Bermuda sloop part five: Gap in the sails

In my quest to create a Bermuda sloop in a series of tiny Xs on a piece of soft bread cloth, I managed to mess up my pattern.

Messing up is not unusual for me. Most crafters would agree with me on this: A project that goes off without a single error anywhere is rare. Doubly so in my case. The mistakes do not stop me from wanting to create beautiful things, but they do frustrate me, especially when the mistakes stem from something as simple as an assumption.

Which brings us to the gap in my Bermuda sloop sails. As I explained in last week’s column, I was forced to skip an area in my cross stitch due to not having the proper color of thread to work with. I began stitching with the next color I had available to me in the pattern, and had miscounted my initial run of nine stitches in this color.

I stitched eight little Xs instead of nine. Not realizing my mistake, I read the pattern and continued with the color on the assumption that all nine stitches were present, using the “fact” as my guidepost for all other stitches in that sail.

When the sail began to take shape, I realized that I had a gap in my sail. One stitch was blank, empty, almost the whole way down the sail. I stared at this awkward diagonal line and debated what I should do to repair it. Picking a random color and just filling in the whole way wouldn’t work. That would just make a strange line in the middle of the pattern. But at the same time, I really didn’t want to go back and fill in each stitch individually.

To make matters worse, there were places where I had stitched the background from the left to the right in the correct manner, and places where I had realized the gap existed and filled them in with an extra stitch here or there. Which meant the edge of my sail would end up being jagged unless I could figure out how to repair it all.

Cross stitching is not like knitting or crocheting. If you find a problem in the work, taking stitches out is by no means easy. If the string that was being used when the mistake occurred is still the active one, the stitches can be picked out from the front of the cross stitch using the needle, assuming you can remember the order the stitches were made in.

Since I tend to make my stitches in running order instead of one at a time, I will often stitch twenty or more half-stitches before I turn the stitches around and put the other leg of the X in place.

This becomes a problem when trying to pick out stitches, because the first leg of the X can only be removed when the bottom leg stitched after it was removed first.

Unless the string has already been secured, that is. When the end of the string is reached, and no more stitches can be created with that bit of thread, I flip to the back of the work and tuck the thread under a couple of other stitches. This must be done with skill – capture enough of the threads to hold the loose end in place, but not carrying through so that the thread being anchored can be seen on the other side.

Once the thread is looped through twice, it is cut off very close to the material. This method of anchoring is great for making the end of the thread vanish in the work, but frustrating if the thread later needs to be picked out so that stitches can be removed. A new thread is secured in a similar fashion before it is used for stitches.

As a rule, any two stitches can only be used once to anchor a thread, whether it is at its beginning or end. To do more would risk making large bumps on the back of the piece when it is finished.

Attempting to spare myself this frustration, I decided that the only way to go about actually filling in the gap would be to adjust each line back and forth, bringing the background over one extra stitch here and taking the sail over one extra stitch there, to create an overall smooth appearance for the edge of the sail.

I was forced to change colors several times. Soon, I was having to hunt for stitches on the back of the fabric that were close enough to the stitch location to use as an anchor point, but not already in use to anchor another thread.

Finally, I filled in that pesky gap and was able to move on to the bow of the boat. Join me next week as I clean up the first page of the cross stitch and switch gears to work on the second page.


Gretchen Richards is a reporter at the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She is a fifth-generation artisan, skilled in numerous art forms. She enjoys sewing her own clothing and custom purses, making quilts, and weaving. She is skilled in knitting, crochet, embroidery, counted-cross stitch, and working with cloth of all types. Gretchen also paints with acrylic, practices calligraphy, and is skilled in metal-working and book binding.