Updated May 21, 2023.
Brenda Stimpson, when she owned Needlepoint for Fun, wrote a wonderful and useful blog post, this one giving us three great ways to stitch curves. While I usually use number 3 (wrapping), all of these work really well.
Thanks again to Brenda for letting me republish this.
I am really enjoying working on my current needlepoint project because it is bringing up lots of needlepoint stitching “issues” that I can share with you. For example, this design has a lot of curves in it and it struck me while I was stitching it, that, like throwing a curve ball, stitching a curve can be quite tricky!
This got me thinking (don’t worry, it feels as though it won’t be for much longer) that there are three good ways to stitch a needlepoint curve. Actually, there’s probably more, but I usually use one of these three methods:
1. The Zig-Zag Approach (pictured at top of post)
This is the one most of us use, I am sure. It’s where you use a Tent Stitch to follow the curved line as closely as you can, in a step-wise or zig-zag fashion.
This is the approach I used with this design, but now I wish I hadn’t because I think one of the other methods would have looked better on this canvas.
Let’s face it, needlepoint is for squares! No, I don’t mean nerds (although I will happily confess to being a needlepoint nerd); what I mean is that needlepoint tent stitches work best on square shapes and straight lines. Throw in a curve and it is harder to navigate this curve with a tent stitch.
The zig-zag approach is a perfectly acceptable way of stitching a curve, and it creates a strong-looking line, but it is not a very smooth curve.
2. Back The Stitch Up!
A needlepoint backstitch is a great way to stitch a curve. You use a long stitch over two or more stitch intersections to follow the curve’s arc. You can see in this photo (where I have used white thread on a green curve so you can see the stitches), that I have used stitches of varying lengths and directions to hug the curve. . . . It can be done as surface embroidery (stitched on in a finer thread after the canvas is completed), or you can do what I have done here and stitch it directly onto the canvas. See how much smoother the arc of the curve is?
But wait, there’s more…
3. Wrap It Up!
If you decide to use a backstitch to define your curve, you can get a thicker, smoother, more defined line by wrapping the stitches. This is called a Wrapped Backstitch. What you do is when you have placed the last backstitch on the curve, you go back and wrap the thread around each stitch. So, you bring the needle up at the start of the last backstitch you placed and then you slide the needle under this last stitch, working from the outside of the curve toward the inside. The needle stays on top of the canvas and just slides under the stitches. You can see in this photo how I am sliding the needle under the stitch.
Wrapping the backstitch forms a thick, ridged curve, and I think this is what I should have done with the design I am working on as it gives the curve a nice curvy shape! You can imagine that when all the other tent stitches come in around it that this curve will be standing out nicely.
This photo above the description shows what backstitch and wrapped backstitch look like side by side as this curve has only been half wrapped.
Maybe you will consider using one of these techniques next time you’re thrown a curve!