Stitch of the Month
July 2006: Herringbone border variations

by Kathy Fenchel

Borders, as mentioned in March, are an important part of the overall impact of your needlework piece.  The stitched artwork is framed by a border, which forces the viewers’ eye to the central subject.  The border consists of the frame, the matting, and if you choose, a stitched border.  In the case of a pillow or a boxed piece of needlework, the same principal holds true.  Generally the needlework in a pillow is bordered by cording, a ruffle, or is inset into fabric, all serving to frame the subject.  The edges of a box serve as a natural border, but often additional cording or a stitched border are added.  Borders are an intrinsic part of any needlework.

In March an argyle border was offered as one particular type of border. To make the argyle pattern work, a lot of extremely accurate counting is required as well as a sizable stitching area.  But what do you do if your stitching space is limited and the precise counting skills needed seem to be too much of a challenge????  Stitch a herringbone border! There are an endless amount of variations and you can make variations of the herringbone border fit around any design. 

The herringbone border can be as narrow as one canvas thread in height, and it can be expanded to any height that you think will be attractive to your overall design.  In addition multiple threads can be incorporated into the border.  Below is an example of the herringbone stitch that is four canvas threads wide, and is one thread in height. The second line is over four canvas threads but is two canvas threads high. The final line is also four threads wide, but it is also four threads high. The difference is obvious.

The same three examples are diagrammed below with the addition of another color. Again, the difference is obvious and the possibilities are endless.

To begin stitching a herringbone border, you must first decide how high you want it and which threads you plan to use.  Generally it is best to use the dominant colors in the central design.  And if you use the darkest thread as your first row and progressively add threads that are lighter in color and weight, the herringbone pattern is more obvious. 

OK, let’s begin by setting up a hypothetical herringbone border.  Assume that you have finished stitching the central design and you feel that the piece needs that illusive “something” to pull it together.

  1. Begin by drawing or basting a diagonal line from each corner of the stitched area.  The line should cover the number of intersections that corresponds with the number of threads high you would like your border to be.  In the diagram below, the diagonal line covers six intersections. This means that the border will be six canvas threads high.

  2. Anchor the first thread that you will be using in the lower left hand corner of the design area and make a large cross stitch. The first leg will cover the diagonal line. The second will complete the cross.

  3. Once the cross is completed, continue following the numbering system until you approach the next diagonal line in the lower right hand corner (25/26).

  4. Once you have stitched 25/26 turn your canvas to the right and begin working your way across. In reality you will now be working on the right hand side of the stitched design, but because you have turned your canvas, you will stitch the side horizontally rather than vertically. Stitch number 25/26 is actually stitch 1/2 (see the chart in step number two).
  5. Work your way around the entire design area, turning the canvas to the right as you complete each side.
  6. Once you have completed the first color, you can begin adding the second color to your border. Follow the chart below. Once you reach the corner, turn your canvas and continue around the entire design area.

  7. Follow the chart below to add the third color.

  8. The addition of the fourth color has been charted below.

As you can see, the layers of thread really build up! That is why it is important to regulate the weights and widths of the thread that you use. The heavier threads, such as #16 Kreinik braid, perle cotton, Flair, or NeonRays, should compose the bottom layers. Thinner Kreinik braid, Accentuate, or single strands of threads should be on the top.  It is very effective to use different types of thread, but the weight of each does influence its’ usage.

The photo below shows three rows of herringbone border.  Each is the same height.  Only two threads have been used: Spring and Accentuate.  The three rows of herringbone have been separated by rows of long-armed cross stitched in black perle cotton.  The technique has created an impressive border.

Pictured below is a border that has been stitched over six canvas threads. Four different types of thread have been used.  The first layer is rust color NeonRays. The second layer is copper color #16 Kreinik braid followed by a layer of overdye #5 olive green perle cotton. The top layer is two strands of black floss.

To create an even higher border, experiment a little. The chart below creates a border that is nine threads high. The technique is the same, but the count is different. Remember to play with your threads.... itís amazing to see what you can create!

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