The term ‘applied’ relates to threads or objects that are held in place using another thread, either by couching over the object or stitching through it. For example: beads, sequins, spangles, cord, padding and delicate threads such as metal threads can be couched or secured onto the fabric with small or invisible stitching.
A bar is a thread structures which is normally worked across a void as part of cutwork or needlepoint lace. They can be made from the ground fabric (where the surrounding fabric is cut away and the remainder is stitched over) or from thread(s) stitched across the void which are then embellished.
There are various terms for bars, depending on whether they are decorated:
• Brides picotées, brides à picot, dotted bars, pearl bars and pearl ties are embellished with picots
• Brides ornées are embellished but not necessarily with picots
• Brides claires are unembellished (buttonhole) bars
N.B. the alternative name of ‘pearl’ is more commonly used to refer to a picot, but can be used for the bar itself.
Buttonhole stitches are used to decorate and neaten the edges of holes in the fabric such as those left in cutwork.
Chained stitches are looped stitches. When working a chained stitch, the thread must form a loop on the surface by taking the needle in and out of the fabric at the same point. The next stitch begins inside the previous loop, making a continuous chain-like structure.
A circular structure is one where multiple stitches combine to form a ring or circle. They include eyelets and wheels.
Composite stitches are those which are made up of two or more different stitches. They can also be referred to as ‘compound stitches’.
Condensed stitches are those with a repeating pattern block where the end of one block overlaps with the start of the next, resulting in a slightly compressed pattern. They are normally canvaswork stitches.
Corded stitches are needlelace stitches which are worked over a laid thread. The laid thread is part of the structure but also forms a distinctive part of the stitch.
Couched stitches are used to hold a laid thread in place using either the same thread or a contrasting one. These stitches are normally small and worked at regular intervals to secure the laid thread in place. They are always worked over the laid thread, they never pierce it.
A stitch with a cretan structure has similarities with a basic cretan stitch: alternate diagonal stitches cross each other and on the reverse of the fabric straight stitches are worked at a right angle to the direction of travel.
Cretan structure has similarities with herringbone structure: the difference is that the straight stitches on the reverse for herringbone are worked in the opposite direction to the direction of travel, rather than at a right angle.
A crossed stitch is created by two overlapping flat stitches, to form an X shape.
Detached stitches are those which are minimally attached to the fabric.
Some authors use the term to describe stitches which are detached from each other - these are included in the ‘Isolated’ stitch structure.
Drawn stitches are worked on evenweave fabric which has had the warp and/or weft threads removed (drawn out). This creates an open area in the fabric which can then be worked further. Drawn thread stitches are traditionally used in Whitework.
Flat stitches are those with minimal texture which lay flat to the surface. They are made without knotting, looping, overlapping, crossing or otherwise interweaving the thread.
Framed stitches are those where each pattern repeat is outlined in another stitch (normally tent stitch) to form a frame. They are routinely canvaswork stitches.
Herringbone stitches are those which use the structure of a basic herringbone stitch: the thread crosses itself on one side of the fabric and on the other straight stitches are worked in the opposite direction of travel.
This means if the stitching is worked from right to left, each straight stitch is worked from left to right (so going back on itself) and then the crossing stitches allow forward travel. The entry for double back stitch which is worked on a sheer fabric clearly shows the structure of the stitch.
Herringbone structure has similarities with cretan structure: the difference is that the straight stitches on the reverse for cretan are worked at right angles to the direction of travel.
Isolated stitches are those which are routinely worked as an individual stitch, i.e. not as part of a line or shape or pattern.
When worked as a scattered group they are sometimes known as a powdered filling.
Knotted stitches are formed by creating a loop and then passing the thread through the loop and pulling it tight to form a knot.
A line of ‘foundation’ stitches with a second thread intricately laced through the foundation stitches. The second thread doesn’t pierce the ground fabric. A laced stitch may have a similar third laced thread.
These stitches may also be referred to as ‘threaded’ stitches.
Laid stitches are long, often parallel, stitches which are frequently used to fill a shape. Laid stitches use less thread by alternating direction rather than looping around the back of the fabric. From the back laid stitches show a tiny stitch on the back of the fabric. They are sometimes couched down to secure them.
