Category Archives: Embroidered Curtains


Another week of low inspiration here. I’m half way through the brown/tan/ecru entrelac socks. They’re working up nicely, but as I mentioned last week, the yarn has had lots of knots in it, one or two interrupting the color progression, but most clearly knotted before the stuff was dyed. I’m not pleased and will consider greatly before buying Berroco Sock again, even though I like its other properties that are so similar to more expensive European label sock yarns.


I’ve also picked up my olive tablecloth again. Rounds are still interminable, and nothing much interesting has happened since I put it aside last year. I’m still in the spiderweb section, with at least eight more rows of that two-row pattern before I have enough width to consider moving on to the final design element. I share my last olive picture again. The piece now looks the same, except the spiderweb around the outer edge is now about twice as deep.


And finally, in yet another traditional blurry String picture, I show off a partially completed embroidery. This one is a true sampler – a piece that exits only to try out random counted patterns. I had no particular goal in stitching it, it wasn’t intended to be displayed and remained a work in progress. The super long repeat in maroon shown separately is one of the design candidates for my curtain project mentioned here before. That work is still in the larval planning stages, mostly pending finding an affordable close to even weave linen or linen look alike.

misc-embroidery-1.jpg misc-embroidery-2.jpg

Gauge on this sampler is approximately 15 stitches per inch on 30 count linen, in DMC Danish Flower Thread. Stitches used are cross stitch (green at top left), double running (grapes down center of piece and the two-tone framed flowers bit), and long-armed cross stitch (the extra long repeat). At this gauge the red repeat is just under 3.25 inches wide. To make my curtains less of an aeons project and to achieve the heft I want for my curtains, I’m looking for a plain weave even weave of about 12-15 threads per inch. That would make my stitched ribbon about six inches wide. Considering that I would need four panels to cover my windows, each 71 inches long x 35 inches wide, the six inch strip width would be in proportion to the rest of the project. But I haven’t found the linen yet, and certainly haven’t had the time to start, so my embroidered curtains remain a mental exercise for now.


Graphs for all of the patterns on this piece except for the small bans of field filling squaring out the area immediately to the left of the frame flowers can be found in The New Carolingian Modelbook. DMC DFT is now discontinued, which is one of the reasons why my play sampler ended up in my Chest of Knitting Horrors(tm).


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Special thanks to Judith and Emily who offered up valuable advice on the curtain project. I am still hoping to do this is some sort of economical manner, by achieving two side-by-side panels out of my fabric width, but I will heed their wisdom and maximize the width of my panels.


Although I really like the linens at the vendor I contacted, I might have to see if I can find something wider elsewhere because I don’t want to either seam or end up with gobs and gobs of left-over yardage. But then again, there’s shrinkage. I know linens shrink, some more in length than width, others evenly in both directions. I am going to have to experiment by washing a swatch prior to final planning just to confirm final ratios.

Then there’s fading – another caution from my experts. This may be a big problem because my windows are on the sunny south side of the house and I am planning on using high-contrast dark hunter green embroidery thread. I do have to take sun bleaching into account. Perhaps a well-washed cotton flannel or other 100% cotton with dense weave will be appropriate. For the record though, I am planning on losing the Colonial edge roller shades and putting up unobtrusive mini-honeycomb shades to control light and privacy. They will help considerably with the fading problem. (These curtains will be more decorative than functional.)

But I promised to describe how I’d choose among various thread count fabrics.Here’s the original list:

  • Flax Canvas 28 x 24 – 52″ wide
  • Craftsman Linen 20 x 18 – 55″ wide
  • Osnaberg 40 x 45 – 58″ wide
  • Irish linen 40 x 32 – 55″ wide
  • Belgian linen 34 x 38 – 54″ wide
  • Raw linen 34 x 38 -54″ wide

To figure out how large my motifs would be on each of these I do a bit of math, using my first choice design’s measurements – 53 units tall x 308 units long for one full repeat. Note that I’m figuring to do my stitching over blocks of 2×2 threads, so on 28 count, I would be performing 14 stitches per inch (and people whine that 7spi in knitting is too tiny to see!) Also note that I’m taking the variance between the warp thread count (the direction running the long way of the yardage) and the weft count (the direction from selvage to selvage).

Fabric Length Width
Flax Canvas – 28×24 22″


Craftsman – 20×18 30.8″


Osanberg – 40×45 15.4″


Irish Linen – 40×32 15.4″ 3.3″
Belgian/Raw Linen – 34 x38 18.1″


As much as I adore stitching at tiny gauges (50 thread count is normal for me), the thought of working these curtains at anything higher than 32 is – even for me – just plain nuts. Especially when you consider that in a curtain of about 71 inches long, I’m planning on producing a stitched piece that’s about 60 inches long, and I’m planning on making four identical panels. In 28 count, that’s a bit less than three full repeats of my 308-unit motif. At the same time, I don’t like embroidery at bigger gauges either. I’m too spoiled by the grace of these patterns done on finer scale. Using this yardstick, Flax Canvas comes out as the best choice – just at the borderline between too coarse (Craftsman) and too fine (Raw Linen/Belgian linen).

