Tag Archives: blackwork


I adore it when I see projects folk have worked up from my designs. I’ve shown off a smattering of them here on String under the tag “Gallery” on the categories list, but I have fallen behind of late. I will try to be more timely posting these fabulous finishes (and works in progress), as tribute and thanks to the creative people who have returned joy to me.

Right now I have several such submissions lurking in my email inbox. Apologies if you have sent photos to me that haven’t appeared yet. It’s a big inbox, and I am combing back, looking for the flags. Names and photos appear here with the permission of those who sent them. I also have some requests out to folk who have sent me photos, but from whom I do not yet have express consent to post. And if you’d like your work to appear here in a subsequent gallery post, please drop me a line. My Gmail address is kbsalazar (in the usual email format).

So in no particular order other than my stumbling around in the dark, I present the first of what I hope will be a renewed series of proud pieces.

The Second Carolingian Modelbook

Sent in by Alex Logsdon, a genuine original composition featuring many motifs from T2CM, selected, snipped, and arranged in true “bungee jump stitcher” mode – picked on the fly and fitted to the space available. There haven’t been many finished objects from my latest book, and this one made my heart sing.

(c) Alex Logsdon, 2022, appears here by permission

The New Carolingian Modelbook

Elaine Cochrane is working on a big purple band sampler, and has included in it some strips from TNCM. Elaine is also choosing designs on the fly in bungee-jump mode. I love seeing her piece evolve with the addition of each new bit.

(c) Elaine Cochrane, 2022, appears here by permission

Ensamplario Atlantio, Volumes I and II

It’s hard for me to separate out the fills in the two volumes in the EnsAtl series. With only a few exceptions, even I can’t remember which ones are in which book. V Louise Behrman is working on a couple of projects using the patterned fills from the books. One is a lovely bit of inhabited blackwork – panels for a casket (a small fabric covered keepsake/display box), the other is destined to be made up into an adorable needle book (a small fabric folder to keep needles safe, dry, and at hand). Both images below are (c) V Louise Behrman, 2022, and appear here with permission.

Epic Fandom Stitchalong – Adaptations

Long time friend and occasional SCA mentor Robert Himmelsbach was a stealth beta tester for some of the bands appearing as part of Epic Fandom. He used the dinosaur strips to make collar and cuff ornamentation for an otherwise historically accurate Renaissance era shirt, proudly proclaiming his ancient lineage and participation in that group’s pre-history (provided you look closely enough at his outfit). He is intending the pirate strip for a second shirt.

Links and/or info about the books mentioned are at the “My Books” tab above. The Stitchalong also has its own tab, above.


A finish. I began at our Cape place around 14 July, and finished last night at the Cape place on 25 September, about 73 days of stitching, working an average of about 2 hours per day.

To recap, this was a vintage dresser scarf, clearly cut down and re-edged from some older piece of linen. It was very well washed, and although it had no broken warp or weft threads, there was a lot of blooming, where the linen breaks down a bit, with threads fused together and some slubs. The count wasn’t consistent, with some threads being much thicker than others, but spot measurements ranged from 28 to 34 threads per inch, mostly averaging out to between 30 and 32. It was ever so slightly skewed, but no where near as badly as other non-evenweave grounds I’ve worked lately.

The pattern has two parts – the main field which I redacted from a 17th century Italian cushion cover held in the Hermitage Museum, shown below (Accession T-2736 in case the link breaks). The companion border I doodled up myself.

Amusingly the skew count of the ground used in the original is greater than the skew of my vintage linen. You can see that clearly in the smaller motifs which chart out as squares, but appear taller than they are wide. Also my redaction norms the spacing of the motifs, which in the original does vary by quite a bit. But I preserve the “creep”. Look at the partials around the edge of my piece. They rise from/sink into the static edge line, each iteration of the swirl being offset from the previous one by a stitch or two in each direction. You can see the same thing on the original.

I stitched the design in garnet cotton (DMC #815). It took almost all of seven skeins. I worked the linear bits in double running, and the solid bits in a variant of Italian four sided cross stitch (basically cross stitch, but in a box). The version I chose is NOT double sided, instead it produces a grid on the reverse. The only reason why I chose that version is that I hadn’t attempted it before. I have no historical reason to pick it over the more usually done fully two-sided version. The full double sided version is more or less the same stitch that forms meshy totally overstitched grounds, but done “gently” as surface stitching, and not pulled to the max to both totally encase the ground threads and produce the characteristic mesh ground found in so many museum artifacts. Here’s my back showing the grid structure of my single-sided interpretation.

