ANG: American Needlepoint Guild - Stitch of the Month - May 2004

Stitch of the Month
May 2004: Two-Way Vertical and Horizontal Couching Patterns with Cross Stitch Tiedowns

by Ann Strite-Kurz

This pattern is similar in appearance to the one-way version presented in the April Stitch of the Month segment. The horizontal tramé rows are placed two threads apart and the crosses are arranged in the same staggered placements in alternate rows, but there is the additional element of vertical tramé rows that are also placed two threads apart. These rows add density and the presence of perpendicular rows also gives the patterns more "diaper potential" since the laidwork forms square networks or trellises. One-way patterns tend to form stripes unless there are strong contrasts between the laid rows and the crosses that will break the linear thrust of the laidwork. Additional accents can also interrupt this thrust as demonstrated in Example 5 of the April segment where the staggered arrangement of the black Brick stitches create a definite diapered effect.

Two Way Trame With Crosses


Steps 1 and 2. Two-way Tramé Rows. Place the laid rows in both directions in the manner discussed for two way arrangements in the Introduction. The vertical rows are laid first as Step 1 and the horizontal rows are added as Step 2 after the vertical rows are completed. Usually these rows are executed in the same thread in a single continuous path but later I will present a group of patterns with different threads for each step. Traditional couching patterns normally use metallic threads for these two steps.

Step 3. Cross Stitch Tiedowns. As mentioned earlier, the cross stitch placements are the same as those in Examples 1-3 of the April Stitch of the Month segment. Therefore the same horizontal sequences should be used that were suggested for the one-way arrangements. In the two-way arrangement, the crosses straddle laid rows in both directions as "holding stitches" to stabilize them, but there are also "untied" intersecting laid rows between the crosses in both the horizontal and vertical directions. The cross stitch units share holes in the diagonal directions.


I prefer to execute these stitches in horizontal rows from top to bottom for the reasons stated in the April discussion. Depending on the types of threads that are combined, the effect of this simple two-way pattern can be quite different, as illustrated by the following samples.

Example 1. The first arrangement is on a white 18-count mono canvas with both the vertical and horizontal laid rows executed in a red-orange Sparkle Rays ribbon. The cross stitches are executed in a #8 gold metallic braid. These same threads were used in one of the one-way versions presented in the April segment, so I have presented both patterns together here to show how much denser the two-way sample is.

One-way Pattern
Two-way Pattern

Since traditional couching patterns use metallic threads for the laidwork, it is a bit unusual to have the placements reversed in this pattern. Because each cross is composed of two stitches and because these units are aligned in diagonal rows, the metallic is more prominent as a top layer. This effect is intensified when the laid rows are in dark values since the classic metallic shades like gold, silver and copper are neutral or middle values. Today's metallics come in a vast array of colors, values and densities so endless combinations are feasible. I usually like to use a lighter weight metallic that will form a clearly defined cross instead of the illusion of a square that is created by the #12 or #16 weight metallic normally used for full coverage on 18-count. This is definitely a personal preference, but it is important to be aware of the difference in appearance. Today total canvas coverage is no longer the highest priority and the availability of colored canvasses has made open patterning even more popular. A number of threads besides metallics come in several weights, giving a designer maximum flexibility to try different effects within the same pattern. Using thin threads for straight stitches is risky as they do not fill the canvas holes. This causes them to lean more and look distorted, requiring additional manipulations to appear straight. However, crosses and other layered stitches with directional changes are less affected by this potential problem.

Example 2. Variation 1. The first variation introduces multiple new concepts. The first of these is the enlargement of the basic Step 1 framework by spreading out the tramé rows. This pattern places the laid rows four threads apart in both directions instead of two. In addition, the horizontal and vertical laid threads are both different colors and different textures. The horizontal tramé rows are laid in the same red-orange Sparkle Rays but the vertical rows are stitched in the gold metallic braid used for the crosses in Example 1. The cross stitch tiedowns are also executed in two colors, and these are arranged in alternating units that are staggered in alternating rows. The crosses in bulky black velour actually appear a bit bigger than the ones in red metallic but the charted stitches are the same size.

