Cretan stitch

Cretan stitch

Sample of Cretan stitch 2

Cretan stitch can be used in many decorative ways. With it, you can fill a shape, create a border, create a line, or if you arrange rows of Cretan stitch in lines, it makes a wonderful filling stitch to work within a shape. You can use it to couch down threads or to weave a thread through!

Sample of Cretan stitch 1

You can also use it in a freeform and adventurous manner to great effect. It really is a very versatile stitch that many people underestimate. Cretan stitch has other names, such as: Open Cretan, Persian stitch, or long-armed feather stitch.

How to work Cretan Stitch

step by step illustrated stitch instructions for Cretan Stitch1
step by step illustrated stitch instructions for Cretan Stitch 2
step by step illustrated stitch instructions for Cretan Stitch 3
step by step illustrated stitch instructions for Cretan Stitch 4
Sample of Cretan stitch 6

Work from left to right between 2 imaginary lines. Bring the needle through the fabric at the start of the line. Move along slightly and insert your needle on the outside edge to make a small stitch by pointing the needle to the centre. Keeping the thread under the needle pull it through your fabric.
Move to the lower outside edge of the line and repeat the action.
Make sure that with each small stitch, the thread is under the needle.
Continue working until the shape or line is filled.

Ways to use Cretan Stitch

Sample of Cretan stitch 5

There are many ways to use Cretan stitch. Here I have added some seed beads to the arms of the stitch. I used cotton perle #8 thread to work the main band before adding detached chain stitches in silk thread at the tops of the arms before adding some seed beads.
Cretan stitch works very well if you stack it row upon row. In this sample, I worked two narrow lines of the stitch. each stitch itself is wide but the arms are thin, as each bite of the fabric I took was small. I worked both rows in cotton perle #5.

Sample of Cretan stitch 3

Here is another sample, also worked in cotton perle #5 but in this case, the arms of the stitch are wider because with each stitch I took a larger bite of the fabric.

Sample of Cretan stitch 4

You can also work two rows on top of each other. This can be very effective, particularly if you add beads etc to the arms.

Sample of Cretan stitch on crazy quilting 11

In this sample on crazy quilting, I added bugle beads to the space between the arms.

Sample of Cretan stitch on crazy quilting 10

Here is another example, worked in rayon ribbon floss on crazy quilting. I added Bugle beads alongside the V-like shape of the stitch and then topped the arms with 5 detached chain stitches with a bugle bead in the middle too.

Crazy Quilt seam detail

In this sample line of Cretan stitch is worked on Crazy Quilt Block 76 which comes from the  I dropped the button box quilt, I used a hand-dyed silk thread that is approximately the same weight and thickness of cotton perle #5. I added detached chain stitches and seed beads between the spines.

Sample of Cretan stitch 7

Another way to use Cretan stitch is to work one side of the arms narrower than the other. Or you can change the width of the arms to create patterns. This sample comprises two rows of Cretan stitch worked in cotton perle #5 thread. I then added novelty beads stitched into the middle of the two rows.

Sample of Cretan stitch 8
Sample of Cretan stitch 9

This sample is a similar idea as it is worked in two lines.  I varied the arm of the Cretan stitches so that on one side they formed hills and valleys. I then added back stitch on each side to contain the Cretan stitches. Next, I worked slipped detached chain stitches in line. The thread is hand-dyed wool.
This last sample is an experiment with novelty yarns and organic-type lines. From left to right, the first thread is a feathery knitting yarn that would work for underwater seascapes and the like. For the second one, I used hand-dyed crochet cotton, about the same thickness as cotton perle #5, and the last is boucle yarn.

Looking further

My book for creative stitchers

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery book cover

If you enjoy my site you will gain real value from my book:  Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery: Visual Guide to 120 Essential Stitches for Stunning Designs

Feeling stale? Wondering how to add sparkle to your embroidery? I have aimed Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery to be suitable for both beginners and seasoned embroiderers. It introduces techniques to encourage your creative interpretations of stitches. I guide you towards discovering play-points in your embroidery by varying the height and width; by stacking stitches; or by filling multiple rows with the same stitch. With creative variations and demonstrations of tiny tweaks, You will be ready to head off down your own creative path and, of course, illustrated with plenty of eye candy!

