Stitching buddies

Today I’m off to stitch with friends! The third Wednesday of the month is one of my local ANG meetings, and I drive about 2 hours to get there. We stitch, catch up, have lunch, then I drive 2 hours home.

I started doing this more than a decade ago. I searched out local chapters at the ANG site, and this was the closest one. I really wanted to be involved with a local chapter, so the drive was the least of my concerns. By the way, it’s a great time to catch up on my podcasts, notably FiberTalk!

Since then I helped to start an ANG chapter closer to home, joined 3 more chapters (in Oklahoma, Illinois and Cyber Pointers), joined an EGA chapter, and try to make it to the local stitching gatherings at the local shop. Stitching with friends is a very important part of my stitching world!

I rely on their in person, face to face feedback about new designs and colors, thread choices and general input. I have a lot of confidence in my designs, but that feedback is so important!

So, I’ll gather all my stitching things, the current project, my podcasts and head off to see my friends. I hope you have as pleasant a day!

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Strip and Flip

Most of us are self taught in the needle arts. That is, we saw a kit in a big box store, liked it, bought it, brought it home and struggled through it. Some of us struggled more than others! But some of us thought, this is easy, and continued on. If you were taught by your grandmother or mother, chances are they were self-taught as well, so a lot of the tips and suggestions we pick up in classes were not a part of your initial instruction.

For instance, stranding threads. The instructions said to use 3 strands, so we separated 3 strands, usually all at once, and wound up with a huge knot as the strands would not come apart.

This is a much easier way – tap the cut end of the floss (this works for silk, cotton and rayon flosses) until you see some separation of the strands. Grasp 1 strand with your thumb and forefinger, and slide the remaining strands down the cut length. Do this as many times as needed to get the number of strands you need to stitch with. Then recombine the strands and thread the needle.

Take it a step further and reverse the direction of the strands before recombining. Say you’re stitching with 3 strands. Remove 1 strand and lay it aside. Remove the second strand and lay it aside. Remove the third strand, but this time flip it before recombining it with the other 2 strands. I think you’ll find that the strands lay apart better and are easier to lay.

Why is this? Here’s my very non-technical answer: the strands are pretty tightly twisted together to form the skein. The strands want to stay tightly twisted together, not lay apart. Flipping 1 strand forces the strands to stand apart from each other, since the twist is not the same.

Using a loop start does this same thing, reversing the twist of the threads. I usually find that loop start threads lay a little better that regular recombined threads.

Of course flipping and loop starting won’t work with over dyed threads, unless you want a heathered look. But try it with other stranded flosses to see if you like the result and it makes your stitching a bit easier.

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Finding a parking spot

In light of my last posts, let’s talk about something that’s in between starting a new thread and ending off – parking!

Parking a thread that you intend to use later is a smart idea. And it’s something we discuss in class frequently, especially when working with 2 or more needles, like a 2 color waffle stitch or double fan doubled.

I’ve heard it said that you should always park your thread on top of the canvas where you can keep your eye on it. It’s like teenagers – if you can’t see them, then they can wander around and get in trouble.

Learning to park your thread is not difficult, but takes a little getting used to. I always counsel my students to bring the needle up where it will be needed next, then park the thread. Once you learn how to do this it becomes second nature, and easy peasy to keep your thread handy for the next stitches.

But if you have difficulty with this, here’s something you can try: bring the needle up to do the last stitch with that thread, but don’t finish the stitch – park it at that point. Then when you’re ready for that thread again, finish the stitch and move to the next one. This is just as effective as bringing the thread up where you need it next, as it’s still parked on top of the canvas.

The reason why this is preferable to just bringing the thread up anywhere is two-fold. First, you may stitch over the tail and it require some undoing to avoid lumps or piercing the thread as you make the next stitches. Second, you have to unstitch or rethread the needle when you’re ready for that thread again.

So give it a try – I think you’ll prefer parking where you need it next!

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The end is near

So you’ve been stitching and are nearing the end of the thread. How to end off?

The fastest and easiest way is to just pull the thread to the front of the canvas, either in the stitching area or in the margin, and leave it. As you stitch the next stitches, you’ll stitch over the tail on the back and can clip the dangling thread on the front after the stitches are secured. I like this method because it’s quick, it’s easy, and won’t disturb the stitching on the front by weaving through the threads on the back.

If dangling threads give you the willies, an alternative to this is to take a pin stitch, placed so it will be covered by the stitches to come. This requires some thoughtful planning, but is not very difficult, secures the thread and leaves nothing hanging on the front of the canvas.

A secure method for ending threads under satin stitches is a Bargello tuck. Run the thread through the stitches on the back, being careful not to pull the stitches on the front, make a “tuck” over a couple of stitches, run through some more stitches on the back, make another “tuck”, and end off. You may have done something similar to this when you weave through threads on the back, change directions and weave through more threads. This is a very secure way to end the threads, but take care that you don’t pull so much on the back that the threads on the front shift.

A simple weave through the backs of the stitches also works, depending on what you have to weave in to. A waffle stitch doesn’t leave much on the back, or a row of herringbone, so you may want to consider a different way to end off your threads.

If you don’t have much on the back to weave in to, you can also consider whip stitches – take the thread to the back, and wrap the thread several times around the thread on the back, usually a single line.

So why worry about ending the thread? This is a question that comes up frequently when I’m teaching, so a little attention to ending is probably in order. I think trying to make the back as neat as possible is not a worthy goal, but making sure that what’s on the back doesn’t affect the front is. If your front is neat, chances are your back will be as well. Unless you are doing something where the back will be visible, just end your threads the best way you can and move on. If all else fails, a dab of fabric glue will hold recalcitrant threads in place (and I’ve done this, especially when the ends of Neon Rays just won’t stay down!).

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Keeping it fresh

I think the problem with inconsistencies in keeping up with my blog is that I don’t always have something profound to say. After all, I don’t want to waste your time! But it sets up a dilemma for me to come up with something interesting, however small, to blog about on a regular basis.

So today I’ll share a brief video link on my YouTube channel, about starting and stopping threads. I have been somewhat surprised by the reaction to this little video, which I have been showing in my classes. I recently taught a 3 day class with some quite complicated stitches, and what the students were most impressed by was how to do a pin stitch. Sigh.

Therefore, let’s review pin stitches and other ways to start a thread. I demonstrate an away knot, a loop start and a pin stitch in the video.

I prefer an in-the-path waste knot when I use one. That is, I place the knot on top of the canvas and position it so that I will stitch over the tail, securing the thread, and I can clip off the knot when I come to it. Some people prefer an away waste knot, one that is completely out of the stitching area, and weave in the ends when there is enough on the back of the canvas. This involves clipping the knot, rethreading the end into a needle, and weaving it under the carry threads on the back. Either one is fine and a matter of personal preference.

A loop start is useful when you have an even number of strands in your needle. This makes for a very neat back. Catch your loop over a single thread, not the first stitch you are making, to keep it very tight and compact. For instance, if I were doing a satin stitch over 4 canvas threads, I would make my loop over 1 canvas thread, then cover it with the first satin stitch. This keeps the loop nice and tight, and completely covered by the stitching.

My current favorite way to start a stitch is a pin stitch. The pin stitch can be over 1 canvas thread, or in the shape of an “L” or “T”. Which ever you choose, I take 3 tiny stitches to make sure the thread is very secure. A pin stitch must be placed where the pattern stitches will cover it. This can be tricky, so plan carefully!

I’ll discuss ending stitches next time.

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