On the whole I am quite pleased. My goal of making a splendid runner for our sideboard has been achieved, and I can retire the old, ratty placemat that’s there now. It’s The Resident Male’s favorite spot for opening bottles of wine, and now he can do so in a style appropriate for a Renaissance princeling.

Things I would do differently. Hmmm…. I now wish I HAD done the solids in the reversible variant. Not because I want to have a true double-sided piece, but because I want to play with the challenge of that stitch some more. (Additional future experiments are warranted.) I’m also not entirely pleased with leaving the original dresser scarf edging on this. For one, the non-rectangular nature of the cloth is more evident with my on-grain, symmetrically sized stitched area. It bothers me. But consensus seems to be to leave it alone. So I will. For now at least.

And so I move on to an interim project. I have a wild departure queued up for my next big thing, but the materials to do it aren’t here yet, so I digress.

I want to make another forehead cloth. I really enjoy wearing the two I did a few years back. They are more fun than bandannas or scarves, and do a good job of keeping the hair out of my eyes. I have a piece of linen scrap I am considering. It’s very densely woven though at about 32 threads per inch, and I am not sure that it will show off my chosen design to good effect. (I do have an airier alternative, but I prefer the look of the scrap.) I don’t remember whose leftover this is, but send thanks again to The Anonymous Donor. As you can see I’ve plotted out the corner of my triangle.

There is plenty of real estate on this piece of spill, left over from Anonymous Donor’s sewing project. I’m aiming to make something midway in size between the two forehead cloths I already have. Something in the range of 14 inches for the non-hypotenuse sides.

Shameless plug department: These two pieces have been worn heavily and washed without mercy for the past three years, as can be seen by the frayed ties. But look at the stitching, it’s as good as the day I finished. I did it in the stranded silk thread hand dyed by my apprentice using a historical recipe. NO fading, no breakage in spite of the ground’s distortion from being stretched in wear. No harm to the ground beneath the stitches from the dye used. It’s a small batch item, and not always available, but when it is, it’s worth it. Highly recommended.

Back to the project at hand. I will be stitching a rather dense design I recently doodled up. I’m working on Ensamplario Atlantio III, and that pattern will be part of it. And I will be trying out Sulky thread, a spooled mercerized single strand cotton sold for hand and machine stitching. Possibly in polychrome. I have black, red, blue, and green, so I have scope to play.

More on this one as it develops, of course…


A couple of people have sent me private notes asking about how I go about designing a larger project without graphing the entire thing. I attempt to answer, using the current Dizzy Grapes sideboard scarf/placemat as a possible approach.

It’s true I didn’t know how I was going to proceed when I began this project. I had a graph for the main field repeat, but only one iteration of the design, but not a chart for the entire area that design would inhabit. I didn’t have a border (yet). I had a piece of cloth of dubious cut and unknown count, and I had picked a thread well represented in my stash, with known easy-care laundry properties. I knew I wanted to make a large placemat type sideboard scarf, as big as attainable given the materials on hand.

The first thing to do was to figure out the largest possible area I could stitch on my unevenly hemmed ground. Leaving a bit of a margin around for easy hooping, I took plain old sewing thread and basted in a to-stitch area, with a bit of a margin. In doing this I discovered that the person who had reclaimed this bit of antique linen and done the crocheted edge treatments had a rather liberal interpretation of rectangles in general. Once my edges were basted in, I used simple measure/fold to determine the center lines, both north/south and east/west. Those were basted, too. Here’s that first step:

I also determined the thread count of this well washed, buttery soft vintage linen. It averages about 32 threads per inch, but is quite uneven, ranging from 28 to 34 in places, but didn’t dwell on that beyond satisfying myself that there was enough “real estate” inside my designated area to accommodate at least two full repeats of my chosen design across the narrow dimension.

Having the dead center of the piece determined, I chose a center point on the field design. I could have used the center of the smaller motif. That would probably have been easier, but I wanted the large rotating floral shapes to dominate instead of the largely unworked area surrounding the smaller motif. That was a bit tricky because the motif has a square unit in the dead-center, but I worked that straddling my basted center mark. Then I began working, snipping back my basted center guides as I went. (From here on the piece is shown rotated, with the narrow dimension north/south and the wide one east/west).

