Stitch of the Month for December 2008
CIRCLES: Theme & Variations

by Lois Kershner

How many different circle stitch patterns can there be? Circles: Theme & Variations explores canvas embroidery stitches with a circle motif. The monochromatic color flows around the circle as it makes a gradual shift in value from dark to light. Stitched in a blue hue, the pattern mimics a large ocean wave cresting then splashing into white foam. The piece is designed to be mounted on the lid of a 7 inch circular box but it could also be framed. The color Design Map picture shows the stitches.


You will need the following materials to make the design like the model as shown above:

Members of the ANG Board of Directors and the ANG Internet Committee worked the design using a variety of threads and colors.  Take a look at our results!

Experiment with stitches and with colors, but most of all have fun and enjoy!

Transfer the Line Design to Canvas

Enlarge the Line Design template so the circle is seven inches in diameter. Place the template over a light source or on white paper then center your canvas on top. Transfer the line design to the canvas, omitting all alpha characters with a fine line permanent ink pen or hard pencil. So that the white canvas does not show through the dark blue stitches you should paint the left side of the circle navy blue with permanent acrylic paint, marker or stamp. Allow the paint to dry thoroughly.

Sections 1, 2, 3 & 4 on the left side are separated by diagonal lines drawn over the dry painted blue area. Notice that the upper line is interrupted near the middle of the circle. This is an area where the canvas will be visible under your stitching and you will not want the white line to show. Align a ruler with the hatch marks outside the circle perimeter at the upper left and lower right and draw the lines with a white pencil marker. Now you are ready to mount your canvas on stretcher bars.

Click to enlarge


Refer to the Design Map as an aid for placement of stitches and thread colors.

Four-Way Bargello

Begin your stitching with the Four-Way Bargello pattern. Use the Line Design to locate dot “C” representing the center of the circle where the four quadrants of the pattern meet. The chart shows a complete stitch pattern for the top of a quadrant (between the red lines) and half of the stitches for the left quadrant. Turn your canvas 90o to repeat the pattern for the other three quadrants of the circle. Use a laying tool so the strands lay flat. Do not stitch the red lines. Notice that the stitches at the edge of the pattern are of varying lengths to form the circle shape.


Four-Way Bargello

Also see June 2008 SotM

Round Bargello

Two round Bargello patterns are stitched just above and slightly to the right of the Four-Way Bargello using 4 strands of Weeks Dye Works #2109, Morris Blue. Refer to the Line Design for the angled “L” shape representing placement of the left side of the first round Bargello. The angle of the “L” shape is marked “Start Here ->” on the stitch chart. Notice that the stitch goes over five canvas threads. Even though the chart shows the alignment of four full patterns, at this point you will stitch two full vertical patterns and a few stitches of the patterns on the right to the design line. Compensate the length of the stitches at the line.

Round Bargello patterns

Also see January 2008 SotM

Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combination

The center of the round Bargello is filled with a Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combination using 1 strand of Kreinik #8 Braid #032. The pattern shares canvas holes with the center of the round Bargello.

Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combination

Diamond Rhodes

A Diamond Rhodes is stitched at the lower right of the two round Bargello circles using 1 strand of Kreinik #8 Braid #194. The outer edge of the stitch shares canvas holes with the round Bargello. Take your thread from one side to the opposite as you work around the diamond. Start each Diamond Rhodes with the same stitch so the last top thread will be in the same direction.

Diamond Rhodes

Stitching the Left Side

At this point I recommend stitching all of the blue round bargello patterns on the left side of the circle using the Round Bargello chart above. Start in Section 1 directly above the two round bargellos already stitched and work right-to-left. Compensate stitch length at the design line. Notice on the Design Map that two areas are not stitched with round bargellos:

  1. the space in Section 2 replaced with Eyelets. (See the Section on Eyelets below), and
  2. the space of Section 3 where dot “D” is located (See the Section on Circular Buttonhole below).

The thread colors of the four sides are different for each section of the Bargello pattern to achieve the change in color as the circle swirls. Threads used are:

The chart below lists the threads colors to use for the four sides in each Section.
  Right Bottom Left Top
1 823 799 312 336
2 823 823 312 336
3 823 823 823 336
4 823 823 823 823

Round Bargello Pattern over 5 canvas threads

Also see January 2008 SotM

A Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combination (See chart above) is stitched in the center of each round Bargello. Use 2 strands of DMC Rayon #30336, Navy Blue and DMC Rayon #30799, Delft Medium. The threads change in each Section to compliment the changing colors of the round bargellos as noted below. Use 2 strands approximately twenty-four inches long. Pull this rayon thread taunt before threading your needle to straighten the strands.

Section: Smyrna Cross: Central Eyelet:
1 30799 30799
2 30799 30799
3 30799 30336
4 30336 30336

A Diamond Rhodes is stitched to the lower right of the round Bargello circles except for the three circles along the center line (See the chart above and the Design Map). Use 2 strands of DMC Rayon #30336, Navy Blue.


The one area left unstitched in Section 2 is filled with Eyelets using 3 strands of DMC Mouline #124. Make the eyelets different shapes and sizes and vary the color of the eyelets by selecting different sections of this multi-colored thread. Several partial Eyelets are effective to help fill the space.

Eyelet Examples

Also see March 2008 SotM

Circular Buttonhole

The lowest area of Section 3 is filled with a circular Buttonhole. Start by doing a Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combination (see the chart above) at dot “D” on the Line Design using 1 strand of Kreinik # 8 Braid #032. Locate the center of the Smyrna Cross by counting down and also to the right 10 canvas threads from the middle of the adjacent round bargellos.

