Updated December 7, 2021.
If you send your needlepoint to judged shows sometimes you get the comment back that “traveling threads should not show.”
Today we’ll talk about what traveling threads are, when they happen, why they happen, and one way to prevent them from showing.
A thread “travels” whenever you skip one or more threads or intersections to make the next stitch. Sometimes they are also called “passing” threads. Depending on how you make your individual stitch units these may happen often and be covered by the other stitches in the area.
That’s generally OK.
Traveling threads are a problem when they travel behind open canvas(holes). In this case, you will see the thread behind the canvas. You find this often when you are stitching words unless the letters are connected.
In pattern darning, you want this effect because the back is as important as the front in this technique. In most other circumstances, this is a defect. You should not see those threads.
You can minimize the effect by using a lining that matches the thread color. But they can still be seen (as I know to my fault).
In order to hide them, there must be more than just unstitched canvas in front of the traveling thread. For many, but not all cases, stitched canvas will hide traveling threads. A good comparison is cross-stitched samplers. People don’t worry about traveling threads on them because the denser weave of the fabric hides them.
Because when you needlepoint you are creating fabric on the open mesh of the canvas, stitching an area creates that fabric for you. Unless the change in value is great, stitching the area before you stitch the parts that will have traveling threads will solve the problem.
You can see how this works in the Baby’s Sleeping Sampler from Kathy Schenkel pictured above. I stitched the T Stitch background completely before stitching the letters. The traveling threads do not show.
I’m using the same approach behind the letters in this platypus sampler. The pale pink background in T Stitch will allow me to stitch the letters in Water n’Ice in both orange and black.