A few days ago I got a question asking about additional written resources for some of the ideas mentioned in my column on open background techniques. Today I’ll suggest places for further reading as well as other resources for the ideas mentioned.
The technique of using threads thinner than normal, often thin enough to allow the canvas to show through is called Shadow Stitching or Lite Stitching. It’s really easy to do this yourself just by substituting fewer strands or thinner threads, there are a couple of books and an on-line class dedicated to this technique.
For books, look to More Shadow Stitching by dede Ogden and SuZy’s Lite Stitches by SuZy Murphy. SuZy’s stitches from this book are also in her Portable Stitches II book and app.
I have used shadow stitches extensively in two of my individual study classes for Art Needlepoint. Ask them about the kits with lessons for Stitching with the Impressionists (pictured above) and Afternoon Pond.
While completely covering the canvas with stitches has been the traditional way to make needlepoint, with the popularity of painted canvas, you are finding more stitches that leave threads or intersections open. This allows the color of the canvas to show through.
In cases where a significant number of threads are open, these stitches can create exciting open backgrounds.
You’ll find some of these in SuZy’s Lite Stitches by SuZy Murphy. Two other books I consult often when looking for open stitches are Ruth Schmuff’s Stitches vol. 3
& vol. 4. I’ve also found lots of open stitches in Julia Snyder’s books, includig the one used in the mini-sock pictured above.
My suggestion is to start by looking at your own library of stitch dictionaries, stitch guides, and magazines, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of open stitches.
This is another technique to create open stitches where it’s easy to do yourself. These stitches have one or more open threads between units or rows of the stitch. When the space is between each unit I usually call them “exploded.” When the space is between rows I call them “skip-a-row.”
To do this you need a stitch that has discrete units, such as Scotch, or clear rows, such as Byzantine. Leave space between them to create an open stitch. The more threads you leave blank, the more open the stitch will be. You can, however, connect units with lines of Tent.
Lynda Richardson has tons of ideas for these in both her Stitches a la Carte books. While both books have very innovative open patterns, the second book has a wonderful section of exploded patterns using Gobelin and Box Stitches.
Some techniques lend themselves better to open backgrounds than others. That’s because these techniques are often more flat than traditional needlepoint stitches. In addition, the construction of the stitch creates open spaces naturally. Three techniques that do this are Blackwork, Pattern Darning, and Laid Stitches.
Laid Stitches are not more flat than regular needlepoint because one stitch ties down another thread, but often they are more open. The best book on this subject, by Jean Taggert, is out of print (if you find it, buy it), but there are some good choices in Julia Snyder’s Layered Stitches for Great Needlepoint.
Pattern Darning is another great open technique that is getting plenty of attention these days. The same layer stitches book by Julia Snyder has some darning patterns as do the Stitches books. There is also an out-of-print book by Jean Taggert on darning patterns. The two books on darning that came out in 2015 are Side by Side from Fingerstep and It’s about Darn Time by Sharon G.