opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

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Stitches from Altenburg -counted cloud stitch

I would like to expand and clarify some of the material that I covered in my recent Stitches from Altenburg class at University of Atlantia. For anyone reading this post, that did not take the class. Over the last 6-9 months or so I have been studying Five extant Liturgical embroideries from the German convent Altenburg on the Lahn. My research has concentrated on how these textiles relate to the greater body of linen embroideries known as Opus Teutonicum. These five embroidered textiles from Altenburg are all stitched with linen thread on a linen background and date from between about 1250 to 1350 ce.  As part of my research I have charted the counted fill stitches used on one of the altar cloths from the convent, and made a small sampler project in order to share some of what I have learned with other embroiderers.

altar cloth 1

Sophia, Hadewigis, Lucardis Altar Cloth. Altenburg on Lahn Convent, German, ca.1320-1350, linen embroidery on linen cloth, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, New York. accession number 29.87

The Altar cloth is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and you can see it by following this link. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/466843 The stitches that I taught in the class are all found on this cloth with the exception of the Ladder stitch which is found on a cloth that is part of the Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts Collection. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1948.352?collection_search_query=altar+cloth&op=search&form_build_id=form-wCfOjt3xe3Mh5n2vxvYYlb9ucwikaMBd17SZDs2qqBw&form_id=clevelandart_collection_search_form



Counted Cloud stitch is a lovely couched fill stitch. It is very easy and quick to work once you have figured out the pattern. One of its main features is an extremely efficient use of materials, almost all of the thread for the stitch is on top of the fabric. In addition you can very easily change the look of the stitch, by changing the number, size and placement of your “holding” stitches.

Step 1. making a grid of holding stitches. I chose to use 2 stitches that are 3 threads long, then counted over 7 thread for the next set of straight stitches.  For the second row I counted down 4 threads and centered first 2 holding stitches half way between the stitches in the first row.  In order to center your second row of holding stitches remember that if you have chosen an even number of straight stitches you will need to count over an uneven number of threads.  And, if you chose to make an uneven number of straight stitches you will want to leave an even number of threads in the space between.  This will allow you to center the next row correctly.


the back of your piece will look like this.
Step 2. Once you have stitched your holding grid it is time to start threading your couched thread.

Run your needle under the first set of holding stitches ( you want to keep your needle under the stitches but above the ground cloth.

drop down to the second row and thread your needle under the first set of holder stitches in that row.

pull your thread through

go back up to the second set of holders in the first row and repeat.



when you reach the end of your row you should have a couched thread that makes a zig zag between the first and second rows.


Step 3. the return trip.  Bring you needle to the under side of the fabric and then come back up again at the end of your third horizontal row of holding stitches.


Continue until your area if filled.