How to Do Partial Stitches

Partial stitches come in three delightful flavors--half-stitch, quarter-stitch, and three-quarter-stitch. They're very handy for detail work, shading, and rounding shapes to avoid the stair-step look. Partial stitches are also confusing!

Let's dispense with the half-stitch right away: it's the bottom leg of the cross stitch. That's all.

"Half-stitch" is a misnomer, really, because the stitch does not fill half the area available. Two of the corners will still be vacant.

You often read of the "half-cross" stitch in needlepoint directions, and this may be where the term "half- stitch" originated. Half-cross in needlepoint is the same thing as the half-stitch in cross stitch. The half- cross looks the same on the front, needlepointwise, as the tent/continental/basketweave stitch but uses a lot less wool to stitch. On the back of the work is only an upright stitch-- | --instead of a slanted stitch-- / -- which means that this stitch wears less well for things such as footstool or chair seats. Half-cross also tends to distort the canvas more than other stitches, basketweave in particular, because of the consistent pull in only one direction.

In cross stitch, half-stitch is often used for shading (shadow of the object), background objects (trees in the far background), or to really lighten the color (sky, clouds). The effect of half-stitches is better when seen from a distance!

Half-stitch isn't used that often, in my experience. The partial stitches that are used quite a bit are quarter-stitch and three-quarter-stitch.

Taken separately, these two stitches cover half the area of a full cross stitch, with the three-quarter-stitch looking more "complete."

A one-quarter-stitch is from one corner to the middle (where the legs of the x would cross).

A three-quarter-stitch is a one-quarter-stitch plus a half-stitch.

The stitches themselves are simple enough. The problem is interpreting the chart! When you have two colors sharing a box on the chart, the general rule is that the object closer to the viewer gets the three- quarter-stitch. The object farther away gets the one-quarter-stitch. For example, suppose it's an apron on a dress. The apron color would be the three-quarter-stitch and the dress color would be the one-quarter- stitch because the apron lies atop the dress and is thus "closer" to the viewer. Other ways to describe this relationship are foreground/background and front/behind.

Sometimes this guideline doesn't work. Maybe neither object is closer to the viewer. Now ask yourself: what is the function of this pair of partial stitches? It might be a "fabric pattern" in a figure's clothing. Maybe the piece "needs" one color to appear more than it needs other, for purposes of balance. You may find that you need to skip these combination stitches until more of the area around them is complete; then come back and see if it's more obvious which color should be the larger partial stitch. (If there is no particular reason to select one color over the other, I often make the three-quarter stitch in the color I *like* better! Not scientific, but it pleases me!)

There's still another chart problem as regards partial stitches! This one involves backstitch!

What happens when a chart square has two colors in it -and- a backstitch line through it?! There are two schools of thought. (1) Do two one-quarter-stitches--one of each color--and let the backstitch line function also as the half-stitch. (2) Do one one-quarter-stitch and one three-quarter-stitch and place the backstitch on top of all.

I generally use the second solution, as backstitch is often done with fewer strands than the cross stitches, and two one-quarter-stitches + the half-stitch/backstitch looks "thin" to me. Try it both ways and see what looks better to -you- in the situation you have.

It's also very feasible to do partials stitches on aida. copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis
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