Friday, June 22, 2012

Almost done!

... with UFO Project #1! When I look below and see where I was and see where I am now, I'm feeling quite skippy, even though I'm about 1 week behind schedule. But as they say, stuff happens.

No picture of the progress included here (other than background in the picture below); that will wait for the final stitch. But as I've been frantically working to complete this project before the end of the month, I realized just how much I have learned over the past several years of working this.

Those pesky knots happen all the time even though I take what I think are the right steps to avoid the knots. The first step is something I learned from reading a book, The Alabama Stitch Book, by Natalie Chanin. (Google her name and take a look at her beautiful and amazing designs ... all of them 100% handmade, including the stitching of the seams!) Step #1 is to show some love to the thread. After I separate out a single strand of DMC embroidery floss from my appropriate-length cut, I hold it up by one end, repeatedly and gently stroke down the length of the thread causing it to relax its twist a bit. A relaxed thread is a good thread! In stitching, relaxed is good. But then, I guess in most things in life, relaxed is good.

Step #2 is to keep an eye on the twist of the thread as I'm working it on the project. I have no idea how or why the thread ends up getting itself all twisted and in a nest or a knot, but it invariably does after about a dozen stitches. I guess it gets twisted in the simple act of stitching so I learned to compensate by "spinning" my needle a couple of turns counterclockwise to restore the thread to its relaxed state after taking a few stitches. That works when my brain is focused ... which is NOT all the time! Especially since I tend to have a good movie, an interesting documentary, or the news on the television as I stitch.

So the inevitable happens.  A knot. A pesky knot. When I completely neglect the twist of my thread, the knot could start out as one of the dreaded "bird's nest" of threads. Those are really ugly. *cringe*

If a "nest" occurs, the mission is to reduce it down to a single knot as pictured to the right. If you try to tug on the threads, this knot has a tendency to hold itself into place. It's a slip knot, but it's a tough one!

Thankfully, it is only a slip knot. What to do next?


Over time, I discovered that if I place a needle into the loop and tug at the loop, instead of tugging at the threads, the loop closes up on itself. Then I remove the needle, tug on the threads and knot slips away.

Give the thread some additional "love" and continue stitching.

This works in about 98% of all knotting I encounter. As for the other 2%, because I am only using a single strand of embroidery thread floss, I minimize the knot best as I can and yank the thing through so it stays on the back of the piece. If the knot is small enough, and somewhat high up on the working thread, I'll keep stitching and give the thread a gentle yank to get the knot through each hole until it is close enough to the fabric to leave it "parked" on the backside. The thought of yanking a knot through fabric is nothing new to those who hand quilt, but to all others, it may be a bit disconcerting at first. But when working with natural fibers in an even weave, it's not damaging. Just make sure you are inserting your needles into the crossroads of the weave, not splitting any fiber. Also, one has to get over the initial feel of tugging a knot through fabric ... just like medical personnel get over the feel of pricking another person's skin with a syringe. *cringe*

Of course, knots are best avoided. Loving the thread and working with an appropriate length is a good start. When I was a newbie to cross stitch, I would cut my threads too long, thinking it would save me time by not having to finish off and restart a color more than once. But threads that are too long are begging to set into nests and knots. Now I work with a thread no longer than 18" and try my best to give the thread its counterclockwise twist every third stitch.

Another problem you will encounter if your thread is overlong is the wear and tear that friction has on the thread as it is stitched in and out of fabric. I found if I worked with a thread longer than 18" I ended up discarding the last few inches because it was so worn and frayed by friction.

Hope that by this weekend, I'll be removing this piece from its frame and prep it for stretching and framing! Stay tuned.

1 comment:

TJ said...

You have many gifts, patience is one of them. Can't wait to see the finished works.

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