Stitch of the Month
March 2005: Simply Elegant Border #1

by Sharon G

There are times when a canvas needs a border. It can be a few rows of a simple stitch, or a combination of several rows of simple stitches allowing elegant threads to do the work.

In this Stitch of the Month, I chose to walk you through building a border with simple stitches using elegant threads. The border was inspired by an antique gold frame.

It would not be a happy day if I ran out of my favorite metallic thread. It is no secret that I love Kreinik's 1/16th ribbon color 002. In this stitch, 1/16th ribbon is the star. It is used in the heavily padded "Padded Cord" sections of the border. You can substitute any similar weight ribbon in either metallic or woven. Some metallic ribbons are softer, and some are more faceted.

It is difficult to photograph metallic threads to show the varying levels on the canvas. This border rises in three steps from the innermost borders to the outside. This is achieved by varied amounts of padding.

The border is broken down into two parts. The first part is the gold section to the bottom and left of the black line of Encroaching Gobelin. The second part is the section to the left and top and includes the optional black Encroaching Gobelin line. Plan to add it if you feel you need a wider border. The inner optional border is done in Fern and Encroaching Gobelin. Charts for these stitches are in Diagram 4 and are shown in place in Diagram 5.

Blue Corner Sample
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Instructions for Simply Elegant Border #1

Diagram 1
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Diagram 1 shows two rows of Tramme Couching. I used Kreinik #12 Braid for the Tramme shown in the diagram in red, and couched with Kreinik #4 Braid shown in dark blue.

Tramme couching is done by laying two long threads, one on each side of a canvas thread. The couching portion of the stitch brings the two threads close together and they will lie on top of the canvas thread they spanned. In the sample I used Kreinik #4 braid color 002 to do the couching.

You should do one row around and complete it before you begin the second round. Keep the corners empty. You will place a Ray Stitch in the corners in a later step.


Diagram 2 shows the addition of two rows of padded satin stitch using Kreinik 1/16th ribbon color #002. These will be referred to as the padded cords.

First you would lay two or three strands of #3 pearl cotton, or heavy cotton string down the length of the side. The amount of padding you use is your personal decision. Using a laying tool and making sure the ribbon does not twist, do satin stitch over the padding. Continue this stitch all around the border leaving the corners open.

The second step is to place the second row around the border using at least 4 strands of pearl cotton #3. Depending on your tension, you may use 4 to 5 strands. The chart shows three red lines. Due to the limitations of the charting program, I can not show more than 3 lines. You want it significantly higher than the first row. It should appear like a gold covered cord. Continue covering the padding with 1/16th ribbon all around the border.

Diagram 2
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Diagram 3
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In Diagram 3 we will do some optional top stitching to enhance the gold frame. If you look at ornate gold frames, you will notice they often have a little bit extra in the corners. I chose to do a chain stitch between the rows of the padded cords extending about 1-3/4 inches then continue on, still between the rows of padded cords, with a simple couched treatment. I used Kreinik #8 braid in the sample. The rice shaped stitches extending out form the corner are the chain stitches. I didn't chart the actual chain stitch. Please refer to any book if you need to see how it is done. The length of the chain stitch will depend on your length of the border. I would say if your border is 12 inches long, extend the chain stitch for about 1-1/2 " before laying a single strand of #8 gold between the two padded cords. Estimate about 10%, give or take a little, for the chain stitch length.

When you lay the #8 between the padded cords, you will couch it with the same weight thread. You will come up in the hole between the padded cords, go over the laid thread and sink your needle back in the same hole.

After this step is complete, refer to the chart for the Ray Stitch corner. You will use 1/16th Ribbon for this stitch. Follow the chart to see how the Ray Stitch is divided and placed. The stitch works out of 5 holes in the inner corner and rays out to the corners. It is clearly divided into 5 sections. I began with section 2 and 4 then went to the two outer edges, section 1 and 5, and did the center portion of the stitch last. You may find a different rhythm works for you. The end result should look evenly placed and distributed.

Finish off the outside of the border with a row of backstitch over 2 all around the border. This will give it a nice edge, and make the padded cord rows stand up more. If desired, although not charted, you can do two rows of tent around the outer borders. Sometimes I instruct using this as a buffer so no canvas shows when the piece is framed or the mat does not butt up perfectly. I would rather see a bit of gold than a bit of canvas showing.

The Simply Elegant Border can consist of the steps in Diagram 1 to 3. If you would like a larger border or feel your border needs a further tie in to your canvas, you can plan to include the steps shown in Diagram 4 and note the placement in Diagram 5. The photo of the completed stitch shows these steps.


The innermost border is the fern stitch. The next three lines of stitches are done in Encroaching Gobelin beginning with the stitch over 3 for the first row, over 4 for the second and over 3 for the third.

I used Kreinik #8 braid for the Fern Stitch. Refer to Diagram 4 to study the Fern Stitch chart. Note the placement of the Fern Stitch in Diagram 5. Use a laying tool to keep the thread taut. It will help in keeping it neat and from knotting.

Both of the stitches in this step are done from the corner to the center of the side and reversed on the second half of the side. I found it easiest to measure the center and stitch from the corners toward the center compensating the stitches to join at the side center. You will match this join point in all the rows of both Fern and Encroaching Gobelin.

Refer to the photo below to see how the stitches join. Your stitches may not end up finishing at the same count mine did, but you can see an example of the center side join.

The second innermost border is done with Encroaching Gobelin. You can use 2 or 3 ply of any stranded floss or silk. Select colors to compliment different colors in your design. Remember to work from the corners into the center side, reversing the direction of the stitch and compensate where they join. The innermost row is over 3, the second row is over 4 and the outer row is over 5.

Diagram 4
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Sample - Side Stitches Meet

This photo shows the area where the side stitches meet and compensating stitches are placed in the Fern and Encroaching Gobelin Inner Borders.


Diagram 5 shows a corner of the completed border with all the stitches in place. You can turn your final chart 90 degrees each time to stitch the other three corners.

I will be showing another "Simply Elegant" border treatment in another installment of Stitch of the Month.

Diagram 5
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