Please note if you buy one of my books via this link as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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  6. Hi Sharon,
    Very late!!! I thought you may like to see my Crazy Quilt Journal Block for January. I have used the first four stitches from TAST January. I also combined them with other stitches to complete the block… While I am a bit slow TAST has given me lots of fun in not only viewing but also doing. My mind has been busy thinking of all the ways I can utilize my growing repartee of stitches… It is amazing what one can do with a needle and thread…

    Thanks heaps

    Sharon – Melbourne

  7. Hi Sharon, Just squeaked in under the wire to get week 4 stitching done in time. I had a little question mark over my head. Being left handed I sometimes have to study the stitch for a minute or two to get the right angle to make the stitch because I'm going in the opposite direction from a right handed stitcher, but it eventually comes together. So it's on my blog now. http://northbrookstitches.blogspot.com Thanks, Romona

  8. Finished experimenting with the Cretan stitch today. Included it in my weekly journal which has a personal entry about what's happening and how I'm doing; a list of things for which I'm grateful; and some images of Greek architecture (since the Cretan stitch originated in Crete).

    Here's the link to my post:


    Thanks for hosting this weekly challenge. I've learned three new stitches so far thanks to you – Sharon – and TAST.

  9. This was a really interesting week. I've done the stitch before in 2 different ways yet I found it hard to push the stitch and really make it work for me. I think I was trying to be too exact with my stitching but I came up with a few nice samples in the end. I just retreated a little into sampler territory and did individual blocks in a rough grid. Back to free-flowing next week I hope!


  10. Hi, I am still TASTing but have been fascinated by week 2 and Buttonhole stitch – a couple of buttonhole insertions are over on my blog http://www.maggies-textiles.blogspot.com . I will try to do some Cretan today. A week is not enough at my snail's pace . I really enjoy the work other people are managing to produce. Now what do you have in store for us on Tuesday this week, Sharon? Thanks again for such inspiration.

  11. Hi Sharon, I must apologise for my stupidity ! I have just realised that my week 4 entry for Cretan stitch, is actually Herringbone stitch…..I dont know why I confused the two ?
    What do I do now……..When the Herringbone stitch is given, should I do cretan ?
    Totally confused, so sorry, but at least I have realised my mistake…..my shins are bruised from kicking myself !!!
    chris richards

  12. I had tried posting here yesterday but I don't see anything here so I will do this again, hopefully with more success. I am new to TAST but have been stitching most of life thanks to the wonderful examples and teaching of my mom. I have posted on the flicker group page some images of the stitching i have done for the last four stitch "assignments" and now am trying to also had my name into the comments. my blog has some updates too if you would like to take a look. http://zanirawfood.blogspot.com/ thank you.

  13. Hello…I have been posting my stitches over at the flicker group page but thought I should also show what I have been doing via the comments here. I will be showing my work on my "wordless wednesday" post on my blog: http://zanirawfood.blogspot.com/ (81/2×11: thread readings) and over at the flicker page. I've done all four so far but they are part of my other stitching projects. Thank you.

  14. this is the first time i am working with cretan stitch and i am very pleased with my work though i really wish i could have nicer patterns to work with. waiting eagerly for next tuesday, and i really hope i become more creative as the weeks go by! this was done by tuesday night so am obviously well on the way to becoming addicted to this. thanks!

  15. this is the first time i am working with cretan stitch and i am very pleased with my work though i really wish i could have nicer patterns to work with. waiting eagerly for next tuesday, and i really hope i become more creative as the weeks go by! this was done by tuesday night so am obviously well on the way to becoming addicted to this. thanks!

  16. http://christinaroland.blogspot.com/2012/01/tast-week-4.html I didn't really think this would be a stitch to experiment with, but it surprised me. I'll defenitely use it for chestnut leaves someday, or for fuchsia petals. I also saw ways to use it in paisley patterns, and I like those. Or maybe even in an upcoming week in this challenge, as I've used buttonhole pinwheels to finish of this experiment.

    PS: I would like some comment if any of you visiting need translations. I think babelfish or google translate work well enough, but a translation into English would not be very hard for me to provide.

  17. I'm going to have to work on cretan some more, I think…

    I agree with Julie on the comments on blogs – there were about half of the 80 posters on the last stitch that I couldn't comment on. I tried over and over. I'm using Firefox and I usually don't have so much trouble. Sometimes the word ID box would flash on for a moment and then disappear. So like Julie says, if you aren't getting comments, test out your comment settings.

  18. I have tried to leave positive comments on a number of posts for blogs on blogspot and the moderation enabling character identification thing has not worked so that I might leave comments on every single one of them. If you're not getting comments it might be because those outside the blogspot system aren't being allowed. Or something.

    I have enjoyed looking at everyone's work so much. Truly inspiring. There are so many real artists among those participating. Espcially those also doing the Crazy quilt journal project challenge at the same time. Amazing!

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