Guilloche stitch is a composite stitch which simply means that it is a stitch made by combining two or more different stitches. I love Composite stitches as for me it means I can swap out and alter parts of the stitch giving it a modern twist. Each part is a play point making it simple to adapt and take into a totally unique direction. But I am getting ahead of myself as first you need to know the stitch!
The name Guilloche comes from an architectural term that describes an ornamental band containing two interwoven lines. Guilloche also gives us a hint as to its usage too as you use it to create a decorative border.
How to work Guilloche stitch
Step 1 Work three rows of Running stitch close together. I kept the row even by counting the threads of the fabric.
Step 2 Next using a tapestry needle so you do not split the foundation row of running stitches thread the running stitches as illustrated. Do not take thread it through the fabric, you are lacing the running stitches only.
Step 3 Lace the return journey as illustrated.
Step 4 Add a French knot worked in the gaps created by the running stitch. For anyone who likes a bit of bling, a nice alternative to French knots is a line of seed beads or even sequins if you like a lot of bling.
Step 5 Finally add two rows of Stem stitch as a border.
Ways to explore Guilloche stitch and take it further
Whenever you encounter a stitch which has a number of steps in it break it up and ask yourself the question what can I do with this step in the process? I call this a play point. It is a point in the process where you can change something and create a variation.
So for example with the first part of the stitch ask yourself what happens if you used thin thread? Or what happens if you used thick thread? What does it look like if the running stitch is worked using a fine ribbon? Ask yourself what happens if you work 5 rows of running stitch instead of 3? Can I use stacks of three bugle beads instead of running stitch?
For the next step in the process, you could ask what happens if you lace with metallic thread or a very fine cord? Can you lace with silk ribbon? Is it possible to add beads to the lacing thread?
I have already suggested substituting beads for French knots but what happens if you space the running stitches wide enough to work a few detached chain daisies in between? Can other stitches fit in the gaps?
Instead of stem stitch as a final step, you could try chain stitch or whipped chain stitch. Ask what happens if you couch a fine cord or thick thread? What happens if you work 2 or 3 rows of stem stitch? Can you use another stitch such as buttonhole?
See how quickly ideas can come if you break up the steps or parts of a stitch? There are no doubt many other ideas that people will see when they try out this stitch. If you do this it is no longer the traditional Guilloche stitch but a fun variation of the stitch.
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Experimenting with different threads can be expensive. You would normally have to buy a whole skein of each type of thread. So I have made up my thread twisties which are a combination of different threads to use in creative hand embroidery. These enable you to try out stitching with something other than stranded cotton. For the price of just a few skeins, you can experiment with a bundle of threads of luscious colours and many different textures.
These are creative embroiders threads. With them, I hope to encourage you to experiment. Each Twistie is a thread bundle containing silk, cotton, rayon, and wool. Threads range from extra fine (the same thickness as 1 strand of embroidery floss) to chunky couchable textured yarns. All threads have a soft and manageable drape so twisting them around a needle makes experimental hand embroidery an interesting journey rather than a battle. Many are hand-dyed by me. And they are all threads I use. You may find a similar thread twist but no two are identical.
You will find my thread twisties in the Pintangle shop here.
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