Lines Appearing in Needlepoint Basketweave

We regularly get comments from stitchers saying they are seeing diagonal "lines" forming on the front of their basketweave stitching. If you're not sure whether this is a disease affecting your stitching then it may help the diagnosis to know that it looks like this:

lines in needlepoint basketweave problem
Can you see the faint ridges of diagonal lines that have formed on the front of the stitched canvas? It's like you can see the path the stitcher has taken.

Its official title is basketweave shadow-itis and, thankfully, the cause is known and the cure is easy.

Shadow-itis occurs when the needle enters the canvas at different angles and/or bends the underlying canvas in an inconsistent way. For example, we created the ridges in the example above by stitching each down row of basketweave using a continuous motion stitching technique (sewing method), and stitching each up row using the stab method. If you look closely at the stitches you can see they are angled slightly differently as a result, and this has created a shadow.

Using the sewing method means you can't use a frame (frames help keep stitches even) and it has the needle snaking over the underlying canvas thread, making it buckle a little. The stab method (where the needle is pushed in from the front with one hand and pulled through to the back with the other, or with the same hand brought around) is a better way of getting even stitches. The stab method takes longer to execute (no pun intended) than the sewing method, but the needle is pushed into the canvas at the same angle and the underlying canvas threads are not lifted like they are with the sewing method.

Here is a similar swatch of basketweave, stitched using the same fiber, but with the shadow-itis cured. We stitched this using only a stab method, so the needle is entering the canvas at the same angle, and pulling similarly on the thread for each stitch. Whatever method you choose, be consistent with it across the entire canvas and you should avoid artifacts or shadows in your stitching

Basketweave with shadow-itis cured by

consistently using the stab method of stitching.

You can also create a shadowy line on your canvas if you break the basketweave pattern by laying two down rows, or two up rows, alongside each other. This is easy to do if you finish your thread at the end of a row and when you thread up again you're not sure which end of the row to start on.

Here's a tip we use: When you finish a thread at the end of a row and put your needlepoint aside to go and do something else, place the needle in the canvas, or on your needle keeper, in the direction the next row needs to go. For example, place the needle with the point facing down if your next basketweave row is a down row, and with the needle pointing toward the top of the canvas if your next basketweave row is an up row.