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

Stitch of the Month
October 2004: One-Way Diagonal Couching Pattern with Mirrored Milanese Tiedowns

by Ann Strite-Kurz

Web stitch is a small scale pattern with diagonal couching so the logical next step is to introduce a large scale pattern with similar diagonal laid rows. The arrangement chosen uses a main framework of a stitch that I call mirrored Milanese because it resembles two mirrored triangles that share a common apex. A traditional Milanese unit is a slightly larger triangle shape, so this label seems appropriate since the sides of the mirrored unit share a common center stitch.

Chart of Overall Pattern.

The mirrored Milanese units in this pattern are arranged in aligned horizontal and vertical rows, forming what would normally be referred to as a square network. To show this underlying network, I have outlined several squares in the lower left corner of the overall chart above. The remaining elements in the pattern will fill the areas that form the corners of these “squares” and include two additional steps. The dark tent clusters form a circle between the Milanese units. The long center double tent stitch is shown in a matching solid symbol, but a contrasting stitch will be included as a separate step. The pair of additional tent stitches that flank both sides of the center tent stitches of each mirrored Milanese unit will complete the pattern, making it a solid composite pattern with four steps.

Stitch Sample.

(click on image for larger view)

The stitched interpretation of this pattern is unusual in that it is monochromatic. It was used as the filling for the antlers of a moose figure that is part of a four-way design called Antlers in the Treetops. Because of the highly irregular shape of the antlers, and because the figures are placed diagonally in the corners of the design, I knew that a pattern with diagonal stitches was mandatory. I could have chosen a simple stitch that is easier to compensate but I liked the idea of a bold composite stitch that would incorporate multiple textures and values to suggest the natural shadows and color variations that are normally present in antlers.

The mirrored Milanese units are executed in an ecru shade of #5 pearl cotton and the tramé rows are laid in a #16 Kreinik metallic braid in Vatican gold. The tent clusters and double tent stitches are stitched in a tan floss and the final tent pairs are added in the same Vatican gold metallic.

It is more usual to interpret a composite pattern in two or more colors, and a multicolor interpretation of this pattern would be a diaper. The example shown has only four steps, but a second charted pattern showing the fifth step discussed earlier appears below. The long center stitch in the middle of the dark tent clusters has a different symbol in this example, adding an extra step.

Chart of Second Overall Pattern.

Depending on the thread weight used for the laidwork, this pattern can be slightly open or solid. If a flat braid is used, I would suggest postponing the laid rows and adding them as a second step with running stitch rows after the main framework of mirrored Milanese units is completed. This way the center tent stitches of the mirrored Milanese will fit comfortably without having to straddle the wide ribbon. The running stitch rows will still appear to be laid rather than executed as separate individual stitches, and I refer to this technique as a “simulated” or “mock” couching technique. If executed in this manner, the pattern will appear the same if the thread used for the mirrored Milanese units covers fully. Only the sequence order changes along with the method of adding the laid rows. A charted view of this modified version of the pattern appears below. You may choose either approach, and either the four or five-step version of the pattern.

Chart of Modified Pattern.

Step 1 Sequence. Tramé Rows. The Step 1 and Step 2 sequences are combined on the same chart. This chart has only three repeats in order to make the lettering more readable, so please add the extra rows needed to match the larger samples shown earlier. The tramé sequence is identified with the capital letter sequence. Lay the rows back and forth until the area is filled. These rows are 5 threads apart along the straight edges.

Step 1 Sequence Chart.

If you plan to use the running stitch option (shown as Alternative Tramé Sequence), please skip Step 1 and start with Step 2. A second chart will also follow that provides the alternative sequence for the running stitch rows. The substitution of the shorter diagonal stitches for the long laid rows also has the added advantage of making it easier to place the diagonal paths. Because the main framework of mirrored Milanese units will already be completed, the laid rows can be placed within the guidelines of an established pattern, and no diagonal counting is needed.

Step 2 Sequence. Mirrored Milanese Units. These units are identified with the lower case sequence. A diagonal path was chosen because the units can be stitched in sequential order in this direction with no need to pivot between rows. If the pattern was open, a horizontal or vertical path would conceal the traveling threads better, but this is not a consideration in a solid pattern.

