Working on Linen

If you're new to working on linen, even if you've worked on other evenweaves, such as congress cloth, there are some tricks and tips that will make learning to stitch on this fabric easier.

When you look at the linen, you will see that the threads are not all the same size. Moreover, if you follow a thread across the fabric, you will see that a single thread changes size! The threads are "fat" and "thin," and sometimes there are "lumps" (called "slubs"). Yes, as you have deduced, your cross stitches will vary in size, but only minutely. "This is part of the charm of linen," says my mom.

Another you'll see when you look at the linen is that there is a lot of "air" in the weave. This means the weave is delicate. Actually, the linen threads that make up the fabric are -very- strong; it's just the weave that looks weak. The linen threads do move around in the weave, too.

The way to combat the "mobile" threads that make up the linen: start southwest of a vertical thread. If your first cross stitch leg goes like this - - / - - that is, from SW to NE, the leg will be going over that intersection with the vertical thread on top.

Take a moment and look at the cloth. Use magnification, if necessary. Look at two adjacent thread intersections. Do you see that one of them has a horizontal thread on top and the other has the vertical thread on top? You want to send your needle up in the hole to the bottom and left of ("SW of") the intersection where the vertical thread of the linen is on top.

When the first leg of the cross stitch is made over the vertical intersection, this helps stabilize the intersection.

There's another reason to start SW of a vertical thread.

Perhaps you have had the experience of having a cross stitch leg "disappear" under an intersection? Disappear to the point where you wonder whether you forgot to stitch that leg yet?

What probably has happened is that the thread has slipped down under that horizontal thread which was on top of the intersection. Think of that horizontal thread as a pocket on a jacket. Your diagonal thread slipped down into it.

If you think of the vertical thread as a tree, then your diagonal doesn't have anything to slip down into at all. There's no pocket on a tree!

This is what you want to simulate when you stitch on linen. Start with the "tree" on the top of the intersection so you don't form a "pocket."

Supposedly this "SW hole" is larger than the others, but I've never been able to see that this is so.

I do know, though, that starting SW of a vertical thread will keep your stitch from disappearing and will stabilize the intersection, so I do it!

copyright 1999, Martha Beth Lewis
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