Smyrna Cross Eyelet Combo Placement

Surround the Smyrna Cross with a circular Buttonhole stitch using a 1 yard length of Rainbow Gallery Petite Frosty Rays #PY217, White Pearl Ice. To make the stitch, bring your needle up at the outer rim of the circle. Take the needle down in a canvas hole shared with the Smyrna Cross. Do not pull the thread tight, but rather leave a little slack in the thread along the circle rim. Bring the needle up at the outer rim of the circle several canvas threads from the first stitch and inside the thread from the previous stitch. Gently pull the thread to the back of the canvas to remove the slack.

Circular Buttonhole

Also see May 2008 SotM

Completing the Stitches on the Right Side

Use your Line Design for the placement of the remaining stitches.

Spider Foundation Spokes

Use 1 strand of DMC Pearl #800, Delft Blue to create a foundation of straight thread spokes for each of the Spider stitches (See Design Map). Take your thread from one side of the circle’s perimeter to the opposite side. The vertical and horizontal threads go over 20 canvas threads. The center of the spokes should cross over dots “A” and “B” on your canvas. The Ribbed Spider foundation spokes at dot “A” share canvas holes with the adjacent round Bargello.

Spider Foundation Spoke Chart

Spider Foundation Spokes

Ribbed Spider

Do a Ribbed Spider at dot “A” on the Line Design. Use a long thread of at least one yard to wrap around the spokes. If you run out of wrapping thread you can end it off by taking it down in a canvas hole directly under a foundation spoke. Bring your new wrapping thread up in the same hole.

Begin wrapping the foundation spokes by bringing up 1 strand of DMC Pearl #800, Delft Blue very close to the center between two spokes. Take your needle under a spoke, then wrap your threaded needle back over, then under the spoke. Move to the next spoke and again go under it. Then wrap over, then under this spoke. Continue around the circle in this way. The wrapped threads should lay smoothly next to each other without overlapping. Keep your wrapping thread tension even, so that the spokes remain straight, not pulled to one side or the other. Go all away around the circle until you reach the outer edge of the spokes. After wrapping over a spoke, take your needle down next to it.

Ribbed Spider

Also see October 2008 SotM

Raised Spider

Do a Raised Spider at dot “B” on the Line Design. Begin wrapping the foundation spokes by bringing up 1 strand of DMC Pearl #800, Delft Blue very close to the center between two spokes. Take your needle over a spoke, then wrap back under and over it. Move to the next spoke and again go over it, then wrap back under and over it. Continue around the circle in this way.

Raised Spider

Also see August 2008 SotM


Round Jessica stitches are indicated by short horizontal lines on the Line Design. Those above the Raised Spider use 1 strand of DMC Pearl #799, Delft Medium; those to the right of the Four-Way Bargello use 3 strands of Weeks Dye Works #1086, Icicle. Vary the Jessica size by the number of stitches placed on the first line of stitching. Notice in the chart below that each “side” of a Jessica circle has the same number of stitches. Circles has large, medium and small circles determined by the number of stitches used on the first side of stitching:

In the Jessica chart on the left the first stitches are represented in white. Notice in the chart on the right that the black stitches of the 4th side are placed under the stitches of the first side. Even though Jessica circles are marked on the canvas, you can decide the size, number and placement for your piece.

Jessica - 4 stitches per side

Also see February 2008 SotM

French Knot

The Jessica circles are filled with French Knots using 1 strand of Kreinik #8 Braid #032. Bring your needle up at “A”. Wrap the thread around the needle once, then take the needle down in an adjacent canvas hole at “B”. Pull the thread gently so that the loop is wrapped snugly but not too tightly around the needle at the surface of the canvas. Now pull the thread to the back of the canvas, gently closing the knot.

French Knot

Also see November 2008 SotM

Octagonal Rhodes

The Octagonal Rhodes is done below the Four-Way Bargello using 4 strands of Weeks Dye Works #1086, Icicle with a length about 1.5 yards long. Count down 16 canvas threads from the center of the Four Way Bargello to place the first stitch indicated by “Start Here ->” on the chart. The top stitches of the Octagonal Rhodes shares canvas holes with the Four-Way Bargello.

Octagonal Rhodes

Also see April 2008 SotM

Couched Thread

Place rows of couched thread along the right hand side of the Circular Buttonhole (between positions 2 and 8 on the clock). Use 1 strand of DMC #5 Pearl, White for the laid thread shown in white on the chart. The couching thread shown in gray on the chart is 1 strand of Weeks Dye Works #1086, Icicle.

The laid thread on top of the canvas should be very long. Come up at 1 with the Pearl thread and place it along the curve of the Circular Buttonhole on top of the canvas. Using the Weeks Dye Works in a second needle, take the couching stitches over the Pearl thread. Place them about 3/8” to1/2” apart. Go down at 2. Come up in the adjacent canvas hole, at 3. Continue in this manner for all rows, letting the couching stitches radiate in a straight line as you work to the edge of the couched threads.

Couched Thread

Also see September 2008 SotM


Use a Basketweave stitch to fill in the background around the stitches on the right hand side. Take a few Basketweave stitches under the wrapped Spiders so that no canvas shows. Change thread colors to correspond to the value change of the surrounding stitches. Use the Design Map as a guideline for color placement.


Also see March 1998 SotM

Finishing the Box Lid

This 7 inch circle can be used as a topper for a 7 inch circular box, typically available at a local craft store. Stitch several rows of Basketweave around the entire piece so the canvas will not show where it is turned under. Cut a 7” circular mat. Cover with a thin batting. Place the stitched piece on top of the batting. Cut away all but 1” of canvas. Clip the canvas at ½” intervals within 3 canvas threads of the stitching. Turn under the clipped canvas and glue to the bottom of the mat. Glue the mat to the lid of the box.

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