We had a class last night on needlepoint borders and I thought I would share some of the information with you while it is still fresh in my mind. I discovered while doing research on needlepoint borders that there is not really a whole lot of information on the subject out there in cyberspace so let's hope this brief entry helps to start the ball rolling.
I focused the class' attention last night on easy-to-do, no-count (or very little counting required) borders. Our first example was just an elongated continental stitch. When this stitch is done over two, three or more canvas intersections using a cord-type thread (such as perle cotton or Kreinik braid) it appears as a rope. It is most attractive and very simple and in a contrasting or complementary color it could serve as a fine border either all the way around a piece or as a dividing line between sections of a piece.
One thing that we talked about was the fact that we often think of borders as the stitches that surround an entire canvas but of course there can be borders within a canvas as well. Borders can also be accomplished in tent stitch using a variety of colors and a repeated decorative pattern (that is they do not have to be decorative stitches). The decorative stitches employed in a border need not be complicated either. A border can be built by grouping simple elements such as the one border that we did in class that consisted of satin stitches with a row of continental above and below in a contrasting color. Again, simple but effective.
Borders don't have to be difficult. We also explored using Scotch stitches but alternating their direction. We did this using Neon Rays and the light reflected off of the Scotch stitches differently and created an interesting effect (this is especially nice when done in gold).
Borders are a useful device for focusing a viewer's attention. They can give a sense of completeness to a design, make a painted canvas more your own and in the best cases they enhance a design. If you haven't yet incorporated a border into a needlework project, give one a try. Keep in mind however that once the piece is finished one usually looses a row or two of stitches on the outside edge of the project so it might be a wise idea to stitch a couple of rows of basketweave beyond your border thus ensuring that your border will be fully viewable.
Some stitches to consider using in a border are: Slanted Gobelin, Jacquard, Long-Armed Cross, Rice, Leaf and Algerian Eye. The Rice stitch is a particularly attractive stitch that we did in the class using metallic thread for the tie-down portion. I love the way this looks but was shocked when I compared it to an earlier version I have done of the Rice stitch using a black Kreinik braid and silver floss. They look totally different which just goes to show that you need to practice whatever it is that you plan on using for your border to make sure that it has the look that you were going for.
Forethought when it comes to borders is an excellent idea. It can save you a lot of headaches. Counting the number of threads available to you both horizontally and vertically and then choosing a stitch that divides evenly into those numbers will save you a lot of headaches. Sometimes of course it is not possible to find a stitch that divides evenly into the number of canvas threads available. In these cases you can explore using a medallion on the four corners that will fill in and provide you with the number of canvas threads that you desire both on the top/bottom and on the sides.
One easy medallion that we explored was comprised of four mosaic stitches, the upper right mosaic stitch slanted up and to the left, the upper left mosaic stitch slanted up and to the right. The direction in which the stitches slanted were alternated in the bottom row and the finished look is illustrated above. Again, a simple but effective and useful stitch.
The last thing that we explored in class was how to miter a corner employing Gobelin stitches. This is a simple matter of stepping back the stitch one thread at a time, turning the canvas 90 degrees and then stepping the stitch up one canvas thread until it is the original size once again. The finished result is like magic. Be sure to add a fill-in continental stitch in the corner to give it a full and complete look and voila -- you've turned a corner in a very professional way. And you thought you couldn't do it!
Before I go I just want to acknowledge June McKnight for her book on Needlepoint Borders. It was the inspiration for the class and the second example of the Rice stitch came from a sampler that I did of stitches from her excellent spiral-bound, index card sized book. I highly recommend it.