Reversible Stitching

The running and double running stitches are used very often in Blackwork embroidery.

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, but sometimes 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) »

The double running 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 reversible Blackwork 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 pattern using the double running stitch? Here is a very easy pumpkin design.

Download the pattern!

A suggested method of stitching is to create a journey around the the outside of the pumpkin, making each interior line a side journey of the outer line. 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.

There are also ways to create a semi-reversible cross stitch. 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, so this method has been fleshed out as being the most practical.

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.


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

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