The shot above shows that first center motif in process, with the center guides being snipped back as the work encroached.

From there it was a simple matter of adding more floral motifs and the smaller X motifs they spiral around. Then after a group of four florals were complete, defining the space between them, centering the free-floating X in that area. Here are shots of those two processes. Note that as a Lazy Person, instead of tedious counting in from the established stitching, I used temporary basting to determine the centerpoint for the free-floating X motifs.

How did I know where to stop? No clue initially. I figured I’d get as close to the edge of my defined real estate as I could with full motifs, then pause to assess. It’s clear in the left photo that another full cycle of the repeat would not fit neatly between the established work and the basted guideline. But that area is also a bit wide to be entirely border. The proportions would be off. Plus that small X motif in the center bottom looks odd without at least a partial snippet of the floral motif spinning off its bottom leg.

So I did a rough count of the width left and decided I wanted a border that was about two inches wide at its widest (about 5 cm). Back to the drawing board to draft out something that complemented the design, and was somewhere around 30 units tall. I doodled up a couple of possibilities before settling on one. One strong consideration was the use of an inner line to contain the field pattern, so it had something even against which to truncate.

Once I had my border in hand, I decided that a bit of the center flower in its repeat could scallop below the basted edge line, so allowing for those 6 units, I counted up from my basted edge guide, and beginning at the center point I started the border of the first side. Then I worked right and left until I got to the edge of the “uncertainty zone” – the area as yet unworked at the left and right of the piece. Here’s the first side’s border in process.

As I established the border’s top edge (that field containment line), I went back to the main field, and worked the truncated snippet of the floral motif to fit. You can see that first snippet in the photo above.

Now on to that second side. But I had a cheat! Instead of starting it by counting down, I looked at that center floral snippet on the first side. Then I worked the floral snippet on the opposite side to the same point. That established the containment line on the second side, and I began the border at the center of the second side, working out to the left and right.

Now on to the ends. You can see now that I’m making these decisions on the fly. When I started I had no clear idea of what I was going to do beyond “Field. Border. Big.” I’m handling the problems and decisions as they are encountered, with minimal fretting about perfection along the way.

I chose to do butted borders on this piece. Neatly mitered, squared, or fudged border corners do exist on historical pieces, but they are in the minority. Even though my self-designed border isn’t particularly period representative (those repeating centered units with their own bounce repeat, as opposed to simple twigs all marching it the same direction), I wanted to use a non-mitered corner. I could have ended each off, designed a separate corner square, but I didn’t want to introduce another design variant – the border was already too busy.

Where to start that side border? What happens to the longer top and bottom borders? Do they just end or should I try to end at a visually logical place? Well, I chose the latter. I kept going on the bottom border to the right until I ended at the center of the bounce repeat. It’s just a few units shy of my designated basted edge. Not a lot of waste there. And knowing the height of the border, I established my north-south containment line.

You can see that I’m working on the first of the two spin-off floral sprigs along this side. When that’s done I will go to the centerpoint of the right hand edge and begin working the border from there, headed back to the corner shown. The side borders will end where they end. They will truncate oddly for sure, but having made the bottom and top congruent, what is on the sides, will be what it is. The side as a whole however should truncate in the same spot where it meets up to the border on the top. But no one is perfect. If it’s off by a unit or two, I will have accomplished the same degree of precision as most of the Ancients. They weren’t perfect either.

Stay tuned! The Grand Excitement of seeing the final product remains; and with it how things meet up, how close to symmetry I achieve, and how any as yet unknown problems are solved. And that’s before I decide how I’m going to edge and trim the piece out. Needle lace and/or a withdrawn/pulled element hem are both possibilities I haven’t yet ruled out.

So there you have it. Another adventure in bungee-jump stitching – starting a project with little or no detailed planning, no full project chart (just a partial chart showing the minimum needed), and no clear idea at outset on handling challenges encountered en route. I hope sharing this process inspires folk to take up their own self-composed projects.



Too late. You peeked.

After more than a year since Band 1 was debuted, we go out in style. And I know that a lot of you were waiting for this one in particular.  In this design you never know what’s lurking in the interlaces, waiting to trip you up.

