The Parts of a Stitch Guide

peacock bracelet form bongo, stitched by Janet Perry in Kreinik metallics
Needlepoint Stitch Guides can be confusing at first. Understanding the parts of a guide and why they are there can help you find your way when stitching from one and help you know if the product you have bought will make it easier to stitch the canvas.

Picture: A guide with a picture of the stitched canvas is preferable to a guide without one. In some cases, such as custom guides, there is no model, so there is no picture.

Often a picture will help you understand where a thread is used or how an area is stitched. They should always be in color, although additional pictures in black and white can be helpful.

Materials List: A complete list of threads and other materials should be included with every guide, preferably at least twice. One should be able to be seen through the packaging, so you can pull the threads without pulling out the guide. The second should be within the guide itself.

It should list everything needed and should include the manufacturer information. You may be unfamiliar with a thread and knowing who makes it will make it easier for you to find.

The amounts should also be included. While the convention in needlepoint is to have amounts for each thread, if there is no amount listed. assume one unit (card, spool, or skein) is needed.

If materials from your stash are needed, that should be indicated here as well.

Designer and Canvas Information: Needlepoint stitch guides should clearly identify the designer, the name of the canvas, if possible, and the number. This information, sometimes along with the picture, should be sufficient for you to identify which guide goes with which canvas, should they get separated.

If possible the writer of the guide and that contact information should be included.

If the guide was written by or for a shop, that should be included as well.

This information is important in case guide and canvas get separated, or if you have questions you would like to ask the writer or shopowner. If no writer is listed, assume the designer wrote the guide.

Section Breaks: It’s a pet peeve but I hate needlepoint stitch guides for sets of canvases where I can’t tell where one thing ends and another begins. If I don’t stitch the canvases in the same order, how do I know where to find the correct part of the guide?

A guide covering a set of canvases should have two extra elements in it. First, there should be a clear indication of where the guide for one canvas ends and the next begins. Second, if there are elements which are the same in every canvas, like borders or backgrounds those instructions should be grouped together at the front of the instructions and not repeated over and over.

Copying: Sometimes areas of a canvas need to be photocopied in order to act as a reference for stitching. It’s very frustrating to discover this after you have been stitching. It should be noted up front.

But usually you can catch this during you first read through of needlepoint stitch guides. If you do, highlight it and make your copy as quickly as possible.

Just remember the canvas design is copyright to the designer and your photocopy is only a work copy and should be destroyed once the design is stitched.

Diagrams: Most stitches in needlepoint stitch guides require a diagram. Some don’t, either because they are too common, like Basketweave, or too hard to draw, like French Knots. The best place for a diagram is in the text, where it is used. When this stitch is used again, it should refer back to that original diagram.

A second, and much worse, choice, is to refer to stitches in a generally accepted reference book, like The Needlepoint Book. If this is done a name and page number should always be supplied.

A bad solution is to group all stitches together in one place in the guide. This makes the guide harder to read and harder to use. It’s a pain to be flipping back and forth constantly.

Instructions: Depending on the guide, the instructions given can be all over the place. A one page guide might only list the area, the stitch and he thread. More complex needlepoint stitch guides might give you in-depth instruction on less common techniques. You might even feel as if the writer of the guide is there being your teacher.

Which level of guide is right depends on the canvas and on your level of stitching knowledge. A simple canvas might only need a one page guide. More complex techniques might require lots of explanation.

This is where it really makes send to see the picture or look at the guide. If there is a technique which is unfamiliar to you, is it explained? Do you think you could stitch from the explanation, even if it seems confusing on first read through? This is where custom guides can really shine. The writer of these needlepoint stitch guides is writing for you, and should take into account your requests. Do you hate rayon? It shouldn’t be in the guide. Do you want to learn to use silk threads? The guide should use silk instead of cotton.

Finally, I see a guide as always being a way to increase needlepoint knowledge. So if a technique or a stitch will work well for other kinds of canvases, I’m going to let you know. No matter how successful I am as a designer of guides, I can’t write them for everything, so I want you to use what I have shown you when you encounter this situation again.

Resources: If your guide is not exclusive to a shop, having a list of manufacturers for the materials used is a nice touch, You can use to to find a shop in your area which carries the item or your shop can use it to get the item for you.

A Personal Note: When I started writing guides, I thought long and hard about what I wanted as a stitcher and what frustrated me. That influenced the structure of my guides. But that is always changing. If there is something you would like to see in guides, or a problem you are having with a guide, just ask me.

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