An aspect of how to do needlepoint which we all encounter is having to rip out your stitches. Sometimes this is called frog stitch or even frogging. You may have seen frog stitching referred to or talked about. If you went to your stitch guides looking for instruction on how to do it. — you most likely came up with nothing.
That’s because frog stitching is another term for unstitching or ripping out your canvas (rip-it — get it?).
Every stitcher has to rip out stitches once in awhile. The thread color may clash with the others in the piece. The stitch may slant the wrong way (I do this all the time). The stitches may be done incorrectly. Anyhow, you need to take out what you’ve stitched and restitch it. Here are some tips on frog stitching correctly.
You probably cannot reuse thread which has already been stitched. It always loses its texture on way or another. This is particularly noticeable with pearl cottons, rayons, and other shiny threads.
If you only have a few stitches wrong, you may be able to literally “unstitch” the area. To do this just reverse your stitching working backwards from the end. This does not work well on large areas, on areas that have stitching around them, where you have stitched through the thread, or where your tension is tight.
In these cases you will need to rip out the stitching. I do this slowly, so I will not cut the canvas.
Use either a pair of cuticle scissors or a special pair of scissors with a notch in one of the blade to lift up the stitch. Working from the side with the looser tension (usually the back), cut several stitches. The using tweezers or my fingers, pull out the cut threads and throw them out. Then I repeat this process until the entire area has been ripped out.
I only do a little bit at a time, cutting some threads, pulling them out, and then cutting again.
It may seem like a simple thing, but doing frog stitch correctly is an important aspect of how to do needlepoint.
Threading needles can be frustrating. The hole is too small, the thread frays, you can’t see. Recently I got asked for tips to make this essential task easier.
I’ll start with the obvious — are you threading the needle properly? You bring the thread to the needle, not the needle to the thread. That’s the most important thing.
Second, are you compressing the end of the thread to make it more pointy? You can do this by squeezing or twisting it slightly. That often helps.
The next best thing to do is use a needle threader, I find this takes care of the problem most of the time. Use one made for needlework threads, the ones for sewing threads or beading are too flimsy. Several companies make them.
Some people find using a needle one size bigger makes the needle easier to thread. Since I use bigger needles anyway, I don’t do this.
These tips work for any thread, but some threads fray more than others. Flair should always be cut at an extreme diagonal. This doesn’t end unravelling, but minimizes it.
I often use a Thread Zapper for threads that ravel. This little tool fuses the ends of the thread together. It prevents raveling effectively.
I have also been told using a drop of FrayChek or clear nail polish works. Always let the thread dry before threading the needle when using these. Since I never have either of these nearby I haven’t tried them.
Waste knots are useful ways to begin new threads.
Needlepoint should never have knots on the back of the work. This can often make it difficult to start a new thread. Sometimes, the stitch is too open to have a thread show through. Sometimes you are starting a dark thread when only light areas surround it (the thread will show through). Sometimes there is no area already stitched nearby.
To make the knot, begin by making a plain old overhand knot quite near the end of the thread. Now begin stitching by bringing the thread through the front of the canvas somewhere about 1-2 inches from the starting point of your stitching.
You should enter the canvas somewhere in a direct line from your stitching, in the direction you will be stitching, so the tail will be covered quickly. These knots are in-line because they are in a direct line with your stitching. The stitching will cover the tail.
If you look at your canvas, you have a knot on the front of the thread. Begin stitching. When you get near the knot but not quite at it, or after you have stitched about an inch pull the knot gently up and cut right below the knot.
With in-line knots, the end of the thread will disappear behind the canvas to be covered by your stitches.
You can also place the knot 3-4 inches away from the stitching area. This is called an Away Waste Knot. Put it outside the edges of the design area. You treat the tail differently when using this knot.
With Away Knots you will have a long tail. Thread this into the back of the stitches you have made already. These knots can all be handled at the end of your stitching.
Needlepoint threads and luxury are not often terms you put together in the same sentence, But with thicker silk/wool blends, it’s the phrase which comes to mind. These threads are so soft and so smooth, that they are positively addicting — you almost want to keep one close to pet it!
Combining silk and wool into one thread provides a number of benefits. Since both are animal fibers, they take similar dyes, so you get colors which have the brilliance of silk combined with the strength of wool as a fiber. They have lots of loft making them outstanding for that rich look so characteristic of needlepoint.
Many of the silk/wool blends out there are crewel weight threads, but The Thread Gatherer, Brown Paper Packages, Rainbow Gallery, & More, and Dinky Dyes, all make a fatter thread, suitable for virtually all kinds of needlepoint.
