After fussing and carrying on and spending and age hunched over various stitch dictionaries I have decided that there are two versions of Palestrina stitch. One is worked vertically producing a neat knotted line and the second is worked horizontally producing a knotted line. Each knot has an ‘arm’ that can be varied in length to add variety and interest to the stitch.
Both versions produce an interesting textured line that will hold a curve well and both versions look quite complex but once you are in the swing of it are enjoyable and fun. You are not restricted to even-weave fabrics as it is easily worked on many types of fabric forming a characteristic attractive knotted line.
Palestrina stitch can be used as a linear stitch or to outline shapes in a design. A firm twisted thread, such as pearl cotton, show 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 Palestrina is worked in Ecru perle #3 thread and forms a line of knots.
How to work Palestrina stitch version 1
Start by making a short straight vertical stitch. Bring your needle from the back slightly to the left of the stitch and pull the thread through.
Slide your needle under the straight stitch from right to left. Do not pick up any of the fabric at this point.
Pull the thread through so that a loop forms around the straight stitch. You are wrapping the stitch with the thread. Pull the wrap snug but not too tight.
Slide your needle from right to left diagonally under the straight stitch. Keep your needle above the loop and again, don’t pick up any of the fabric.
With your thread under the needle pull the needle through to form a snug knot.
Insert your needle below the knot and take it to the back to create the vertical stitch, on which to make the next knot
Bring the needle out on the left side of the stitch and repeat each knot down the line.
How to work Palestrina stitch version 2 or Long Legged Palestrina
Work the stitch from left to right, along a line.
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 on to which the stitch is made.
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.
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
Move along the line make a second bar on to which you work your knot.
In the illustrations I have used quite large foundation stitches so that people can see how the stitch is made. Space the knots evenly and close together to produce a textured line.The knots can be worked closely together to produce a heavy line or spaced quite far apart.
Most of my samples are worked 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.
As I have already said Palestrina stitch is a textured stitch which holds a curve well.
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.
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.
You can also work this stitch on evenweave fabric. This sample is worked on hand dyed Aida cloth
The next sample is on the same cloth but every second stitch has extended arms in order to create a pattern.
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 the bars are extended 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.
Which ever version you use I hope you enjoy the Palestrina stitch.
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My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results shares detailed practical methods about how to design and make a crazy quilt. From fabric choice, to balancing colour, texture and pattern, in order to balance and direct the eye around the block. I cover how to stitch, build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.