I recently finished backstitching the pear leaves on Teresa Wentzler’s Peacock Tapestry. The pear leaves are infamous for making stitchers crazy when it gets time to back stitch. Much of that is due to the hand-drawn chart because the backstitching doesn’t stand out well. I have my own method for dealing with intricate backstitching that works quite well and I thought I would share it. Hopefully it will be helpful for you.

Here is what the chart looks like to begin with:

A very small section of the pear leaves

Step 1: Make a copy
Before doing anything, I always make a copy of the chart, usually at 122%. I find this much easier to deal with. If the backstitching is especially detailed, I will make an extra copy that is only for the backstitching. This may or may not be enlarged, depending on the intricacy of the backstitching.

Step 2: Different Colors
I always use different colors, simply because it helps visually orient me. For this particular project, I found it helpful to color in the tree and the pears before doing anything with the pear leaves. I concentrated first on the branch. I looked for those symbols and would frequently look at what I had stitched to make sure I had all the branches colored, then I searched for all the pears. I find it much easier to concentrate on one type of thing at a time rather than both or all three. The symbols get easier to find.

Then I took a my dark pens and outlined the backstitching. I used different colors for outlining the branch, pears, and leaves because they overlap in certain areas. I do all the deciphering at this point – deciding if a leaf is in front of or behind a pear, that way I don’t have to figure it out when I start stitching. I don’t spend too much time agonizing over whether, when a pear and leave intersect, the pear should be dominant or the leaf, because it ultimately doesn’t matter – no one will notice but you.

Step 3: Color as you go

I did not color in the pear leaves to begin with. The branches and the pear leaves were colored in, but the pear leaves only outlined because as I’m stitching, the leaves blend into one another too easily. If I get distracted at all, I can lose my place and forget what I’ve done vs what I need to do. So I make it easier on myself.

I use different colors because they’re much easier to see.

The pear leaves that are outlined have not yet been backstiched. The colored ones have. This visual reminder makes it much easier to mentally decipher than trying to figure out where you have been and where you are going. It’s simple to see at a glance, and that’s my goal.

Backstitching, mid progress.

Some of the leaves are fairly easy to figure out, while others are not so much. One thing I find helpful during this process is to identify the colors that you know are never in the pear leaves, such as the symbols h, 3, 4. Knowing this can make it much easier to decipher as you are working.

Overall the key is spending the time and attention to detail before you pick up the needle. This entire project is time intensive, but I find that the stitching itself is much smoother when I devote a fair amount of time to setting up the project.

I’d love to hear if this was helpful for you, or even if you have your own trick or tip for this type of thing.