- Spanish stitch
This canvaswork stitch is made up of asymmetrical crossing stitches where the second crossing stitch is half the width of the first, and each stich overlaps the preceding one. Collectively they form what looks like a row of plaited braid.
Plait stitch was certainly in use in late medieval Europe: there is a whitework altar cloth from 14th century Germany (held by the Metropolitan Museum in New York) which features the stitch and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London holds a stole from a similar era.
Historical references to plait stitch can be hard to interpret as they may refer to long-armed cross stitch or plaited Gobelin stitch (or even heavy chain, or any other stitch which provides a braided line), rather than what we now call plait stitch. The 17th century inventories of English needlework from Hardwick Hall contain such references.
More recently, plait stitch has featured in three Moroccan embroidery traditions: Chefchaouen embroidery, 19th century Salé embroidery where it was used extensively to render geometric designs and Azemmour embroidery which uses it in negative design counted thread work.
Make a diagonal stitch from bottom left to top right across four intersections of canvas.
Bring the needle out four canvas threads below the top corner of this stitch, then make a diagonal stitch up four and across two threads of canvas to the left.
Structure of stitch
Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.90
Rachel Doyle, RSN Essential Stitch Guides: Canvaswork (2013) , p.79
Mary Thomas, Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.134
Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.121
'Altenberg altar cloth', Met Museum (2020-1). Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/466843 (Accessed: 06 October 2021)
James J. Rorimer. (1930) 'Fourteenth-century German altar cloth', The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulleti pp.10-13. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3255922
, 'Fourteenth-century stole', Victoria and Albert Museum (2021). Available at: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O130817/stole-and-maniple-unknown/ (Accessed: 06 October 2021)
Lisa M. Klein. (2001) 'Early modern English embroideries: contexts and techniques', Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts pp.38-41. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23182820
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Chefchaouen Embroidery (Morocco)', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/middle-east-and-north-africa/pre-modern-middle-east-and-north-africa/chefchaouen-embroidery-morocco (Accessed: 02 September 2021)
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Salé Embroidery (Morocco)', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/middle-east-and-north-africa/pre-modern-middle-east-and-north-africa/sale-embroidery-morocco (Accessed: 06 October 2021)
Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 'Azemmour Embroidery (Morocco)', TRC Leiden (2017). Available at: https://www.trc-leiden.nl/trc-needles/regional-traditions/middle-east-and-north-africa/pre-modern-middle-east-and-north-africa/azemmour-embroidery-morocco (Accessed: 25 August 2021)