Should You Worry About the Back of Your Cross Stitch Project?

In this post, I’m going to share my opinions on whether you should worry about the back of your cross stitch. And hopefully, it gives you a little encouragement if you’re just starting out.

You can listen to the podcast episode below or keep scrolling to read the post instead.

The short answer to the question is no, you shouldn’t worry about the back. However, there are some exceptions that we will dive into in this post.

But first, why shouldn’t you worry?

  1. Well for starters, you can’t actually see the back of your cross stitch so there is no reason it has to look neat and tidy. If you are hanging it on a wall or framing it I wouldn’t give the back a second thought.
  2. It if it messy you can usually cover it up! Again, if you are framing it (whether in a hoop or a traditional frame) the back is covered up with either felt or the back of the frame.
  3. Worrying about the back might mess up your front. If you keep worrying about the back while you are stitching then you might make a mistake at the front. You might miscount or miss a stitch. The front is much more important than the back and here is where you should use all that concentration.

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When you should worry about the back

Like I said before, there are exceptions to not worrying and this usually depends on what you are doing with the finished piece and what kind of stitches you are making.

1. If you have trailing threads

If there are a few “confetti stitches” (single stitches around your fabric) or a space in the middle of blocks of stitches you will be tempted to trail your thread across the back. This is OK if you are hanging your finished piece up because usually, these trails won’t be visible if your fabric is against a wall or the back of a frame.

You can see a few trails from the mini flowers around the outside. These disappear when this is hung against a wall.

But, if you’re going to display your hoop on a window sill with lots of light behind it, your trails will show through at the front, especially if you have used a darker colour thread than your fabric.

This might also happen if you are stitching directly onto clothes with thinner material; those trailing threads won’t look good from the front.

2. If you are not framing your finished piece

I’ve already said that if you are framing in a hoop or frame you don’t really need to worry about the back because it will be covered. But what if you aren’t framing? For example, if you are making a cross stitch banner the back is more easily seen. Of course, you could even put felt on the back of this, but most people wouldn’t.

The back of my banner which I didn’t cover up before hanging it up.
And the front!

A project I made where I really wish I had worried about the back (which is ironic as I used this exact piece as an example of not worrying about the back which you can see below) was when I made a cross stitch lampshade.

The main reason were the few trails I had done across the back. Of course, the light from the lamp makes them pop even more!

Another problem though was where I had snipped the loose threads at the back. I didn’t cut them close enough the aida. Because the finished piece was being stuck to the inner part of the lamp, everything was squashed down. Those little snipped ends sprayed out and showed through the front on some parts.

You can see the trails behind the backstitch although there wasn’t much I could do about that one!
Cross Stitch Lampshade
From a distance, it’s not too bad!

3. If you want to worry about the back

It’s all well and good me telling you not to be bothered about the back of your cross stitch project, but I know you might actually want to worry about it.

I am so far from a perfectionist but I know you might take so much pride in getting the back to look as good as the front and that is totally OK!

There’s no judgement here, either way, these are just my own personal opinions and tips! I love the way some of you get your project to look so good at the back, but for me, I’m just not that fussed unless it affects the front of my design.

In fact, I even wrote an Instagram post in April 2018 talking about how much I love a messy back of the hoop!

“Sometimes I feel like life is like an embroidery hoop. Most of the world walk past and see a neat and tidy stitched piece of art. Maybe an odd mistake here and there but barely noticable unless you get close up. Very rarely does anyone see the back. The mess. The random trails. The colours all mixed together. The knots and tangles. The snipped ends and looped beginnings. Some people have neater backs than others, but everyone’s backs are still messier than the front. Maybe it’s about time we stopped quickly walking past judging the fronts that we see and take some time to pause and turn over the hoop. And maybe, in turn, we should start showing the mess a little more, instead of putting on this perfect front. There is always a little magic in the mess.”

Hannah Braniff: Instagram (Hannah Hand Makes)
The back of a hoop where I shared that quote on Instagram.
And the front! This one turned into that lampshade I was talking about.

Hopefully, this post has encouraged you if you are worried about the back. You can let that go a little bit and relax! Cross stitch is so much fun, and all of these “rules” I see being thrown around take that fun away!

Revel in the uniqueness of a messy back of cross stitch! And remember, there is always a little magic in the mess.

Cross Stitch Pattern of the Month

This month’s cross stitch pattern of the month is a Haloween one and comes from Plato Squirrel on Etsy. It is designed around the film Hocus Pocus and I love it!

You can buy the pattern here.

Extra links and resources:

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Should You Worry About the Back of Your Cross Stitch Project? By Hannah Hand Makes.

10 thoughts on “Should You Worry About the Back of Your Cross Stitch Project?”

  1. I disagree. If you spend hours completing a piece,you should strive to have the back neat and tidy. When you frame your stitching,, you don’t want it to be bumpy from extra threads on the back. Your stitching should outlast you and you don’t want someone saying you were a messy stitcher a hundred years from now. You want it to be worth something. If you are going to take the time to do something, take the time to do it correctly.

    1. Thanks for your comment June. Always nice to hear other opinions and I know not everyone will agree with me on this. I suppose I don’t think about people seeing my work in the future. I stitch for myself and for the sake of stitching, rather than displaying it, so a messy back just doesn’t bother me personally. But I think it’s great that you take the time to make sure it’s neat and I’m sure everyone who sees you work will appreciate the effort you put into the front and the back.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this Hannah! I see many people in the online communities sharing their “perfect” backs and it makes me feel insecure, even though I could care less! Good to know I’m not alone!

    1. You’re welcome Ali! Yes, you’re definitely not alone. When you’re trying so hard to get the front to go well, it can be overwhelming to worry about the back too. And unless you post it online chances of someone seeing the back are pretty slim anyway!

  3. I’m a beginner & the back of mine is a mess, but I’ve no idea how to start or finish without going through the back of stitches.

    1. Hannah Hand Makes Team

      I’ve been cross stitching a while and my back still looks a mess. 🙂 ~Megh, Team Hannah Hand Makes

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