Sunday, 22 September 2013

Stitching Sunday: More about fillings and threads

I’m pausing my beehive project so I can answer some questions I’ve had since last Sunday...

Many of you were interested in the long and short stitching last week, so I’ll illustrate this technique a bit more. I’m going to use the Green Eggs & Ham piece I’ve been working on, as I’m using long and short stitch for the letters.

I decided to do an experiment and try one leg of the ‘H’ with two strands of floss, and the other leg with one strand. The results are interesting.

I could only work on this in the evening (tiny, detailed stitching with young children buzzing around was next to impossible this week!), so I used my daylight embroidery lamp and made the best of it. The fabric is white, but in the photos it looks beige. Never mind, as long as I can illustrate the stitches I’m not too fussed.

As I explained a bit in my last Stitching Sundays post, generally the technique starts with staggered stitches in the first row. I chose to work from the top down, but you could work up from the bottom if you prefer. Start in the centre of the area to be stitched and work out toward the sides – this is because sometimes a row tends to start leaning in one direction, and if you’re working one side to another, you can end up with a leaning row of stitches. Start with a straight line in the middle, and either side will stay straight. Does this make sense?

Anyway, for the next row and subsequent rows, it is key to bring the needle through the threads of the previous row. If you come up between threads, you’re more likely to encounter gaps or holes in your finished work. Splitting threads can be challenging at first, so have a bit of patience and very quickly it becomes second nature!

I’ve used two strands of thread here, and it gives the letters a rougher texture. But for the other side I used just one strand – see if you notice the smoother appearance in the first rows:

Much of a muchness, really, it all depends on the look you are after.

A black outline stitch will sort out those rough edges!

For my purposes, I think I’ll go with the one-strand floss. The letters are rather small, and I prefer the smoother finish of one strand. 

However, I used two strands of yellow to fill in Sam-I-Am, because I wanted a much bolder, almost furry texture to match his outline.

Give it a go with your next filling project and let me know how it works for you!

Next up: tangled and knotted thread. I’ve had some queries about avoiding tangles while stitching.

More than once I’ve been stitching along quite happily only to discover my threads have formed a messy jumble on the back of my work. Frustrating. And some stitchers find it difficult to even get started with more than one strand of floss, because the threads become twisted.

I have three habits that have helped me steer clear of knots and tangles. First, separate the threads:

No matter how many strands you are using, you should pull each strand, one at a time, from the main skein of floss.

Allow the floss to bunch up below the thread you're pulling - it will easily fall back into place once the thread is freed.

Then lay the strands evenly together

Second tip: condition your thread. I have used Thread Heaven for a few months, and I like the smoothness it gives to the strands of floss.

This is a tiny pot of a wax-like substance. You pull the threads through it, then pull the floss through your fingers to remove any excess conditioner and create a static charge between the threads. The conditioner reduces the friction between the fabric and the floss – threads flow easily through fabric and lay nicely.

This isn’t a necessity, but if you are having trouble with frequent tangles, I would recommend giving it a try. I think I bought my Thread Heaven from for £3.50, but feel free to Google away...

Finally, the most obvious tip is to check your work every few stitches. I usually peek at the back of my work for the first few stitches, as that’s when I often neglect to pull the floss through completely and end up with tangles. If you get in the habit, then you’ll catch any little problems before they become big problems!

That’s enough from me today, thank you for visiting, and a warm welcome to my latest followers. Please do visit the links below each week, these lovely embroiderers are working on such beautiful projects!

Chrissie x


  1. HI Chrissie thanks so much for this post. As you know I am very new to embroidery but your wonderful blog really helps and I am making tiny baby steps - and I do mean tiny - but at least I am toddling now. Embroidery was always a mystery to me and you are helping to unravel it. Have a fabulous weekend Chrissie, just love your blog and so glad I found it.
    Lots of love

  2. Thank you Chrissie ..... your tips are fab!
    I have never attempted filling stitch but it seems much less daunting now.
    happy sunday stitching!
    love jooles xxx

    1. Thank you my friend - and thanks for the fantastic tip on your blog, too! Cx

  3. Thank you for your useful tips. The wax sounds interesting never heard of that before. Your stitching is fab x

  4. Another very helpful post thank you Chrissie - I tried some time ago to get the Thread Heaven locally but it wasn't available so got a beeswax contraption that works in the same way and does the same job.
    Wishing you a great week!
    Joy xo

  5. Thanks for your message on mine Chrissie - are you saying we need to link up every week?
    Joy xo

    1. Yup, the link doesn't update itself, you add your latest post each Sunday. Thanks! Cx

  6. Thank for all the helped advice. I am fairly new at embroidery and working on a new piece myself. I was working right up through the middle of my last row and it did look as if the thread was splitting....I will try your way next time, when I pick it up!

  7. Fab post lovely. After a chat with Mum this week she kindly pointed out that Long and short should really be done with one strand of floss, so lesson learnt twice this week. I do agree with you though in that it does give it a different texture so it really depends on what you want. Very useful tips and I haven't heard of the wax before, sounds interesting. Wishing you a very happy week lovely Chrissie xoxo

  8. I enjoyed this post very much! Especially the tip about the tangled threads because this happens to me very frequently! Thank you very much.
    Marianne x

  9. thanks for sharing all your tips, ali

  10. Going to see if I can get my hands on some of that wax immediately. thanks for the tutorial on the stitches...I may yet try it. Didn't manage any stitching this week.... :-(

  11. woo hoo - i did it!!!!yay! how clever is that? Thank you Chrissie x

    1. Hooray! Very impressed...but can you do it again next week? ;-} Cx

  12. Well I never knew such stuff existed, thread floss, well I never! Your work is really, really good! :) x

  13. ~ Your a clever one, dear Chrissie...I am wishing my self some mindfulness to concentrate on one job to get finished! I do flutter about at times...Happy new week lovely YOU! ~ Maria with 'Twinkles *******

  14. Thanks for all the wonderful tips and advice, I'll hopefully be back joining in with the link up soon.
    Clare xxx

  15. I am working on something needing long and short stitch method right now, so I read this with interest. One strand does give a smoother finish. Your stitching is so very neat! I'm afraid mine is a little, ahem, more "homemade" looking. x

  16. I always wondered how to get this looking so good, and now thanks to your great tips Chrissie, I know! You are so talented!!