Elizabethan Blackwork

Working the Double-Running Stitch

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The double-running, or Holbein, stitch is the basic stitch of blackwork embroidery. This stitch is reversible - that is, it looks the same on the back and the front.

Basic Double-running Stitch

Work the stitch in two passes or journeys. On the first journey, work every other stitch, following the pattern.

First Journey
Stitching Path - First Journey

On the return journey, work the "in-between" stitches, ending where you began. The pattern should look the same on the back and the front.

Return Journey

Stitching Path - Return Journey

Working Complex Patterns

Most (but not all!) blackwork patterns can be worked using the double-running stitch. Look at your pattern and determine the "path" that you want to follow as you work the design. Most patterns will work as one or more journeys with small "side-trips" tacked on along the way.

Analyzing the Pattern

Analyzing the Pattern

Each side-trip is worked just like a miniature journey of its own; work all around the element in one direction, then turn around and work back.

Working a Side-Trip

Stitching Path - Side Trip

Stitching Path - Return Side Trip

At the end of each side-trip, you should be back where you left your main journey. Pick up the journey and continue on to the next side-trip, and so on.

Completing the Side-Trip

Stitching Path - Finish the Side Trip

Complex patterns can be broken into side-trips off of side-trips, as shown by the different colors in the pattern below. Work each side-trip as you come to it, branching off and returning to the main pattern.

Analyzing a Complex Pattern

Multiple Side Trips

Pattern and text copyright 2000 Paula Katherine Marmor.
Created 12 June 1998
Last Updated 23 November 2001