July 21, 2013

Beyond Backstitch

I was only a child when my mother taught me all the basic embroidery stitches.  There was stem stitch, satin stitch, lazy daisy, chain stitch and blanket stitch. They were reinforced at our school sewing classes and I can remember being very proud of some embroidery I did which included a very colourful Mexican scarf in satin stitch.

What I cannot recall learning is Backstitch!  We just didn't use it!  We did what was called 'fancywork' - embroidered stitches over the top of a printed design on linen.  I loved it and still have heaps of doileys that I embroidered for my "Glory Box"!

Jump a few decades - I retired and picked up the needle and thread again, only to find that the most common stitch used was ... Backstitch!  

I worked it in dozens of my designs:

After a while, I yearned for a bit of variety, so I whipped the Backstitch.  You can see the gold blending filament whipped over the green stitching:

Then I was a bit adventurous and chose to weave over and under the thread instead of whipping it.
See the water where the swan touches it? I wove a black thread up and down over the blue/green backstitched water. It gives definition to that area.

Then one day, I took the plunge and decided to revisit Stem stitch.  I really prefer this stitch for curved shapes and so the scrolled frame of my "Coming up Roses" is in stem stitch.

Then I discovered that if I whipped the stem stitch, it would give a lovely rope-like texture.  The scallops and outline of the fan were worked in stem stitch with three strands of thread in a medium lavender, then whipped with one strand of dark lavender:

Sometimes there are situations where I have wanted an outline to really stand out so Chain Stitch is a really great alternative for that:

Of course you can whip Chain Stitch too for another interesting effect.

For a line that is even wider, Feather stitch fits the bill.  The top line on this ornament is Feather and the lower one is in Chain Stitch.

For something different, I have some times worked a line of French Knots.  It is so much more effective than Backstitch on this Easter egg:

And how about a plain Running Stitch for some variety:

The design below has a bit of everything!  The clothes line is actually a couched thread, there are rows of feather stitch on the dress and around the hole, a cross-stitch and dash pattern on the towel and chain stitch on the tea towel:

I hope you'll consider going beyond Backstitch in some of your own stitching! As they say, 'Variety is the spice of life'.

I've been able to cross off another couple of commission this week.  I'm almost ready to start thinking about a new design!!!!

Happy stitching!


Annette said...

Your right, we didn't learn "backstitch", did you have a big "sampler" book of stitches from Primary school days....wish I still had mine!!! Years ago I bought a lovely book "A-Z of Embroidery stitches", it has lots of variations. Enjoy for Blog...Annette

Maria said...

Some lovely projects there, Val! I remember when outlines were done in stem stitch and like you, found the emphasis on back stitch quite surprising when I went back to embroidery a few years ago. I can remember the samplers that girls stitched every year from Grade 3 at my primary school. We would do a row of running stitch, then twisted running and then back stitch...then each year after those basics we would be taught other stitches ...each year level seem to have particular new stitches and techniques were introduced. My favourite stitch at school was herringbone! Lol

Farm Gate Creations Incorporating Hummingbird Quilting said...

So true variety is the spice of life. Your stitching is beautiful.

KaHolly said...

I wish learning to embroider had been passed on to me at a young age! Your projects are beautiful!

Regina vicentini said...

Amiga Val, Bom dia querida!
Sempre fico maravilhada com seus trabalhos. Parabéns!

Susan said...

What a great round up Val - thanks. My school experience of sewing was very limited - though I do remember one linen doily and one thing made with a large gingham fabric.

Gina E. said...

Ah Val, yet another post bringing back memories! I hated needlecraft when I was at school, but I do remember the stitches we were taught - stem, satin, buttonhole, chain, and cross stitch. I still have a few items that I made in my early years. But no backstitch! It must have been around, because it is mentioned in old embroidery books that I have. Another thing that is 'new' to me, is the noun 'stitchery'. Decorative work was always called fancy work, needlecraft, or embroidery.

Annmarie said...

That was a great post, Val - I learned a lot & will definitely try whipping & weaving! Your embroideries are wonderful - so dainty & accurate. Thanks for showing us.

Kay said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am still quite new to embroidery and it is lovely to get some ideas. I particularly liked the row of french knots on the Easter egg.

Allie said...

Oh my gosh your stitching is to die for.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful stitching, no matter the stitch. I've only been doing backstitch since 2011. I never learned it in school or from my aunt, just saw it from Australian stitchers and started trying it out. Still trying to perfect it to the point you have!

Melody said...

I've loved this post. Thank you.

Terrell said...