Do you have friends who look at the back of cross stitch projects you do and say, “The back is supposed to be as neat as the front you know”? I’m sure every cross stitcher has had that happen to them at some point, whether it was from a friend or a family member. Many people become disheartened with the hours they’ve spent on a project when they hear this claim (even from non-stitchers). Some stitchers even quit cross stitch and embroidery forever, because they think they’re doing it wrong, or they feel so judged they don’t ever want to show anyone their work again.
This is such an incredible shame! Nowadays, with all the many modern ways of decorating fabric and clothing, cross stitch and embroidery has moved from a functional craft to one of pure enjoyment and relaxation. To think that you’re doing it “wrong” completely defeats the whole point of creating a lovely stitched piece for relaxation and maybe even a piece of cherished home decor or an heirloom.
The topic of how neat the back of cross stitch pieces need to be is highly controversial, incredibly enough. Many admins of online forums and groups won’t even permit photographs of the reverse side of pieces, simply because people get very cantankerous and have very firmly held beliefs. It’s possible that this concept of having a neat back stems from traditional embroidery techniques. Some traditional styles of embroidery (like Italian blackwork) are indeed reversible. In that case, stitches like the Holbein stitch (or double running stitch) are used to create a fully reversible garment or project. Cross stitch on the other hand is not a fully reversible stitch, and the back will never look exactly the same as the front simply because of the way it’s formed.
So, if you enjoy making the backs of your pieces look as neat as possible, please continue to do so! It’s actually amazing how many stitchers have the patience and skills to do that. But if you don’t want to worry about what the back looks like, please don’t! Stitching is meant to be enjoyable, and there are so many ways to stitch as each person is an individual.
But there are instances when you do want to take care with what the back of your cross stitch piece looks like, and these are outlined in the video below. A summary of the tips can be found below the video, and links as discussed in the video.
Tips about the back of cross stitch projects
- If you’re entering it into a fair or competition to be judged, they’ll want the back very neat and tidy.
- If you’re using very fine and delicate fabric with dark floss colours, you’ll want to not carry your floss too far across open areas or it will be seen from the front.
- You don’t want giant lumps of knots and tangles at the back, as they’ll make the front look lumpy when the piece is framed.
- If you travel really far between stitches without ending and restarting your thread, you may find you use up more floss (which may be a problem if you have a kit with a limited amount of each colour).
Links mentioned in the video:
- Vintage Sass cross stitch pattern collection (the patterns featured in the video)
- Cayce Zavaglia’s embroidery art
- How to frame your cross stitch tutorial
- Loop method and pin stitch tutorial
- Pin stitch on linen tutorial
- Sign up for free cross stitch patterns
If you have any questions or comments, or if you disagree with me, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your point of view!