stitches running from one area to another.  Choose a fabric color similar to the background stitch if you do this or use a sparkly fabric like gold lame.

Folks who do a lot of blackwork learn to plan their stitching path to minimize any threads from the back showing on the front.  For more insight on this process, read the February 2004 Stitch of the Month information Ann Strite-Kurz wrote for ANG's website.  She diagrams each stitch in such a way that the working order is very clear to minimize such problems.

My way of starting/stopping threads is not the only way.  Here is how Marj describes what Shay Pendray recommends you do to start and end threads.

I have written on this topic before.  The best explanations I can find from older blog postings are listed below.  It's a complex topic and if the above confuses you, read these explanations from me  for more help.  Sometimes I phrase things in a better way.

Great question, Melinda.  Thank you!  Please ask if any of the above isn't clear.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow Blogging at Archived Yahoo 360 postings at


Melinda said...

Jane - thank you so much for your very detailed answer to my question! It is most helpful and I appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge with all of us. You're the best!

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Melinda, your question was really good, especially since Cha is mostly light coverage stitches. I forgot to mention that the type of thread you are using will effect how easy it is to start/end your threads. I am not having nearly the trouble with my ply of JL Walsh silk/wool that I get from a ply of silk or cotton floss.

Deepa said...

Great explanation,Jane. I find the starting and ending of Rayon very tricky.Not sure if they can be conquered with just the L stitch.They are too slippery,especially the Edmar Rayon.

Hugs from India,

The Chilly Hollow Needlepoint Adventure said...

Deepa, try two L stitches or maybe two Z shapes. Since you are stitching on things other than NP canvas, it will be harder I bet. I don't like nylon threads myself. They misbehave!