Updated January 22, 2018
Needlepoint stitches have direction. This can be a bane or a blessing unless you know how to use it. Most needlepoint stitches fall into one of two groups, Upright or diagonal, based on the basic direction of the stitches. There are also many stitches that are mixed because they have both kinds of stitches in them.
Diagonal stitches, by far the most common, have stitches which run along the true diagonal of the canvas. This means that for every thread they move horizontally, they more one thread vertically. The direction of the slant doesn’t matter; it’s the slope that makes them diagonal. Box stitches and many cross stitches are forms of diagonal stitches.
If the stitch slants up and to the right, that is the standard version of the stitch. Flip is so that it slants up and to the left and you have a reverse version. Diagonal stitches go over intersections of canvas.
Upright, or Straight, stitches, go in a straight line, either vertically or horizontally. They go over the threads of the canvas. If you turn an vertical version of a stitch one quarter turn, it becomes a horizontal version.
The most important factor in picking a stitch for an area that needs a definite direction is the direction of the stitches.
The direction of the individual stitches is the first factor in determining stitch direction, but it is not the only one. The second factor is any through lines that occur in the stitch pattern. Think of the three stitches diagrammed above. The first, T Stitch, has no additional direction beyond the diagonal. The second, Scotch, has through lines both vertically and horizontally, so it sets up a strong grid pattern. The third, Offset Scotch, breaks up the vertical lines by staggering the units and creates a stitch with a horizontal direction.
Another way to match a stitch to a direction is to make sure the direction of the pattern fits the direction of the design.
Finally, stitches can have patterns within them,these can be broken when the stitch is divided. As a result, Gimlet Stitch, bottom, looks different from Diagonal Gobelin, top. This is true even though both are diagonal stitches in horizontal lines of the same width. I think Gimlet is a stronger diagonal than Gobelin as well as being a more interesting rhythm.
Breaking up parts of a stitch into smaller sections tends to reinforce the stitch direction over the pattern direction.
You can use these aspects of stitches to help you pick the perfect stitch.
Friday in part 2, I’ll talk about other stitch directions and how to use this to your advantage