Longstitch was one of the needlepoint techniques that became popular in the 70’s. Made up of long Upright Gobelins, Longstitch has the advantage of being really fast to stitch, easy to do, and forgiving of poorly printed canvases.
It’s mostly gone out of style these days, although I often see kits on eBay. But the kits don’t help the technique one bit. They are made from cheap materials such as acrylic yarn, and are not very well designed. As you can see by this artichoke, Longstitch doesn’t need to be relegated to this ghetto of out-dated needlepoint.
The artichoke is a hand-painted canvas from Jean Smith. Her bold style, which has large, unshaded areas, is perfect for Longstitch. It’s stitched in JL Walsh silk/wool and #3 perle cotton.
I began by making all the violet edges in Basketweave using the perle. Long vertical or diagonal lines don’t work well in Longstitch, so stitch them first in tent Stitch. Once these are put in, I began to Longstitch. I used a full strand of the silk/wool and followed the painting on the canvas.
This brings up and important point about Longstitch, it is not very sturdy. The stitches run from going over 2 threads to going over 8 or 9. This means they can get caught easily. You would not want to use this technique for items that get much wear.
You also must do Longstitch on a frame. The more the lines of stitches aren’t broken up, as is the case here, the more the canvas buckles. This piece is flat and not distorted, but I have other Longstitch pieces that are a mess.
When doing Longstitch use flat threads, this means ply and recombine all stranded threads. The beauty comes from the flat stitches, so use a laying tool or redo any twisted stitches.
Not all canvases will work for longstitch. The perfect candidates have large unshaded blocks of color, little pattern inside areas and few vertical lines.
I really love Jean Smith‘s designs for this. The designs are lovely and she conveys so much with color that detailed stitching isn’t necessary. On her site, the 8″ fruits & vegetables and many of the flowers are particularly nice.
Other designers you might consider include Julie Pischke and several artist from Maggie Co including Annie-Catherine and Frank Bielec‘s simpler designs. Needlepoint Broad is another designer, with many canvases that can be done in Longstitch.
Whether you use Longstitch for the focal point of a project or combine it with other kinds of stitching, it’s a technique worth knowing.