Category Archives: Gallery


The repeat on my Dance strip and corner is a bit unusual, and seems to be causing far more problems for stitchers than I anticipated. I designed it so it could be used both as a straight repeat and as a mirrored repeat, but that appears to be the source of the confusion. I’ve talked about the types of repeats and symmetries before, but I will recap briefly.

Here are some basic types of strip-pattern repeats:

  1. A straight repeat is one in which each unit is repeated “as is”. It is not flipped or mirrored, but marches on like the first line of Rs.
  2. A mirror (aka bounce) repeat works like the second line of Rs. There are two center lines, and the design mirrors itself between them.
  3. A meander, the design elements both mirror and flip.
  4. One-directional meander with mirroring but no flipping.
  5. One directional meander with flipping but no mirroring. (No example to hand).
  6. A tumble, the design elements rotate around a center point. (No example to hand).

There are other ways to construct a symmetrical repeat that elaborate on the tumble, introducing further mirroring or flipping, however I will say only the first four methods above are represented in European embroidery styles prior to around 1700, with types #1-#3 being by far the most common, and #4 being rare, but not unknown. And I can’t lay hands on a good example of #5. I haven’t done a comprehensive survey to determine when tumbles (#6) or their more complex derivatives begin to manifest but I can’t say that I recall seeing them on a museum artifact in the time range I pursue.

I also note that patterns can also include more than one type of symmetry, and layered symmetry pieces can become quite complex. There’s more on that in the earlier (and longer) post on repeats I mentioned before.

Now back to the pattern at hand. Here is the basic unit that makes up The Dance.

Notice that the three bony bois cavort in a playground defined by the center of the framing pomegranates. This unit can be combined to make a strip in one of two ways – As a straight repeat (#1), or as a bounce repeat (#2)

I’ve added the blue arrows to help identify the difference. Look at the fellow lolling on the ground. Above, he’s always facing the same direction. Below, he’s facing his mirror image.

To have a Type #2 bounce repeat that uses THE SAME framing device for both bounce points is at best extremely rare. Most use different devices as the two separators, like this little dolphin repeat from my ever-forthcoming book.

Now. What does this mean? Less authenticity, but more versatility. My current project uses the Dance centered around a single project axis. I use mirroring at ONLY the very center of my piece, with runs of straight repeat left and right until they meet up with a corner. Why? Why not? I liked the look:

But if I were working around a piece with a fixed circumference, like on a strip that was to be seamed into cuff, and there was not room for an even number of repeats, I might appreciate the ability to use an odd number of repeat units (along with type #1 symmetry), to better fit the area to be stitched.

I hope this helps.


Finally. After nine long years since the design challenge was issued and I responded with a pattern for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a finish has been spotted in the wild.

Special thanks to stitcher Zelda Doyle, who had fun with the thing, then posted the result on Facebook and made my day. This photo is hers, of her own work, and reproduced here by permission. The chart for His Noodly Glory is here.

Have you done something fun with one of the pattern children and wish to add to our Gallery? Please let me know.


Where have I been?  In Pune, but now home in the US for a brief visit. What have I been doing? Mostly wallowing in ennui.  For whatever reason, I have not been motivated to do much, not working on projects, researching, or writing here.

I can report that aside from the transoceanic trip, we did do one major thing.  We hosted a “happy hour” party for 25 of The Resident Male’s coworkers, holding it at the apartment.  I did all of the prep and cooking.  I made samosas, falafel, hummus, guacamole, and Chinese scallion pancakes (adding some minced hot peppers to the scallions).  I also improvised a mixed olive salad, and paneer with a Thai-style peanut sauce. Everyone had a good time, and using consumption as a barometer – the snacks were well received.  The scallion pancakes in particular were prime, and a do-again, for sure!

There is some minimal progress on my latest shawl.  I test-knit a new MMarioKnits product, but others were far speedier than me.  Most of the corrections I found were posted by others, and my finished project was not completed in time for photography for the cover of the pattern.  The main reason for this was a major lace disaster.  While photographing the piece, I managed to drop upwards of 90 stitches, and needed to ravel back to a solid point and re-knit.  After coming in so slowly for completion, I decided to punt the official as-written, minimal bind-off treatment, and add a knit-on lace edging.  I selected a simple one from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting, picked both for complimenting the lines of the shawl’s main motifs, and for being a multiple of 12 rows, and began.  I’m about two-thirds of the way around my circumference, and hope to be done soon.


However, just because I’ve been a slouching, IPad/browser game playing slacker, doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still.

