How to Hand Embroider Palestrina Stitch

How to Hand Embroider Palestrina Stitch

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 6After 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 1sample


How to work Palestrina stitch version 1

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 1Start 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 2Slide your needle under the straight stitch from right to left. Do not pick up any of the fabric at this point.

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 3Pull 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 4Slide 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 5

With your thread under the needle pull the needle through to form a snug knot.

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step6Insert your needle below the knot and take it to the back to create the vertical stitch, on which to make the next knot

Palestrina stitch Version 1 tutorial step 7Bring 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 1Bring 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.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 tutorial step 2Bring 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 3Once 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 4Move 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.

Palestrina long legged sample 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.


Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 4As I have already said Palestrina stitch is a textured stitch which holds a curve well.

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 5If 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 evenweave fabric. This sample is worked on hand dyed Aida cloth

Palestrina stitch Version 2 sample 2The 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 3Palestrina 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.


  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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