Monday, April 22, 2013

Tidy up your backsides!

This week we're getting up close and personal with the backsides of our embroidery. Even if you're not overly bothered with how the back looks, it's still good to keep it fairly tidy. It does prevent weird knots from happening for no reason and such.

First up in the quest to keep things a bit more tidy: the waste knot. It gets its name because it is used for a wee bit and then it's cut off and discarded. In a word: wasted.
Embroidery back 1
Make a knot at one end of your floss and then push the needle through from the front of the fabric so the knot sits on the front. Then pull the needle through from the back like you normally would.

Notice that the knot sits quite a way from where you want to stitch? This is so as you start stitching you will stitch over/through the thread and anchor the thread that way instead of with a knot.

Embroidery back 2
Here you see it from the back. You can probably tell that the first stitch is going to stitch over the thread. Of course, one stitch will not hold it in place.

Embroidery back 3
But keep on stitching and it will soon be secured quite well. It's best with a variety of stitches, and quite a few stitches too. A couple of straight or back stitches isn't very secure.

Embroidery back 4
See? Even with the daisy stitches, it could still be a bit more secure. But you get the idea, yes?

Embroidery back 6
Cut off most of the thread between the stitching and the knot. The bit you leave, will also be stitched over and make the thread even more secure.

Now comes the next technique to a tidier back: weaving in the ends. You've probably tried tying a knot on the back of your embroidery, right? Which can be really awkward, especially if you wanted to eek out an extra couple of stitches and then you end up with half an inch of floss on the back. Tying a knot then is downright difficult!
Embroidery back 5
But by weaving in the ends you make things so much easier for yourself! Plus you can also incorporate the waste-knot end into the weaving, securing that even more.

Simply weave the needle and thread (preferably more than half an inch!) through the back of the stitches and cut off most of the end. It's a bit difficult to see what's what here with the same colour thread.

But let's make it a bit clearer as we look at the next technique: weaving in the end at the start of stitching. Because you don't really need to use the waste knot apart from with the first length of floss you attach to the fabric. The rest of the time you can weave in the ends.
Embroidery back 7
Weave the needle and thread through the previous stitching. You can loop the thread through itself to sort of make a knot. But don't pull it too tight, or you might risk pulling the stitches. Leave about an inch of thread un-woven. Stitch over that later on as you work.

Now we come to another technique that will keep things tidier, prevent weird knots from happening and may also make your floss last a bit longer: reduce travelling threads.
Embroidery back 8
I think you can just tell that there's quite a bit of thread between the circle I've already stitched around and the one I want to start stitching on. Travelling threads like that are a bad idea. Finish stitching in one area, weave in the end, snip the thread and then start afresh in the next spot.

Embroidery back 9
Because otherwise you'll end up with threads travelling hither and dither on the back. And see how much thread is being wasted! Although wanting to reducing thread waste isn't the only reason to not have threads travelling!

Instead it's a good idea to weave the thread along stitches you've already made, towards the new place you want to use a particular colour. It's not always possible of course, but a lot of the time it is.

The last thing I want to look at is finishing off one or two stitches. When there is very little to work with on the back and weaving into other stitching would require a lot of travel.
Embroidery back 10
Use what you do have available. Weave the thread between the two points furthest from each other so you will have more thread to weave around. Go back and forth a couple of times, maybe loop the thread around itself to help it stay put.

Embroidery back 11
See how you can start to build up threads to weave through? Although it may look a wee bit untidy, it's better than using knots which can make the back kind of lumpy.

Embroidery back 12
Tighten the thread as much as you can to make it extra secure. But take care not to pull the stitches on the front.


  1. This is soooo helpful, thank you! Chrissie x

  2. F-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c-! Up until a couple weeks ago I had never even heard of a waste knot!!! And now this wonderfully helpful and beautifully illustrated tutorial for many ways to take care of all those little loose ends!!!

    Thank you!!

    1. Thank you very much, Pam! Waste knots rule, don't they?! :-)

  3. I have always been one for a tidy back. Waste knots are my friend!

  4. This is awesomely helpful - thank you! I tend to use too many little knots on the back, and it's a mess. Just started a new piece last night, and I'm practicing being neater :)

  5. Thank you Carina those are all good things to know!!

  6. Thank you for this tutorial. It's something that doesn't appear in books and I often wondered if I was doing it right.

    Ps, how clever to match your nail varnish to the fabric ;-)

    J xx

    1. Ah but it's the other way round - I matched the fabric to my nail varnish. ;-)

      Glad you found it helpful! :-)


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