Palestrina Stitch — a How-to Guide

Palestrina Stitch — a How-to Guide

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 6

Palestrina stitch produces a neat knotted line that will hold a curve well. Each knot has an ‘arm’ that can be varied in length to add variety and interest to the stitch. You can use this stitch as a linear stitch or to outline shapes in a design. A firm twisted thread, such as pearl cotton, shows the knots to their best advantage. The thickness of your thread will change the look of this stitch.

I really like Palestrina Stitch because it forms a ridge of knots. In this sample, I worked Palestrina in Ecru perle #3 thread and it forms a line of knots.

Palestrina stitch Version 1sample

How to work Palestrina stitch

Work the stitch from left to right, along a line.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 1

Bring the needle up through the fabric and make a small stitch diagonal stitch before taking the needle to the back of the fabric. This forms the first bar onto which the stitch is made.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 2

Bring your needle up again at the base of the diagonal stitch (see the illustration). From the top slide the needle under the diagonal stitch. When you pass the needle under the bar this movement will take your thread over the top of the bar.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 3

Once again pass the needle under the bar. Loop the thread under the needle and pull the needle under the bar. Pull the thread snug to form a knot. Take the needle to the back of  the fabric

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 4

Move along the line make a second bar onto which you work your knot.

In the illustrations, I have used quite large foundation stitches so that you can see how to make the stitch. Space the knots evenly and close together to produce a textured line. You can work the knots closely together to produce a heavy line or spaced quite far apart.

Palestrina long legged sample

Varying the stitch

I work most of my samples in perle #5 cotton but I often try it in thicker yarns (like knitting wool!) of perle #3 cotton.

You can change the size of the arms to add textural interest and to create patterns or add beads.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 4

As I have already said Palestrina stitch is a textured stitch which holds a curve well.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 5

If you widen the stitch it becomes very interesting. For instance, you can change the length of the arms. If you work the stitch on a curve and change the size of the arms it becomes very twiggy and organic. This makes the stitch ideal in floral sprays etc.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 1

This sample is worked in silk thread on block 84 of the I dropped the Button Box quilt. I changed the angle of the first bar so that it was at a more vertical angle.

hand embroidery on crazy quilting

You can also work this stitch on even-weave fabric. I worked this sample on hand-dyed Aida cloth

Crazy Quilt seam detail 498

Palestrina Stitch worked along the base of some lace. The cotton I used is Perle #5. This seam detail is from Block 76 in the I Dropped the Button Box quilt

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 2

The next sample is on the same cloth but every second stitch has extended arms in order to create a pattern.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 3

Other names

Palestrina Stitch is a stitch found often on Italian embroidery – hence the name but it is also known as Double knot stitch, Tied coral stitch, Old English knot stitch, Smyrna stitch and it is also the stitch used in Twilling so it is called Twilling Stitch.  If you extend the bars above the knot (as they are in the illustrations) this stitch becomes Long Armed Palestrina stitch. If the bars are long and below the knot it becomes Long Legged Palestrina stitch.

Whichever version you use I hope you enjoy the Palestrina stitch.

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Happy stitching!


  1. dear sharon, whew, found this palestrina stitch hard work to get my head round. not too good with knots, but got to use up my old stranded threads before i go and by those lovely twisted ones you use. decided to use it along with my first attempt at shisha. havent got any of those sweet little mirrors so decided to experiment. have had great fun. thank you for all your hard work to help us xx liz xx



    Liz Figures
  2. I really love your PinTangle website especially the Tuesday stitch. It is very inspiring. I am in the middle of a landscape quilt at the moment and when it is finished I am going to try the stitches. Loving crazy patchwork, I can’t wait. I wish there were 48 hours in the day!
    Thank you so much.

    Andy Lloyd Williams (Mrs!)

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