How do I count from a colour block chart?
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All the miniature needlepoint embroidery kits that I design come with a colour block chart to work from. The fabric itself is not printed. Where similar shades of one colour occur in a design, the charts are printed using very obvious differences between the colours, so that it is easy to see which colour to use. Using colour charts, rather than black and white symbol charts, makes it really easy to see which colour of thread to stitch where – three red squares in a row on the chart means stitch three red stitches in a row on the fabric – it’s that easy!
To illustrate this method of stitching from a colour block chart, I have used a ‘Sophie’ miniature cushion design, which measures 1.25 inches square, and is a good project for beginners to start with.
I recommend that you start any design in the centre of the fabric, and work out to the edges. In this example shown here, the canvas has been marked lightly at the edges to show the half-way points along each side, so that the exact centre is easy to find. Another way to find the exact centre is to fold the fabric in half vertically, and gently make a crease, then fold horizontally and again make a crease. Where the two creases intersect is where to begin stitching. It is not vital to stitch the EXACT centre stitch first – in fact, in this example, I have started with the dark red colour, which is featured NEAR the centre, but not the actual centre stitch itself. This is OK, just use your judgement. It will cut down on distortion of the fabric if stitches are counted from the centre out, in general, though. If you do not work from the centre outwards, unworked areas might stretch and ‘bow out’ as you work one patch and then another, whilst leaving bare areas in between. If the fabric were to become stretched in this way, it would be impossible to rectify, so always remember to work from the centre outwards!
How do I get started?
Refer to the chart for the colour to start with at the centre of the design, and thread your needle with a length of that colour (no longer than 12 to 15 inches long). I would recommend that you start stitching using the ‘waste knot method’ as described below, in order to secure the end of the thread, as this helps to keep the back of your work neat, flat and free from knots.
Start stitching, then, by pushing your needle down from the front through to the back, half an inch away from the actual centre (here, beginning at the top right hand corner). Come back up at the centre (in this case, ready to do a dark red stitch). You will be stitching in the direction of the knot, as far as is practical, so that your stitches hold down the first part of the thread from the knot to the centre. You should try to catch the thread down with most of your starting stitches, but it is not crucial if you miss once or twice, just so long as the thread is held in place securely. When you reach the knot with your stitching, snip the knot off carefully with sharp scissors, and carry on stitching.
How do I stitch the design?
Looking at the chart you can see that the dark red stitches start very near the centre, then go out in all four directions in heart shapes. I have enhanced the colours of the squares that I am going to stitch, to make it clearer.
To work the heart at the top of the design, work the first stitch by bringing the needle up in a hole where you want to make the stitch, and push the needle through the hole which is to the top left of the first hole, making the stitch diagonally over one intersection of the canvas, using tent stitch (see the Stitches Tutorial). Remember that one square on the chart is equal to one stitch on the canvas (that is, one intersection of canvas threads). According to the chart, you can see that the next stitch to do is one square to the right and one square up from the first one, so counting from the first hole your needle came up through, count one hole to the right and one hole up and bring the needle up through that hole and make the next stitch as before. Make a third stitch in the same way. The next stitch is worked one square to the right and one up, with another stitch directly above it, and so on. You will very quickly get in the habit of thinking ‘stitch three to the right, one above and two to the right, one above and two more to the right’ and so on.
It doesn’t matter if the direction of your stitches on the finished item slope from bottom right to top left, or the other way round. You will probably find that you have a preference, once you start stitching. I like to slope my stitches bottom right to top left. What is important, however, is that ALL your stitches on any one project slope in the SAME direction. Even if the design is one that is mirrored along a central line, you do not change stitch direction for each half; you work all stitches in one sloping direction for the whole design.
As you work from the chart, you will need to decide which ‘route’ to go. Try to get in the habit of looking a short way ahead of where you are counting from, to see what would be a logical way to make all the stitches of one colour. For instance, with these heart shapes on the Sophie miniature cushion, starting from the centre, it is logical to work around the heart shapes anti-clockwise, coming back to the centre each time and counting out again to work the next one. The cushion is quite a quick project, but on larger items such as a doll’s house carpet, it is better to work a smallish portion (about two inches by two inches) of detail, then go back and fill in the background, before working any more detail. This will mean that as each area is completed, the canvas will be strengthened by the stitches, and will not stretch out of shape.
How do I end each length of thread?
Try not to stitch right to the very end of available thread each time – if you can barely turn the needle to insert it back into the fabric, you are being too thrifty! The last four inches (10cm) or so will be getting worn by then, and should not be used to stitch with. Finish off the length of thread by taking the needle to the back and running it through a few stitches on the back of the fabric.
This photo shows clearly the whole stitching process, as seen from the back of the canvas – the starting thread going from top left to bottom right (from the front, this would be top right to bottom left, obviously) is held in place by the first few stitches which work back from bottom right to top left, then the design curves round to the right, and the length of thread is finished off by running the needle through a few of the stitches just worked.
These two pictures show how the same motif looks when it is filled in with the other colours – in this case it is part of the Sophie carpet, which is stitched in wool, on 18 count canvas.
Now that you have seen how easy it is to work a miniature needlepoint design by counting from a colour block chart, why not visit our ONLINE SHOP and choose a kit to try out you new skills?