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Cross Stitch Back Stitch
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Cross Stitch Back Stitch

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, cross stitch samplers were worked by school children as a classroom exercise. They provided a method of teaching the skills of needlework and also literacy, as alphabets were generally included in the design. Some of the other traditional motifs commonly worked were houses, trees, animals, flowers and hearts.

Back stitch is so called because all the stitches worked on the front surface of the fabric are worked in a backwards direction, whilst those on the back of the work go forwards. This ensures that the slight backwards pull on each stitch gives it definition and neatness.

Back stitch lettering is a useful addition to your cross stitch as it will allow you to work texts and personalise any future work with names and dates. Finished pieces of work are more interesting if signed and dated. On larger pieces of stitching include the date of commencement as well as the date of completion to make sure that future generations appreciate your effort. When working back stitch for lettering to personalise a piece, you will generally need to use two strands of stranded cotton in the needle.

Not only is back stitch used alongside cross stitch to form lettering, it is also used as an outliner and to add details and definition to your work. Outlining gives the cross stitch a straight edge and a finished look, and is worked after the cross stitch has been completed. Usually less strands of cotton are used for outlining than are used for the cross stitch it complements.

Back stitch is used for outlining a design or part of a design, to add detail or emphasis, to make a shadow effect or for lettering. It is usually indicated on a chart by solid lines with the suggested shade indicated on the chart or key. It is added after the cross stitch has been completed, to prevent the back stitch line being broken by the cross stitches. The stitches are worked over the same number of threads as the cross stitch, forming continuous lines.

You should make the first stitch from left to right. Pass the needle behind the cross stitch fabric and bring it out one stitch length ahead to the left. Repeat and continue this way along the line. To work back stitch, you will need to follow the cross stitch chart, working the stitches over one block of Aida or over two threads of evenweave, unless otherwise stated.

You should avoid using long, loose stitches unless used for ship rigging, cat's whiskers and so on.


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