Embroiderers have asked me questions regarding the stitch used to stabilize the openwork grid.

They want to know why the stitch in Schwalm whitework is worked on the bias

and not on the straight of grain, as it is done in some other embroidery types. (For some embroiderers it would be much easier to work the stitch on the straight of grain; errors caused by trying to hold the correct diagonal line could be avoided.)

Working horizontal and vertical rows would establish the same effect – wrapping once around each pair of threads and creating a double half cross on top of the intersections of the pairs of threads.

So, why is it done on the bias in the Schwalm?

My response:

As Schwalm whitework became more and more important, professional embroiderers were always looking for faster and more economical ways of doing their work. Then, when theses embroiderers passed on their embroidery knowledge, it was natural for them to teach the streamlined techniques they had developed. Remember that this knowledge was only available by being passed down from teacher to student. And over the years, this way of working found its way into the doctrine of Schwalm whitework.

Back in Schwalm whitework’s heyday, it was common to work openwork filling patterns nearly exclusively. Time was precious, and openwork consists of mainly two different steps of working: stabilizing the grid with Cable stitches, and filling the grid with patterns using Rose stitches, Needle-Weaving stitches, or others. Working these two different steps is time consuming.

Working the stitches on the bias enables the embroiderer to create a couple of different patterns without working a complete openwork grid first. If the stitch is worked in diagonal rows, other stitches – also in diagonal rows – can be easily worked beside to create different patterns. Working this way saves time. Not all patterns can be worked this way, only those with diagonal strips. But the Schwalm embroiderer always added such diagonal striped patterns, as many examples show:
Traditional Schwalm Whitework
Traditional Schwalm Bodice (D) Embroidery
Traditional Schwalm Bodice (B) Embroidery
The Filling Patterns of theTraditional Schwalm Bodice A

The Cable stitches (Single Faggot stitches) can be combined with Rose stitches; Diagonal Cross stitches; Double Diagonal Cross stitches; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, wrong side up; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “half”; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “half with a gap”; Diagonal Cross Filling–French Variation, “vertical half.” (See all these stitches in Openwork Pattern Samplers.)

One can find more variations by changing the number of the worked rows each stitch.

  1. Thank you Luzine for this great post!

    • Thank you, Merí!
      Do you know of an embroidery, where the openwork grid is stabilized with stitches worked in the straight of grain? I know a few, but ideally I would like to have a comprehensive list.

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