embroidery basics // i heart tidy embroidery // part 1
Not too long ago, someone asked me for advice on keeping the back side of her embroidery neat and pretty. She was going to be stitching some tea towels and wanted the back to look nice. This made me very excited that she was thinking about this. When the back of your work will show, you really get self-conscious about this sort of thing. But I think that tidy embroidery is a good idea all of the time, so I've created a three-part series to focus on this very thing!
It's been a while since I asked my friend Olive to help out, but since she loves tidy embroidery, I thought it would be a good idea to invite her along. Let's get started by, well, talking about getting your embroidery started! (by the way, going forward, all of these photos are of the back of the embroidery.)
Calm down, Olive! Yes, that is a knot. There was a time that I was a no-knot kind of gal. In fact, I sort of looked down on them. But then I read in one of Jenny Hart's books that she chooses to be okay with knots and it sort of opened my mind.
Now, that's KNOT to say that working without knots is a bad idea. Alyssa of Penguin and Fish has a great technique to share for securing your thread without a knot.
But I've been using a few options for secure stitching that's tidy (and doesn't have much waste).
This first one starts with a knot. But not just any knot...it's a knot with a tail that's about 1 inch long.
As you work, use the backs of the stitches to hold down the tail coming off the knot.
Sometimes you need to hold the tail in place, or move it into a good position so it can be held down, but you'll end up with it sort of weaving around back and forth between the stitch backs.
And now you've got the security of a knot, but the tail is all tidied up!
How about another way to start your embroidery? This one doesn't use a knot and doesn't require any weaving! Susi taught it to me when we started working on patterns together, and I love it! The only thing is that you'll always end up stitching with an even number of strands.
Cut a piece of embroidery thread that is longer than you'd usually use. In fact, cut it twice as long as you want. Pull out half as many strands as you want to stitch with. What you see here is 2 strands, which will stitch as 4. Fold them in half and thread all of the ends through the needle as you normally would.
Go up from the back of your fabric, then back down for your first stitch. You don't want to pull it all too tight yet, because you want that fold of the thread to form a loop on the back of your work.
Take the needle and go through the loop!
As you pull it tight, it forms a cow hitch, which isn't going to come undone.
Stitch along as you normally would, and as you can see, it's very tidy.
Those two methods are good for when you're starting from scratch, but if you already have some stitching in place, you can weave in the floss to get it started. Let's pretend that I needed to start another thread on this tiny bit of embroidery. Take your needle back and forth through the backs of the existing stitches to help secure your tail of floss.
As you weave, don't pull too much though, because you might pull it right through! Work your way to where you want your stitching to start. If you want to add an extra level of security, you can tie a knot close to the fabric here. This way you have a woven tail plus the knot, so if what you're making will be washed repeatedly, you can launder without worry!
Now, let's talk about finishing this off. When you are ready to be done with a thread, you can tie a knot. Yes, another knot. I like to tie it as close to the back of the fabric as I can, without causing it to tug at the stitches on the front.
Then, weave in the floss again. Think of this as doing what we did with that first method, but in reverse.
Wrap it, weave it, and give it as least an inch of this woven tail.
Cut off the thread close to the back of the work (don't snip any stitches!), and you've got a very tidy bit of embroidery!
Next week I'll share a super important tip for keeping the back of your embroidery looking pretty as you work. And I'll show you a little glimpse at a recent time that I forgot to follow that tip!