Stitching Diagonally with Parking

UPDATE: I have uploaded a video to YouTube that also talks about how I stitch diagonally and how I park.

I have started to get questions on Instagram about how I stitch.  I have decided to post the details here so that I have a place to refer people to when I get the question.

I park and work in a diagonal across the page.  There are several reasons why I do this.  First of all I think that it helps my stitches to be neater and more uniform.  It also avoids the ridges that can develop when you work in straight columns or rows.  Second, in general it reduces the number of threads that I have parked at any given time.  Third, I think that it gives more variety to what I am working on within a given pattern and it gets me to where all of the action is more quickly.  Fourth, I find it to be more fun and I like to see the picture develop this way.

I didn’t always stitch this way.  There was a time when I started in the middle and worked outwards.  I worked a lot slower back then because I would spend a lot of time counting and fixing mistakes.  I also spent a lot of time deciding which color to stitch next.  If there was a lot of confetti in the piece I would become stymied trying to see how the colors flowed through the pattern and I would constantly miss stitches that would have to be filled in later.  I would stitch for a couple of hours and it would look like I hadn’t done anything.  When I learned about parking and stitching in 10×10 blocks I found that all of these problems disappeared.  I felt free to stitch like I never had before.  Since then I have made adjustments to the way that I stitch through trial and error.  Below is what I have learned from that.

A tutorial on how and why to park can be found here.  When I first read this the one question that was left unanswered for me was how to apply this to a complete pattern.  It seemed impractical to do this across an entire row at once.  My solution to the problem has been to work in diagonals.

First of all, I decide where I am going to start stitching.  I prefer starting in the lower left corner of the design but you can start at any corner.   I also decide whether to stitch in rows or columns.  My brain seems to think in columns, so that is the way that I stitch.

All of this may depend on the way that you make your crosses.  I stitch the bottom left to top right leg first.  I  not really dogmatic about whether I need to start in the top or the bottom corner, but I have decided that my stitches are more uniform if I stitch them all the same way.  I have drawn a diagram that shows the ways to stitch based on how you stitch and where you start:


My crosses look like the cross on the top. The arrows indicate which direction to work.  So if I am going to work in columns and I am going to start in the bottom left corner I am going to work from top to bottom.  That means that I will start at the top of the column and make the first leg of the cross going down and then make the second leg going back up the column. The little boxes indicate where the stitch starts.  In my case that means that the first leg of my cross will be from top right to bottom left.  A rule of thumb that summarizes all of this is that the needle comes up in a hole that has zero or one stitch already stitched there and goes down in a hole that has two or three stitches already stitched there.

From the article that I linked I made a rule that I never enclose an empty stitch on four sides.  So I choose one color in the first column and stitch as far as I can go before I change to another color.  I am going to step through how I would start to show what I mean.

I use GoodReader to mark my charts electronically.  The first thing that I do is mark the diagonal like this:


I always make sure that my diagonals run through a 10×10 grid on the chart.  That may mean that the corner is a little bit larger or smaller than the ideal that is seen here.  I then make a decision on which color to start with based on how the colors run with the design.  In this case I am going to start with the ‘\’.


This highlight is only to easily show what I am doing.  I don’t highlight as I stitch, I only mark sections as I complete them.   Here I am going to stitch the stitches in orange in columns and I am going to park the thread in the stitch with the light blue highlight.  I could park where the same color starts above, but that is a long carry and this color block definitely continues on horizontally.

Next I am going to stitch the ‘M’ stitches.


Once again I stitch the orange highlights and park in the light blue highlights.  I don’t stitch that stitch because there is an empty stitch to the left and stitching this stitch would eventually box it in.  Next I am going to stitch the ‘4’.


I am parking and waiting for the ‘^’ to be stitched before I continue on.


Here I am parking for the next diagonal.  I generally prefer to not park to the side like this, but sometimes the colors run that way and I hate ending a strand only to start one up again.  Next I will finish the ‘4’.


