Monday, October 15, 2007

Needlepoint Trade Secrets

I've asked Janet Perry, of Napa Needlepoint and the author of Needlepoint Trade Secrets to join me on the blog today. Janet's book offers lots of good advice on needlepoint including planning your project, taking photos of your work, storing your work etc. But I've asked her to discuss the commom myths of needlepoint.

Busting myths in needlework

There lots of common wisdom going around in needlepoint and, while most of it has some basis in fact, it's good to know when to follow and when you can break the rules.

Here are some common ones:

1. Should I make the length of my thread shorter if I'm working on a smaller mesh?

Needlepoint is hard on threads. The canvas is rough because of the sizing which makes it stiff. Every time the needle and thread go through a hole, that roughness abrades the thread somewhat

So for a given area of canvas, a smaller mesh size will have more holes and therefore wear the thread more.

But in practice this seems to have little effect on the threads. If you choose a good stitching length of about 18" it won't wear too much. even on smaller meshes.

BUT (you knew it was coming) the delicacy of the thread can have an effect on how it will wear. Delicate threads should use shorter stitching lengths. One example of this is Trebizond. I find if my length is only about 12" I have less problem with snagging and my stitching looks smoother.

2. Does color matter in order of stitching?

If you learned to stitch back when everyone used wool, you were told always to stitch light colors before dark colors. But now that you use a wider vaiety of threads you wonder if it matters.

Yes, it does, and for many reasons.

When a thread is fuzzy, like wool, the hairs of the thread inevitably get caught in the other stitches If a bit of white thread gets caught in black, it is hardly noticeable. But if a bit of black thread gets caught in white, you see it and the stitch look dirty at best.

This was, I think the reason for the rule in the first place. But in my experience, you should still follow it even if you are using smooth threads. Do this because the dark thread passing behind the already completed light stitches will be less noticeable. You have the extra layer of stitches to keep the dark thread from showing. If you stitch the dark thread first then stitch the light thread over that passed thread, often a shadow will show on the front (I know, I've done it often.)

3. Should I always use a frame?

Many people swear by using frames for needlepoint. And they really do make your stitching easier, fatser (you can use two hands instead of one), and neater (it's easier to control stitch tension with them).
But do you have to use a frame? Unless you are doing pulled canvas, Laid work, long stitches, or other techniques where a taut canvas is needed, no you don't have to use a frame.

BUT decide before you begin to stitch whether you will use a frame or not. Don't start one way and finish another, the needlepoint won't look good.

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