Category Archives: Do Right Sampler


Progress continues to mount on my Do Right sampler. The band at the bottom will be wider than the present stitched area, and the upper part will be flanked by two longer vertical strips. These may be two-toned, possibly with foreground in double running and some sort of background, but I’ve not decided yet for sure. My thread quantities are very limited, to the point where doing full up long-armed cross stitch is precluded.

Here’s what I’ve got so far. Details of the honeysuckle strip from the V&A handkerchief photo, and of my phoenix are presented for NeedleGal and Maria, respectively. Enjoy!

Do-Right-9.jpg Do-Right-11.jpg


Stitches used so far are the obvious ones – double running (aka Holbein Stitch, Spanish Stitch), and plain old cross stitch. Nothing fancy at all. The back is neat, but not compulsive, due to the nature of the stitching it’s almost reversible, although I’ve taken no special pains to make it so, and yes – I do practice the stitching heresy of using knots on the back of my non-reversible pieces.

Oh. And I’m cleaning up my graph for the phoenix, translating my pencil scratchings and the as-stitched presentation into something usable by others.

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The latest addition to the Do Right sampler is this strip, which will run across the bottom of the piece.


The few who might be familiar with this type of work will spot it right away as being a Famous Design. The original is in the Victoria and Albert Museum – it’s a handkerchief, dated to between 1580-1600. Among embroiderers it’s a near iconic artifact, and has been pictured in many books including Digby’s Elizabethan Embroidery, and King and Levy’s The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Textile Collection: Embroidery in Britain from 1200 to 1750. I’ve got a graph of the design noodled out from artifact photos in TNCM (Plate 64:1), and there’s a simplified version of a very similar pattern in Pesel’s Historical Designs for Embroidery, Linen and Cross Stitch, although Pesel cites her source as a sampler dated 1658. (Perhaps there’s a point of origin for this design in a now lost pattern book or broadside that both historical stitchers used).

In any case, you can see one whole repeat here, and I’ve started on the second. In complex double running stitch designs of this type I proceed in one of two ways, both of which can be seen on this piece. The first is the baseline method. I identify a baseline, then if I encounter a branch or digression along that baseline I follow it to completion. If you look at the narrow strip acorn and leaf border at the top of this segment along the left hand side you’ll see that I’ve been working in that manner. The baseline here is very easy to see – it’s the single solid line at the base of the acorn/leaf units. I’ve traveled along it, then up into each sprig as I encountered it, completing the sprig and returning to the baseline. When I work on that strip again I’ll start on the baseline and fill in the remaining few double running stitches before continuing on to work more sprigs.

The second method works better on more complex designs. While I could establish a baseline and then fill in every deviation from it on the honeysuckle and vine center motif, if I were to do that and then discover that my stitching was out of alignment, there would be much swearing and stomping around, not to mention endless hours of meticulously picking out previously finished areas. So for these bits, I generally try to rough in major areas with a line of stitching that establishes their boundaries. Then I go back and fill in the detail. You can see this on the second flower. I’ve done a jog around the outside edge of the flower, confirming its position relative to previously stitched bits. Once I’m satisfied that there are no mistakes in the placement of the flower, I go back and do the more detailed infilling bits. Here’s another detail of the working method, from a piece previously featured here:


As I’ve said before, while I dearly enjoy knitting, it’s a vacation from my first love – embroidery.

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Knots are now finished.


It’s time for the larger framing strips across the bottom and on the left and right. I’m not sure what I will do. Left and right should balance in density and I’ll probably also work them them in the same color, but I haven’t decided on the actual designs yet. Ditto for the bottom. Lighter than the knots, perhaps as dense as the ribbon strip at the top. In terms of space, I’ve got free ground at the bottom that’s about 80% as wide as the ribbon strip, and space left and right that’s about 50% as wide as that strip. The bottom strip will be the same olive green as the top unit.

I’ll start by thumbing through TNCM and see if anything hits me. I’ll also look through my earlier hand-drawn booklet. Most of the patterns in there made it into TNCM, but there were several that on further investigation turned out to be too late, or of uncertain provenance. Since provenance doesn’t matter on this work, I may use one or more of them.

