Should You Bother With Railroading?

I love the idea of railroading. The idea that you can make a perfect stitch, and by doing so improve the overall look of your finished cross stitch. But I don’t do it. I can do it, and I have in the past completed whole projects, but most of my projects aren’t stitched with railroading in mind.
 
Recently I spoke about one of my favorite tools, a laying tool, which can be used for far more than railroading. However this got me thinking, why don’t I use it for its original purpose? So I investigated, I stitched, I canvased for other people’s views, and today we ask; should you be railroading?
 
There are many advantages and disadvantages to railroading, and before I go any further, I won’t be coming to a conclusive answer; that’s up to you, but we will be detailing all of these to give you the lowdown on if it’s really worth the effort.

railroaded cross stitch (source: craftster)
Railroaded cross stitch (source: craftster)

Ease

We’ll start with the biggest thing standing in the way of people railroading; effort. No one wants the idea of a problematic and long-winded process that may or may not be worth it.

Time

The second big factor in people not wanting to railroad is speed, or more specifically it taking longer to stitch. Well, this is just a myth. Railroading does require you to stitch a set way, and any change in the way you stitch will cause you to be slower initially, however, once you have the technique down, it’s not a problem.
And even if you are worried, all of the ways to cross stitch faster can be used when railroading anyway.

Neatness

Whilst ease and time are big factors in not wanting to railroad, the biggest positive is neatness. And to be fair to railroading, it does, without a doubt make your stitches look neater. Most images you see online are hard to pick up if it’s railroaded or not, but if you look at the below picture it can be super obvious on a stitch per stitch basis, let alone a whole project when viewed in person.
 
So is it worth it? Well, maybe. It all depends on how neat of a stitcher you currently are. I said earlier that I don’t currently railroad, and the reason for this is that my stitches are pretty neat already. I make sure I unwind my thread regularly, I use short lengths, and I always make sure to stitch in the same direction across the piece, both in terms of topstitch and generally the way I stitch (there are lots of places to start your cross stitch). But these techniques were learned over a decade or more of cross stitching. Had I gone back in time, I think I would have made the effort to learn railroading straight away as it would have been the same amount of effort, and would have resulted in neater stitches.

Examples of normal cross stitch (left) and railroaded stitch (right). (source: Pinterest)

Fuller stitches/Coverage

One of the lesser discussed advantages of railroading is coverage. This is actually a really important part of cross stitch and one that gets regularly asked. In short, railroading allows the floss to sit better and look like a fuller cross stitch. This is undeniable; it does exactly that. However, the importance of this is something worth discussing.
 
When stitching on 14 count aida, I use 2 threads on light aida, and 3 on dark aida. The reason for this is coverage. By changing the amount of thread you stitch with, you create a fuller stitch. And whilst railroading does fill out the cross stitch and give slightly better coverage, so long as you’re stitching with the number of threads suited to your fabric and count, then making a fuller stitch isn’t something you need.

Cross stitches with different amounts of strands of threads on 18 count aida, 14 count aida, 11 count aida and 9 count aida (Source: better-cross-stitch-patterns.com)

Do you bother railroading? If so, what makes it worth it to you?
And if you don’t do you find you would prefer neater more time-efficient stitches?
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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