Modified Sequence for Stranded Plies. There is one situation, however, where an alternative sequence would be preferred. When units are symmetrical and have parallel satin stitches, they will usually appear more uniform if they are not stitched in sequential order, especially when stranded plies are used. All stitches lean slightly when laid because of the natural tension on the traveling path. When executed in sequential order, these leaning stitches may overlap each other slightly when laid in side-by-side multiple plies. In applying this theory to a symmetrical unit like the Mirrored Milanese, it would be beneficial to stitch the outside stitches in the same order and to stitch the middle stitch either first or last to get the most uniform appearance when stranded silk or cotton floss or multiple strands of fine wools like Medici are used. For example, a sequence of c-b-a-d-e in one direction and h-g-f-i-j in the reverse direction would be laying the center stitch of each unit first, and the side stitches from the center out on both sides

When coarse twisted threads are used, however, any improvement is far less noticeable, so stick with the usual “sequential order” approach as lettered and do not consider this alternative option for these types of threads.

Alternative Tramé Sequence. Running Stitch Rows. This version of the tramé rows will add the diagonal stitches in a broken running path, as numbered in the chart below.

Alternative Tramé Sequence.

If a heavy thread or ribbon is used, there is no need to tuck these stitches behind the outside stitches of the Mirrored Milanese units. They will still appear to be laid rows since the long outside stitches will overlap the sinking holes of the running stitches.

Step 3 Sequence. Tent Clusters with Double Tent Center. The chart below provides a lettered sequence for the tent clusters that includes the long center stitch that straddles the tramé thread. These are worked in diagonal paths, and each individual cluster is executed most efficiently in three diagonal rows that are parallel to the tramé row. The top two stitches are added first and then followed by the side stitches and the long center stitch as the middle row. The bottom four stitches are added in pairs, working from the outside in. Pairs of tent stitches should be worked in continental back stitch instead of half cross and this sequence maintains that consistency.

Step 3 Sequence Chart.

Step 4 or Step 3 Alternative Sequence. Tent Clusters with the Double Tent Center Added as a Separate Step. If the long center stitch is executed in another thread, the sequence for the tent clusters will change only in that the long stitch is skipped.

Step 3 Split Sequence Chart.

The double tent stitches are added as diagonal rows of back stitches and they can be stitched as Step 4 either before or after the tent clusters. Follow the capital letter sequence as indicated.

Step 5 Sequence. Pairs of Tent Stitches. Running Stitch Rows. The final pairs of tent stitches are added as running stitch rows. Follow the lettered sequence shown in the chart below and work the stitches in diagonal paths as indicated.

Step 5 Sequence Chart.

Both ends of these stitches share holes with existing stitches, but because the earlier stitches are all snugly wrapped, these new stitches will come up and sink comfortably throughout the pattern. I could have added these stitches as part of the original tent clusters in the same thread, but by omitting them and adding them in a different color later, the earlier stitches form attractive circles, which are unusual.

I also like the dimpled or perforated effect that is produced by the small individual tent stitches. These stitches contrast nicely with the bolder elements, making a more interesting composite pattern.

As indicated earlier, in spite of the multiple steps, this pattern will compensate easily because all of the steps except for the laid rows have parallel diagonal stitches that shorten easily. The laid rows are perpendicular, but they too will fit comfortably within any area as diagonal stitches. For added clarity in the Step 3-4 sequences, I did not include the extra Step 3 and 4 stitches that are shown in the square overall views of the pattern, but these partial clusters would be easy to add.

CONCLUSION. This pattern further supports my opinion that couching patterns will fit comfortably in any area as long as the tiedown stitches and any other filling stitches added are ones that maneuver well and compensate easily. The sophisticated look of the layered effects along with the addition of the metallic threads that are usually used for the tramé rows make these patterns truly elegant, and endless combinations are possible. I have tried to introduce a variety of styles in this 2004 Stitch of the Month series and I hope that I have demonstrated how versatile these patterns can be. The November segment will present a single example of a two-way diagonal couching pattern. The final project in December will incorporate five of the patterns that have been covered, so you will be able to see how different styles can be combined in an interesting way.

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