Brenda and Cheryl are the delightful folks behind the newsletter and website, Needlepoint for Fun. In their most recent newsletter they shared some great tips for improving your tension when stitching. Brenda Stimpson wrote the article and has allowed me to post it here as a guest post.
Creating an even stitch tension can be one of the most difficult things to achieve in needlepoint. I am stitching a piece right now and there is ONE STITCH – that’s right, ONE offending stitch – in the middle of my beautiful pillow canvas, that is off-tension. It’s all I can see when I look at my canvas. This one stitch that sits up a little bit from the rest might as well be waving a flag.
Remember when you were a teenager and you looked in the mirror and all you saw was that one pimple that had sprung up overnight and was now a beacon on your face? Call me melodramatic (Cheryl certainly does), but this is how I feel about this traitorous stitch on my canvas.
Will I rip it out and replace it? Probably not. Needlepoint is not supposed to be perfect, after all, and I am essentially too lazy to be bothered with what ripping this stitch out will entail. But, it has made me reflect on how to achieve even stitch tension. So, I thought I would bore you with, – sorry – share these details with you.
Tips to Achieve Even Needlepoint Stitch Tension:
Make sure you have the right size needle for the thread and canvas you are using. If the eye of the needle is too small, it can displace the fibers which then won’t sit flat on the canvas. Whereas, a slightly larger needle, when pushed through a hole in the canvas, will create a nice resting space for your stitch.
Make sure your needle is not marked up, dirty or tarnished as this will affect the smoothness of your thread.
Don’t cut your thread lengths too long. Repeated pulling through the canvas will wear on them. Around 18 inches is a good thread length for most fibers.
Make sure the fibers of your thread are all laying alongside each other. I think this is what happened with my offending thread. A fiber had worked itself slightly loose from the main bunch and it is now squashed up on top of my canvas with a neon sign saying “look at me”. Fibers can work themselves loose quite easily, and the longer your thread, the more times it is pulled through the canvas, and the more likely this is to happen. So, inspect your thread every few stitches to make sure it still looks smooth and the fibers are laying evenly.
Let your needle dangle and unwind every now and then. The thread will twist as you stitch with it and if you don’t let it unwind it can form a knot or become uneven and this will translate to an irregular look to your stitches.
When you bring your needle up or down through a hole that is already occupied by another stitch, try to make sure you do not pierce, or split, the stitch that is there. Sometimes you have to use your needle to wiggle out a space for the new stitch to fit into.
If you can (and in long rows of stitches this is difficult), try to avoid re-threading your needle halfway across a row. Whenever you stop and start like this, and the thread is secured through the back of the stitches, you can end up with an irregular effect on the front.
Work your stitches the same way all the time. If you use a continuous motion stitch then use this for the entire color area. If you tend to turn your canvas around to work back across a row, then do this every time. The angle at which your needle enters the canvas and pulls on the thread affects how the stitches sit on the canvas. If you change this angle by changing how you stitch, it tends to show. This is especially true with lighter thread colors.
Needlepoint for Fun is a marvelous website and monthly newsletter. It’s one of my must reads every month.