Or maybe I’ll finally graph up the indistinct large band that’s just above the red strawberries on Jane Bostocke’s sampler from 1598.

It’s also time to start contemplating finishing. In all probability I’ll back this with another fabric for stability, maybe with some kind of thin interfacing, then do the bars-top-and-bottom-with-a-hanging-string treatment. One small sticky hook should do for actual suspension on the wall. Framing would be too elaborate for dorm use. It can always be remounted down the road.

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To follow up yesterday’s post and to answer the question “What do you mean by deconstructing and reassembling the knot motif?” I present this:


Click on the image above to get the pattern JPG at a useful size.

The original motif is presented in my book in negative, as it is in the 16th century originals – with the background blocks filled in and the foreground left plain, but this way works, too. They had to do this by hand-carving a wood block, the fewer flimsy little lines interrupting clear areas, the better. I have the luxury of Visio.

The strip at the top is representative of how the pattern was shown in those originals – a three unit knot with a one unit spacer. But that design is full of possibilities. The center interlaces, end units and terminal twists can be recombined into an infinite array of patterns. I present some that I just doodled up tonight.

So look at those old pattern books, historical or contemporary with a new eye. See how the pattern repeats – where it can be broken apart and recombined. You may end up with something entirely new and pleasing, perfect for your next project.

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Invaders having been secured, I add another panel pattern. This time it’s a nifty knotwork interlace, also graphed out in TNCM, on plate 31:1.


What exactly it looks like will become clearer as I move along. This block unit pattern appears in several early books. I spotted it in a Ensamplario di Lavori published by Vavassore in 1532, and also in a different modelbook entitled Convivio Delle Belle Donne, also dated between 1530 and 1540. If you look at enough of these early pattern books, you can see all sorts of reprintings, adaptations, regraphings, possible block trading, and very probable plagiarism as the various semi-itinerant publishers interacted.

If you consider that each print block was very laborious to create (these patterns not being amenable to moveable type), the habit of publishers of re-issuing some of their old pages in new collections is easy to understand. Trading is, too. I can imagine two publishers based in different areas, but who traveled around a circuit (or who had agents who did) exchanging blocks so that each would have new material at minimal additional invested effort.

The “borrowing” is also easy to conceptualize. These pattern books were very popular, and the designs in them were highly sought after. It’s quicker to copy a design from a competitor’s book than it is to come up with a totally new one yourself, especially in the days when pre-printed graph paper was a rarity (some of the pattern books are mostly just that – blank graph paper, with a few pages of pre-done patterns as intro.)

How to identify copying versus trading? You have to get up close and personal with the patterns. As I regraphed them for TNCM I noticed small variants among different versions of the same basic design. Peter Quentel’s two-birds panel from 1527, reproduced on this page from blog Feeling Stitchy is well represented, and exists in many very close variants. There are very slight differences among them in the layout of the flowers, the position of the birds’ feet. This same pattern persisted in middle European folk embroidery, gaining and losing detail over time as it was copied and recopied, in sort of a multi-generational needlework game of telephone.

This particular knotwork pattern has always been a favorite of mine because of its versatility. You see a three-loop knot at the center of the piece I’m stitching now. The knot itself is easy to deconstruct and reassemble. I’ll be using the three-loop center, with a one-loop iteration on either side. Then depending on spacing and relative room, I’ll either do another two or three-loop knot followed by a one or more little terminal center loops to finish.

And finally to answer the person who wrote to say that they liked my stitching but found it woefully modern, and thought TNCM was “contaminated” by my including my own designs – I have to respectfully disagree. I took extreme pains to carefully document every design in the book. The ones that were “inspired by” rather than transcribed bear that notation. Original work is always marked and is less than 10% of the book. Most of it is there to fill out pages so that no space would be wasted.

