Keeping the Back of your Work Tidy

Keeping the Back of your Work Tidy
People tell me that I’m more than a little obsessive about making sure that the back of my embroidery piece is as neat and tidy as I can make it. This probably goes back to my training at Grandma’s hands. When I was learning, before she let me move from a sampler (yes – she taught me to stitch on a piece of cloth to use as a sampler!) to an actual piece of embroidery (my first doily!), not only the front of my stitching, but also the back had to meet with her approval.

She took the time, and let me make the mistakes, to let me learn why it did make a difference.


Yes – this is the easiest way to start off and end your stitching, but have you thought about the biggest thing about a knot: it’s a bump. And that bump will show on the right side of your work.

We use knotted stitches on the front of our embroidery to create texture, so it stands to reason that a knot on the back will do the same thing.

Over time, that knot, while it may not look obvious at first, will start to make its presence seen. This is true even if the piece is hanging on the wall. Eventually, you will see on the front of your work a distinct raised area where the knot is.

This is even more obvious on clothing and linen (tablecloths, towels, etc) that you stitch, as these items will be laundered and ironed on a fairly regular basis.

Not only that, but on clothing, the knots will rub against your skin, making it very uncomfortable to wear – even if you have put a lining piece over the back of the embroidery on the clothing.

The neatest way to start and end your stitching is to stitch in the end of your threads.

Carry Over Threads

Isn’t it fiddly when there is only a few stitches of a colour, and then you have to end that colour and start it again a couple of inches away?

Many embroiderers just finish that area, and then move to the next, leaving a long strand at the back of their stitching. Sometimes, they will stitch over this as the piece progresses, but some don’t. Both methods have problems.

The first problem lies in the colour of the thread that you are carrying over. If it’s a dark colour and you are stitching on light fabric, then that colour will show through to the front of your stitching, even if you do stitch it down. Not immediately, but over time, a dark line will show on the front of your work.

If you just carry the thread over the back and don’t stitch it down, then you have the problem of snagging threads.

If you are going to carry over thread, then as a rule it should be no more than ½ inch and should be a light colour and then sewn over. The better way to do it, rather than finish off and start again, is to do the small sections last and then slip the carry over thread under the top stitch at the back, so the carry over thread doesn’t show.

Keeping the back of your work neat is as important as keeping the front neat. After all, even if it isn’t seen, you’ll know! A good craftsperson always makes sure that the bits that aren’t seen are as good as the bits that are. It’s keeping to that knowledge that makes you an artisan!

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please contact me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2007 Megan McConnell

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