Why is it called RAILROADING anyway?

Railroading is a term used in cross stitch a lot. For some it means the hell of trying to do the technique, for others, it means the height of perfect stitches. However, whenever I’ve asked about the name, everyone gave me the same answer. Until I finally researched it myself and found out they were only half correct.

What is railroading?

Before we go any further though, let’s establish what railroading actually is. Simply put, its the act of laying the threads flat against your work in a fashion that allows each thread to be viewed separately. OK, that’s not that simple, but that’s the correct definition of railroading.

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

As the threads are placed down, you specifically have to split the two threads apart so they lay flat against the aida like the example above. The example is done with two strands, but you can do it with one to a million if you wanted, it’s about making them lay correctly.

When and how should you use it?

Railroading can be done in a few different ways, however, you can also use it slightly differently too. The point of railroading is good coverage and a neat finish, however, you hardly even see the bottom stitch. That’s why unless you’re making something for a competition I would suggest using normal stitch on the bottom, with railroading on the topstitch.

A quick guide on how to do it

To railroad, you can either use a specific tool (laying tool) or simply change the way you stitch. I prefer altering the way I stitch slightly. When pulling the stitch taught, once you’ve ‘stabbed’ it in, push the needle into the exposed thread and run it up the length of the stitch. This should separate your threads. When using the same hole for the next stitch make sure you keep the threads separated. Its that simple 😀

Why is it called RAILROADING anyway?

And finally, we get to the meat of the problem, what’s up with the name?
Well, there are a lot of rumors where the name came from, and how similar it looks to standard railroads, however its a very specific part of the railroad that gives it the confusing name.
In American in particular railroad crossings have a unique design to them making it look like each rail is actually two rails next to each other (you can see this in the image below). The stitch was created to resemble this style and for a long time was used as a speciality stitch to draw your eye, before it finally became a way of stitching.

railroad crossing (source: pixabay)
railroad crossing (source: pixabay)

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Aki

    Hello again^^
    another question about railroading:

    my current project requires 4 threads, which already makes railroading difficult. and the pattern also includes blended colors – so i have to use 2 threads of each color.

    will they be color-sorted next to each other in each stitch?
    do you have any tips on the easiest way to do this?

    greetings Aki

    1. LordLibidan

      Wow, 4 threads? That’s a lot!
      The point of blending threads is to make an amalgamation color, so it doesn’t actually matter how they lay. However if you want to do railroading properly, they should be color sorted next to each other.

      1. Aki

        ah, yes 🙂
        I think I will make a 3×3 square and try both methods, one with and one without colour sorting.
        It will be a pillowcase, the fabric is called Gamma K03 – a bit stiff, but really great with 4 threads.
        as AIDA it would be an 11ct. or 12 ct., I think.

  2. Aki

    Well, I’m actually just starting with cross stitching, doing it for a month or so. I did search for a specific thing this morning and, uhm, ended up here reading the whole day! I don’t really know what the first thing was I startet searching this morning… So, yeah, I’m really thankful for finding your page and THANK YOU for all these (very well explained) posts!

    About my question: If I do have e.g. a 2-stranded pattern, would it be possible to do this “railroad thing” by simply stitch with 1 strand and then doing each stitch-leg twice? Know what I mean?

    1. LordLibidan

      Thank you! I’m glad you like the site.

      To answer your question; no. 😛 The way the threads would lie if you did a single strand, then a single strand would be on top of each other. I would suggest a railroading tool if you want to try it. It’s like a little spike (much like a knitting needle) that helps the threads lay flat.
      Hope that helps!