Needlepoint continental stitch is worked in rows and forms oblique, or slanting, stitches on the back of the canvas.
With needlepoint continental stitch, when you are working a row from right to left across the canvas, (see the stitches in green in this image on the left), your first row of stitches is worked from the bottom sloping up to the right i.e. your needle comes up in all the odd numbers and goes down in all the even numbers. When you get to the end of this first row and begin the row beneath (working now from left to right which is the row in purple on the diagram), your stitch will form from top to bottom, sloping down to the left. Once again, you will bring your needle up in the odd numbers and down in the even numbers.
This means that you will be bringing your needle up in a “dirty”, or occupied, hole whenever you work from left to right. This is how needlepoint continental stitch forms slanting stitches on the back of the canvas, ensuring good, strong coverage.
If you are working a single stitch row in a vertical line and heading down the canvas (the blue line of stitches), your stitches form from bottom to top, sloping left to right.
Similarly, when you work a single stitch row in a vertical line going up, (the orange line of stitches) your stitches form from top to bottom, sloping down and to the left.
If all your rows/lines create a slanting or oblique stitch design on the back of the canvas you are correctly stitching in needlepoint continental stitch.
Needlepoint Continental Stitch - Why Use It?
It’s easy! Stitching needlepoint in rows is intuitive, and needlepoint continental stitch is ideal for stitchers who are learning how to needlepoint. In fact, it’s all you really need to know.
Needlepoint continental stitch goes where basketweave cannot go! Whilst needlepoint basketweave stitch provides good canvas coverage with minimal distortion, you can’t take it everywhere! For tight spots, vertical lines and very small areas of color, needlepoint continental stitch rules!
Good canvas coverage. The oblique threads on the back of the canvas give you a strong stitch that covers the canvas well.
Needlepoint Continental Stitch - What Can Go Wrong?
The most common problem people face with needlepoint continental stitch is that they mix up continental and half cross stitch. Usually this means stitchers will work needlepoint continental stitch going from right to left across the canvas and then switch to half cross stitch when going from left to right. Check that all your stitches form a diagonal on the back. If irregularities form on the front of the canvas then it is probably because you are mixing your stitches.
Splitting Threads. With needlepoint continental stitch you need to bring your needle up in a “dirty” hole when working left to right. Take care not to split the thread that occupies this hole as this will make your stitches lumpy and uneven. Using a blunt tip tapestry needle will help.
Canvas Distortion. Needlepoint continental stitch does tend to distort the canvas more than basketweave due to the constant diagonal tug from the stitches. But, hey, you will need to block your canvas anyway, so don’t sweat it!