Tent Stitch - how to work three variations

When it comes to needlepoint, tent stitch is a classic choice. It's perfect for filling in detailed designs, like those butterflies on the cushion.

It's a simple stitch that involves bringing the needle up through the fabric at one point and then down at another point diagonally across from it, creating a short, slanted stitch on the front of your work.

But did you know there are actually three different ways to work tent stitch?

Each one creates a different effect on the reverse, so you can choose the best technique for your canvas and the final look you want to achieve. And remember, tent stitch is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adding texture and interest to your embroidery. There are so many other stitches waiting for you to discover them!


Half Cross Stitch

This is, as it sounds, just the first leg of a cross stitch. To work it follow the guide I gave for cross stitch, without making the return journey.

This is probably the easiest method of working, but it does tend to distort the canvas whilst stitching is in progress. You may end up with a twisted or skewed project rather than a nice straight piece of work.

As there is little thread on the back of the canvas using this stitch does not make for a very hardwearing finished item.

How to do Continental stitch

Working the tent stitch in this manner creates a nice padded reverse side, but it does use more thread than half cross stitch - something to keep in mind if you are working a kit, as you may find you run out of yarn if the quantities were calculated on half cross stitch.

Start the top row by following the numbering on the diagram. 

Each stitch is worked in a downwards diagonal direction over 1 canvas thread (or two if you are using Penelope canvas).

Take the needle back up to 3 to start the second, leaving a longer diagonal stitch on the back (as shown by my darker blue lines on the diagram).

When you reach the end of the row, you need to start each stitch at the bottom and head upwards as shown by the arrows. You will get one vertical stitch on the back where you change direction. Continue in this manner to complete the second row.

How to do Basketweave needlepoint stitch

The neatest method of working tent stitch is with the basketweave stitch. This time you are working in diagonal rows. Start with the blue lines on the diagram. Each stitch is heading upwards but the actual row is going down the fabric. You will get an almost vertical stitch on the reverse.

As with the method above this way of working does use a little more yarn, and a little extra concentration is also needed.

I have shown the second row in pink. 

You start with stitch a-b and this time both the stitches and the row are going upwards. The stitches on the back will be almost horizontal.

This variation gets its name from the basketweave appearance it forms on the back after a few rows. In fact you can easily tell if you have made a mistake by tell tale stitches going in the wrong direction and spoiling the "weave".

It takes a bit more practice but basketweave doesn't tend to pull the canvas out of shape, making it ideal for large areas of background. For smaller areas, with lots of colour changes, it may be easier to use the continental version.

I hope this helps you decide which form of tent stitch to use for your next needlepoint project.

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