Backstitching for rarsberry

Rarsberry asked me what backstitching is.

Cross-stitch differs from other forms of embroidery in that there’s only a few basic stitches. Most forms of embroidery use lots of different stitches, with the different textures of them forming the design. Cross-stitch, on the other hand, really only has three different stitches (there are others that are sometimes used, but not often), and the design relies on using lots of different colours (sometimes as many as 40 different colours of cotton go into one picture).

Cross-stitch is the basic stitch that makes up most of the picture, and as its name implies, the stitch forms a cross – you stitch two diagonal stitches crossing each other to form a cross which (if you’ve got the right combination of thread thickness and stitch size) fills a square so that you don’t see the background fabric. Hundreds (or thousands!) of these tiny squares (and triangles – you can stitch what are called “fractionals”, half or quarter of a cross-stitch which only fill part of the square – they’re useful for making edges less blocky) make up the main part of the picture.

Backstitch is usually added after all the cross-stitch is finished. It’s a narrow line of stitching used for outlining shapes to make them stand out more, and for adding fine detail. It’s called backstitch because you push the needle through (from underneath) one stitch ahead of the line of stitching and stitch back towards the bit you’ve already sewn. This technique gives you a smooth line with no gaps. I always like doing the backstitch part of a cross-stitch design, because it’s usually what really brings the picture to life.

The final main stitch used is the French Knot. Through a complicated process (which I’m not even going to attempt to describe!) you knot the thread on the surface of the fabric to form tiny round balls of thread. They’re mainly used for things like eyes, dotting i’s in writing, flower stamens – anything where you need a little dot rather than a whole cross-stitch square.

Bet you wish you’d never asked now! 🙂

Anyway, here’s some backstitch I did last night:

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