Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Backstitch? Ya Gotta Be Joking…


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Eventually, you are guaranteed an in-depth look at my current embroidery project – I promise! – along with all kinds of explanations, information, troubleshooting and whatnot. Today, in fact, besides the little annoying slip knot, I have another problem to fix…

But, given a bit of limited time right now, I’m going to show you instead some of the stitching, and pretty much leave it at that!

Now, I suppose you are probably expecting something grandiose. Something so Complex and Time-Consuming that your sympathy will be aroused as you contemplate my sweating over a looming deadline while having to stitch some intricate technique…

Oh, golly. Please don’t be too disappointed!

Ecclesiastical Embroidery: Hand Embroidered Pall

Yep. That’s backstitch, all right!

But don’t underestimate the backstitch – it has come through for me before, and I think it will this time, too.

Ecclesiastical Embroidery: Hand Embroidered Pall

That line on the right is really what I am going to achieve with it – whipped backstitch, to be precise. There are other more complicated ways to make a nice thin, firm line in embroidery, but the whipped backstitch is a fairly quick and painless way to do so while still achieving nice-looking results.

I’ve never considered backstitch a very “formal” or elegant stitch. At best, on its own, I’d call it clean-looking and sometimes even “cute.” But elegant or formal is a bit of a stretch. Whipped backstitch, on the other hand, dresses the backstitch up a bit, smooths it out, and turns it into a precise line stitch that looks good on slight curves and even around tight corners.

Believe it or not, despite its simplicity, whipped backstitch can be a bit more time-consuming than other line stitches (such as stem stitch), only because whipped backstitch takes two steps – first the backstitching, then the wrapping. But the latter part goes fairly quickly.

A hint: when you finish your backstitching and are getting ready to whip the stitches, switch to a tapestry needle with a blunt tip. Much easier!

Once the backstitching is finished, I’ll progress to filling up certain spaces with very tiny seed stitching and lots of it. That’s the time-consuming part!

Today, I have to deal with an onslaught of high humidity that has taken its toll on the framed-up fabric! What was all smooth and tight yesterday morning is ripply and loose and warped-looking today. I’d turn on the AC to elminate the humidity, but Kansas being what it is, it’s only 64 degrees out! Thank goodness for evertite frames. If tightening doesn’t do it, though, stay tuned for Plan B!


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(7) Comments

  1. Looks great! I just finished a little CQ motif using the same stitch!…love it. I keep the same needle for the wrapping, but feed it "eye" first so not to snag.

    Swapping to a tapestry is a good tip, thanks. Kathy (shawkl)

  2. When I switch to the whipping part, I use the 'eye' end of the needle instead, if that makes sense. Works well for me. I actually do that on all of the 'extra worked' back stitches.

  3. Not all stitching has to be grandiose. I appreciate seeing the simple stuff too. Your back stitching is neater than mine…I'll have to work on that I guess!

  4. Hi Mary,
    Your current project is looking so beautiful… Simplicity is the essence of beauty. I love the tips that you intersperse whenever possible. Thanks

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