Like the other panels that feature shading, this one can be worked voided if you so desire and the grey area on the chart indicates the logical areas for that background’s inclusion.  However the design is a bit full, so if you do opt for voided, I suggest something that’s quite open, or is done with thinner threads than the main outlines, so that the foreground motifs, sprigs, and twigs are not obscured.

Time Factor 5, mostly for size. Time factor 5++ if you choose to work this voided with a background fill, but by now you are old pros at this and nothing I say will daunt you.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

This is the last band of the project. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it. For those who haven’t started yet, these files will remain here as long as String-or-Nothing persists.


That photo display opportunity mentioned above is a real offer. I will be starting a stand-alone gallery page here on String to celebrate progress and finishes of works inspired in the whole or in part by patterns from this SAL and from my books and single sheet releases. The new Gallery will replace the gallery tag in the general subject index. I would be happy to post any pix of anything derived from my designs, including projects knit from my patterns.

If you do send me photos, please indicate that you are giving permission to post your material, and let me know whether you want your name (or any nickname you choose) and/or a live link to your own page or website to appear alongside. I am happy to withhold names on request (not everyone wants fleeting Internet fame). And thanks for helping me spread the fun!



Back when we were doing the expat stint in Pune, India, I wrote about Kasuthi (aka Kasuti, Kashida), a blackwork cousin that deserves to be better known by Western double running stich aficionados. I recently stumbled across another sample of related stitching, this time from a bit further north.

The Hazara people, mostly in Afghanistan, but also present in Pakistan practice an interesting and related form of linear geometric stitchery. It’s hard to date beyond “traditional,” and given current geopolitics, deeper investigations are unlikely. But here is the limited info I’ve found, plus some examples, and some sources of additional information.

The Hazara are known for several forms of stitching, mostly but not exclusively counted styles using satin stitch, straight stitch, double running stitch and cross stitch, and is better known for phulkaris (large shawls often worked in geometric, counted straight stitches). These double running stitch pieces in particular are probably made by women of the Wardak Hazaras, who live mostly southwest of Kabul. This style is usually worked in cotton or silk on linen or cotton grounds. These double running stitch pieces are often finished out as small mats, bags, shawls, prayer cloths, and other covers.

First is the artifact that piqued my interest.

This is piece in the collection of the George Washington University Museum, Accession T-1240. They note it’s provenance as being Hazara from Afghanistan, probably sometime between 1880-1920. That mushy date range is the earliest and although it’s only semi-hard, is the only date I’ve seen for this style. Note the fields of diapered patterns stitched on the count on a not-so-evenweave ground. The designs skew east-west compared to north-south due to there being more ground fabric threads per unit measurement in one direction than the other. But skew or not I love the repetition and color usage. So I went looking for more.

This artifact is probably the best represented on line for the style, and shows up in most on-line photo collections of Afghan embroidery, although not always with attribution. It is nicknamed “The Snowflake Shawl” and was collected by Jania Mishra, the author of the art blog/sales gallery Woven Souls. She places it as Hazara, but does not opine a date. Still it’s clearly antique/vintage. Her write-up includes lots of close-up photos, and notes the relationship of this style of stitching to mathematical theory. Pop by her blog to truly admire the diverse detail of this piece.

More examples. On the left is a bandanna size prayer cloth that was sold by a textile/rug auction dealer, and on the right is what’s described as a Hazara napkin in the Galerie Ariana ethnic textiles sales site. (No affiliation with/endorsement of these sellers – I find dealers’ on-line photos and attributions an occasionally useful research supplement, although not all dealers’ listing data are of the same quality.)

What can we conclude about dissemination and influences?

Very little.

Double running is one of the simplest, oldest and most ubiquitous of stitches. The scholars of Kasuthi posit a vague “Persian origin” before adoption, mention of in literature, and refinement of the style in the Deccan area Chalukya dynasty courts of the mid 500s to mid 700s, and that dynasty’s later resurgences through the end of the 1100s, culminating in the disciplined style and vocabulary of traditional motifs that are known today through surviving examples dating to the 19th century. Overland trade routes have connected Northern India and Afghanistan and beyond going back to antiquity. The the flow of both peaceful and aggressive contact is also well known, as is historical trade that connected the northeastern African coast with India. Egypt’s Fustat region is another area where visually similar double running stitch artifacts from the Mamluk era (1200s-1500s) are found.

