Continuing on the topic of finishing art work, Vivian F. posted this question: Other than for work which you are submitting for a show, how do you most often finish the piece? Do you keep the back of your work as presentable as the front? I have seen both extremes.
Thanks for the question, Vivian. There are two schools of thought: One believes the work must/should be as neat on the back as it is on the front, the other thought is that “it doesn’t matter.”
You have asked me, and I will give you my view on the subject. First and foremost: If you are taking great care with presenting the front of your work in the best light it will in most cases be impossible to mess up the back.
There are some exceptions: What if you realize too late that the thread tension was off and you now have little loops pulling to the back of the quilt? I consider where the piece will be shown. If it is designated for a judged quilt show I will pull out the quilting and start at the beginning. If the piece is designated for a gallery show, I will attach another back once the quilting is complete. It will hide all sins, so to speak.
The same holds true for embroidery. I was taught by my grand-mother at age four and eventually had Sr. Sylvana at boarding school look over my shoulder and work. There was no allowance for messy backs. Consider this: You stitch all over the piece with large skips in the back that might catch on something. But most of all, this way of executing embroidery and adding embellishments is wasteful. It potentially builds up layers of stitching on the back which may later contribute to distortion. No amount of stretching will hide this flaw. Suspending it successfully from a hanging rod will not be possible either.
Moving on to the question about making small knots versus weaving the ends under the stitching. Small knots are fine if they are strong enough to hold the stitching in place. If the knots are sloppy, add a final back to the piece. Most small embroideries are stretched and framed and nobody will be the wiser. Once more: consider the end purpose!
A good rule for me is: I always anticipate where the work will be shown and if the slightest chance exists that it will be suspended in the middle of a gallery I ensure that the work looks as good on the back as it does on the front. Early in my exhibition experience I created a piece with hand-dyed fabrics. I chose a brightly colored piece for the back that (in my opinion) did not complement the public side. Imagine my horror when I was told that the piece was suspended in the middle of the gallery because they wanted to show off the back. I breathed a little easier as I knew the back was flawless in terms of finishing – but it was a lesson I never forgot!
I hope this answers Vivian’s question. Let me know if you have additional info. Weigh in with a comment below!