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Ball stitch

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This needlelace stitch is used to cover a spherical object, such as the top of a tassel.  It is worked using a simple knot stitch in concentric circles; the number of stitches remains the same in each row and so the spacing widens to a diamond pattern in the centre of the sphere.

This stitch was certainly in use during the first part of the 20th century as it features in Mrs Christie’s 1921 publication, Samplers and stitches.  She indicates that it is more effective than single Brussels stitch for covering a tassel head.

Ball stitch is generously sponsored by Kathryn Wade


The number of stitches remains the same on each row, so ensure your initial loop is large enough to fit in a suitable number of stitches, whilst still leaving sufficient space between them to work the next row.

This example is worked around a spherical bead with a temporary structure of vertical threads.  A thin thread is wrapped vertically through the centre of the bead like the segments of an orange; the wraps should be evenly spaced.  This temporary structure can be used both to hold the initial loop in place, and, if desired, as something to knot the stitches around to prevent them from sliding up the bead.  If you are going to knot the stitches around the threads, the number of vertical threads should correspond to the number of stitches in a row (this example uses 10).

As the sphere widens, loosen your tension slightly so that the threads between the stitches are long enough to be pulled down later to create a diamond pattern.  Once you have passed the widest point of the sphere, tighten your tension slightly (when you point your needle down, angle it slightly backwards).  This will tighten your stitching and therefore help to pull the previous rows downwards and create the diamond pattern.

Rather than using a bead Mrs Christie suggests working on a form made of linen. She suggests taking “a narrow strip of soft linen, say, a quarter of an inch wide, and tapering to one-eighth at one end, and, starting with the wider end, roll it up”.  She works the first half of the sphere in the hand before stuffing it with the linen and completing the stitching.

Ball stitch method stage 1 photograph

Create a loop around the top of your ball by sliding your needle under the vertical threads.

Ball stitch method stage 2 photograph

Working from the top of the bead and between two of the vertical threads, slide your needle under the loop.

Ball stitch method stage 3 photograph

Bring the working thread from the left and wrap it around the needle in a clockwise direction.  Tighten the knot against the loop and pull through.

Ball stitch method stage 4 photograph

Move to the next anti-clockwise gap between the vertical threads and slide your needle under the loop.  Wrap the working thread around the needle in a clockwise direction, as before.  Keep your needle straight as you tighten the knot and pull through (this helps keep the spacing between the knots regular).

Ball stitch method stage 5 photograph

Continue working knots in this manner until you have completed your first row.

Ball stitch method stage 6 photograph

To start your next row, slide your needle under both the thread between the first and last knots and the vertical thread, and work a knot as before.

Ball stitch method stage 7 photograph

Continue working knots in this way, anchoring them to the vertical threads until you have completed your second row.  These knots are offset from those of the previous row.

Ball stitch method stage 8 photograph

Continue working rows in this way, alternating whether the knots are worked over or between the vertical threads.  As you work towards the widest part of the sphere, gradually lengthen the amount of thread between the knots.

Ball stitch method stage 9 photograph

When you have passed the widest part of the sphere, reduce the length of the thread between each knot - angling your needle slightly back rather than vertical will help. This will tighten the stitching and pull the needlelace into the diamond pattern.

Ball stitch method stage 10 photograph

Your final row should result in knots which are almost touching.

Ball stitch method stage 11 photograph

Carefully cut and remove the vertical guide threads to finish your sphere.

Ball stitch

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques

Related Stitches


  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.61-2
  • Muriel Fry, Embroidery studio (1993) , p.92