- Even the most comprehensive books and web sites do not include all the stitches; multiple sources are necessary to get the full range of available tutorials
- Tutorials don't always tell you how to deal with every situation you may find yourself in so you may have to do a bit of improvising
- Sometimes explanations are really confusing and all you really need is a diagram
- Perfection takes too long; sometimes you just have to settle for good enough so you can finish the darn thing
- Some stitches have several different names
My main rule for this project was: unless I truly hate it or the stitch doesn't work, just go with it. I am a perfectionist; I know it. Without this little rule, I would have been working on the embroidery until his next birthday. As it was, there was very little stitching that I removed. I spent a lot of time looking at prospective stitches to see if they would work for the border around each page before I even started stitching it. Unless otherwise noted, I used six strands of standard embroidery floss for the stitches.
A note on needles. When selecting a needle, make sure that the eye is wide enough to accommodate your floss comfortably and that the shaft is able to ease the floss through all your layers of fabric. Although some stitch directions say to put the needle point down and up through the fabric before pulling the eye and floss through, I found this extremely difficult with some stitches and impossible with others. The thickness of the quilting fabric and the tight weave of the muslin often make these maneuvers unworkable. I found it necessary to break up these types of steps, which may require a bit more work keeping the floss in place. I found two needles that worked okay for me. Each one had pros and cons, so try out several different needles in your stitching.
I don't want to get all mathematical here, but I couldn't help noticing that the "perfect" stitch is often based on a square. It is far too complicated an idea for me to write about here, but next time you are working an embroidery stitch (or perusing embroidery books), take a look at how the width of the floss/yarn compares to the stitch length/width.
Clockwise from top center:
Ladder stitch - Boy did this stitch take longer than I thought it would! It's difficult to even recognize this stitch when you look at it because they are worked so close together (in all directions) that you can't see the rungs of the ladder. It uses a lot of floss to do, so there are many stops and starts in this one. Pretty much any time the needle goes to the other side of the fabric is a good time to knot and start again. The corners are rounded to create a seamless border. To do this, I lengthened the stitch on the outside while simultaneously shortening (but only slightly since they were already pretty close) the inside stitch. As you can see, though, it is difficult to get the corners to have the same curve to them.
Triple palestrina - I cover the triple palestrina in detail for one of the last pages, so scroll down if you want to know more about this one.
Pekinese stitch - I followed the instructions from The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden for this one, but there are a lot of other good tutorials out there. There are actually two rows of pekinese stitching for the border on this picture, one with the loops pointing towards the outside edge and one with the loops pointing towards the inside edge. It might have been plenty bold enough without the second row, but by the time I realized that I had already done the foundation stitches (these were done with three strands of floss). Corners are pretty easy. Doing a diagonal stitch (like I did for the outer line of stitching) will create a more rounded corner. Since the loops are formed through the foundation stitches, the needle never goes to the underside of the fabric. This makes stops and starts more difficult. The best way I found for a stop was to finish a loop, put the needle through the fabric at the spot directly below where the next loop will be, knot the floss, and then start a new strand by bringing the needle up at the same spot it went down to end. The first loop of the new strand should hide the start and stop perfectly.
Basque knot - There is not much to say about this stitch. It's pretty and very dimensional when worked close together. The best way to end a strand is when you make the foundation stitch for the next knot. Knot the thread and start the next one by bringing the needle up right where you need it for the next knot. Corners can be made sharp by laying the foundation stitch at a 90 degree angle from the previous ones or more rounded by reducing the angle to, say, 45 degrees (as I did here).
Raised chain stitch - This was my second try at the raised chain stitch (keep reading to hear about my first effort). It is a fun stitch to work, but it can take a long time to lay the foundation rows. Luckily I was only making a border for a small picture. For the foundation stitches, I made the corners at a diagonal such that the needle went down into the same hole that it went through for the previous stitch (I was working the stitch top to bottom) and the next stitch again used the same hole for the downward part (make sense?). The diagonal stitching creates a more rounded corner. Since the knots are all created on the foundation above the fabric, stops and starts require a bit of creativity. For this, I ended a strand after completing a knot by putting the needle through the fabric close to the last knot. The new strand begins by bringing the needle up as close to the same spot as possible and continuing normally.
French knots - This stitch is easy enough to figure out by looking at a diagram (maybe even easier than reading instructions). From reading different tutorials, I found that the number of times you wind the floss around the needle can be more than the usual three. The most important thing to remember with this stitch, though, is to wind counterclockwise. Since each stitch is worked separately, it was one of the easiest for stops, starts, and corners. The border on this picture is made up of two rows of french knots. The inner row is worked with six strands and the outer row with four strands.
Raised buttonhole - This stitch requires a foundation stitch upon which the buttonhole loops are formed. In order to make the stitch even (in other words, not like mine), make sure to have evenly spaced foundation stitches and use the same tension when pulling the stitch taught. Again, I made the corners of the foundation at a diagonal for a rounded look. Stops are difficult, but doable. After completing a buttonhole stitch, take the needle down into the fabric very close to the part of the stitch farthest from the foundation (top? bottom? It depends on how you look at it). After knotting and getting a new strand, bring the needle up through the loop created for the last step of the last stitch. This helps make the end of the previous strand less visible, but can create a little more bulk.
Raised Chain (sort of) - This border was one of my first efforts at a stitch other than the chain stitch or backstitch. I had meant to do a raised chain (the same one I describe above), but something went... different and this is what I ended up with. I can't tell you what I did because I can't remember. It was probably the way I looped the floss in the second step of the knot formation.
This photo was taken before I finished the stitching around the text, which I forgot to do before assembling the cover. Luckily, the stitches I chose were easy enough to add after. I just left the end of the floss un-knotted, put the needle through the single layer of fabric (avoiding the interfacing) and out about an inch away. Working carefully, I gently pulled the floss until the tail just disappeared into the fabric (leaving a one-inch tail under the fabric). Before starting the chain stitch I did a short straight stitch or two to prevent the stitches from coming out. The chain stitch covered up these stitches. I repeated the procedure for the backstitch.