Is this another survival of some sort of time-lost tradition that also gave rise to Kasuthi, the Mamluk works, and by extension over time and geography (and by direct quotation noted by others as well as myself), the stepwise and geometric designs found in early European modelbooks at the dawn of the popular print era (early 1500s), and on to early European blackwork and strapwork? It’s tempting to speculate so, but we have absolutely no proof.

These Afghani pieces could also have been a product of later cultural influences, as waves of association washed back and forth along time’s shores. But the clear correspondences, whether they can be affixed to defined family tree, or are just casual correlations due to the limits of geometry and the simple stitching style itself, are to me are a source of endless fascination.

Here are a couple of sites with additional information on Hazara embroidery in general:

Source material for the Mamluk styles mentioned

And there are more traditional regional counted styles to explore in this area of cultural confluence. I promise to keep digging.


I continue along with what has been nicknamed The Dizzy Grapes sideboard scarf. I successfully rounded the second group of main motifs, and am up to working the small one in the center of the field.

As you can see, there’s plenty more to stitch, including the border. And you can also see the slow rise problem I described earlier. The cloth is flipped from the last set of photos, but the repeat on the right is one unit skew to the one on the left – an inevitable complication of this design.

So. That center unit. Given that it doesn’t align perfectly with the previous one, how to go about placing it. The most obvious way is to pick an easy to spot point on the established stitching, and now that I’ve done one, just count over the same number of stitches to a similarly distinctive spot on the motif to be stitched, then just start in.

But I’m lazy, know that long stretches of counting blank linen are one of my weaknesses, and given the long span, extreme variation in the thickness of this linen’s threads, and frustration after several false starts, I decided to try something different.

Its easy to determine the center point of the large floral motifs. It’s the centermost stitch in the dark center “knot” around which the branches are symmetrically inverted. That aligns with the dark stripe in the grape motif that’s closest to its stem. But those centers are all offset from each other, so just using a simple ruler or single straight edge is problematic. Instead I picked the same spot on each of the four motifs that bordered the field in which I wanted the smaller X pattern to appear, and quick basted a line across that field. One basted line for each big floral produced a 3×3 area. The center unit of that 3×3 area became the center of the large dark spot in the middle of the X pattern. (Yes, if you zoom all the way in you’ll see that one of my basted lines was off by one thread, but I compensated).

You don’t see the basted lines on the full piece, above because once I did that centermost stitch, I removed them. I never stitch over my guidelines, I always snip them away from the work as I approach.

I did this for the other placement of that center X, too, but I didn’t think to document the process. I did try the count in and start method for the second one. You may be able to see the remains where I picked out my three false starts, but the basted line method turns out to be vastly quicker, less fraught, and more accurate.

I am still aiming for full coverage – not just these two repeats centered on the otherwise bare cloth. Now its time to go into hypergear and finish designing the companion border. Once I’ve got that and have my distance from repeat worked for the long sides, I can establish that line and then work my field up to it with confidence.



After the last band, everyone who is still sticking with this project deserves something simple.  Very simple. This would also be a useful learning exercise for someone wanting to try a first strip in double running or back stitch.  There are no surprises here at all.

Time Factor 1 for a nice, quiet, symmetrical repeat that returns us to alignment with the indicated project center line.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 17 debuted on he Facebook Enablers group today and will be echoed here on 19 July.



I’m moving right along on the Don’t Be sampler. The cross stitched letters zoomed by. And over the past three days I’ve gotten a good start on the border, as well. Whole piece photo so you can see the overage I’m leaving to facilitate both stitching and final framing, plus the quick hem job.

Note that my observation on the skew weave was correct. Those first couple of leaves on the return under the letters are differently proportioned than the leaves in the edge’s vertical part to the left of the motto. That will become more evident as I march along. I don’t remember exactly where I got this piece of pre-packaged ground, or how long it has sat in stash – possibly purchased, possibly as part of a supply salvage gift from a friend who passed it on to me, but certainly not recently. As it is, I will not use anything from defunct company “MCG Textiles” again. Ground sold as evenweave should be exactly that (ok, plus or minus a smidge I will forgive), but a 16% difference between the number of threads in warp and weft is flat out misrepresentation.

