After reading the recent post about tips for stitching on black, a reader asked about stitches that work for black threads.
The most important thing to remember when using black is that black and other dark colors, mask the construction of most stitches.
The beauty and texture of needlepoint comes from contrast. Although there are changes in level and stitch length, our eyes see these are differences in value. Look at the ice in the polar bear cub. We see the individual units of the stitch because the troughs between the stitches are darker than the stitches themselves. Thus the contrast in value makes the stitch easy to see.
Because black is so dark in value, the contrast between it and the troughs is minimized. This means your stitches are less distinct. All too often the stitch you labored over ends up looking like Tent.
In order to make black stitches look distinct you need to find other areas of contrast besides value.
One to consider is line. When you have a stitch, such as Scotch, that creates lines going through the area, you have a contrast with the lines and shapes of the area itself.
Another type of contrast is height. If your stitches have a thread or two of separation between them, the you have another kind of contrast. Only use this contrast if you are stitching with black thread on either black canvas or an area that is painted black.
A less obvious kind of contrast is contrast in texture. If you stitch your black area with a different texture in a thread that does not minimize the look of the stitch (i.e. non-metallic and non-furry threads), you will see the stitches in the black slightly better5 because of the contrast. This is the weakest of the solutions and may not always be effective.
Stitches to Avoid
Now that we have looked at the kind of stitches to use, what stitches should you avoid?
Do not use encroached stitches. Look at the blonde hair in Wicked. It’s stitched in Encroached Gobelin. The texture this stitch gives is one where the stitches don’t stand out individually but there is an overall texture. The contrast here is minimal even in a light thread. It will disappear with black. Encroached stitches, by their nature, do not have distinct lines, so they do not work well in black.
Avoid complicated stitches. Take for example Genny’s Scotch, below. It’s a very pretty stitch, but the divided stitches just won’t show up in black. You might chose to do this stitch because of size, but the divisions will not show up because they do not form new lines. The total units will still show up.
Layered stitches should also always have contrast in texture. Do not expect that a layered stitch, for example Rice, will show distinct layers when stitched in black. If you use contrasting textures you will see the layers but, because it’s black, they will be less apparent.
If you make your stitch selection carefully, stitches on black do not need to be a problem.