Here I am going to end off because there isn’t a good place that I can seen in the next diagonal where this color starts.  Finally I will finish with the ‘M’.


And now this triangle has been completely stitched.  Time to move to the next diagonal.  This time I will be stitching a parallelogram instead of a triangle.


So that is how I work diagonally.

When there is a lot of confetti it can be a pain to be constantly threading and unthreading needles.  To mitigate this I have kept needles live.  I have had up to six needles threaded at once.  However, this can create its own problems as I find that threads tend to tangle more easily if they are weighed down by a needle.

The other disadvantage to all of this is that the back will be messier.  That doesn’t really bother me.  Here is a video by someone showing how she parks threads.  I think that this would make the back a little less messy, but this method also means threading and unthreading needles even more.

There are a couple of exceptions to all of this.  If I am working 1-over-1 then I don’t worry about closing in empty spaces.  I just choose a color and stitch all the stitches of the color in the area I am working.  Also, I don’t think that I would stitch diagonally like this if the piece I am working on has a lot of “white space”.  For example, if I were stitching a sampler, I think that I would stitch each letter individually and I wouldn’t worry about parking or any other techniques.

Congratulations if you have made it to the end of this post.  If it seems a little long-winded or technical, it is due to the engineer in me.  Feel free to use of ignore any of these tips.  Comment below with any questions or suggestions for improvement.  I am always looking for ways to improve my stitching.

9 thoughts on “Stitching Diagonally with Parking

  1. Your posts are always instantly recognizable in my Instagram feed because of your diagonal stitching method. This description of your process is great.

  2. Ganrob

    After reading this post a couple months ago. I had started using this method and use it in four of my projects. I am enjoying stitching on the diagonal because it shows more of the picture. Most of my projects in confetti in it so I have live needles as I work I move then from one side to the other side. Thank you for Sharing your method.

  3. Susan

    I have this post bookmarked and visit it often, believing one of these visits it will all come together for me. I park in columns top to bottom on a ten by ten grid. Okay……here it goes……huuuuuuuuuge request……feel guilty asking…..could you make a video of this technique? I’ve watched all of yours and perhaps if I see it everything might fall into place.

  4. Hi Brian. I’m a relatively new stitcher so I spend a lot of time learning from folks like yourself. Thanks for this post and video. I just started a project which will be 16 in x 12 in when finished. This is my largest piece so far. I started in the upper left corner and I’m working down in columns. I’ve only done 5 10×10 blocks so far, so I’m not far along at all. I was considering switching to diagonal stitching now. Most of this piece is worked in half stitches. Also, I start and stop with waste knots. Since I’ve been working in columns, I put my waste knot a full column away from where I’m stitching. ie: when stitching in column 1, I put my waste knot in column 3. After I stitch column 2 (which I haven’t done yet), those threads will be covered and I can cut the knot in 3. Hope that makes sense. I saw a video on that. When I do full stitches, I do the whole stitch at once, as opposed to doing one leg in one direction, then the other leg on the way back. So with all of these things considered, would it be practical for me to try diagonal stitching? I do like the way the the project comes to life working diagonally.

    Sorry for the long post, but I’d be very grateful if you had the time to consider these questions.

    Thanks much 🙂

    1. I am so sorry, Sharon, but I have only seen this comment today. I think that you could definitely stitch diagonally with this piece. You might have problems working around your existing waste knots, but I think it would be possible to do.

  5. Stephanie Muir

    I find this very interesting and would like to try it. I’ve stitched cross country for many years and sometimes it does get tedious. Would you please show a photo of how the back of your work looks while you are doing this? How far do you carry a thread?

  6. Bich Nguyen

    If I stitch the bottom left to top right first and end from bottom right to top left – and – want to start at the top left corner, which box should I look at and which arrow direction should I look at? Sorry I am a little confused looking at the diagram that you show above.

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