THIRD SMALL INSERT, ON TO THE MYSTERY STITCH

Thanks for the lively discussion! Last week’s post was the most commented upon String has ever had. It’s nice to know that others meet enjoyable people (and poorly socialized idiots) through stitching and knitting in public. And that many of us think alike during these encounters.

I’m moving along on my projects, both on fabric and paper. Progress has been severely slowed as of late due to work related deadlines and a bout of the Evil Flu that’s been going around. But there is some slim progress none the less:

You can see that I finished the eye-boggling interlace, and am now working a relatively tame flower in frame segment. All three are patterns from the blackwork filling collection. I should be finished with this segment by mid-week at the latest.

Next up is a new one though. It’s a double running stitch design graphed out from a photo of a period artifact (part of the upcoming book) but I haven’t tried it yet. The new panel will feature some small areas that are filled in. In the original they are stitched in the same stitch that is used to make a totally overstitched mesh like background on many other contemporary pieces. This style of stitching is most often seen worked in red, so densely stitched that in the mesh like areas no background linen is seen, and it’s most often used as the background on a voided style work, although there are examples of it being used as foreground, and (as in my upcoming trial – a spot accent).

Here’s a good example from the Manchester Art Gallery – you can see that some of the foreground detail is filled in using plain old cross stitch, but the background and the solid fill detail areas are clearly different. This style is a pulled thread technique rather than a withdrawn thread one (neither warp or weft threads of the background material was removed during production of the stitching). Needlework authors cite several stitches as the working method to achieve these mesh like backgrounds including

  • Italian Two Sided Cross Stitch
  • Four Sided Stitch (aka Quadra, Punto Quatro, or Simple Fagot Stitch)
  • Russian Drawn Ground (but this is a withdrawn thread rather than pulled thread technique)
  • Double Fagot Stitch (sort of Four Sided Stitch on steroids, with each pass taken twice)

The first two are the most commonly cited. My limited experience with those two makes me lean towards the Two Sided Cross Stitch because Four Sided Stitch usually leaves a little dot of background fabric exposed in the center of each bundled stitch unit (here’s an example – beautiful and regular, but the centers aren’t covered with thread.)

Embarrassing as it is to admit – I’ve not tried any of these in context. Long Armed Cross Stitch, yes. I use it all the time. But the family of pulled thread stitches has always intimidated me. I’ve played with them a bit, but aside from an occasional spate of Italian pulled thread hemming, I’ve never employed them on a “real” work. But there is first time for everything, and I intend to try out the Italian Two Sided Cross Stitch. Stay tuned for more developments!


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One response

  1. Hi, I primarily work on 17th century sampler reproductions so have done some two sided Italian Cross before. I have to say it was one of the bigger challenges. Once I got the hang of it, it went along well enough. But it takes a long time to get anywhere…lots of stitches in a little bit of space. Lovely effect though. Will do it again.

    I’m working on a piece now by Darlene O’Steen – The Celtic Sampler. She uses something similar to two-side Italain cross but slightly different. She just calls it the Background stitch. It’s looks like a four sided stitch with a single diagainal rather than a full cross. I like to work it a little better than the Italian. I’d chart it for you here to try but I don’t know how to do that as a comment. You can email me if you like and I can try to chart it for you.

    I have no idea how authentic the stitch is that Darlene is using. She stays to historical accuracy so it might be a stitch she has found somewhere with no name. Also see her book, "The Proper Stitch" if you are interested. I use it all the time as my main reference for historical stitches.

    BTW…I’m substituting one of your designs in the Celtic Sampler. It’s Plate 47, Number 2. I love the Carolingian Modelbook and very much look forward to your new one. I’ll be trying out some of your blackwork designs one of these days. Thanks so much for putting them out there for us!

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