Updated February 24, 2023.
By picking a stitch that alternates direction, you overcome a common mismatch in needlepoint — when the direction of the stitch is different from the direction of the stitched object.
Here’s an easy example for you to think about. Pictured above is the Golden Gate Bridge ornament from Princess & Me. I stitched the background in Random Diagonal Gobelin in columns (vertical rows). The vertical orientation of the stitch reinforces the height of the bridge.
But what if I made the exact same stitch but in horizontal rows?
Wouldn’t that background make the bridge look smaller?
That’s a mismatch.
However, stitches that change direction don’t have this issue; they work well with stitched objects of every shape.
Take the iris pictured here. The Alternating Elongated Cashmere makes a lovely non-directional background that allows the curvy iris to stand out.
One easy way to create an alternating stitch is to change the stitch direction in each unit. The iris has this type of alternation. Suppose your stitch has discrete units, like St. George and St. Andrew, below, this is easy to do.
More difficult is row-by-row alternation for stitches like Small Double Woven, below, where there aren’t individual units.
Some stitches, such as Oatmeal, below, have diagonal rows that alternate stitch direction. These will only read as non-directional if the rows are made of stitches about the same size.
You can also explode and reassemble a stitch to create a complex non-directional stitch such as Split Offset Milanese, below.
Straight stitches can be alternating too, changing between horizontal and vertical. Blowing Rock, below, a stitch from Father B, is an example of this.
Although compound stitches, such as Rice or Norwich, do have stitches that change direction, we look at them as complete units that do not change direction.