The corner is incomplete. I forgot to pack the correct shade of my garnet floss, so the little berries/grapes in the corner will be done later tonight. On the one green leaf, I’m still deciding whether or not to fill in all or some of the leaves. I used plain old cross stitch with one strand of DMC floss for that, flat out skipping partials, and only working full cross stitch X-units. It’s passable. It’s also tedious. When I am done with the double running I’ll make the grand decision. Every leaf, alternating leaves, or none at all.

Now. Where was I that I was working “on the go”?

We ran away to our place on Cape Cod for a last weekend before the renters descend. We went with some long time friends, so it was doubly fun. And I brought this project with me. Folk have asked before how I pack and bring projects, so here’s a thumbnail. Note that I didn’t do it perfectly this time – after all, I ran out of garnet. 🙂

First, the container. The plastic zip bag below (shown both sides) is something I saved the last time we bought a full set of queen size sheets for our bed. It’s rectangular, with an interior pocket, and a zip all the way around one end. It’s also a very tough plastic.

Here you see the main components of my travel kit – the three pieces that make up my sit-upon frame, the project itself, a zip pouch containing essentials (threads, beeswax; my third-best pair of scissors on a retractable spool and a laying tool, both attached to a beaded badge holder; my needle nose electrical assembly tweezers); a little magnetic stand/folder (with magnetic needle minder attached); and a spare in-hand hoop.

Note that the stand itself is an easy assemble/dissemble, and fits in the pouch with the project. I bring the spare hoop because it’s not always comfortable or possible to use the sit-upon, and because the sit-upon features a fixed hoop-on-stick, it’s cumbersome to use without full assembly.

When I stitch on the beach I leave the magnetic stand folded in the interior pocket of the see-through plastic pouch, with the pattern page on top. If necessary I have a place-keeping magnetic strip that can grip the board through both the plastic and the paper pattern. That way I can keep my pattern safe from dampness and wind on the beach. The supplies/tools zip stays safe in the transparent plastic bag, too, although I do either wear the beaded “chatelaine” around my neck, or clip the retractable badge holder that minds my scissors to my beach chair.


I offered to make one of my nieces a pair of socks or an embroidered bit – noting that I would be happy to stitch up any saying, no matter how profane it might be. She was amused and intrigued by the thought of naughty embroidery, padded off to think, and eventually returned with a request that I’d term more cheeky than offensive. True to my word, I’ve plunged in. The pearl-clutchers who sent me private notes decrying my lack of taste for the Covid sampler and removing themselves from following this website are no longer here, so at this point there should be few left to object.

First a method description because folk have asked how I go about starting a new piece.

I selected a piece of ground from my stash – a piece of 32 thread per inch evenweave with the branding “MCG Textiles.” Well, it claims to be 32 tpi, but it’s really 32×38, so some distortion is expected. I did this first so I knew roughly what size I was going to be designing to fit, rather than starting with the design then questing in vain for a piece of cloth of the correct dimension.

Then I and Target Recipient had a chat back and forth on the general aesthetics. We established that green was a favored color, considered overall composition choices, and looked at some candidate alphabets and strip patterns for the borders. Once we had general agreement on the direction for the piece, I set in, using my chosen computer-based drafting method – a home-grown solution based on the freeware drafting and image editing program GIMP. I offer a tutorial for that (including templates) here on String (read up from the bottom because the blogging software only allows newest at the top organization.)

This is what I came up with.

The charts below are deliberately blurred because while they are good enough for me, they would need to be cleaned up for use by others. Plus I am not sure if I want to add them to the permanent collection here. Target Recipient would have to give permission, for one.

For the record, the leaf and twist border is available in Ensamplario Atlantio II. The alphabet used for the initial caps is from Ramzi’s Patternmaker collection of pre-1920s European leaflets, Sajou #160. The body text from an older book on my shelf – Creating Historic Samplers, by Judith Grow and Elizabeth McGrail, Pine Press, Princeton, 1974. Original elements of this piece not published before include the supplemental embellishment around the words, adapted from the flowers on the initial caps, and the corner for the leaf and twist border.

The next step was to choose my colors – DMC 890 for the darker green, DMC 320 for the lighter green, and DMC 816 for the tiny flashes of garnet red.

