Stitch of the Month
March 2006: Argyle Border

by Kathy Fenchel

Composite stitches can create wonderful borders. Borders serve as an important and intrinsic part of your needlework. As in any piece of art, the subject of the design needs a frame, so that the eye does not wander from the central theme. The border, or frame, forces the eye back to the most important aspect of the design.

One of my favorite borders is an adaptation of a traditional Argyle pattern. It is a variation of the pavilion stitch, which was introduced in January. The Argyle border pattern is done in four steps, using four colors of thread.

I have found that the best thread to use when stitching the diamonds, which are the first two steps of this design, is a flat, ribbon-like thread such as Rainbow Gallery's Neon Rays or YLI's Ribbon Floss. You aren't limited to a ribbon-like thread, though. You may also use a stranded thread, but it is very important to lay your threads smoothly and to use a sufficient numbers of strands to cover the canvas!

Steps three and four require the use of a round thread, such as a Kreinik braid. The color should contrast with the colors used for the diamonds. Also, it is not absolutely necessary to use two different colors for the last two steps, but it does add interest. You will have to experiment to achieve the look that is pleasing to you! If you choose to use this border on a Christmas piece, red and green make a wonderful color choice, and there is a huge range in these two color families.



  1. Begin using one color of thread to stitch a horizontal row of pavilion diamonds across the width of the canvas. (Rust colored in the photo above). You must center an even number of diamonds in order for the design to appear balanced. Therefore, a good way to start your border is to begin stitching in the center and work toward the corner of the design.

  2. The following chart is numbered, but be aware of the order of the numbering changes as you approach the corner. The reason for this is that once you reach each end of the horizontal line of diamonds, you must begin stitching the diamonds down the sides of the border. This composite stitch leaves a lot of open canvas, so it is necessary to follow the changed numbering sequence to avoid having threads showing through from the back.

  3. Follow the numbering on the chart. Obviously the number of diamond units across and down may be different, since how many diamond units you stitch will depend on the width and height of your design. Remember that your horizontal row must be an even number of diamonds! Also, it is very important that the distance between the vertical rows is accurate, because you will be adding diamonds in another color once the first trip around the circumference of the design has been completed.

  4. Diagram 1
    (Click on the image for a larger picture)

  5. Adding the second color is very easy if your count was accurate in the first trip around! The second color is shown in black. The numbering is in blue. If you refer to the chart below, you will notice that only the first number of each stitch is indicated, i.e. bring your needle to the front of the canvas at 1. Even though the number 2 is not indicated on the chart, it is understood that you will take your needle to the back of the canvas at the bottom of the black line that indicates the stitch, come back to the front of the canvas at 3, and so on. 

  6. Diagram 2
    (Click on the image for a larger picture)

  7. The third color is added using a backstitching method similar to the one used in stitching the framed pavilion stitch. Refer to the diagram below. The third color is indicated by green lines. Please note that all of the back stitches meet in the center of the four-diamond motif that has been created by the previous two colors. 

  8. Diagram 3
    (Click on the image for a larger picture)

  9. The final step, using the fourth color, is diagrammed below. The stitches are indicated by the turquoise lines. Again, it is a backstitch that shares the central holes. 
  10. Diagram 4
    (Click on the image for a larger picture)


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