the West Kingdom Needlework Guild

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Pattern bands


Band patterns like these can be applied to many uses, both historical and modern. Here are examples of bands graphed in a number of different formats from period sources, some more challenging to work than others.

pattern darning pattern worked along length of the band

Note that some are worked along the length of the band (such as the first two on the left), while others are worked perpendicular to the band (the one on the upper right).

The diamond border on the lower right has portions worked in both directions!


pattern darning pattern worked along perpendicular to the band

pattern darning pattern worked  both along the length and  on the perpendicular


Pattern darning can be frustrating with the wrong materials. It’s important to choose a background fabric that is not too tightly woven, so there is room for the design threads in between the woven threads. It’s also helpful to work with thread that is not too lightweight or slippery, so that it stays put and doesn’t snag easily when stitched.

Most of the existing examples of pattern darning are worked in colored silk or wool on a linen or cotton ground. Although it’s a counted-thread technique, background fabric for pattern darning does not have to be exactly the same number of threads per inch in both directions. As long as the design is a straight band and doesn’t turn corners, it may look slightly too tall or too short, but distortion will be minimal. In fact, the large pattern of double zigzags at right is clearly designed to be worked on fabric with more horizontal threads to the inch than vertical threads, as you can see by comparing the photo and the chart. There are certainly plenty of other historical samples worked on linen that is not quite “square,” and the small distortion that may result seems to have been regarded as quite normal.

In order to get good thread coverage in pattern darning, it’s helpful to use a design thread that is somewhat thicker than the background threads of your fabric. Many of the historical pieces of pattern darning were worked on linen in a relatively untwisted and fluffy thread, often several strands of silk held together.

One very good combination is worked on 28-count linen with four strands of fine silk. A good — though less authentic — combination for beginners in this technique is 22-count Aida cloth, which looks quite nice worked with 6 strands of cotton embroidery floss, just as it comes from the skein.

Pattern darning is one technique where it’s important not to pull the thread too tightly, especially if you want it to look attractive on the back as well as the front. It helps to gently stretch the fabric when you finish a row, to let the thread relax.



These 2 charts were graphed by Tangwystyl verch Morgrant Glasvryn from an Islamic sampler.

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This particular web page last updated on September 13 2006.