Reversible Stitching

We did a newsletter on Blackwork in general in 2008. Here you can read about the history and stitching basket. I told Ryan that she really should write this newsletter because she is our resident Blackwork artist. Her comment was something along the lines that it was time for me to learn to love reversible Blackwork! So, here goes….

One thing about this technique is that you really only need to know a couple of stitches.

Running Stitch »

A running stitch is used in many techniques and is simply a stitch that goes in and out of your fabric. Most of the time you are making short stitches of equal length. However, your stitches may be of varying lengths. This creates a broken line on both sides of the fabric.

Holbein Stitch (also known as a Double Running Stitch) »

This stitch goes back through running stitches to create a solid line. First, you create your broken line with the running stitch. Then reverse directions and stitch back to the beginning point.

Do not confuse this stitch with a back stitch. A back stitch goes over the previous stitch and the resulting line is thicker, especially on the back of the fabric.

Plotting your journey is probably the most important part of planning a project. You have to have a way to get out to an end point and back to your starting point so that there is a solid line on both sides of the fabric.

Here is a simple journey. You begin at the dot and go in the direction of A shown in Red being your stitch on top of your fabric and Blue being the stitch on the underneath of the fabric. Go all the way around to the dot where you end underneath the fabric. Come up at the dot and go back in the opposite direction. You will end up back at the dot. Your front and back should look the same.

Ready to try your own reversible blackwork? I designed this little pumpkin.

Download the pattern!

I was so excited to show this to Ryan. She said it looked very vintage and she liked it, but that I made it harder than it should have been. Ryan suggests you stitch the outside of the pumpkin first and then do the inner lines individually. You can do that using the chart and beginning at Point A stitching all the way around back to Point A and then reverse to create a solid outer line. Then stitch the line at Point C down and back up. Do the left line at Point E and then the right line at Point E. Finish with the line at Point G.

If this is a technique you would like to learn more about, Nordic Needle has several great resources for Blackwork, both reversible and patterned.

As long as we are on the subject of reversible stitching, I have been asked whether there is a reversible cross stitch. Actually, there is a way to create a cross stitch on the back of your fabric as well. There are two methods to doing a reversible cross stitch.

The first method is to do checkerboard effect with your cross stitches. Carol has a wonderful description and example on her website Needlework Tips & Techniques.

The other method is called the Italian Cross Stitch. This creates a cross stitch on the front and the back, but also a box around the cross stitch. This does make the front and the back match and would be a nice stitch if you were working on a reversible ornament. The references do not agree on what direction and order this stitch should be done. This is the method that makes the most sense to me.

Italian Cross Stitch »

Here is what the stitch looks like front and back using this method.

So, how does this compare to the regular cross stitch? The example on the left is the front of the stitching. The top row was stitched in a series with a half cross stitch all the way across and then back with the top cross stitch. The bottom row was stitched as individual cross stitches. Here is what the back looks like.

WHEW! Is your head spinning? Mine is! It is funny how we tend to be creatures of habit. This reversible cross stitch was a great example of that. My hand automatically wanted to do the cross stitch the "old" way. Literally, I had to step my hand through each stitch. I can see some great uses of this stitch for future projects such as bookmarks!

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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