Example 2. Overall Pattern


The larger framework also leaves open squares between the crosses and these are filled with four-way mosaic units in lime green velour. Regular upright units could also be used in this arrangement but I prefer the look of the four-way placements around the tips of the crosses.


Steps 1 and 2. Vertical and Horizontal Tramé Rows. These laid rows are stitched in the usual manner but separate threads are used for each step.  The first layer of a two-way pattern must be seated very firmly so that the second layer can be placed neatly on top of it, leaving clear holes around each long stitch.  When rounded threads are used, it is harder to keep these rows straight, so it is important to secure all of the tramé threads before any accent stitches are placed.  Once secured, it is far easier to place the additional fillings accurately in the remaining areas.

Steps 3 and 4. Two Sets of Small Cross Stitch Tiedowns with Alternating Placements. Execute both of these steps in similar horizontal paths. Even though there will be two parallel paths, this direction always places the traveling threads behind the ribbon where they will not interfere with later fillings.

NOTE: The next variation uses the same threads and sequences for Steps 1-4 so only the remaining steps will be discussed.

Step 5. Flip-flop or Four-way Mosaic Units. These units are executed in two separate diagonal paths. Since the two paths use the same thread, it is more efficient to use one long thread that is divided in half to connect the sequences. Go into the canvas at stitch a, then weave horizontally in the Step 3-4 backings and come up in stitch A in a manner that conceals the traveling path. Draw the thread through until the length is half that of the other thread tail. Then use this end for the capital letter sequence and the other end for the lowercase sequence, working the parallel rows of each sequence until the area is filled.

Step 5 Sequence Chart

NOTE:  I call this use of a split thread my "shoelace technique" and it can be used with most of the twisted threads and any of the synthetic threads that wear well. I do not use this method with wool threads or with multiple strands of silk and cotton which have a distinct direction. The chief advantage of the technique is that it minimizes the number of starting and ending threads, making it very useful in composite patterns and almost mandatory in some open patterns where parking places are limited. By splitting the long thread, the two shorter ends wear better than a single double length thread, and they are far more manageable as well.

One minor disadvantage of the split thread in this arrangement is that there is no tension on stitches a and A. This is not ideal, but because the velour is heavy and will fill the canvas holes, this "felony" is not conspicuous. As a result I think it is justified in order to eliminate having to secure two additional heavy thread tails, which separate threads would have required.

Example 3. Variation 2. This pattern is identical to the previous one except for the mosaic units. This time the placements are still four-way, but the units are stitched in two different colors and threads. The short side stitches are in the same lime velour but the long middle stitches are in the black velour used for the crosses. The visual effect is quite different because the black velour stitches merge and create strong diamond outlines that appear to be underneath the couched laidwork elements.

Example 3. Overall Pattern



Steps 1-4. Use the sequences for the previous pattern since the placements and stitches are the same.

Step 5. Middle Stitches of Mosaic Units. Normally I would try to combine the sequences that use the same thread, but in this pattern I did not because the black crosses needed to be placed first in order to secure the tramé rows. Another way to minimize the number of starting tails, however, is to thread up a double-length black velour thread but use only half of it for the tiedown sequence while leaving the other end parked outside of the area for later use. If the pattern is started in the upper left corner, as suggested, the two starting holes are very close. However, leaving the idle thread in that hole could get in the way, so I prefer to park it as far away as I can until I am ready to use it.

Lay the long center stitches in horizontal zigzag paths of  running stitches, as lettered in the sequence that follows. Normally I would choose vertical rows because the traveling paths fall behind the heavier tramé ribbon in this direction, making them less apt to show. The cross stitch paths are also both horizontal, and it is usually prudent to consider a reverse direction for this  step. However, because of the compensation along the sides, I felt it was nicer to avoid having the first and last rows be all compensation stitches. The gold in this pattern does cover well enough that there are no exposed holes around it - just exposed threads - so the risk of any traveling threads showing in the horizontal paths was minimal. The traveling paths of the running stitch rows are also in between the paths of the two cross stitch sequences and will not overlap. Therefore either is really valid but I thought my thought process in making my decision would be helpful when you encounter a similar dilemma in the future. Patterns are seldom neat squares in canvas designs unless the shapes are planned this way in a geometric arrangement, so compensation challenges are always a consideration in planning sequences.