And ratio? Squareness or distortion of the final design, considering that I’d be working on non-evenweave stuff? By looking at the thread count ratios (warp count/weft count) I can see that the largest distortion would be using the Irish Linen (factor 1.25); and the least using Craftsman (1.11). The Flax Canvas works out at a 1.16 skew ratio. I’d have roughly almost 12 stitches across the fabric for every 10 up and down. Not great, but not horrible either.

But then we come to the last and first problem. Of the fabrics available from this source, Flax Canvas is the narrowest on the bolt at only 52 inches wide. And my Curtain Advisers have suggested that more fullness is better. As much as I like these fabrics, I may need to go back to the drawing board and find another source of beautiful, affordable, but wider linen. Suggestions would be very welcome.

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Yes, I’m still knitting. I’m in the “I’ve memorized the pattern repeat and up to churning out yardage” part of the project. The center area of my scarf/stole is approximately 3 feet long. Another two feet and I’ll be ready for the edging:


On the other needlework project contemplations, I wrote to ACP Textiles (the linen source I cited in my first post on the curtain project), asking them about thread counts of their products. They were gracious enough to reply immediately. Here’s the data in case you’re looking at their products, too:

  • Flax Canvas 28 x 24 – 52″ wide
  • Craftsman Linen 20 x 18 – 55″ wide
  • Osnaberg 40 x 45 – 58″ wide
  • Irish linen 40 x 32 – 55″ wide
  • Belgian linen 34 x 38 – 54″ wide
  • Raw linen 34 x 38 -54″ wide

That’s one set of vital data points necessary for further contemplation of this project. The remaining two are what stitching design to choose, and how and to what size specifications will the curtains be made

Stitching pattern

I am contemplating using one of three historical patterns from The New Carolingian Modelbook – all done in monochrome: If you have a copy, here are the citations.

Plate 33:1 – an extremely long block unit repeat, which I would embroider in voided style (working the background, not the foreground) in either cross stitch or long-armed cross stitch. This one is of a complicated interlace sporting grape leaves, and columbine flowers.The strip is 53 units wide, and the entire pattern repeats in about 308 units, center to center. The first publication I found of this was in a modelbook printed in Lyons dated 1533, although it was reprinted at least once by a different publisher in Venice in 1546.

Plate 63:1 – one of the more open straight stitch unit motifs, not suited for knitting or cross stitch but perfect for double running stitch (aka Spanish stitch, Holbein stitch) work. This one is an interlace with pomegranate and acanthus motifs. It’s also 53 units wide, but the repeat is complete in 146 units. This one was graphed from a photo of a boy’s shirt, circa 1540.

Plate 69:1 – another straight stitch motif. This one is of grapes and grape leaves, 65 units wide, with a repeat complete in 127 units. If you happen to have a copy of Drysdale’s Art of Blackwork Embroidery, the original 16/th/17th century Spanish artifact this was graphed from is also shown there on page 33.

Window size and curtain construction

My window is pretty big, original to the house. And it’s one of two. Here it is, adorned with the tired dime-store lace curtains and tobacco-stained roller shade left by my predecessor


I have not sewn curtains before, but it should be pretty logical. Especially for something this plain. I’ve you’ve done this and have warnings or spot flaws in my thought processes, please chime in.

I want flat panels with little or no extra width compared to the window. I want to sew little brass rings on the top that will be threaded onto a narrow brass rod, so I don’t have to allow for a header. I am also going to line the curtains to improve drape, give a bit more privacy, make the back neater, and increase their thermal retention (such as it will be). My window is 44 inches across, from one edge of the sill to the other. My window is 71 inches from top of the casement to the surface of the sill, and 74 inches from top of the casement to the bottom of the casement. It looks like any of the fabrics listed above would be wide enough to provide the two panels I need for the window side by side.

Since I would be hanging the things from a rod attached to the casement, about .75 of an inch below the top, and the rings are likely to be about an inch in diameter, I’d subtract about 2 inches from the 71 for total finished length. That gives me two mirror image panels about 23 inches wide x 69 inches long. I have enough width in my fabric for seam allowances. My guess is that for stability and drape, I’d want a hem of about 2 inches at the top, and about 4 inches at the bottom. That means that for each window I’ll need to buy about 2.25 yards of linen, plus an equivalent amount of lining fabric.

Now which fabric would be suitable for which of my motifs, and how would I go about placing them on the curtains, and how would I treat the right-angled corner when using designs that don’t provide that detail? Obviously more public contemplation of this project will appear here.

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