Split Stitch Revelations and Pretty Crewel Pomegranates

Did you know there are two kinds of split stitch? Wait, wha? Mary Corbet of http://www.needlenthread.com recently did a post on the difference between split stitch and split backstitch. I’ve read it about three times now, completely dumbfounded that I hadn’t realised that I what I’ve been doing for the last couple years was a split backstitch, not a split stitch.

So what’s the difference? It comes down to whether you split the stitch from the bottom, coming through the fabric, or if you split it from the top, stabbing down through your stitch. As she points out, the difference from the front is very minimal; all of the difference hangs out in the back. Real split stitch (from the bottom) make a very tidy back that looks like a simple backstitches, and the stitched backstitch looks super messy, since you are essentially stitching the top and the bottom of your fabric in a very similar way.

So I decided to give the “real” split stitch a go on this latest project. This is another pattern out of The Anchor Book of Crewelwork Embroidery Stitches (Eve Harlow, 9780715306321), which I discussed in an earlier post. This tiny book never fails to inspire and challenge me. Split stitch does most of the heavy lifting in this piece. I used in in pinks to outline the pomegranates, in purple to do a few of the leaves and in different browns to tackle the branches. I like trying to feature a stitch in particular in pieces, much like I tried to use as much button hole as possible in the last few flowers.

I’m super proud of these pomegranates. The colours came together really well and it only took me a weekend. Other stitches used in this piece include: plain backstitch on the tiny leaves, satin stitch on half the biggest list, some sort of bastard long and short stitch on that small leaf at the front, stem and chain stitch on two of the leaves at the back, and even a tiny bit of whipped back stitch on the pink flower at the top.

Half empty crewelwork leaves always leave so much room for interpretation and funky stitches; I love them!

I never show the back of my work; my dad is one of those picky “the back looks as good as the front” kind of stitchers. I barely have time to fold my laundry, much less make sure the back of my work looks decent. Get a knot? Screw it, tack that thing down unless it interferes with stitch tension. Need to drag a thread across a section of work? Does it show? No? Go ahead, knock yourself out. So you’ll have to imagine how pretty and tidy the pomegranates look from the back when I used “real” split stitch. I promise, the split stitch part is gorgeous. The rest? Let’s not talk about that, alright?

If you don’t already follow Mary Corbet’s blog, I really recommend that you do. She is a fabulous stitcher and writer, introducing her readers to historical bits, new stitches and new projects all the time.


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