Do You Suffer from Backstitch Procrastination?

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Backstitch is used only where detail is not possible with cross stitch.

In this design, backstitch is used only where detail is not possible with cross stitch or for linear elements like the basket handle and flag pole.

I have begun to participate in a couple of cross stitch forums and have found some common posts … like, “I finished this massive piece except for the backstitch” or someone has had a WIP for years because they “only” have the backstitch left to do. And I am talking about incredibly detailed projects that had to have taken hundreds of hours to complete!

Which makes me wonder, “why?”

Backstitch is the simplest of all stitches traditionally found in a cross stitch project. Yet it seems that some stitchers balk at doing it because they don’t know how.

Here’s a very quick tutorial. It’s called backstitch because each stitch is made in the direction opposite to the direction you are stitching. So if you’re stitching a line from right to left as diagrammed, each individual stitch will be made in  left-to-right motion.

The dot indicates the beginning of the stitch, the arrow shows the stitch direction, and the number tells you the sequence.

The dot indicates the beginning of the stitch, the arrow shows the stitch direction, and the number tells you the sequence.

First stitch: needle back-to-front (up) at the dot on stitch #1 and down at the arrow. Next, up at the dot on stitch #2 and down at the arrow, which shares a hole with the first back stitch. As much as possible begin your backstitch in an unworked hole. Of course, if you are stitching over or around cross stitches, there won’t be any truly unworked holes so just think of the backstitches only. Working in this manner will give you smooth, even stitches.

But it seems that the larger problem comes from posts that give the advice to stitchers to leave the backstitch until all the cross stitch is done. I am not “the” cross stitch expert, nor am I the cross stitch “police.” But honestly, this advice makes absolutely no sense at all to me.

Yes, most backstitch gives detail to the completed cross stitched areas and to that end it makes sense to do it after the cross stitch. But that doesn’t mean after the cross stitch for the whole piece! As you complete an area, do the backstitch that adds the detail to that area.

Especially if you tend to avoid it.

So don’t leave your beautiful project unfinished because you “only” have the backstitch left to do. Embrace the experience of adding that last detail to the designer’s work and bring it into focus!

Now, go stitch!

PS: Here’s a video, too: my One Minute Tutorial for simple back stitch.

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