[controversial thought warning for the following]

I do not believe that producing a slavish copy of a period original is the highest form of expression or understanding. Yes, it does demonstrate extreme mastery, perseverance, and skill that deserve praise. But to create a totally new piece that were it compared side by side with its historical siblings, and see that piece as an absolute exemplar of the type – to the point that were it transported back to the point of origin, it would be unquestioningly accepted – that’s mastery of the inner form. It’s parallel to martial arts practice. Knowing the katas and training forms perfectly is a matter of high skill, but that skill might not equate to being able to abstract the lessons in those forms and apply them in an un-choreographed street fight.

I do not pretend that my doodle samplers and contemporary stitching approach the new-artifact level (with the possible exception of my forever coif). But I do think that the few original designs presented in TNCM do come close, and the reaction some readers that they feel “cheated” proves my point. If those designs were somehow substandard and not tempting, people would not be expressing frustration. Do those looking for meticulous documentation to substantiate and produce a pedigreed work for an SCA Arts and Sciences competition want use my original designs? Some might, from an aesthetic standpoint, but they wouldn’t do so because those patterns can’t be sourced back to a specific stitch-for-stitch or published historical original. But that’s why they’re marked as mine.

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This is going to be a STRANGE sampler, to be sure!


(I do have to pick out and redo the mother ship and invaders on the right side, they’re one unit too far from the center block). Not sure what goes underneath the phoenix. Probably something in brick or chocolate cross stitch to maintain balance, then on to fill up the rest of the cloth with various double running patterns. Maybe some more heraldic/mythical beasties in the corners… We’ll see.

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I never claimed this was going to be a period piece, or a compendium of solely historical stitching. And what better thing to give a gamrchx than something ornamented with sprites?

In other news, the best season of all is creeping up on New England. The tops of the sugar maples are beginning to go red; the air is crisp and clear; kids are headed back to school; and lobster is reasonably priced. What’s not to like?


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Not much to report here on the knitting end, but I have been stitching. The Do Right sampler for Eldest Daughter continues to grow:


In answer to a question, I’m probably going to use the two stitch styles shown (cross stitch and Spanish Stitch – aka double running, Holbein stitch) and possibly long-armed cross stitch. The jury is still out on the latter because it’s dense and heavy compared to these lighter styles, and I don’t want to overwhelm the piece with it. No, this isn’t all that will be, there’s ample blank cloth surrounding this center part that I am going to defile with additional stitching.

The large green ribbon motif and the gray frame around the phoenix can both be found in my book The New Carolingian Modelbook. The ribbon is shown in plate 63:2, adapted from an early Spanish sampler; and the frame is adapted from the strip motif in plate 52:3 (it’s original, but inspired by historical motifs). The phoenix is new. I drew it up this week past just for this project. If there’s interest, I can post it here, along with another Visio stencil optimized for the production of line unit patterns.

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Do Right and Fear No Man

Knitpals please bear with me, I’m taking an excursion into counted embroidery.

As reported here before, Eldest Daughter has gone off to college. Nagging has gotten considerably harder to do, being parceled out via eMail and texting, so I decided to invest all that correctional energy in a more tangible reminder. I’m doing a stitched piece for her wall. I’m still wrestling with this camera, but you can see the beginnings here:


I’m working on 32 count linen, using discontinued DMC Flower Thread (I’ve got a stitching stash, too). The mark of the tambour frame is very evident, although I took it off so you could see the words. The astute may note that the alphabets used for the first and second lines are slightly different, with the top line being compressed by one unit. That and the non-standard, non-lockstep alignment of the words (including the g encroaching on the N) were done on purpose, to give the thing a less rigid look.

This piece will be multicolor, but in subdued ashen hues, and aside from the motto, mostly in linear stitching like double running. If you’ve got a copy of my book The New Carolingian Modelbook, you may recognize the snippet above “Right” as being from Plate 63:2, a meandering repeat I charted from a late 16th/early 17th century Spanish sampler photographed in Drysdale’s Art of Blackwork Embroidery.

I’m not sure what I will do to fill the cloth. This like so many other of my embroidery pieces is going to grow through accretion rather than planning, but I will not be constraining myself to historical motifs only. Expect some surprises as I find them.

What will target Elder Daughter think of all this? Probably that she’s being nagged in front of the whole Internet…

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