Cross Stitch Patterns from Fine Art by Scarlet Quince
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Tutorial: Backstitching

While Scarlet Quince patterns don't use backstitching, many patterns do. It may be used to outline different colored areas, fill in small detail, or for lettering. It can also be used for signing your work. Here are some examples.
Backstitching: example 4 Backstitching: example 1
Backstitching: example 3 Backstitching: example 2
As you can see, backstitching may be done around the borders of cross stitch, on blank fabric, or over cross stitch. It should always be done after all adjacent cross stitching is done.
Here's how to backstitch:

Backstitching: pattern notation
1. When a pattern calls for backstitching, it is indicated on the chart by an extra heavy line. (Note that this chart has 5 x 5 blocks of stitches, outlined by lines not as dark as the backstitching lines.) The chart instructions will tell you what color(s) to use and how many strands, usually 1. If different areas are to be backstitched with different colors, this is described in the instructions, for example: "Backstitch using 1 strand of 469 for leaves, 1 strand of 938 everywhere else."
Backstitching: first stitch
2. Here's the basic stitch. Suppose you want to make a line of backstitch from A to D. Anchor your floss, then come up at A and down at B.
Backstitching: second stitch
3. Now come up at C and down at B. (Try not to split the thread.)
Backstitching: third stitch
4. Next, come up at D and down at C. If there are more stitches to do, you'll continue in this leapfrogging way, coming up where the next stitch ends and down joining it to the existing stitches.
Backstitching: back vs front
5. Note that the back of the backstitched area will be messier than the front anywhere there are zig-zags or angles. Suppose this line of backstitching (in red) is done clockwise from the left. The gray lines show what the stitches on the back will look like.
Backstitching: stitch length
6. Individual backstitch stitches are not shown on patterns. For horizontal and vertical stitches, make your backstitch length equal to the width or height of one cross stitch. For diagonal (45 degree) stitches, make your backstitch length equal to one cross stitch /. Here, red cross stitch is compared to correct lengths of brown backstitch stitches.
Backstitching: stitch length 2
7. If the line goes across more than one cross width while only going up one cross height, the backstitches will have to be longer. Here, on aida, are stitches that go up one cross height but across 2 or 3. This also applies to other ratios like over 2 and up 3. However, if one number is divisible by the other, you should break it up into multiple stitches. If a line goes over 4 and up 2, treat it as two over-2-and-up-1 stitches. Always take the shortest stitches you can.
Backstitching: stitch length 3
8. On linen, if you are stitching over 2, your backstitches can be shorter for the over-2-and-up-1 situation.
Backstitching: Keeping track
9. Probably the trickiest part of backstitching is making sure you've done it all. If you have highlighted completed stitches on your chart in green, you could highlight the backstitch in pink as you complete it.
Backstitching: Keeping track 2 Another approach would be to make a copy of the chart before you start. Then, either highlight all the backstitching before you begin it so that it's easy to find on the chart, or highlight it as you complete it. You can combine these approaches by using two colors that combine nicely (such as yellow + blue = green or blue + pink = purple) and highlight before and after. In this example, all the backstitching has been marked in blue, and then marked in yellow as it is completed.

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