In short, stitch families are the groups to which the different stitches belong. Wondering why it even matters to know this kind of stuff when it comes to your needlepoint hobby? Well, my friend, let me shed some light on it for you… 😉
See, when you understand how stitches fit into families, it helps make choosing the best ones for your projects much easier.
A while back, I adjusted the way I categorize decorative stitches into families.
Instead of the original five families (straight, slanted, cross, looped, and knotted) that I used for a reeeaaaallllly long time, I now have a new way to categorize canvas embroidery stitches. Here’s how it goes…
- Straight stitches are those that lay in a horizontal or vertical direction on your canvas. They can also be slanted. (Diagonal and oblique stitches are straight stitches.)
- Cross stitches are exactly what they sound like – stitches (either straight or slanted) that cross each other.
- Tied stitches, like cross stitches, have one or more stitches that lay on top of another stitch, but there’s a catch – literally (teehee!). The top stitch(es) manipulate(s) the bottom stitch(es) to create angles or curves that are then secured to the surface of the canvas with a tie-down stitch.
- Woven stitches are those in which one or more of the stitches in the pattern weave over and under (at least) one other stitch in the pattern.
- Knotted stitches are those in which the thread is knotted around itself or through the canvas.
What about all the other stitches that don’t fit into one of these families?
Well, they’re likely composite stitches or surface embroidery stitches.
You may also see these groupings for stitches that have a similar composition or method of execution
I have to say, though, that I don’t find the above groupings as helpful as the ones I use.
Need some examples to help you make sense of all this talk about stitch families?
Let’s start with the Straight Stitch Family.
This is, by far, the largest stitch family. Remember, straight stitches can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or oblique as long as they do NOT bend or twist around another stitch to form a knot, aren’t woven over or under another stitch, or do not lie across another stitch.
An example of a vertical straight stitch is the Parisian stitch. The stitches that make up the pattern have a vertical – or upright – orientation.
The medieval mosaic stitch is a horizontal straight stitch. That means the stitches in the pattern lie on the canvas in a horizontal direction – from east to west. Here’s a diagram for the medieval mosaic stitch, so you can see what I’m talking about. 🙂
The other two kinds of straight stitches have a lean – or slant – to their orientation.
I’ll bet that sounds “wrong” to you because, intuitively, if the stitches are supposed to be considered straight, they wouldn’t have a slant. But let’s take a peek at that definition of what constitutes a straight stitch again…
Straight stitches can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or oblique as long as they do NOT
- twist around another stitch to form a knot
- aren’t woven over or under another stitch
- or lie across another stitch
Now, back to our slanted straight stitches…
A diagonal stitch is one that covers the same number of vertical AND horizontal canvas threads. The tent stitch is a true diagonal straight stitch. (It covers one vertical and one horizontal canvas thread.)
And the encroached slanted Gobelin stitch is an example of an oblique straight stitch. An oblique stitch is any slanted stitch that is not a true diagonal stitch. In other words, it’s worked over a differing number of vertical and horizontal canvas threads.
Here’s the stitch diagram for the encroached slanted Gobelin stitch for you. Notice how this stitch covers one vertical and two horizontal canvas threads?
Okey dokey – next up is the Cross Stitch Family.
There are A LOT of cross stitches that y0u can use to create texture on your canvases. In fact, cross stitches, because they have multiple layers, are perfect for adding dimension and visual interest to your canvases. Some examples of cross stitches are the upright cross stitch, the Smyrna cross stitch, the Dutch stitch, the herringbone stitch, and the Rhodes stitch.
Here’s the stitch diagram for the Smyrna cross stitch, so you can see how the stitches lay on top of each other in a cross stitch…
Our third stitch family is the Tied Stitch Family.
Tied stitches are those in which the bottom stitch (or stitches) are manipulated into a particular configuration (think angles and curves), and then secured in place by a tacking stitch/top stitch. If you’re newer to using fancy stitches to embellish your canvases, you’re probably thinking “what the heck is she talking about”?!
I’m sure an example or two will help make it more clear…
The lazy daisy stitch is a very common tied stitch. When making a lazy daisy stitch, you manipulate the thread into a loop, then you tie/secure it to the canvas with a tacking stitch. Here’s the stitch diagram for a lazy daisy stitch…
Other examples of tied stitches are the fly stitch and the buttonhole stitch. 🙂
Moving right along, we have the Woven Stitch Family.
Woven stitches are exactly what they sound like: at least one stitch is woven over/under at least one other stitch in the unit or pattern. Waffle stitches are woven stitches, as are Jessica stitches and woven wheel (aka spider web rose) stitches.
Here’s the stitch diagram for making a spider web rose…
And finally, we have the Knotted Stitch Family.
Some of my favorite stitches are knotted stitches – and these cutie-pie stitches are perfect for adding texture to your canvases. French knots and bullion knots are just a couple of examples of knotted stitches. They’re amongst my all-time faves, too! 🙂
I especially love to make French knots. Here’s my stitch diagram, in case you want to give it a try yourself…
And don’t fret – if French knots make you antsy, just try practicing on a doodle canvas with a single strand of silk (e.g., Vineyard Classic or Pepper Pot silk) or DMC Pearl Cotton 5. Smooth threads are much easier to manage when executing any kind of knotted stitch. (Wool tends to stick to itself.)
Be sure to check out my video for how to make French knots over on our YouTube channel, too. 😉
Alrighty – that brings us to the end of our chat about stitch families.
Next time, we’ll explore how stitch families relate to each other – and how you can use that knowledge to choose stitches that work well together on your needlepoint projects.
Thank you ever so much for joining me here today and, until next time…