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, lets 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 seperately. 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, its 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 a 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 top stitch.
 

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 seperate your threads. When using the same hole for the next stitch make sure you keep the threads seperated. Its that simple 😀
 

Why is it called RAILROADING anyway?

And finally, we get to the meat of the problem, whats 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

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