When working on a Lee’s Needle Arts fan, no longer made, which is ornament sized I had a revelation. While I am amazed at the level of detail present in the painted canvas, in the past I have not been adventurous in how I stitched them. The most I ventured was to use an overdye.
Because like many stitchers, I thought the areas, and the ornament overall, was too small to add detail.
This isn’t true. But it does take some thought to add texture to small designs without overwhelming the piece.
All designs have three plains, background, foreground, and middle ground. And needlepoint techniques can have dimension. If you figure Tent Stitch as the basic dimension, some things are higher (French Knots, beads), some things are lower (pattern darning), and lots are about the same height.
Are there places on your canvas which can have a higher stitch or embellishment? On my fan the poinsettia has an attractive center and is the main part of the design. I’m going to enhance that by using large beads there to make it stand out.
Are there curved lines which might look too blocky in Tent Stitch? What about padding them and stitching over the padding? Padding doesn’t have to stand up much from the design. There isn’t a place for this, but it can be a great technique for stems and branches. This will make them higher than the leaves, but won’t make them look as high as the flowers; just perfect for the middle ground.
Are there areas which could be enhanced by a stitch which is the same size as Tent Stitch? There are several stitches which are the exact same size as a single Tent Stitch but add texture to the design. Three of these are Reverse Tent, Dotted Swiss, and Four-Way Continental. Using any of these will add texture ranging from an almost unnoticeable amount (Dotted Swiss) to a stronger texture (Four-Way Continental). In my poinsettia, I plan on using these for the flowers and leaves. All of these can be put into a space which looks as if it will “only” work with Tent Stitch.
But what about backgrounds in small spaces? Often when I need a background I turn to pattern darning which looks flatter than Tent, but in this case there isn’t enough space.
That’s when you need to look at thread weight. The lighter the weight of the thread, the less it covers. We all know that from picking the wrong thread and coverage being poor, but you can also “turn the bug into a feature.” Deliberately stitching with a thinner thread gives you an open stitch. Enhance this quality by picking a stitch which is open, such as Woven, T Stitch, or Four-Way Continental. Because more canvas is exposed, the stitch will look flatter than the surrounding solidly stitched areas.
Every canvas is different and not all of these techniques will work on every canvas, but even if all you do is reverse the slant in some part of the design, you will find that your stitching has more life and looks better.