This is a technique that Alex Anderson demonstrated in an early episode of The Quilt Show. I can never find the exact episode, but if someone knows please put the details in the comments. Alex used the technique for redwork, but I have found that it adapts very well to cross stitch.
This technique works whenever you are stitching with two strands of floss in the needle. I am stitching Celtic Spring 2 over 2, so it has been perfect for that.
Start by cutting the thread twice your normal length. If you usually stitch with an 18" length, cut your floss to 36". Pull off one strand, fold it in half so it is double, and thread the cut ends through the needle:
I have used a shorter thread for the demo. Leave the loop at the end of the thread.
Start your first stitch by coming up from the back. Don't pull the thread all the way through! Make the first diagonal stitch of the cross and go through to the back without pulling the thread all the way through. On the back the folded thread will form a loop:
Run the needle through the loop (you are still on the back of the work), and pull tight:
The loop will snug down flat against the working thread, and secure the whole thing with no knots and no loose ends.
Like everything, this method has pros and cons.
- Reduces the number of loose ends on the back of the work
- Quicker and easier than a waste knot when you are stitching in a new area
- Slippery threads like gold braid won't work loose later
- Only works for an even number of threads
- Doesn't work when different threads are blended in the needle
- The two lengths in the needle are running in opposite directions. If your thread has a nap this may reduce the sheen of the finished piece. It may even increase snarling in dense stitching or fabric.
For Celtic Spring this method has been fantastic. In the borders especially you are frequently starting new colours in isolation, and the waste knots are tedious. Plus I have been finding that the gold braid tends to work itself loose, which is eliminated with this method.
I also like it in places where there are many colours in a small area, because it reduces the bulk on the back. I start with a shorter length when there are fewer stitches to make.
And it's great for redwork too! Although for redwork you start with the loop on the top of the stitching, and it works better for stem or outline stitch rather than back stitch. But it makes a very clean back! I think I owe a post on that some day...