Stitch of the Month
August 2004: One-Way
Couching Pattern with Oblong Cross Tiedowns
by Ann Strite-Kurz
Oblong crosses have always been a favorite stitch to use for open patterning because the indentations at the sides of the shape produce such interesting negative space around the units. These crosses are also very versatile because the unit can be used as either an upright or diagonal stitch. In addition, it can be enlarged but I usually use tiedown stitches to stabilize the expanded units. One limitation of this stitch, however, is that it does not compensate gracefully except as a half unit so I seldom use it as a filling inside irregular shapes.
In this month’s couching pattern, I am using a traditional upright oblong cross as a tiedown stitch over vertical laid rows. The laid rows are eight threads apart and two additional fillings are placed in the area between these rows.
The first accent is a sideways version of a stitch that I call enlarged horizontal hot wheel. It is an upright variation of a partial Scotch unit that I created and named hot wheels because of its close resemblance to the miniature matchbox cars of the same name. A chart of the parent stitch along with the offspring is shown below.
Chart of Hot Wheel Unit
This stitch has indentations between the wheels on all four sides so it is particularly striking on a dark canvas. The final element in this pattern is the addition of vertical darning rows of brick stitches that fit between the horizontal hot wheel units.
stitch sample presented above is executed on black 18-count canvas. The laid
rows are stitched in a yellow-gold velour and tied with a metallic blend called
Red Embers. The enlarged hot wheel units are stitched in a #5 yellow pearl
cotton and the brick stitches between these units are executed in a #5 red
pearl cotton. The sample shown is part of a larger design and the partial
stitches at the top and bottom are portions of the adjacent fillings. The
chart of the overall pattern shows three repeats of the pattern without any
of the neighboring stitches.
Step 1 Sequence. Lay the vertical tramé rows back and forth, as discussed in the Introduction.
Step 2 Sequence. Add the oblong cross tiedown stitches in vertical paths, using either the lowercase sequence or the capital letter sequence provided below in the Step 2 Sequence Chart. Both sequences work the crosses in two journeys. The underneath crosses are worked first and the top crosses are added on the return trip. This sequence conceals the traveling threads behind the tramé thread and the pairs of horizontal stitches on the reverse side of the canvas will hold the thread tails securely. The main difference between these two sequences is that the capital letter sequence has shorter traveling distances between rows, making it somewhat more efficient.
In order to conceal the traveling paths of Step 2, postpone the traveling until the first row of in-between Step 3 units is completed. Once these are in place, it is possible to whip through the Step 3 backing to get to the new entry points. In an actual project, any traveling could take place in adjacent patterns, and the order presented here is intended only for this situation.
To accomplish this most efficiently in the sample, add the oblong crosses to the first tramé row on the left side and then park this needle until the first row of the Step 3 sequence has been completed. These placements are tricky without all of the crosses in place, but the presence of one row will remind you to leave room for the others. After this first row of Step 3 is finished, add all of the Step 2 rows. Use the Step 3 backing to conceal the traveling threads in the manner suggested earlier.
Step 3 Sequence. This step adds the units of enlarged horizontal hot wheels between the laid rows. The best way to conceal the traveling paths in this sequence is to rotate the canvas 90 degrees clockwise and stitch the units in vertical rows, which will place the traveling paths behind the tied laid rows. Do not carry the thread between o and p since the path is exposed. Instead travel in the backing of the oblong crosses in the bottom tramé row after it has been added.
NOTE: Depending on the weight of the threads used for Steps 1 and 2, it may be necessary to travel from e-g rather than e-f to conceal the traveling paths. I charted the sequence in a consistent left-to-right order for each pair of hot wheel “tires,” but this order can be changed to an alternating order for the units, if needed, to place the traveling paths behind a thicker part of the oblong cross units.
Step 4 Sequence. Add the brick stitches in vertical rows of darning or running stitches, as indicated in the lettered sequence that follows. This method will keep the stitches straight and spread out the traveling paths as well. To travel properly between rows, one would normally carry the thread to the edge and take tacking stitches in the outline backing in order to hold the traveling path behind it as the thread is carried to new starting points. In this small sample pattern, however, it is recommended that a pivot stitch be used at stitches f and k that will conceal the traveling path between the rows behind a canvas thread. These pivot stitches are back stitches and the running stitch path resumes immediately afterwards. Use minimal tension between these partial stitches to keep the density the same as that of a whole stitch. Stitches that straddle only a single thread will tend to sink if seated firmly but the #5 weight pearl cotton is less vulnerable.
completes the instructions for this pattern. I have also used this same concept
in some one-way and two-way diagonal patterns, and I am including views of
two of these examples along with the charts of each overall pattern. Because
both patterns were designed to fit exactly inside two of the shapes in my
Ruby Razzle Dazzle design, I am not including any sequence instructions.
I hope you will take the concepts shared, however, to design similar patterns
for your own use.
The first pattern uses three parallel rows of diagonal tramé and fits perfectly inside a Jessica oval. The oblong cross tiedowns are thinner and more elongated than those in the upright pattern and the stitch size was adjusted to fit the space available.
The second pattern is a two-way trellis pattern that fits inside one of the bands. In this case the oblong crosses are more decorative than functional. The actual couching stitches are the upright crosses that fit over the tramé rows at the overlapping intersections. The pairs of oblong crosses were actually placed to thicken the tramé rows between the tiedown stitches because the #8 custom braid used did not come in a heavier weight. I thought the addition of these crosses was prettier than simply using two strands. This technique is particularly effective with blended metallics or subtle overdyed threads, but it can be striking in solid colors as well.
CONCLUSION. Many stitches can be interpreted as either an upright or a diagonal version. Similarly both square and diamond two-way couching patterns can be derived from the same printed pattern by simply rotating the printed pattern 90 degrees to form the appropriate framework. The proportions will change when the pattern is adapted to a canvas grid because diagonal stitches that straddle two intersections are longer than straight stitches that straddle two canvas threads, but it can be fun to create variations in this manner.
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