created November 2, 2015
updated 3 November 2015
corrected 3 February 2016

Embroidered-arrow Tutorial

We often see the suggestion to mark the wrong side of fabrics with big chalk X marks. I invariably use arrows instead, because arrows also keep track of the nap and straight of grain.

But sometimes one wants to get the fabric wet before the arrows cease to be of use. Wash-out disappears when wet, chalk isn't all that waterfast, and marks that stand up to water often don't come out at all.

Luckily, it's very quick and easy to embroider arrows on the fabric -- much easier than explaining how it's done. Embroidery does mark both sides, but sometimes that's a feature, and it's easy to make one side "right" and one side "wrong".

make a big messy knot

In the interest of distinguishing right from wrong, begin work by tying a big messy knot in the end of the thread.

You tie a knot in the end of a thread by wrapping the end around the tip of your index finger, rolling the loop off with your thumb, pinching the loop between finger and thumb, and pulling on the free end to close the knot.

To make the knot big and messy, wrap the thread around your finger twice.


weave the needle to make shaft of arrow

At the place where you want the stem of the arrow, weave the needle through the fabric as if basting.
go down a little to one side of the shaft, come up where you came 
                     up before

Next, put the needle down a little to one side of the stem and bring it up where it came up before.
repeat on the other side

Repeat on the other side
first stage of fastening off

To fasten off, make a buttonhole stitch over the nearest stitch.
second stage of fastening off

That's kind of loose, so do it again
nothing says “wrong side” as clearly as messy knots 
                     and a dangling end

To emphasize that this is the wrong side, leave some thread flapping around when you cut off.
the right side is neater

I didn't need to mark the wrong side of this fabric, but I did need to keep track of the straight grain and the nap. When worked on a less-fuzzy fabric, the mark on the right side is often downright ornamental, and I left it inside the pockets of my black jeans to distinguish the pair cut thisaway from the pair cut thataway.
a quicker way

If you make just one down and up instead of weaving the full length of the stem, one buttonhole stitch is ample to secure the end, and it is more obvious that this is the wrong side.

For a general discussion of thread marking, see ROUGH002.TXT.  The phrase "tailor's tack" is in the first line of the section on thread marking.

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