How to start
If your project organiser has not already done it, you will need to double over and tack down the cut edges of your canvas. The you must mark out the central thread with sewing or marker pen (see the diagram in ORGANISING). This is essential if you are working by counting, even if the main lines of the design have been drawn on the canvas for you.
If you like using a frame, attach your canvas. Use a rectangular frame: hoop frames distort the canvas.
Many expert embroiderers do not use frames since it tends to slow down the work. If you are using a double thread canvas, it is unnecessary. But if you are sewing a long piece of work such as an altar rail kneeler and are using single thread canvas, you will need to work on a frame.
The stitches most commonly used are Cross Stitch and Tent stitch. The top three rows are Cross Stitch: the bottom row is Tent stitch -ie half a Cross Stitch.
You will probably use Cross Stitch on a canvas of 10 squares to the inch.
You will probably use Tent stitch on a canvas of 13 squares to the inch.
When working a Cross Stitch kneeler, you will want to pick out the pattern by crossing each stitch as you go along. Experts tell you to do this for the whole of the kneeler. Many, however, when filling in the background prefer to work a line of half stitches as in the example above and then cross them on the way back. It is quicker, more economical of wool and prevents a build-up of wool on the reverse. Try out both ways for yourself and make your own choice.
When working a Tent stitch kneeler, pick out the pattern in Tent stitch, but when filling in the background you will need to use Basketweave Tent as in the example below.
After each stitch, drop your needle down two spaces for the next stitch. If you fail to fill in the background with this diagonal method, you will find the canvas gets pulled on such a slant that even the process of soaking and stretching once you have finished will not succeed in pulling it straight.
There is an alternative, used by Bina Hicks in St. Barrog’s, Bedwas, Gwent. She uses Tent stitch in the background a row at a time, first with the north end of the kneeler on top and – turning the canvas round – with the south end on top. In this way, the diagonal pull of the first row is counteracted by the diagonal pull of the second row. Experiment for yourself. No method is wrong if the result is good.
When filling in a background always work in the same direction. Do not sometimes go east to west then north to south, since this will create a slight ridge. It is impossible even through stretching (see MAKING UP) to get rid of this ridge.
If you have a deep border, you may indeed want to work the short sides north to south, but be sure to follow a neat diagonal at the corners.