Background choice can make a big difference in the finished look of a design. Pick a stitch that fights with the focal point and you can distract your eyes from it or make the needlepoint look confused overall.
Pick the right stitch and it will emphasize the focal point, the way a good setting can make a jewel look better, or the way the perfect accessory can set off an outfit.
One of the things that struck me about the tree once it was stitched is how tall it is. I decided, based on that, that I needed a background stitch with a vertical direction.
Pattern direction is not the only factor in considering stitches, you must also think about the scale of the stitch. This has two aspects.
First you need to think about the overall size of the area you are stitching. There should always be at least three repeats of the stitch in your area. That’s enough for your eye to establish a pattern. Having a pattern is important for a background — it serves to bring the design together as a whole. If my finished size had been bigger, I could have picked a larger stitch. As it is there are few parts of this design that have fewer than three repeats.
The other aspect of scale has to do with compensation. Does your design have smooth edges, or does it move in and out alot, as my tree does? The rougher the edges are, the easier it will be to compensate if the stitch or stitch pattern is small.
Taking all these factors into account. I picked Diagonal Cashmere, giving me a vertical direction. This stitch can be made in many sizes. I made it as small as possible. The longest stitches go over two threads and there are three of them.
A background that enhances the height of the tree (which will help after it’s trimmed) but which was easy to compensate.
Now on to garlands and brads.