April 26, 2013

Tapestry for Beginners: Part 2 – Starting to Stitch

So, you’ve got the equipment – now what?! In this post I’m going take you through how to actually get started on your tapestry, showing you how to prepare your equipment and do a basic stitch. If you still need to get your equipment have a look at Part 1.

As a beginner you only need to use one stitch and follow a pattern to get impressive results. As you progress you may wish to use other more complicated stitches or make your own pattern but many people never do. If you follow these steps you’ll be well on your way to completing your first tapestry!

1. Preparing the Canvas


Cut your canvas piece to size ensuring that it is no wider across than your canvas and will therefore lie flat. The length needs to be big enough to fit your design with a sizeable border around it. You can leave it rather large as the canvas can just be wound up with the frame and cut away after you have finished. Depending on which frame you bought you will fix the canvas to it in different ways. If you have bought an easy clip frame you can simply clip each end of your canvas piece to each end of the frame. If you have a traditional frame you will need to hand stitch the canvas onto the strip of fabric at each end of your frame. In both cases you need to roll each end of your frame until you have a taut surface to work on.

2. Preparing the Needle


You will need to cut a length of your woolof no longer than about 45cm. If it is much longer than this it may get tangled as you stitch, it may also be pulled thin from all the yanking it through the canvas! Thread this length through the needle with quite a lot of overlap to prevent it from coming undone as you stitch. Make sure you shorten this overlap as you stitch though to ensure you don’t end up with double thickness stitches!

 3. Begin Stitching

When stitching from a pattern it is best to begin with the design and complete large blocks of colour (often the background) last. Pick an area somewhere near the centre of your pattern to begin. The easiest stitch and the one most commonly used in patterns is called tent stitch. There are three variations on how to work tent stitch but I am only going to explain the half cross stitch method. Some people argue that this produces a less hard-wearing tapestry but I have never had any problems with it and it uses less wool than the other methods! This tent stich is simply one half of a cross stitch with all stitches worked in the same direction along each row or column. When you have completed one line you simply come back along the next line in the other direction. This produces even, slanted stitches on the front and small, straight stitches on the back. Image

On your first stitch make sure you leave a bit of the wool length at the back of the canvas. This needs to be ‘caught’ by your first few stitches in order to secure it and prevent your stitches from being pulled out. This is easily done by holding it in place as you stitch over it.

 4. Securing the End of the Wool


When you are coming to the end of your piece of wool, or perhaps you don’t need that particular colour any more, you need to secure the end to prevent your stitches from being pulled out. There are two methods to doing this, I use this first one. Pull your wool out in an empty square to the front of the canvas. Make sure you do this a little distance away from where you were stitching. This will mean that as you continue to stitch you will ‘catch’ the end of the wool, once again securing it. Once it has been caught you are able to pull it out and cut it off. Make sure it has been caught before you come to stitch in the square it is coming out of! The second method is to simply thread the wool back through a couple of the previous stitches. Either method is fine!

That’s basically it! Sorry if the instructions don’t quite make sense – it’s surprisingly hard to explain something simple in a way that will make sense. Part 3 will go through what to do when you’ve finished your pattern but if you have any problems or questions let me know and I can do a trouble-shooter post too.

I’ve been given a tapestry commission this week which I’m very excited about – I’ll share some updates with you as I work through it. I also finished this rose cushion a couple of days ago, do you like it?


I can’t wait to see the tapestries you create!




Can somebody explain to me how to do the background in tent stitch
starting in one corner and working out. I gather it is a better finish than
working across in rows?

Cootchy Tennant

Please could u tell me how much edge on the tapastry I should leave so it can b stretched and made into a cushion thank you Cootchy


Hi Cootchy, We’d probably leave a couple of inches to be safe – you want to make sure you don’t lose any stitches off the edge! After you’ve sewn it on to your backing you can always trim the seam allowance.


What would you reccomend better for tapestry, cross stitch or tent (continental) stitch?


I have trouble doing stitches where the corners are ,when they are triangles .I dont’ know where exactly I should start my stitch so that it looks even .


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