Needlepoint canvas has a grain to it. If you look closely at a piece of mono canvas you will see that the canvas threads weave over and under each other. (This does not apply to interlock canvas where the threads pierce each other at the intersections and are therefore locked together. For this reason, "up the steps and down the poles" does not apply if you are stitching interlock canvas.)
|Mono canvas with the threads weaving over and under each other.|
The grain of mono canvas is important when stitching basketweave as it determines the direction of your stitches. When you have placed your first basketweave stitch you need to decide whether your second row is going to be a diagonal up row or a diagonal down row. You decide this by doing what firemen do - they go up the steps and down the poles. Let's illustrate:
In this photograph the first stitch (green) has been placed. Look to the left of this stitch and you will see the top thread intersection is a 'step' because the canvas thread goes over the underlying one in a horizontal direction. Therefore, your second row will be an up row ("up the steps").
|The skinny arrow shows the direction of the second row of basketweave - "up the steps".|
|The skinny arrow shows the direction of the second
row of basketweave - "down the poles".
You should only need to figure this out once in a block of basketweave that is not broken up, as the diagonal rows will continue one after the other once you have worked this out initially.
By stitching basketweave in this way you will get a more even appearance to your stitches, and it also helps to stabilize the junctions of the canvas threads, so less distortion of your canvas.
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