How To Back Stitch

You've completed your first cross-stitch project.  All of those endless rows of little X's are finished.  You may think it's ready to frame and hang on the wall.  But look more closely - do some of the edges seem blocky?  Does the design just not quite "pop"?  It's back-stitching to the rescue! 

Back-stitching is basically just outlining each section of your project.  It can be used to smooth edges, round corners and give general definition to detailed areas.  It's also sometimes used for lettering.

  1. Thread an embroidery needle with an appropriate color of floss.  How many strands you will need depends on the fabric count.  If you're using basic 14-count Aida cloth, you will usually use two strands.  If your thread count is greater than this, use just one strand.
  2. Choose a relatively linear area in which to begin.  Run the threaded needle under several stitches on the back of the work to secure the thread.
  3. Think of the first four squares as points A, B, C and D.  You will want to move the needle to the front of the fabric at point B.  Go back down at point A.  Go back up at point D and down at point C.  Continue this looping motion until the line is complete.
  4. When you are ready to cut the thread and move to another section, run the needle under several stitches on the back side again to secure the thread.  Do not tie knots to secure the thread.  Knots can easily pop through to the front side of your work.  They may also cause small bulges when you frame your project.
  5. You can go across more than one square at a time, as long as they're all in a straight row.  Try not to go across more than three squares, however.  Your back-stitching may not lay flat or you may inadvertently pull the thread too tight and cause puckering.
  6. There are many variations on back-stitching.  Some people prefer to do a basic running stitch, leaving gaps in between each stitch.  Then, when you reach the end of a section, you simply work back across the area again, filling in the gaps.  Others prefer an "up at point A, down at point B, up at point D, down at point C" approach.  This method tends to use less thread.  The method you use depends entirely upon your personal preferences.

After you've finished your back-stitching, look at your work again.  You'll notice that it looks much more polished.  Back-stitching is very time-consuming, but the results are worth it.


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