opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

Stitches from Altenberg – open chain stitch

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This is another tutorial for the embroidery class I am teaching, utilizing stitches found on altar cloths embroidered by the nuns of the Altenberg on Lahn convent in Germany. Chain stitches are used in several of the extant textiles dating from the 13th and 14th centuries. In particular this Lenten veil is stitched almost completely in chain stitch.  This cloth is currently in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland Ohio here is a link to learn more about it.  http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1948.352?collection_search_query=altar+cloth&op=search&form_build_id=form-3GLIcR92Z9MhgpJjasMJi92ZrM0m3mv5ZIlnZmWFnsE&form_id=clevelandart_collection_search_form

cleveland altar cloth

Altar Cloth Germany, linen on linen embroidery, Altenberg on the Lahn, Premonstratensian Convent, 14th century Date: c. 1350. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio Accession No.: 1948.352

Here is a close up detail of the same cloth, you can easily see the open chain stitches used to outline the beast.

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Detail view -Altar Cloth Germany, linen on linen embroidery, Altenberg on the Lahn, Premonstratensian Convent, 14th century Date: c. 1350. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Ohio Accession No.: 1948.352

Open Chain Stitch also called Ladder Stitch

Chain stitch is a very easy stitch to learn and I personally feel that it is one of the basic stitches that every embroider should know. It can be used for outlining a design and also for filling areas. The look of the stitch can be altered by changing the width of the legs. It works well on both straight lines and in curves. It is a very popular stitch and the basic chain stitch can easily be altered to make more complicated stitches such as heavy chain, Hungarian braided chain. and couched chain. I work my chain stitches in reverse, I think it gives me more control over the placement of my stitches.

For Open Chain also known as Ladder stitch start by making 2 tiny stitches parallel to each other the width you want your line to be.     july182014 random stuff 101

Next bring you needle up from the under side of the fabric and gently thread it between your stitches and the cloth. 

Draw your thread through the two stitches and take your needle back down to the under side of cloth parallel to where you came up at.
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Pull to adjust your tension.

Repeat these two steps as needed.
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july182014 random stuff 124  It should look something like this.   The back will look like this.  july182014 random stuff 125

Here is a detail view of Open Chain used in the project for the class I am teaching.

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2 thoughts on “Stitches from Altenberg – open chain stitch

  1. do you do ordinary chainstitch backwards then?

    I was taught to make chain stitch the couching the loop and wasn’t aware of the other method until a year or so ago – it looked very complicated compared to the way I’m used to

    • Yes, I do basic chain in reverse as well. Relearning how the stitch took a bit of practice, but once I got the muscle memory down I think it goes faster and I have better control of stitch length and tension.

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