opus mariss

Embroidering through Time and Space

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Caveat em…broider

I usually have a pretty good idea of where a project is going, and how to get there, but not always.

I was pretty gung-ho about this project and wanting to get it done for the beginning of March, so I started stitching while still having questions about how the stitch worked.   Instead of taking a few hours and making up some test swatches, I just started stitching.  Which led to do something I didn’t like, that didn’t look right, and had to be taken out.  Which I hate doing, and was a huge waste of time, plus the time it takes to re-stitch the area correctly…bleh.   So learn from mistake.


Don’t do what I did.

Long Armed cross stitch is a directional stitch in order to get the characteristic rows that kind of look knitted, you need to work your rows or columns of stitches in a back and forth method. Switching the direction that the long arm of the stitch is tilted towards. If you do it correctly you get a really cool textural effect, if you don’t it looks essentially like modern cross stitch . I didn’t have a complete grasp of that concept when I started stitching my first shield.  The photo at the below shows the two different effects.

The white back ground of the shield is stitched with the long arm of the cross going the same way in each row. It’s kind of boring and very “modern”.  The Blue wavy bit is stitched with the long arm of the cross alternating angles and creates row that almost look like knitting.  That is the way the stitch was worked in the middle ages.  And, the reason I decided to use the stitch in the first place.

Heraldic long armed cross stitch

Fragment linen and silk embroidery (1301 to 1500), inventory number 2574 Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nurnberg Germany

In this photo you can clearly see the “knitted row” effect.  Two rows of embroidery form each visual row.  Medieval embroiders also switched the orientation of the rows to suit their design needs.  In the pale heraldic motif the stitches move top to bottom throughout the lozenge.  In the dark motif the bars are stitched side to side and the central design is stitched up and down.  This switching of orientation is very different from modern cross stitching which is done left to right(or right to left depending on handedness).  I had figured the orientation switching and worked that into my design.

But, (and here is the big important take away from todays post).  I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Are they stitching back and forth, or from the same side each row? I should make up a couple quick samples and see if it makes a difference.”  And I didn’t.  I just started right in, picking the wrong way to do the stitch.  Compounding the problem, I didn’t stop when I realized it didn’t look right.  I kept going thinking somehow I would come to like it.  I didn’t.  So learn from my mistake, take the time to answer all your questions about the stitch. And if you don’t like something, take it out early on.  Don’t wait thinking it will magically get better with time, it won’t. (That might actually be pretty good advice for a lot of stuff in life.)   But I’m back on track now, and much happier with the way it looks.


looking better already