Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Tricks for the Tricky Background

Sultry Outback, unstitched and showing all that "broken" background
I've been busy stitching a model for Leigh Designs called "Sultry Outback," one of Leigh's Jungle Heat series.  This piece has a lot of "broken" background--in other words, there are lots of bits of background here and there behind all the flowers and foliage.  So naturally I chose a rather complicated background and am having to use all my tricks to make sure that the flow of the background stitch is perfect from one area to the next.

Closeup of Temporary Stitches Across Stem
I'm not the world's greatest counting machine at the best of times, and since I normally stitch after supper when I am pretty tired from a very busy day, I need help making sure that the stitches line up correctly.  My favorite way to make sure things run properly is to stitch the background first, then work a row of brightly colored stitches across areas that are not background so that I keep track of the pattern flow.  That's what you see in the photo above--those yellow stitches are a ply of DMC floss in a bright color that continue the stitch sequence across the flower stem so that I can make sure the rows on either side of the stem line up.

Lots of folks use quilting thread for this in a, shall we say, LOUD color so that it's easy to stitch with and easy to rip out later.  I'm using a ply of floss because I had that on my stitching table.  I was using it to attach beads earlier and had this left over.  You would think that I'd be able to figure out the stitch sequence over such a short distance properly but I pulled out the stitches three times before I used my yellow floss to get things right.  (See "pretty tired" and "not the world's greatest counting machine" above.)

More Temporary Rows
Of course some areas are quite large but the same principle applies.  Above you see the temporary rows (in another color of thread when my yellow ran out) across a broad leaf and flower to make sure the interlocking diagonals meet up properly.  You can sort of see the black stitches in the bottom half of the broad black leaf.  It is always wise to not stitch an area you have to cross to get to more background so you can add temporary stitches.  I stopped the black when I realized I needed temporary guidelines.  I've now ripped out the yellow stitches and am busy with the top two-thirds of that black leaf.

You may be a better counter than me but anyone can use this trick to line up background stitch patterns.  So the next time you see a skein of hot pink or neon orange floss in the sale bin, take it home.  You can use it to establish a pattern in your background even if you wouldn't be caught dead stitching with these colors normally.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
Blogging at http://chillyhollownp.blogspot.com
and at http://chstitchguides.blogspot.com
© Copyright March 6, 2015 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.

12 comments:

  1. This is an excellent tip! I do this too but usually only work one leg of the stitch just to keep me on track and make it go faster--of course! LOL

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    1. I should have done only one leg but in some areas I need two to set up the pattern. Don't know why--just brain freeze I guess!

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  2. Great tip....I've had this frustration more than once and never thought to do this...duh!!!

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    1. Hope it helps, Evelyn. It took me lots of frustrated counting attempts before I thought of this. I'm a slow learner!

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  3. This is one of those forehead-smacking "why didn't I think of this" solutions. Thank you. I think I'll put a skein or spool of loud thread in my toolbag, just to be sure it's there when needed.

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  4. Hadn't thought to do this across a large area for unaligned backgrounds. I count, rip, re-count, re-count, pin, stitch :)

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    1. I have real trouble counting. Working the stitch across the non-background area in a brightly colored thread I'll rip out later works better for me. I can't count to three reliably some days!

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  5. This is the most wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing. I read your blog every day. It is the first thing I go to when I get to my computer each morning.

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  6. Thanks Jane, I'm with Cindy. Why didn't I think of this on my own? Great tip I'm sure I'll use forever. Julie

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    1. Excellent! I hope this is one of those things that spreads and helps lots of folks. I think I first read about it on the ANG email list eons ago but I am not sure. Anyway, stitchers helping stitchers with tips is what Blog is all about. Feel free to help me out ANY TIME.

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