I’ve heard a shocking amount of people talk about the backs of the cross stitch, including some of my stitching friends. And honestly; no one cares. At all.
Here’s the thing; the back of your cross stitch CAN be neat, but sometimes it just CAN’T. The reason is all about the pattern.
 
Let’s explain with some examples. Here, we have a fantastic Mew cross stitch by The Celtic Crafter. Its a pattern made up of about 4 colors and they’re all nicely placed, so the back is nice and neat.

Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter (source: thecelticcrafter.blogspot.com)
Mew cross stitch back by The Celtic Crafter (source: thecelticcrafter.blogspot.com)

However let’s take another example, of a highly skilled cross stitcher, My Poppet Makes, who’s back looks a little less clean. Now, this back HAS to be like that, with small stitches all around and colors on both sides of the work, the threads have to jump on the back, with its small size making them look much less neat. But let’s be clear; its not better or worse. Just less neat.
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)
Cross Stitch Backs by My Poppet Makes (source: mypoppet.com.au)

So I should never care about the back of my work?

You often hear people talk about the back of your work in terms of two things; framing and skill. So let’s address both.

Framing

I’ve heard a few people mention this, even really experienced stitchers, however, the back has no impact on the framing of cross stitch. The issue comes from home framing and people not using the correct framing system. You can check out a great guide on framing cross stitch, in which we mention the use of foam board. This foam; super important. It means that any of those little messy blemishes on the back are hidden, and can’t be seen when framing.

Skill

Here’s where those naysayers are slightly right. When stitching the lack of mess on the back of your works usually means you’re more economical. Some take this to mean skill. However, we circle back around to the original statement; sometimes you can’t make a clean back. I know people might be nervous about their work, so I’ve taken an example from Shutterstock that shows the back is sometimes just messy, and its all thanks to the pattern. This pattern has colors all over it, with floating confetti stitch plenty, meaning you just won’t be able to make it neat.

Shutterstock cross stitch backside example (source: Shutterstock)
Shutterstock cross stitch backside example (source: Shutterstock)

If you’re still bothered by the comments though, be rest assured that your back will be cleaner as time goes on and you learn those little secrets about cross stitch. But don’t be surprised when sometimes your back is a mess! It happens.

So where does the rumor come from?

When the Japanese first came across cross stitch when a samurai accidentally brought cross stitch to Japan we started seeing neat backs. Backs that were far neater than European examples and the idea that the backs should be similar to the fronts came with it. However, that’s simply down to culture. Japanese people have a rich history with embroidery, and in particular, sashiko, which includes a stitch called ‘cross stitch’. You can see what when counted cross stitch came to Japan is was obvious that they would follow the same rules they did for their sashiko. One of these rules, in particular, is that the front should look like the back. This is mostly down to how they stitch sashiko, but when the European’s started seeing Asian cross stitch the rumor came about that they were far more skilled and everyone should try to make their backs neat.

Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)
Hitomezashi sashiko (source: sakepuppets.com)

 

 

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This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Whynotstl

    Just my two cents for what it is worth— of making the back painstakingly neat makes a very slow-moving craft even slower and “nerve wracking” as one comment put it— why bother? I stitch to let my mind go blank a little and to get my head out of work and stress. Spending may already limited mental and emotional bandwidth trying to make something more complicated than necessary just isn’t my idea of a good time. There are people on The cross stitch subreddit that constantly show their backs, and I guess to each his own, but it earns an from me.

  2. Marilyn Schermerhorn

    I was taught cross stitch by my dear old Mom and she always said that the back of the piece should look as good as the front of the piece. She also said that if you have to cross over more than 3 stitches then you are to slide the thread under a least 4 stitch and cut it off and than start closer to the area you wish to work on. I have done some very complicated pieces and the back has always been neat. It is very nerve racking and time consuming but it can be done.

  3. Theresa

    So, I’ve seen a few reverse side cross stitch where the stitcher ran their thread across the stitched part using the same color, essentially hiding the stitches with the thread. I can’t quite figure out how they did it without taking it apart which I don’t want to do, so does anyone else do this and if so, provide some techniques? Thanks

    1. LordLibidan

      Hey Theresa,
      Do you have a picture you could send us? Sounds interesting…

  4. KAH

    Hmmm… I’m doing a cross-stitch pattern that involves, first, crocheting the backing ‘cloth’ as a uniform pattern of open squares, then cross-stitching the pattern onto this panel of what will eventually be a blanket (a ‘throw’). So I’d imagine that having the back side as neat as possible would be called for in this use of cross-stitch. Any thoughts on this? (I’m a crochet person and this will be my first attempt at cross-stitch!)

    1. LordLibidan

      Hi Kah,
      Firstly, that’s a bold first project! Many cross stitchers stay away from stitching on non-regular fabrics.
      But, as you said, yes, it would be best to try and keep the back of your work as neat as possible. However, regardless of how neat the back of your work is, it will always look like the back of your work. I would personally suggest making a backed blanket, that way the back of the cross stitch will be hidden inside your blanket, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like!

  5. Alison

    I’d never thought about the back being messy because of the pattern, that’s interesting.
    We’ve run lots of cross stitch workshops, mainly aimed at kids, at festivals over the summer. Lots of boys and girls have had a fantastic time learning something new and creating something they are proud of. If anyone has asked, we’ve told them the back doesn’t matter (and sometimes the front, to be totally honest) because if it comes down to enjoying themselves versus feeling a failure, I know what feeling I want them to take home with them.
    If you want to care about the back of your work, go for it. If you don’t, don’t! Personally, it matters to me but that’s only cos I’m a control freak 🙂

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