the West Kingdom Needlework Guild

THE PATTERN PAGE

Flowered chain border




9th Century Egypt -- band of stylized flower in frame

The pattern given here is for an interpretation of Tissus d'Egypte #176 (mentioned as [12] on p.4). My suspicion is that this is part of a continuous band, repeating the same pattern, since you can see fragments of repeats at the sides of the original. You might use this band to decorate a tunic, or at the bottom of a hanging or a covering cloth. Further research might suggest other uses.

 

The design is embroidered in wool on linen, with the white parts of the embroidery done in cotton. You may choose to do the whole design in wool, but the substitution of either linen or cotton for the white parts is so universal in Egyptian embroidery that I recommend trying it. Rather than recommending a specific brand and weight of thread, I suggest that you locate the thread you want to work with first, sew some test chains, and then enlarge or reduce the pattern so that the one-stitch-wide parts of the pattern match the size of your work. Try to find a cotton thread roughly the same size as your wool, though in the original piece the cotton is slightly thicker.
pattern for stylized flower in frame

Pattern: scale to desired size

illustration -- chain stitch techniqueChain stitch is worked by bringing the thread up from the back of the fabric to the front, then plunging the needle back through the exact same point it came up, bringing it up again a short distance away, and catching the loop of the thread (on the right side of the work) as you bring the needle through. You should work the "down and up" part of the stitch as a single action - don't move your hand under the fabric to bring the needle through and then re-insert it from the back. Pull your thread mildly snug but not tight. Much better to be too loose than too tight. Most importantly, a tight stitch will gather the fabric as your work and cause puckering. (Structurally, a chain stitch is a type of 3:1 pulley, so a very little force on the thread will pull on the fabric a lot.)

modern reproduction of stylized flower in frame

A tight stitch will also produce a narrower line of work, and one of the benefits of using chain stitch is that it fills the space quickly because it's so wide (compared, for example, to a stem stitch, which uses roughly the same amount of thread). When you come to the end of a row of work, plunge the needle through the same place it came out, except pass it over the last loop rather than through it. This will lock the last stitch in place. Begin a new row simply by bringing the thread through from the back at the point where you want the row to begin.

It's possible to work this technique without stretching the fabric, if you're careful enough about your tension, but you will probably prefer to use some sort of hoop or frame at least to begin with. If you are making a band of trim, you might try a scroll frame, set long enough to work one repeat of the pattern at a time. (Working the embroidery on a separate band and then applying it to your finished item also means that the back of the work will be protected and hidden.)

A modern sample of the filled pattern ©

In general, you want to work the outlines first and then fill in the larger areas from the outside in, making concentric circles that follow the path of the outlines. In the outer ring, the black "bars" through the white areas are worked on top of the white, so begin by working two rows of white continuously along the whole path (except where they meet the small circles at the sides). Then work one row of black on each side of the white, working the bars as you go on one or the other pass. At the same time, use one row of black for the outlines on the two lower petals. Then work one row of red just inside the frame, following the inner black line, and then work the red outlines in the flower, also as a single row. Don't try to force any of these outlines to be a particular thickness based on the way the pattern is drawn - just go with what the stitch wants to do.

Now you've done all the one-stitch-thick outlines and you can start filling in the areas with however many rows of stitches are needed. For the small concentric circles (at the sides, and at the base of the flower) you may want to do two or three rows of the outer color - whatever leaves enough space for the middle color. And when you do the background color outside the motif, you'll want to start by doing a straight row along the outer edge of the area you want to fill. Otherwise, start your work at the outside of your space and follow that edge in a solid spiral until the area is completely filled.

Copyright © 2003 by Heather Rose Jones.

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