There’s been a discussion of late on the Yahoo Blackwork embroidery discussion group about stitch order, direction and stitching logic in double running stitch – especially reversible (two sided) double running stitch. I contributed to the discussion with these thoughts, but the answer below is a bit of an elaboration on my original discussion group post.

Double Sided Double Running Stitch – Is it possible for your chosen pattern?

The first thing to do is to determine whether or not your contemplated design can be done 100% reversible. Those that can have every design element connected. There are no floating little diamonds or sub-motifs off on the side un-connected to the main design. This simple design is easy to do two sided:


This one, although vastly more complex, only presents a couple of challenges. The center diamond in the nodule at the base of the plume flower is one. Every other element is connected, but that one diamond stands alone. If I were to work this design double sided, I’d add a stitch to the top and bottom points of the diamond to connect it to the rest of the design. The visual impact of that modification would be minuscule. The other challenge is the presence of some detached stitches in the “bark” area of the branches – the little floating verticals unattached to the main body of the work. If I were to do this one double sided, I’d either omit them, or lengthen them to intersect with a segment of the branch’s outline. A pain, but not totally fatal, and both changes wouldn’t be very evident.


By contrast the column and wreath design below, though simpler, presents a greater challenge for two-sided stitching. Each of the small circlets in the centers of the wreath units stands alone. Attaching them to the rest of the work would diminish the impact of the design. Although the rest of the design can be worked entirely two sided, the circlets are problematic because they’re free floating and rather small. If they were worked independently, with their own lengths of thread, there isn’t enough real estate in each one to cleanly hide the thread ends.


Much of this mermaid panel can be worked double sided, but by now you can spot the facial features, fruit dimples, flower centers (and prominent nipples) as presenting problems that can’t be solved by modifying the design. BUT the small dolphins, although separate from the main pattern aren’t a problem. They’re big enough to stitch with their own threads


O.k. Now we’ve determined which designs can be done double sided without modification – the ones that have no isolated design elements. On to stitching logic.

Stitching Logic – Baseline

I use two methods for completing a double running stitch pattern – baseline and accreted section. I’ll tackle baseline first

Baseline Identification

In the baseline method, the stitcher identifies a line that travels the entire length of the pattern. That’s the baseline. It can be obvious, like a stem from which all of the pattern’s flowers grow, or part of an outline; or it can be less obvious. In this oak leaves and acorns border, one baseline is blindingly obvious:

It’s the ground line from which the little motifs sprout.

In this pattern it’s slightly less clear. Any one of several options can be used as an effective baseline:


Here’s one possible baseline:


Every other element of the design can be worked as a detour off this main highway. You’ll note that the baseline needn’t march around the perimeter of the acorn. In fact the entire acorn is one nested set of detours. And this isn’t the only possible baseline. Here’s a more efficient though less intuitive one:


Both are perfectly logical. I might use the one at the top if I wanted to quickly establish the height of my piece. It’s just one unit shy of total pattern height. But the only reason to chose one or the other is personal preference. Please note that the logic of these to baselines applies equally well to the horribly complex plume flower:


I’d suggest folk new to double sided work start with patterns with easily identified baselines, and work up to some of the more daunting patterns.

Next post – stitching logic. Traveling along the baseline and its detours.

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2 responses

  1. Ah, well, thanks for checking on it.

  2. […] be stitched double sided.  And yes – there CAN be more than one baseline in a design.  More on baseline identification is here.  The logic of following detours and returning to the baseline is here.  How to break up […]

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