I’ve said before that I get an enormous kick out of seeing what people do with the patterns and designs I post.  Occasionally, folk write to me to ask questions, or send me photos.  Other times, I track links to my pages back to the point of origin.  If I stumble across something I ask the owner if I can repost their work here, with links or attributions as they desire.  Here are the products of two people who sent me pix of their stitching this month.

Elaine from Australia delighted me with these two projects that include filling motifs from Ensamplario Atlantio:

for Francis's 60th reducedfor Murray's 50th crop-red

Both were presents for friends.  I’m not sure which one I like more – the piece for the Kiwi audiophile, or the one for the Lovecraft aficionado.

Meanwhile, Jordana in New York used two of the Ensamplario designs for the cover of a charming two-sided needle case.  Here are her photos of the work in progress, and the finished item:



Well done to Elaine and Jordana!  Special thanks to both of them for making my day!


Thanks to everyone for their kind words about Ensamplario Atlantio (EnsAtl)!

I’m delighted that folk find it useful. I was going to leave it up as the blog’s front page for a while, but two stellar things came in that I had to share. Before them however, please note that I will be leaving the book available on String for a while longer yet.

The two things?

First, I’ve mentioned before that my main joy in designing is seeing what folk do with the patterns. I have to show this one off (click to enlarge the thumbnail):

This partlet was stitched by Kimiko Small (in the SCA, the talented Lady Joan Silvertoppe of Caid). She used the Buttery pattern in TNCM Plate 59:1. It’s one of my originals, but it’s based on period conventions, motifs and aesthetics. The partlet design, stitching, and most obviously the picture above are all hers. The photo is reproduced with her permission.

Kimiko, I’m thrilled! Well done! I’m quite excited to see this particular pattern picked up and worked so well. The partlet is an excellent showcase for your stitching. It’s prime! You can read more about Kimiko’s award-winning project and read her arts competition documentation on her blog.

Now, this ties into the Second Thing.

The Buttery is an omnibus pattern – a frame filled by a large number of different design motifs. In this case, flowers, herbs and fruits. I’ve augmented my original set of patterns, and stitched up even more Buttery fillings on a recent project of my own.

Now the new book is generating some buzz about my patterns. Hannah was kind enough to spread word about EnsAtl on her blog, enbrouderie. In the comments that accompany her post Rachel of VirtuoSew commented on my Dancing Pirate Octopodes pattern. Rachel wondered about working up alternates for DPO. Initial silly filings aside, that pattern has excellent potential to evolve into another omnibus design along the lines of Buttery, and I think Rachel’s idea is a splendid one.

So I announce the first (to my knowledge) Crowdsource Design Blackwork Filling Project.

What’s Crowdsourcing? In a nutshell, it’s putting a project in front of a large number of otherwise unrelated/unassociated people, and asking them to apply their individual creativity to it, spreading the word and bringing all that creativity back together using ‘net based communications. It’s all the rage right now. Even the Defense Department’s research arm (DARPA) has launched a crowdsourced projects to jump start the design process or solve sticky problems.

So. Reaching both behind to the past and into the future – why not one for double running stitch?

Here is a square with just the frame from Dancing Pirate Octopodes:


It’s a simple JPG – shown above at full size. Right click on it and save the image. Then attack it with any graphics program, or print it out and doodle on the hard copy. Work up your own filling(s)! Be creative! Run amok! Just one request – this is not an adult-rated site. Please keep your designs family-friendly. (I reserve the right to do light editorial selection, if need be.)

When you’re done, eMail the file, or transcription of the thing, or a scan or photo of your design to me by 10 July at the gmail address listed in this post . I’ll assemble all submissions in one big layout, and share the results back here as quickly as I can. (If you’d like me to withhold your name rather than be credited on String, I’ll be happy to do so.)

This isn’t a contest – I’ve got no prizes to give away. But I think it will be lots of fun to see what everyone comes up with. So fire up your drawing program or sharpen your pencil. Let’s see what our stitching crowd can devise!

Again, thanks to Hannah, the gang at Total Insanity, others at various Yahoo needlework discussion groups, and all other posters and email respondents for their welcome and acceptance of EnsAtl. Special thanks to Kimiko for making my day with her project. Thanks to Rachel for the idea of making more fills for DPO. And thanks in advance to everyone who will take a moment to share their own creativity for the joy of participating, and glory of their needle.

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Work continues to gnaw on my life and spit out the bones, but I do have something to share. Caroline, a regular reader of the blackwork discussion group on Yahoo, used a line unit pattern from TNCM to make a sweet biscornu:

CR TNCM Biscornu.jpg

The pattern she chose is the Brier Rose Twining Border (Plate 51:1). It’s one of my own as opposed to a pattern with a specific period source, and it’s one of my faves. I really like the way she’s taken the corner and adapted it to fill the top of her pincushion with a chaplet of roses. I’ve used the rose pattern several times, but always as a longer border run either with or without the corner; and I’ve never played with working the flowers and stems in different colors.

