Barb stitch is a composite stitch which is part of the buttonhole family. It is another simple stitch that is easy to work, yet versatile enough to create lots of variations. Barb stitch creates a line with a ridge down the center. You can work Barb stitch in a single line straight or on a curve. When worked in a curve, in an irregular manner, it looks very organic which means it is good for twiggy bits incorporated in a floral motif.
Or, if you work Barb stitch in a straight line, you can vary the height of the arms to create a huge variety of patterns. Another method is to repeat rows to create a border. Different arrangements of the rows can build up interlocking patterns to create interesting needlework fillings.
How to work Barb stitch
You need to know how to work buttonhole stitch to work barb stitch as it consists of two foundation rows of buttonhole worked back-to-back. These are then whipped with a second thread.
First, work a row of buttonhole stitch.
Turn your work, and work a second row of buttonhole stitch so that the two rows are back-to-back.
With a second thread, using a blunt-ended tapestry needle, so that the foundation threads do not split, whip the lines of buttonhole stitches. Slide the needle under each loop at the base of the buttonhole. Whip two rows of buttonhole together as illustrated.
Continue the length of the line.
The threads I used in the sample are cotton perle #5 but you can whip in a contrasting colour, texture or thickness, to the thread used for the foundation rows. Metallic yarns can create a rich effect. You can use the buttonhole rows to couch down ribbons or textured novelty yarns.
How to work Beaded Barb Stitch
With this stitch, the beading is done during the stitching process — not added afterwards. The trick is to use a size 26 tapestry needle. Since the eye of a tapestry needle is long, you can thread perle #8 and Perle #5 through the long eye. However, the needle itself is thin which means you can add a bead to your working thread as you stitch.
Work two rows of buttonhole stitch back-to-back as you would with regular barb stitch.
With a second thread, using a #26 tapestry needle, so that you can thread a bead on your working thread slide the needle under loop at the base of the buttonhole to whip the two rows together. Whip the first stitch then add a bead to your working thread before whipping the second stitch. Continue down the line and whip every second stitch with a bead on your thread as illustrated.
Have you seen my Crazy Quilting book?
My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results shares detailed practical methods on how to design and make a crazy quilt. I cover in detail topics such as fabric choice, tricky challenges like balancing colour, texture and pattern, and how to create a sense of movement to direct your viewer’s eye around the block. I also explain how to stitch and build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways. My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.
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