Most of these needlepoint threads are a 50/50 blend of silk and wool and work on canvas meshes from 13 to 18. On 13 & 14 mesh they provide good coverage and work well with other threads (I’m doing a piece right now which combines them with tapestry wool in Tent Stitch). They are perfect on 13 mesh. They work excellently in textured stitches on 18 or as Tent Stitch where you want the stitching to look full.
Brown Paper Packages makes the popular Silk & Ivory Thread. This thread comes in over 200 colors with four more added each quarter. The thread is available in 28.8 yard skeins, 300 yard half hanks, and 600 yard hanks. The thread is widely available.
One thing I love about this thread is the selection of pale “almost white” colors. These needlepoint threads have just a hint of color. They make perfect backgrounds to set off the colors and stitching of your focal point.
They also make Trio in the same colors. Trio is three strands of Silk & Ivory loosely twisted together. This thread works beautifully for larger mesh sizes. Use two ply on 12 or 13 mesh, and three ply on 10. I also find that its slightly thinner diameter is easier to use for Tent on 18 mesh.
Rainbow Gallery makes Silk and Cream, one of their Backgrounds line of thread. Like many of their threads, it comes on cards with 20 yards on a card. Currently there are around 30 colors. Any shop which carries Rainbow Gallery Threads can order this thread for you.
& More makes Merino Silk, a blend of 75% Merino Wool and 25% silk. It comes in 31 colors.
Dinky Dyes makes a slightly softer silk/wool blend, Jumbuck, that is similar in size to Silk & Ivory. Being hand-dyed the colors are semi-solid.
Two companies, Planet Earth Fibers and Vineyard Silks make 100% silk threads in this thickness. They are my go-to threads.
This type of needlepoint thread is fast becoming a standard for stitching. They are easy to use, look beautiful when stitched, feel wonderful, and work on many sizes of canvas. Whether you are just beginning needlepoint or have been stitching for a long time, you’ll love these threads.
If you’re like me, you’ve never thought about needlepoint tacks.
That is, until something bad happens. The tacks you bought rusted and left marks on your canvas. Every tack you used bent when you removed it and can’t be used more than once. The tacks fell apart, literally, when you removed them.
I used to think all tacks were the same, but they’re not. Some are outstanding to use for needlepoint, some are OK, and some should never be used.
Brass Needlepoint Tacks: These are the Japanese tacks you find in needlepoint shops. They do not rust. If you live in a humid environment, they are the only tacks you should use. Because they are bras over stainless steel, you can use magnets on them.
Their points are sharper than most other tacks. This makes them an excellent choice for those with poor hand strength because they are easier to press into the frame.
Quilter’s Tacks: Made for attaching quilts to a frame, these are my excerllent tacks for needlepoint. Because quilts are both thick and heavy, these tacks have longer, thicker shafts. For us, that means they dig deeper into the frame and won’t bend as easily. They have larger heads than regular tacks, which makes them easier to pull out. They are made from stainless steel, so magnets will work to pick them up. Buy them at sewing or quilting stores.
Hardware Store Tacks: Look for tacks which have painted or unpainted, not plastic, tops. This assures you that the tack is made in one piece, not in two. Because of the stress on needlepoint tacks, this is very important.
When the tack is a single piece, you will be able to remove the tack completely. Because these tacks are made from stainless steel, you can use magnets on them. Because their heads are small you can use a tack tool, like the Corjac or EZ-Tack-It. These tools have a holder with a magnetized head made to hold the tack and a bulbous handle on the other end which makes it easier to drive the tack in. The EZ-Tack-It says it will work with quilter’s tacks.
Push Pins: Needless to say, these pins with high tops will make it hard to stitch and will catch your threads.
Map Pins: The round heads will catch the threads and the shafts are too short to hold needlepoint canvas securely.
Plastic-headed Tacks: These are the tacks you find in office supply stores these days. The plastic head makes them appear to be made in one piece, but they are not. The head is a thin disc of brass with a hole punched in it. The shaft is put through the hole and the top end of it hammered flat; it is secured in no other way. Because of this, quite often, the top pulls out without the shaft, leaving you with a tack that is hard to remove left in the frame. In addition, the shafts aren’t thick and bend easily. They can be used in a pinch, but avoid them as much as possible.
Now you know what needlepoint tacks to use and why. I keep my tacks in metal tins in the drawer of my stitching table. As soon as I finish a piece, I take it off the stretcher bars and put the tacks into the tin. That way I always know where my tacks are and can find them easily.