What’s a biscornu? It’s a little eight sided pillow-type pincushion, made up from two squares of fabric of the same size. They often have a bead, button or stitch dimpling the center to accentuate the shape. Some are stitched on both side, some on one. Biscornus have become more popular recently, with the enthusiasm for them starting in Europe a couple of years ago. Their popularity has blossomed because they’re a charming little project, ideal for showing off counted or freehand embroidery. They’ve been featured in recent issues of both print and on-line stitching magazines and blogs, with lots of free patterns on line. There’s a nice article about making biscornus here.

To get the odd shape (which is the origin of the name, from the French for “quirky,” or “odd shape”), the two squares are sewn so that the points of one square align with the center of the sides of the other (think about taking the two and matching them exactly, then give one of the squares an eighth of a turn clockwise or counterclockwise). Caroline has finished hers especially nicely, with neatly done stitching along the seam. You can see the point of her bottom square matching up with the center of the stitching on her top, ornamented one.

In any case, great job Caroline! A lovely (and useful) little project. I’m delighted that she thought to share the joy of her needle with me, and that she consented to give permission for me to share it with you.

If you’ve stitched, knit or otherwise worked something from one of my patterns and would like to see it posted in String’s gallery, please let me know.

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Spring floods here. A minor one in the basement, brought on by the inordinate amount of rain we’ve had in this area this month, and at work, with more deadlines rushing one upon the other. Which must be good for business, but is exhausting none the less.

Last post I promised two things. The first one is a dream project. Something I will probably never have the time or resources to accomplish (especially the time): my own embroidered casket. Not the kind you’re thinking of.

Back in the 1600s the crowning achievement of what passed for female education was the completion of a small box covered with embroidery. These were called cabinets or caskets, and often featured dimensional embroidery. They were about the size of a large tabletop jewelry box and were truly spectacular. The Peabody Essex museum in Salem has one one dated to 1655.. Here’s a particularly nice one in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s collection. They’re highly sought after by collectors.

Via Needleprint, I stumbled across this:


It’s a modern chest base, made by a woodworker specifically for creating cabinets. If you click on the link you’ll see that the individual panels are made to be removed. All that needs to be done is stitch up a piece of the correct dimension and lace it onto the panel, then refit the panel into the cabinet. Now all I need do is set aside two years, a pile of silks and metal threads, some excellent linen, and $800 for the box base (including shipping). Another item on my ever growing never-never list…

The second thing I promised was word of a snail invasion in the Antipodes. Again, not the kind you’re thinking of. Garden plantings are safe. But Friend-of-Friend Fred Curtis, resident in Australia happened upon my book and is doing all manner of happy things with my snails. Here’s a trial for a man’s necktie to be covered with snails. He also stitched a camera straps using TNCM patterns (shown in process), and has used another of its patterns on a baby bib. But back to the snails. Here’s another of his pieces, offering up early spring inspiration to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.


(Photo reproduced with permission). I’m always tickled to see stuff worked up from patterns I’ve posted, both for knitting and embroidery. If you’d like to see them posted here in the Gallery, please feel free to send me an image or a link. Fred – thanks for the smile!

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Most of you who visit String are probably here just for the Kureopatora Snake Scarf. I’m surprised at how popular that pattern has been, and its popularity keeps growing. I’ve seen postings from folk all over the world who have made it, with knitters in Japan taking it up first.

Now comes an additional bit of cleverness. Jill from Michigan made several Snakes, and then seamed them together to make a throw. She used Kaleidoscope 100%wool, and calls this her Hummingbird Wrap. Here’s her picture of it, reproduced with her permission:


I hadn’t thought of doing that, and it’s a great idea!

If you ever knit something from one of my patterns please feel free to send me a snapshot. Since I do this for knit-love not knit-money, seeing what my pattern-children are up to out in the real world is my main payback. And if you give permission, I’ll post it here to the gallery. Thanks, Jill for this bit of inspired happiness!

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Long-Time Needlework Pal Kathryn (she of “too many centuries, too little time”) is mid-sock, knitting up a pair loosely following Paton’s own recipe for Kroy Socks. She’s using Kroy in Retro Red, plus navy and Blazing Blue. The nifty cloverleaf motif she’s using is the reason for this post. She’s adapted it from my New Carolingian Modelbook, Plate 1!