A looped stitch is one where the thread loops back upon itself and is held down by that thread or a different thread.
Looped stitches are distinct from knotted stitches: for the latter the thread passes through the loop and is pulled tight.
The concept of overcast stitches originated with a repetitive motion of wrapping the edge of a piece of fabric with stitches. They have evolved to include stitches worked on flat fabric, but the principles remain the same: a line is formed of stitches which are normally short, parallel, relatively close together and stitched in the same direction without looping. The stitches can be worked over a fabric edge, a line of padding, or just a design line.
Parallel stitches are parallel, straight stitches worked closely together in the same direction. They are used to fill a shape with a smooth, solid surface. Stitches can be worked diagonally or straight across the shape.
A combination or configuration of stitches repeated at regular intervals to build up a pattern. Most commonly used in Canvaswork, Blackwork, Smocking, Pulled Whitework, Diaper patterns, Wessex embroidery and Trellis techniques.
Picots are nodules made of thread which protrude from the edge of the fabric (normally as part of whitework or needlepoint lace) or a bar (in cutwork) or from the surface of the fabric (normally as part of surface embroidery).
Where picots have been used to embellish bars in needlepoint lace, the bars are sometimes referred to as ‘dotted bars’. The alternative name of ‘pearl’ can also be used to refer to a bar, as well as to the picot itself.
Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/215050.
Piled stitches are those which are formed by loops of thread which can be left as loops or cut to form a texture like the surface of a carpet.
They are worked by leaving loops of thread on the surface which are then anchored in place with small stitches. The loops can be kept of an even length by wrapping them around a gauge (a narrow implement laid along the stitch’s path). Gauges (also known as a mesh) were popular in the 19th century and could be made from metal, wood or bone and varied in size from a sixteenth of an inch to 2 or even 3 inches. Some had a groove which served as a guide for the scissors if the loops were to be cut, and some of the metal versions had a sharp edge which was used to cut the thread as it was removed. Knitting or crochet needles, dowel or narrow rulers can all be used as improvised gauges. The pile was often trimmed to follow the contours of a design, especially within Berlin wool work.
Piled stitches are often worked on canvas, but can also be worked as a surface stitch. They are known collectively as velvet or plush stitches, or as Turkey work (named for their origins in Turkish carpet-making).
A stitch where the thread is intricately looped, often more than once in different directions, to form an evenly-textured line. The thread is predominantly on the surface of the fabric. Plaited stitches can can also be referred to as braid stitches.
Pulled thread stitches are tightly worked stitches which pull open the warp and/or weft of the fabric, often in repeated formation in order to form a pattern. Pulled thread stitches are traditionally used in Whitework.
A stitch which is substantially raised from the surface of the fabric.
Raised band stitches are those which are worked on a foundation of stitches which form a wide band and provide the raised element. Typically, the foundation consists of parallel stitches like the rungs of a ladder, upon which the other stitches are worked.
Raised band Stitches
Reversible stitches are those which are either identical on both sides of the fabric, or form different versions on the front and back. They are ideal to embellish items where both sides of the fabric may be seen.
Running stitches are the simplest form of flat stitch in which the thread is worked in and out of the fabric continuously.
A solid-line stitch is used to form a solid, unbroken line.
Tied stitches are those where a thread is tied down to the base fabric or around a group of other threads so that they are bunched and pulled out of alignment.
Trellis stitches are constructed by filling the desired area with a grid of evently-spaced horizontal and vertical stitches. Where the trellis stitches cross, small couching stitches secure them in place. The trellis can also be diagonal. Frequently found in Jacobean Crewelwork.
Whipped stitches are those which are wrapped around previously worked foundation stitches; the whipping stitches always wrap in the same direction. The foundation stitches can be a line, parallel or star shape. The whipping stitches do not pierce the fabric.
Woven stitches are those which are worked around foundation stitches; the woven stitches are worked in alternate directions or with an over and under motion. The foundation stitches can be a line or star shape. The weaving stitches do not pierce the fabric.