Backgrounds -- Alternatives to Basketweave by Ruth Ann Halpern

Originally published in Needle Pointers, Volume VIII, Number 1, Fall 1980

Ruth Ann Halpern is a designer and teacher of needlepoint. When this article was written, she was a member of the Massachusetts Chapter of ANG.

I personally enjoy doing basketweave. I find the steady repetition of this stitch relaxing to mind and body, but there are many times when I want something faster and less "boring" to do. There are also times when the design requires a textured ground to give it more life. I do not care for the backgrounds which involve intricate counting of two or more colors in tent stitch, as these tend to be tedious and more often than not to overpower the design. I prefer a play of light and texture for my alternative backgrounds. Look through your stitch books - besides the obvious Brick, Hungarian, Mosaic, etc., there are also many patterns shown in two colors which are lovely textures in one color. You may use them as they are in one color and texture or try using one color in several textures, such as Persian and Floss or Pearl Cotton. One note of caution in using these textured grounds is - do not overdo it. Select your background to complement and show off your design not to overpower it. Be careful that your stitch pattern is not too large for a background and that it will compensate well around your design. The following are some of my favorite alternate backgrounds. I hope they inspire you to find many more.

Webmaster's Note: The charts accompanying the original article were all monochromatic. I have used different colors to identify the different stitch components to make them easier to stitch.


In the following pattern, try doing the cashmere stitch in pearl cotton and the Byzantine in wool of the same color.


Diagonal Darning


You must pay attention when doing this following pattern, but it's well worth the effort.


Nesting Scotch and Cashmere  

Try replacing the tent stitches with seed beads in a matching color to the yarn.


Quick and easy -- tends to distort, so do use a frame! Use two textures for strongest effect or just one for a more subtle appearance.

This is most effective when the blue stitch is worked in a contrasting texture - such as floss with wool of the same color.