Step 5 Sequence Chart.

Step 6. Side Stitches of Mosaic Units. These pairs of tent stitches should be added in the same parallel rows of back stitches that were used in Example 2, Step 5, for the mosaic units. No chart is needed for this sequence. Simply skip the long middle stitches in the Step 5 sequence, since they are already in place, and add these side stitches as Step 6 for Example 3.

NOTE: The same diagonal paths could have been used for the long center stitches as well but the longer traveling threads would have added unnecessary excess bulk to the backing. The darning sequence has minimal traveling paths between stitches and is therefore more efficient.

Example 4. Variation 3. Another way to alter this basic pattern is to make some of the crosses larger. The next example has alternating arrangements of small and large crosses for the tiedown stitches with no additional accents. The small crosses are in the red metallic and the large crosses are in the black velour. The black stitches form a diamond trellis that appears to be a layer of two-way diagonal tramé since it is hard to see the "seams" where the velour stitches share holes at viewing distance. Dark areas always tend to dominate a pattern, and the diamond outlines are clearly the main focal point here. The arrangement is very open, however, making the pattern appear delicate and airy in spite of the bold black lines.

Example 4. Overall Pattern

Charted View.


Steps 1 and 2. Vertical and Horizontal Tramé rows. Use the same sequences recommended for the previous patterns.

Steps 3 and 4.  Large and Small Cross Stitch Tiedowns. Even though the black crosses are bigger this time, I still executed them in horizontal rows to keep the bulky traveling paths behind the wide horizontal ribbon tramé. No changes are needed in applying the previous sequences except the change in the size of the black crosses.

NOTE: All of the remaining variations use the same threads and sequences for Steps 1-4 so only the additional steps will be discussed.

Example 5. Variation 4.  This example is the same pattern as Example 4 with the addition of pairs of tent stitches around the holes where the large black crosses meet. In the sample these stitches are in the lime velour.

Example 5. Overall Pattern


Step 5. Four-way Pairs of Tent Stitches. It is more efficient to execute these pairs in two diagonal paths in the same manner that the whole mosaic units were connected in Example 2, Step 5. Use the same "shoelace" technique for the separate sequences as well, to eliminate the starting tails.

NOTE: This pattern could also have been formed if the mosaic units in Example 3 had been placed differently. As presented, the four-way placements have the center stitches sharing holes with the red cross stitches. Had these units shared holes with the black stitches, the colors would have merged and formed the same pattern as Example 4 with the "seams" between the stitches in different places.

Example 6. Variation 5. This pattern is the same as Example 4 with the addition of four-way double tent stitches around the crosses. These diagonal stitches cover the "seams" or shared holes between the large black crosses and dilute the impact of the bold diamond outlines that are present in Examples 4 and 5. These stitches are in the lime velour and are more prominent than the pairs of tent stitches of the previous pattern even though the amount of color is actually equal in both patterns. Side-by-side tent stitches create more of a muted "dot" pattern, whereas aligned stitches form a bolder line that shows up better. The double tent stitches straddle two canvas threads so they are the same length as two aligned tent stitches. Sometimes I prefer the perforated look of two aligned tent stitches in a pattern but the longer stitch was chosen here to overlap the velour ends

Example 6. Overall Pattern


Step 5. Four-way Double Tent Stitches. A running stitch path is recommended for this zigzag sequence. I chose vertical rows again for the same reasons that were cited in Step 5 of Example 3.

CONCLUSION. This completes this segment. By seeing so many variations of the same pattern, I hope you are more aware of how simple changes can alter a pattern dramatically. Over the years I have kept a list of ways to vary stitches and patterns that started as I made observations about traditional families of basic stitches. Now I get great pleasure out of using this list to create new stitches but also to combine traditional stitches in new ways to form intricate patterns. Hopefully these results encourage you to experiment in the same way.

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