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   Teresa Wentzler
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Large Designs

Large designs pose special challenges to the stitcher. Embarking on a "stitching marathon" can be a rewarding (and even pleasant!) experience if approached in an organized manner.

First of all (and this may sound strange, but trust me, it's very important!) As with any challenge you face, you need to be ready: prepare yourself mentally! And, you should ask yourself some questions. You are going to be expending a large amount of energy, not to mention a large chunk of your time (and probably money) on a large project. Are you willing to make such an investment? Are you someone who stitches only one project at a time, and will a big, time-consuming project make you miserable? If you stitch several projects in a rotation, how often will you work on the "monster"? These questions aren't meant to discourage you; merely to remind you that a decision to stitch a large piece should be one that is grounded in reality....

After you've decided that you'd like to tackle stitching a large piece, these tips should help keep frustration at bay:

  • Review the General Tips section.

  • When purchasing the floss for a large piece, be sure to buy from the same dye lot if extra skeins of the same color are noted in the instructions; dye lots can vary substantially.

  • Make sure you have enough fabric for your design; don't skimp! Remember to allow at least 3 extra inches on each side of the design, and be sure to finish the edges to minimize fraying. Many stitchers believe this amount is not enough, especially if the fabric frays at all, and they allow more than three inches.

  • Stay organized! It will take a bit of extra time and may seem like a bother, but it's definitely well worth the effort. If you work on several projects in rotation, this will prove doubly advantageous: it allows you to set aside a large piece, work on something else, and then come back to the original project days/weeks/months/years?!?! later with minimal problems.

  • Organizing Floss is one of the best things you can do to keep a large project under control.

  • If the chart is a big one-piece fold-out giant, which is very difficult to handle, make a working photocopy in normal page-size sections, enlarging it if necessary. (Note: See warning concerning photocopying). This also has the added psychological benefit of breaking the large piece down into 'manageable' sections...much less intimidating!

  • Where to begin stitching? Many of my large designs have borders, and I usually recommend stitching the very outermost edge of the border first for a couple of reasons:

    1. With this minimal amount of stitching, you can be sure the fabric size is correct for the design. Once the counting has been double checked, you can also rest assured that the stitch count is correct as well.

    2. With the entire outside edge of the design stitched, there is always a concrete reference point if you would like to move around and stitch somewhere else on the design. Just remember to always count in from an edge, and not from the stitching you've just completed, in case you've miscounted somehow! I heartily recommend moving around if you have stitched the outside edge first: it serves to break the design down into "small designs" within the big design: and gives one a sense of accomplishment and a much-needed psychological "boost". It also helps to keep boredom at bay!

  • Basting the darker 10th chart grid lines directly onto the fabric using light-colored sewing thread is another trick stitchers use to stay properly oriented. It's a bit time-consuming, but works very well. Just be sure that the chart is actually divided into 10 X 10 blocks. With this method, you will always have "concrete" reference points (the basted grid lines), which will allow you to move around on the design. I recommend this technique if there is no border, or you make frequent mistakes in counting.

  • How do I "keep my place" on the chart? It's easy to become "lost" with some of my complex charts...

    1. Some stitchers "color in" the areas of the chart they've already stitched using highlighting markers (the fluorescent colors that allow the chart symbols to show through). If you've made a photocopy, this method works fine, and the original chart remains undamaged.

    2. Some stitcher laminate their charts, which allows them to mark on the plastic without harming the chart, and also eliminates the photocopying aspect.

    3. Because I am so very color-oriented, and have a difficult time distinguishing all those small black symbols from one another as I'm stitching, my favorite method consists of making an enlarged copy, and then coloring in the blocks using colored pencils. The colors I use have absolutely no bearing on the actual floss colors used, I simply use the most visible colors: the ones I can most easily distinguish at a glance. Whatever works, is my motto!

Finally, some common sense things to remember:

  • Large pieces of needlework require alot of handling. For that reason, be sure your hands are very clean when you stitch. Resist the urge to touch the stitches, especially the front of your work.

  • Extra caution is required if you are stitching using a hoop. In moving the hoop around on your work, the stitches are distorted and stressed. It takes a surprisingly small amount of friction to make floss begin to lose its sheen and "pill". Additionally, unless a hoop is moved frequently, the inevitable "ring" develops: dirt and dust adhere to the minuscule amounts of oil even clean hands leave behind.

  • When using stretcher bars, onto which the fabric is rolled, be sure the finished stitching is rolled "under" instead of "over" the bars. When stitching is rolled "under" the back of the stitching takes any wear and tear. If the stitching is rolled"over" the bars, the exposed stitches must take the stress, and will show the wear very quickly.

  • If you store needlework for any amount of time, do not leave needles in the fabric; they may rust.

© 2000-2013, Teresa Wentzler.  All images and information on this website owned and copyrighted by Teresa Wentzler, PO Box 176, Montoursville, PA 17754, USA. All rights reserved.