Stitch Explorer March challenge

This month the challenge is to look at another embroidery style and push it into a direction that may not have been done before. At first glance Assisi embroidery appears to be a very conservative choice until you look at the dominant design element that drives its appeal.  In this style the background of the design is filled with embroidery stitches and the main motif is left void. This is why it is also known as voided work and as silhouette embroidery.

January’s challenge was chicken scratch which has a dominant design element of pattern. Last month’s trellis stitch appeal is the design element of texture. This months challenge to look at Assisi which is a style of embroidery that is based on using both positive and negative space. Once you see this aspect of the style it can act as a springboard  towards a very contemporary design. So the challenge is to use Assisi as inspiration for a small piece.

What we know as Assisi embroidery is a style that was revived early in the 20th century. Today Assisi is often worked in cross stitch outlined in either back stitch or double running stitch blue, green and red as traditional colors, but modern Assisi is stitched in any colour including variegated threads.

Originally this style of counted thread embroidery was named after a city in Italy. Jos Hendricks has developed a site on Assisi Embroidery which houses both patterns and information on the history of the style

For an informed article on traditional Assisi see Stalking the Wild Assisi by Kathryn Newell.

A very similar style called Reversa developed in Spain 

To see more of this style there is a traditional chart provided by La Chatelaine Designs that is available and this page provides some free designs of Assisi style embroidery.

Also there is also this traditional pattern of an Assisi style rabbit.

A good few of my designs are actually based on the idea of filling the background with stitching while leaving the main motif blank just s you do in Assisi. In fact I got the idea after looking at Assisi. Here is an example.

Have fun with this months challenge. I know it is more of a design challenge but last month was a technical challenge and we have to have variety!

A Flickr Group

I have established a Flickr group for those who want to use it. The name is Stitchexplorer

How to participate in the stitch explorer challenge 

Stitch some samples that push this embroidery style

Blog it or put images somewhere online where people can see them. If you use flickr send them to the Stitchexplorer group

Come back to this post and leave a comment with your web address in it so that people can visit and see what you have done.



  1. Hi Jan
    You did not leave me your email address so I could contact you (when you fill out the comment form the email stays private but it allows me to write if need be but is is not published publicly)
    Anyway lots of people decorate Altoid tins but I have not ever blogged one I made so I think you must be muddling me with someone else. Earlier this year CQ Online has an decorated altoid tin in the readers showcase.
    I did a quick search on google using the terms decorate "Altoid tin" and loads of results came up. You could try that if you don’t remember which site you saw it on.

    Sharon B
  2. Hi Sharon,
    I recall a while back, I believe it was here, that someone had created beautiful little boxes made from recycled mint tins. I have searched everywhere and I cant find it. Do you recall this? If you do, can you please direct me where to go.My dear sweet husband has been saving tins for me and I now have about 20 and I would like to create something pretty like the ones I saw.

    Jan MacKay
  3. Although I am busy with the April challenge, I also designed recently a set of numbers combing blackwork and Assisi. I publish the charts on my blog, and a stitched example (for a 59th birthday) is posted in the Flickr Stitch Explorer group.

  4. I’ve killed 2 birds with one stone! My March Assisi embroidery is finished (almost) and it doubles as my October entry for the TIF challenge. Not quite done, but I wanted to get it posted before we go on vacation Monday. You might also lke to look at my Nov. TIF. I think it has some unique seam treatments all made of letters. Yes, I will finish the TIF someday. LOL

    Gayle Schiper
  5. Hi Sharon,
    I have done a panther in Assisi and it’s on my blog. It’s not on counted thread fabric, so hope it’s still considered Assisi. This has been really fun. I regret not trying trellis stitch last month, so tried it on this piece. Another great stitch you’ve introduced to us. Thanks!

    Lin Moon

  6. At the moment I am working on an Assisi bike. You can follow my progress on my blog.

    But today I added four ATCs to the Flickr Stitch Explorer group. I did not stitch them especially for this challenge, but three of the four cards are done in a kind of Assisi-technique. I added the fourth one too, because it is part of the series.

  7. Jan
    you asked if there was a tutorial available for trellis stitch. There is a link on February challenge post to 2 different very good tutorials.
    If ever you are stuck for something links to each months challenge is listed on the stitch explorer 2009 guidelines page

    As say just follow the links from the February post

    Also there is a category in this blog – called stitch explorer which would take you there too. The category appears just under the title – click it and you will see all related posts and in the side bar under navigation click on categories and you will find all categories in this blog.

    Also you will find links to challenges in general under the community challenge tab at the top.

    I hope all this helps

    Sharon B
  8. A month will be not enough time to explore all my ideas! I did some Assisi embroidery earlier, both traditional and not so traditional. But I never tried to use long stitch, so I have started my Assisi work of this month in long stitch. No picture yet, it is not finished. The reason I am posting nevertheless, is that I found useful instructions for long stitch here: .

  9. I am so looking forward to taking your crazy quilting class but I am most interested in the trellis stitch. I love the sculpturability of this stitch. Do you teach a class in this or is there a tutorial available. I have a couple of stitch books but they show the trellis stitch in a much more flatten form.
    Please let me know if there is a tutorial about this stitch.
    Jan MacKay

    Jan MacKay
  10. Robin/Sabrina I wish I had thought of your article before as it is very good and I was aware it I had just forgotten it. So thanks very much for reminding me of this resource and and sorry to have missed it.

    Sharon B

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