embroidery basics // i heart tidy embroidery // part 2
Do you ever watch action movies? Very often there'll be a scene where someone is being chased, and as they run, they frequently look over their shoulder. Honestly, this drives me crazy. Do they not realize that they'd be better off to just look forward and keep running? The more they look back, the more likely they are to mess up their getaway.
The opposite is true for stitching with a pretty backside. Wait...that came out wrong.
The point here is that keeping the back of your embroidery neat and tidy is a very good thing. It can make your work more secure, and yes, it does result in a pretty backside (of your stitching). To accomplish this, watch your back.
Here's a tiny tulip-ish design that I stitched up. (I'm showing this in a small way, but you'll get the idea, because even small, you can see the difference.) Unlike our runner in the action movie, I stayed focused on what was in front of me and only worked on what I could see on the front.
This is the result. It's not too bad really, but consider that this tulip is less than 1 inch tall. What if it was twice that size? Instead of being just pretty, my stretch of thread would be pretty ugly. Like this:
This is something that I was stitching not too long ago, and it seems that I started stitching in a different place than where I thought I had left off. And I didn't notice it until I had finished the rest of the embroidery. Seriously? I should have watched my back.
To avoid a big line of floss across the back of your work, weave the thread into the back of your stitches as you travel to the place where you'll start stitching. I'm working all in one color here, but very often this is something you'd do when moving to another area that needs the color you're working with. Instead of jumping, slither.
While we're at it, watching your back means looking for the most efficient way to stitch. Take the path that will show less stitches on the back. Think ahead and start in an area that will lead your stitching where you want to go.
Had I started at the bottom of this tulip, I would have ended there, and not needed to slither my needle through the backs of the stitches.
Let's go back to that jumping idea. Part of watching your back means not just hopping over to a new section of stitching. Could you do this? Sure. Is starting a fresh spot of embroidery a bit of a pain? Sometimes. But wouldn't you rather have tidy embroidery with woven tails and no stretches of floss lines? Yes.
Depending on how exposed the back of my embroidery will be, or how sheer my fabric is, my general rule is that I won't jump more than 1/4 inch. Some patterns make this difficult or impossible to follow, but I try to stick to this.
And just to more fully convince you to watch your back, I present this knot. Does this ever happen to you? I've never worked with embroidery floss that doesn't do this at least sometimes.
If you are in the habit of looking at the back of your embroidery as you work (not every stitch, but often), you'll spot these early instead of after you've stitched three inches of beautiful stem stitch. There's nothing quite so disheartening to my embroidery as finding this nasty surprise on the back, because it usually has an extra loop of floss hanging there too. Watch your back and you'll find these as they happen...so much easier to fix!
So there's my big tip that can change the way you stitch. I don't want you thinking that embroidery is a villain chasing you through crowded streets, but I do hope that you'll stitch like an action star and watch your back!