Now we get to the fun part – setting up the cloth to begin stitching. The first thing I did was to square off the cloth. I unraveled the thing around the edges, removing all partial threads until I had a full span of both warp and weft. Then I carefully trimmed off the remaining “fringes” left from the unraveling process. I’ve written before about the poor quality control on the MCG packaged product, and this sample was no different. It was quite skew in cut and desperately needed this squaring to determine true grain and useable size. In this case, I lost about an inch of width in one direction and about a half-inch in the other. Having done that I cut the piece allowing a generous border all the way around the stitched area dimension.

Cut piece in hand, next I had to make sure it didn’t unravel further. I have to say am not a fan of taping the edges, and I’ve had equivocal results using zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine to secure them. I’ve had the whole zig-zagged strip pull off. I don’t have a serger, so I stick with old fashioned hand hemming. For this small project that took about an hour to do a finger-pressed double turn hem, a little less than a quarter inch deep all the way around. I followed the ground threads as I did this, so my hems are (mostly) even. Since this will be framed or otherwise finished so that the edges won’t show I wasn’t super-exact about mitering the corners perfectly, as I would be with a handkerchief, napkin or placemat.

The last step of preparation is determining the exact center point and adding the basted orientation guides for both the vertical and horizontal center lines. I use a light color plain sewing cotton for this, and I don’t bother to make the basted stitches any particular length long (some people carefully stitch these over evenly counted blocks of the ground threads). Just having the simple lines are good enough for me. You can see them along with a bit of the hem in this work in progress shot:

Now it’s just a matter of transcribing my graphed out design to the cloth, using cross stitch for the wording. I’m using two strands of the DMC floss for maximum coverage.

When I get up to the surround I will probably switch to double running, and work the outlines and veining of the ivy leaves and twist in the dark green. I am thinking of using one of the more open fillings, diagonal, boxy, or steps, for the infilled areas, and doing them in the lighter green. We’ll see if I change my mind and do something else when I get there.

All in all I expect this one to be a relatively quick stitch. It’s not large or complicated. Here’s progress as of last night. Considering I started this on Friday night, it’s flying.

I hope this step by step on beginning a project is helpful to someone. And as ever, if you enjoy my designs, free broadsides stitch-along and books, and my published books, please post pix. Obviously I’m in this for joy, and few things make me happier than seeing my designs being worked up by others.



The tribute here should be obvious. But there’s always room to insert yourself into the action, and this band is designed specifically for that. Obviously, the chart bears my initials over a ribbon, but it’s easy to modify to include yours there instead. Or instead of big initials, you can include a smaller set, bracketed by tiny AT-ST walkers. Or you could draft up a short saying, dedication, or motto to fit the spaces left and right of the center helmets. Or you could either doodle something else entirely to put in those spaces, or use the extra motifs I provide.

The whole idea of this strip is to help to make the piece uniquely yours, either through selection of the provided elements, or by taking that step into modifying a design or even drawing up your own bits for those two spaces. To that end there’s a worksheet on the last page of this band leaflet. I offer the layout, two sample alphabets (one large, one small); a panel with spaces to draw in your final design, plus a few “rehearsal” slots below with the corners of the available space drawn in, and those extra motifs.

Time Factor 5+ entirely for the accompanying layout and design task, plus the long straight stitch runs. (I can hardly wait to see what people dream up).

134 stitches wide x 17 stitches tall. 2 blank rows left between this and the following strip. If worked as a stand-alone continuous band, one full repeat in 134 units, plus one blank unit in between the full iterations.

Use one color, multiple colors, or variegated threads, as you prefer.  As with the rest of Epic, there are no rules or must-do approaches.

As usual this band plus working notes and hints has been appended to the bottom of the write-up on the SAL page, accessible via this link or via the tab at the top of every page here on String-or-Nothing.

If you are working our Epic Fandom SAL either as a whole or as a strip excerpt, please let me know. It gives me great joy to see how my “pattern children” fare out in the wide, wide world, especially when they meet up with creative, playful people. And if you give permission, I’d be happy to share your pix of this developing sampler, it in its finished state, or derivative projects including one or more of the Epic bands here on String, in a gallery post, with full credit to you as interpretive artist.

Band 16 will debut on the Facebook Enablers group on 21 June and will be echoed here on 5 July.


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