Updated June 13, 2023.
You know how to stitch; you aren’t teaching beginners; why would you ever use Continental if you knew Basketweave? There are occasions when you must use Continental, and good reasons why you can sometimes.
You may have thought, or even been taught several times, that Continental only has oblique stitches in every other row. This is not correct. That stitch is a combination stitch of Continental and Half-cross Stitch. Do not use it. Read my post about how to stitch Continental.
Once you learn, your needlepoint will be released for all kinds of new effects.
First, Continental uses about a third less thread than Basketweave. Most kits have enough thread in them for Continental, not Basketweave, So you don’t have much of a choice here. Or you might be short on a thread or can’t find the dyelot. Using Continental could be the difference between finishing a piece and having it languish, forever, as a UFO.
The kit problem is something even the most expensive kits have. If you won’t stitch Continental, many backgrounds won’t be finished, and you will end up complaining about shortages in kits.
Tip #1: Use Continental instead of Basketweave for kits.
Second, Continental must be used when you are stitching “Plain Old Needlepoint” using overdyed and hand-dyed threads. I’ve written about this before, and it has ruined pieces for me, as you can see from the picture above.
I used a scrap of canvas for the piece pictured above with three squares of Tent Stitch on it, made using a very strongly colored hand-dyed thread. I picked the thread deliberately to really make a point about why you don’t use Basketweave with these threads. The right square in Basketweave is small, only an inch at most, maybe less. But, except for the corner, no color has more than two diagonal rows. It is visual overload. You don’t see colors; you don’t see a pattern; you don’t see anything except a mess.
Contrast that with the two Continental patches. While I still don’t like the color much, I see groups of color, little clouds, and rows and partial rows. I can see and process those changes, there is a transition from hot pink to bright aqua, to light green, which makes sense; I don’t feel disjointed.
Tip #2: Use Continental instead of Basketweave with hand-dyed and overdyed threads.
Because Continental is stitched in straight lines, you have more control over the thread. If I want something to look like a sky, I can use a hand-dyed thread and Continental in horizontal lines and have a pretty effect with one thread and one stitch. If I want to make a tree trunk, I can do the same in columns, and, I have a tree.
I can make little short row clumps of Continental and scatter them all over the canvas and then stitch the entire remaining space in Continental again and have an effect like Art Glass. I can skip stitches and fill them in with other colors to get lovely random spaces.
Tip #3: Use Continental when you want to control color effects in all threads.
Finally, I like Continental when I’m really stressed out. It is one of a few stitches, where I don’t have to think at all; I just stitch. And because the eye can take in and understand rows and columns more easily than diagonal rows, I always feel as if I have made progress, even if I have only stitched for a few minutes.
Tip #4: Use Continental instead of Basketweave when you just need the motion of needlepoint to relax you.
Sometimes, if I think about it, this attitude makes me a bit of an iconoclast in the needlepoint world. But, to tell you the truth, some of the most memorable needlepoint I have ever seen was done in all Continental.
Continental was the way people did needlepoint for ages. Look at pieces from the early to mid-20th Century; probably, it is stitched in Continental, the back as lovely as the front, with the oblique sloping lines of Continental still showing the design, although slightly distorted.
I was so delighted when I finally conquered Basketweave, that I avoided Continental for years. But no stitch is bad, and Continental is so good for so many applications in needlepoint, it should be a necessary and often used tool in every needlepointers book.