An Ounce of Prevention Prevents Big Disasters

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One of the universal reasons why needlework is so well loved is the lack of prep time. What other creative pastime allows you to just jump right in? Pick up a needlepoint canvas, a needle, a fiber, and possibly a stitch guide and you are ready to go. Grab a piece of evenweave fabric, a needle, floss, and a chart and let the stitching commence!

Unless you aren’t sure of the fiber’s washability.

It seems that every day I read a post or comment about one of the following:

  • “Will the overdyed floss I used in this project run?”
  • “I washed my project stitched with this overdyed floss and it has ruined my project!”
  • “I stitched with an overdyed fiber; can I still I block my needlepoint canvas?”

This is when an ounce of prevention comes in handy.  I’m working on a small sampler that includes an overdyed floss from ThreadWorx (#1052) so I stitched a short row of cross stitches and backstitches on the same linen I am using for the project.

Test sample before washing.

NOTE: If I am planning to use an overdyed fiber on needlepoint canvas, I stitch a similar test on linen or cotton. If it doesn’t run on linen or cotton, I figure it isn’t going to run on canvas and it’s just a lot easier to test the fiber on fabric than canvas.

I washed my test piece in the same manner I will wash the stitched sampler: same water temperature (tepid) and with the same soap (Orvus in this case).

Test sample, washed.

Happily, no problems surfaced. If the color had run, I would have had a few choices.  I could choose a different fiber (unlikely). I could stitch in such as way that I would never have to wash or block the fabric and hope that at no time would any unfortunate spill cause me to need to rinse it out (scary thought). I could try some remedy to remove the wayward dye BEFORE ironing or applying any heat would make it a permanent stain (my usual stubborn next move). Or I could take steps to attempt to make the fiber colorfast and repeat my stitch & wash test before proceeding.

I’ll show you what I do using two overdyed fibers … one is silk (Waterlilies) and the other is cotton (ThreadWorx).

Sometimes, a simple wash and rinse will solve the problem. This is true if the problem is one of “crocking.” Crocking occurs when all the dye did not adhere to the fiber. Basically, think of it as random bits of dye that are floating around until they find something else to stick to … like your canvas, linen, or other stitching fibers.

A skein in one continuous loop, like Caron Collection Waterlilies, can be tied off in four or five places to prevent tangling during the wash and rinse process.

Cut skeins like ThreadWorx are also tied off in four or five places along the length.

Use white thread, yarn, pearl cotton, or string.

Swish gently in tepid or cool water with the same wash solution you will use for the stitched project. Rinse well. Blot dry and lay the skein on a paper towel to air dry. If the rinse water is clear and the blotting paper towel is free of color, you are ready to stitch when the skein is dry.

I am not a textile or dye expert and so I will not offer specific advice at this point though I will say that I know enough to know the following to be true:

  • There are many myths and erroneous information “out there” on the web. For example, a salt and vinegar soak is not a surefire way to make a dye colorfast.
  • Hot water and even warm water can cause an otherwise stable dye to bleed.
  • Using the incorrect soap or detergent for a particular fiber can wreak havoc. What is best for wool is not necessarily best for silk or cotton and vice versa. (Your test sample can sort out this problem.)
  • Some mordants that work really well during the dye process have no discernible effect after the dye process.
  • What works for cotton and linen (“plant” products) may not work on silk or wool (“animal” products).

So what’s a needleworker to do? Since you are reading this online, it’s a safe bet that you know how to search the internet for advice. That’s a good first step. So is time spent doing research at your local library. Next, whatever advice you find, take the time to test it on a small sample rather than your completed project.

After all, an ounce of prevention is well worth it!

PS: We still have room for a few more stitchers on our annual Stitchers’ Escapes Cruise to three fabulous European cities. Join us! You’ll find all the details HERE.

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To Rip or Not to Rip: That is the Question!

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Few needleworkers have escaped the agony that presents itself when things don’t quite look the way you expected. I have yet to try any creative process that eliminates the un-doing part of the process. Like many things in life, we find a way to cope and there are many ways to do so. I can’t prescribe a method that will work for everyone. I can only share what works for me. Here are the steps I take.

Give it time. Before you decide to rip it out, step away for a bit. You may want to sleep on it or go for a walk or just go do something else but just give yourself some kind of break. There is probably some physiological explanation but the old adage is true: sometimes things DO look better in the morning.

Take a photo. In this day and age of digital photography, take advantage of the opportunity to grab an image. I am constantly amazed at how different my work looks in a photo … sometimes better and sometimes not. Taking a photo gives a different perspective and allows me to better analyze the problem and often leads to a solution. If nothing else, it gives you a “before” photo if you decide to rip.

Think “bandaid” when ripping is the best option. If you decide to rip it out, just DO IT. Quit agonizing and get it over with. If it’s going to be a long process, sit down to watch a good movie or binge watch one of your favorite shows. After all, ripping is a fairly mindless activity so give yourself something entertaining to do.

Here is a real life examples using one of my needlepoint projects. After stitching the “O” in continental stitch (one of the forms of tent stitch) I proceeded to fill in the area with Scotch stitch, a quick stitch and one that is easy to compensate. I also knew it would fill the  area well since it is 32 threads by 32 threads and the Scotch stitch covers a 4 x 4 space. I took a photo to share on Facebook and that is when I “saw” the problem. The O receded into the background and that is not where I wanted it to be.

The Scotch stitch is one of my favorites but this shot made it quite clear to me that it would over power the monogram. (BTW, the little black smears are errors made when I was marking the letter.)

So, I found the next episode of NCIS in my binge-watching queue and proceeded to rip while Gibbs and his team solved their next mystery. I knew that when the ripping was done that I would have my own mystery to solve: what stitch to use in place of the Scotch.

The mosaic stitch seems to be the better choice.

So this is where I am in the process. I’m liking the mosaic stitch well enough to continue but I think when I have stitched some of the area within the O that I’ll take another photo and see if I love it enough to finish. As painful as the ripping may be, it is a better choice than finding that you’re not proud of your work when you take that final stitch.

I no longer avoid ripping out. I embrace it as a necessary part of the creative process. I don’t even agonize over the time I spend doing it: it is no longer “wasted” time. Instead, I consider that any amount of time I spend stitching to avoid ripping to be the waste of time. If you have ever traveled with someone who continues driving down the wrong road because they refuse to turn around and go back, you’ll understand what I mean.

Stitch. Enjoy. Love.


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