This needlelace stitch consists of a series of chained loops, anchored by a foundation line of stitches. It resembles a knitted sweater and is therefore a good stitch to sample in wool, but can be just as effective in any thread. A backstitch outline is used in this example, but ceylon stitch could be achieved without a foundation outline by anchoring the row of loops with a tiny stitch.
The earliest evidence of Ceylon stitch is from the Iron Age: impressions made on ceramics from Masbate in the Philippines feature the impression of cloth woven using the same structure as the stitch. Slightly more recently, use of the stitch itself has been found on textile artefacts from Peru, dated to the early Nazca period (1st to 5th centuries AD).
Bring the needle up on the left-hand side of the shape, just below the top foundation outline.
Work a row of loops across the shape. Pass the needle under the foundation line as you work each loop.
Bring the needle back up to the front on the left-hand side, just beneath the previous row.
Pass the needle behind two threads of the loop above without piercing the fabric. Pull the thread through to form the stitch.
Continue working the second row by passing the thread through the loop of previous row.
Structure of stitch
Identifying Ceylon stitch
Ceylon stitch can be identified by the particular pattern that is created by the rows of loops of the thread that fill a shape to create the appearance of a knitted sweater pattern.
Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.33
Mary Thomas, Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.30
Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004)
Sarah Whittle, The Needlecraft Stitch Directory (2012)
Jan Bay-Petersen, 'Textile impressions on Iron Age pottery in Masbate, Philippines', JSTOR. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/29791770 (Accessed: 12 May 2022)
Lila M. O'Neale, 'Archaeological explorations in Peru: part III: Textiles of the Early Nazca period', JSTOR. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41575616 (Accessed: 12 May 2022)