Compensation Stitches, also known as fractional stitches and partial stitches, are stitches made in an area of a needlepoint design that is too small or tight to work a desired stitch in its entirety, when filling in a curved or shaped object in a design, or when the boundaries of the stitch might extend into an unwanted area.
Cross Stitchers also often use partial stitches including the half cross stitch and quarter cross stitch, which are used to fill in small areas of detail or to smooth the edges of a design.
I’ve used Byzantine Stitch, worked here in two colors, as an example of a compensation stitch that would be used for needlepoint.
Working the stitch without any compensation results in ragged edges when attempting to fill in the square canvas area illustrated in the sample. You can see the jagged edges clearly in the upper image.
The darker green stitches are the compensation stitches used for the green rows of stitches, and the darker blue stitches are compensation stitches for the blue rows of stitches.
Without the compensation stitches used around the edges of this simple square area, the stitcher would have jagged edges and/or unstitched areas remaining in the canvas. These partial stitches fill in the design area completely, giving a neat and tidy look to the stitched square.
If you’d like to learn more about needlepoint, check out DMC’s Needlepoint Pages.