Starting Threads by Piercing

Let’s continue our thread of starting threads in hand embroidery by talking about piercing the working thread. If there’s a standard name for this, I don’t know it.

Piercing the thread is an alternative for the pinhead stitch and is a good technique for small, isolated motifs.

The idea is simply to anchor the working thread by piercing it or splitting it with itself. You’ve probably done this accidentally and considered it a mistake. Or maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s just split stitch.” Right on both counts!

The Basics: Just Pierce the Thread

We’ll work from the front of the fabric since you’ve told me that flipping the work over can be a hassle. I confess I had no idea. Flipping back and forth doesn’t bother me.

But we’ll work from the top to start, since many of you prefer that.

Make a tiny backstitch over 1 or 2 threads, depending on the weave of your fabric. My example will go over 4 threads so it’s easier to see in the image. Bring your needle up for a second tiny backstitch in line with the first. Sink the needle back down through the center of the first backstitch, piercing the thread.

Needle piercing first stitch.

The second backstitch pierces the first to anchor the thread.

That’s it. Make these tiny and you can cover them with whatever stitch you’re working or the motif you’re stitching. For this sample, I covered the small backstitches with a full size one and continued in a line. The left stitch appears a bit fatter when we zoom in, but from a distance and in a piece with more than three stitches (ahem), it virtually disappears. If you’re using a different, wider stitch to cover, chances are good the anchor stitches will completely disappear.

Three backstitches

A backstitch covers the anchor stitches.

From the Back

Now, if I’m anchoring my thread by piercing it, I’m going to do that piercing on the back side so it’s invisible from the front.

Holding the thread at the back while working on the front—lots of you do this, too—I’ll bring my needle up for the first stitch, and when I take the needle back down through the fabric, I’ll pierce the tail I’m holding. That’s it. On I go, further burying the tail as makes sense while I stitch.

Needle pierces tail on the back side

On the back side, pierce the tail of the first stitch.

Pierce to Finish Threads, Too

You can pierce threads to finish stitching, too. I find that really handy on reversible blackwork and small motifs with large stitches. For instance, the I-Heart-You earrings uses a rhodes heart stitch and looks the same on the front and back. To finish the ribbon thread, I worked it through other threads, piercing them.

Rhodes heart earrings

I-Heart-You earrings. Simple and fun to stitch and wear.

In addition to piercing the working thread, sometimes it’s convenient and handy to pierce the ground threads. The ribbons used in the earrings are not tightly woven. Piercing the ground threads, if possible, provides a tighter hold.

Do you ever use the piercing method to start or finish threads? Will you now? Do you have other tips or thoughts on piercing threads? Please share!

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