As ever, I’m tickled to see one of my pattern children make it out into the real world. Great socks, Kathryn! You made my day. (Photo is Kathryn’s, reproduced with her permission.

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I’m delighted to announce that at least one other human being has the courage, fortitude, and profound lack of reason to attempt my North Truro Counterpane. Not only is she doing the pattern, she’s simplifying it a bit by cleverly knitting some of the pieces together, avoiding several seams in the process


High-fives to Sandra B. who is busy knitting on this right now, but who took the time to send me the snap above. She made my day! (The photo above is hers, reproduced with her permission).

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A couple items from my inbox.

Question on Justin’s Counterpane

Cindy wrote to say she was having problems conceptualizing how the pieces to make my Justin’s Counterpane pieced blanket fit together. This particular blanket is a large scale intro to white cotton/lacy knitting. Only twelve main units are needed to complete it – six keyhole shaped motifs, and six whole octagons. Ten triangles are used to eke out the sides and make them straight. An optional edging finishes the thing. They’re put together like this:


I did not use additional triangles at the corners to make a true rectangle because it’s easier to go around a more gentle angle without mitering than it is to go around a 90-degree turn. And I didn’t want to go through the bother of mitering my corners.

Because of the relatively few units used and the simplicity of the classic pinwheel motif, I think that people wanting to make a first item in this style might find the pattern useful. Being a blanket, it doesn’t have to fit anybody so gauge is a guideline, not a mandate. It can be worked in any cotton or cotton blend yarn you like. The yarn I chose was a very inexpensive DK weight, but by using the appropriate size needles, a piece of usable dimensions could be made in anything from sport to worsted. Much heavier than that though and you’ll get into weight issues, cotton being quite a bit massive than its equivalent thickness in acrylic or wool. (You could even work this in standard wool or acrylic, but I think the design will be crisper in cotton.)

In any case, some basic guidelines for knitting and seaming together pieced counterpanes include binding the motifs off especially loosely; blocking the units before assembly, by wetting them down and pinning them out while stretching them to their maximum extent; and using whip stitch or when possible, mattress stitch done in half of the edge most stitch to sew them together. Back stitch or mattress stitch done further into the motifs will make the seams too dense and rigid, and may introduce cupping.

Bargain Hunters’ Blocking Boards

Rachel and I had an eMail chat recently. I think it was over on one of the knitting-related boards at Live Journal. She was looking for advice on blocking. In specific, she was looking for low-cost alternatives for blocking. We went through the standards – pinning out on carpet covered with towels or on a padded table or bed, but she wanted a rigid surface that was easy to stow in addition to being inexpensive.

I recommended getting a half-sheet of drywall from the hardware store, taped around the edges to reduce crumble, and topped with a flat sheet through which the pinning happens. I also suggested scouring yard sales or opportunity shops for the squishy/spongy foam pattern/alphabet block floor tiles or play mats favored by the parents of toddlers. They’re indestructible and often outlast the toddler years, landing at second-hand venues. Top those with a sheet and pin away, happy that you’ve found a modular, easy to store solution that as a creative recycle, nibbles away at the waste stream.

Rachel decided to go with the play mat idea. She sent me a note of thanks, and included this shot of her shawl blocking:


(Photo is hers, used with permission). She also notes that she got her mat at WalMart, and it was less than $20. Love the shawl, Rachel, and as ever – I’m delighted to have been useful.


I get a big kick out of seeing what others have made from my patterns
or pattern pieces. It’s a bit like meeting up with old friends
years down the road and finding out what they’ve been up to. I’m
delighted to be able to show off any photos of their work here in the Gallery section.

My latest vicarious bit of happy warmth was provided by my knitpal
Laura Need. She decided to do the Interweave Knits Paisley Shawl
from the Spring ’05 edition, but to finish it off with the simple edging I noodled up. She sent me the picture below and gave me permission to post it:

Laura used Zephyr, and her Paisley pinned out to about 46 inches
square. She did a much more even job of the knitting and blocking
than I did. Plus she had the wisdom to use a solid color.
You can see the difference:

Laura’s paisleys and eyelets really pop out. You can see the edging especially well. The piece’s texture patterning isn’t fighting for your attention with ground color variations. That’s a big improvement. I
took the lazy way out of blocking, using my wires rather
haphazardly and patting them in place rather than pinning them down to tension the work. She did it the more labor intensive way that
produces better results – pinning out the individual points evenly on a
dimensioned blocking surface. (Hers also pinned out to be six
inches larger than mine.)

All in all I’m extremely impressed and quite pleased that Laura found
fun in my minor contribution to this pattern. A great job!

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