Sunday, May 1, 2016

Back Stitch/ Blanket Stitch/ Chain Stitch - Lesson Four Embroidery School

Over the next four days, we'll learn twelve stitches - three per day. I'll be working these up on the wheel sampler but will also show you how I used the same stitches on the tree sampler. (The links will give you both patterns in one download.)

The order in which we are learning stitches has no logic. I simply listed them on the wheel alphabetically so we'll just go around. 

You'll see some stitches are remarkably similar: little loops and catches, or just a bunch of straight stitches worked slightly differently. Yup. Most embroidery stitches are lines, loops, or knots or some combination of these. 

See? It's easy!


If you transfer the pattern (lesson two) as is, without enlarging or reducing, a 7" hoop will fit all around nicely. You can also use a smaller hoop, moving it from area to area as you go or a larger hoop if your fabric piece will accommodate it.

If you printed the sampler on a home computer, it is the size of a sheet of paper and a 7" hoop is the largest size that will accommodate the width. 


Choose your own colors or use the color wheel I chose. 

Thanks to Dawn Lewis who said she saw a color wheel in the design. I had originally thought of it as a clock and was delighted to see rainbows in my head after she mentioned it. 

( I had a problem identifying two of the colors. I had them labelled as Anchor threads with numbers not matching Anchor's lists. I used online charts as best as I could to choose the likely DMC color. I chose 350 and 311 as the colors that came closest on my computer screen.) 

Splitting the floss

Stranded cotton embroidery floss has 6 strands. I have used either 3 or 4 strands for the sampler wheel. Splitting the six strands into groups is a bit of a magic trick. Most stitchers start pulling them apart as you see and just as it looks as if the whole thing is going to become a knotted mess, grabs the other end in their mouths and pulls while continuing to separate the strands.

There's no other way to describe it. You'll see what I mean.

Use any of the methods you like for working with or without knots at the end of the thread. (Lesson three.) I have knotted mine.

Let's start!

Back Stitch

Back stitch is one of easiest stitches of all. It is very often used as an outline stitch, left as is or with the space filled in using another type of stitch.

Bring the threaded needle from the back to the front at the end of the first stitch. You can start from either the outer edge (working in) or the inner edge (working out). I used 3 strands for this stitch.

Insert the needle at the end of the first stitch, actually in between the printed stitch guides. Bring the thread through to the back.

Bring the needle back up to the front at the far end of the next stitch.

And then back down into the same place the last one ended.

From here, continue making these loop-de-loops across to the end of the line.

At the end, simply bring the thread to the back side and knot. This is the back of the work.

Blanket Stitch

Use 4 strands to completely cover the pattern markings. There is just a bit of a tail before the first stitch on this row. Bring the threaded needle from the back to the front at the end of that tail. 

Then insert the needle at the end of the little offshoot, pulling through to the back of the fabric, and back up at the top of the "T" of the offshoot. A little bit of thread makes a loop around the needle.

Pull the thread up and a little hook is formed along the line. 

Continue pushing the needle down to the back of the work at the far ends of the offshoot lines and back up at the T junction, catching the thread in a loop.

At the end of the line, make a tiny little stitch over the edge to hold the loop shape.

Chain Stitch

I used three strands for this stitch. Bring the threaded needle to the front of the work at the end of the stitch closest to the center of the wheel.

Tricky here. You're going to actually put the needle back into the same hole or a thread or so away from it. Pull it to the back, but not all the way; leave a loop of thread on the top side.

And then bring the needle to the front at the rounded loop end of the stitch, making sure it's inside the loop of thread remaining at the top.

Pull it tight.

Now do the same thing again. Go to the back side at the same point, come back up at the other end of the stitch inside the loop, and pull tight. (Not too tight.)

Continue making these chains along the line.

At the end of the row, catch the loop by making a tiny stitch at the end.

Back of the work

This is what the work looks like on the back side. 

Yay! You've learned three stitches and completed a quarter of the sampler wheel.

Here are the same stitches used on the tree sampler. 

Back stitch on the fence - 3 strands. DMC 814
Blanket stitch in the tree - 4 strands. DMC 367 and 3053
Chain stitch for the clouds - 3 strands. DMC 793

Bonus round! Running out of thread during blanket stitch:

If you run out of thread, make your loop as shown and bring the end of the thread up elsewhere just to hold it.

Knot and bring the new thread up at the top of the T to catch the loop. Pull the hanging thread to tighten it a bit.

Bring the needle through and make your next stitch.

Pull the hanging tail thread to the back and knot.
I'll see you all tomorrow for lesson five and three more stitches. Happy stitching!

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  1. Ok, I have a totally beginner question: do you wrap your embroidery floss that comes in those longer hanks around those cardboard things after opening them up? I always end up with a horrible mess with my quite small collection of floss because I can't get it back in those little paper tubes like it was when I buy it. I'd love any suggestions you may have for me! :) Lisa

    1. Lisa, great question! I don't know how many times I've had to unravel a mess of embroidery floss skeins I simply stored in tins. I now wind my floss on cardboard bobbins before I use them. I keep them in a standard sectioned plastic floss storage box - one the depth of bobbins.

      What becomes messy for me is when I have rewound unused portions, say the 2 strand length leftover from having used 4 strands. If I don't wind that AND tuck that little loose end in the slit in the cardboard, my threads get tangled eventually.

      The cute and clever methods of storing threads, such as popsicle sticks or clothespins, is very cumbersome. Lovely decorative accent but not convenient as they all have to be dumped out to get to the one you want to use.

      Skeins have one end that, when pulled, should come out cleanly and easily without knotting. Don't kick yourself when it doesn't! Sometimes it catches up on the other threads and knots up anyway. Don't keep pulling harder. Just unknot it and finish winding the bobbin.

      This reminds me - perhaps I should add storage methods to Embroidery School next week. :-)

    2. Yes, definitely add storage methods, and perhaps a picture or two of how you separate the strands! Yesterday I tried doing what you said, with the end in my mouth, but I still had issues. Then I squeezed the end between my knees and that worked better. Actually, that brings me to another question: what length of floss do you suggest working with? I tend to use long strands because I hate having to change partway through, but obviously they tend to get tangled more easily that way. I am just loving this course! Can we share pictures of our progress somewhere?

    3. Oh, and another question: so do you cut your own cardboard bobbins, or do you purchase them? I hate buying plastic boxes, so I might just try to make up my own version with some tin boxes I already have...

    4. I use a length of floss about 50cm/ 20 inches. Here's a video of a method I've seen but can't seem to juggle. I just grab the end of the thread in my mouth. This gal does something slightly different.

      I bought a bunch of DMC cardboard bobbins the last time I was in the US. They are inexpensive there and quite sturdy. I bought another set here in Australia (not DMC brand) and they were so thin, they were useless. I reuse the DMC bobbins and cut new ones as needed from paperboard boxes that come my way.

      I also don't like plastic, but I happened to be given these storage boxes. Now and then I see wide rectangular cookie tins at the thrift stores that are just he right depth for bobbins. If they are too deep they just float around. I like to have them in rows so I tolerate the plastic. I also move frequently so there's an ease to having my storage boxes all the same size.

    5. Posting photos of finished work? You're welcome to post pics on the Facebook page. And you can always email them to me and I can include them on the blog. Maybe I can make a gallery here of finished projects!