Perhaps I’m slow. Perhaps I’m backwards. But whatever the case, when I decide to work a specific design into a hand embroidery project, I rarely know right off the bat what threads, stitches, or fabric I’m going to use. I usually work these things out, through the aid of small samples.
With the Hungarian Redwork Runner project, this approach held true, even though, in concept, this is a pretty simple project.
I knew I was going to use cotton thread (remember, the piece needs to be washable).
But which cotton thread? And which stitches?
The two questions are tied together. The heavier the thread, the more problematic it would be on this project to use stitches that produce a very heavy line.
In the photo above, from left to right starting with the curl on the left, I tried perle cotton #5 using the Hungarian braided chain stitch. It is too thick. Then, I tried cotton floche with the Hungarian braided chain stitch, but it’s too fine. Feeling a lot like Goldilocks, I then tried perle cotton #8 with the Hungarian braided chain stitch, and I found that I liked it pretty well.
Then, on the straight lines at the base of the sample, I tried coton a broder #25 in Hungarian braided chain stitch, then coton a broder #25 in regular chain stitch, reverse chain stitch, and heavy chain stitch.
I found the coton a broder #25 was a nice weight, but still too fine for the heavier lines that I envision in the design for the runner. Still, I did like the coton a broder #25, so I didn’t discount it right away.
I also tried a DMC matte cotton called Retors mat (Art 89), which is a softly twisted, non-mercerized (i.e. no shine) cotton tapestry thread. It was Way Too Thick. And I forgot to take a photo.
This sample was worked on a natural colored linen, which was one of my options for the runner.
Then, I switched to a white linen – Alba Maxima by Legacy – and tried the perle cotton #8 on it.
On the sample above, the center line, the heart, and all the stitching on the right side of the sample is in perle cotton #8, in Hungarian braided chain stitch.
On the left, the curl coming off the heart is reverse chain stitch in perle cotton #8. The second scroll down (in the middle) on the left is regular chain stitch worked rather large, in the perle cotton #8.
And the base squiggly line on the left is coton a broder #25 in regular chain stitch.
Pros and Cons of Coton a Broder #25 vs. Perle Cotton #8
Coton a broder has the advantage of being Very Easy to stitch with. It is just a beautiful cotton embroidery thread, and handles so nicely. It has the disadvantage of being a little too fine for the heavier lines in the design, but I could see using it here and there for certain elements in the design, to give the design a bit of variation in weightiness. Another disadvantage: coton a broder #25 is not easily accessible – it has to be ordered online.
The advantage of perle coton #8 is that it makes a nice bold line with a nice braided, ropey look to it, which is what I had in mind for the design. The twist in perle cotton is quite a bit tighter than the twist in coton a broder, so it’s a little more finicky to stitch with, though not difficult, really. Perle cotton #8 in color 321 is pretty readily available locally (you can find it at most craft / hobby stores that have a needlework section – it comes in balls, not skeins).
The majority of the runner will be worked in perle cotton #8, color 321, in a combination of Hungarian braided chain stitch and chain stitch. In some parts of the design, I may use the coton a broder #25 for a lighter touch here and there. This, though, remains to be seen – I’ll feel that out as I go.
The Advantages of Stitching Samples
By stitching small samples with the threads you have in mind for a project, and by trying out the stitches you want to use on the ground fabric you want to use, you can make better decisions about your needlework projects, without the “pressure” of changing your mind in the middle of the Real Project. In the long run, though it may seem as if it is wasting time and resources, you actually end up saving a lot of time and possibly saving a lot of money and supplies by working out your ideas in small samples first. Prior Proper Planning, and all that…
Next time up, we’ll discuss the final fabric choice, and I’ll share with you the final straw in making that decision. The fabric decision actually made the whole project 100 times easier, in a way!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Have your say below!
If you’d like to read more about this project from the beginning, you’ll find all the articles relating to it listed in the Hungarian Redwork Runner project index.