how to

Fair warning, this post is going to be photo-heavy.

I frequent our quarterly library book sales and am always finding cross stitch patterns and this time I found a (falling apart) 1978 Better Homes and Gardens embroidery book. It’s got some interesting projects (like this blanket and pillow that I tweeted about earlier in the week), but most intriguing was this stitch diagram in the back:


A quick google around convinced me that I wasn’t really going crazy, this was something that I actually hadn’t seen anywhere else before.

I had to try it, and frankly, that diagram left me with a few questions on how it was supposed to work. I know I haven’t technically done a closed herringbone, but I really like it open (and it seems easier to describe and show), but basically the more closed the herringbone stitch, the feather stitch gets more closed as well.

So here we go. I will show you the stitch worked in a single color, and then again worked in two colors.

herringbone with feather step 1
First make a herringbone stitch.

herringbone with feather step 2
Then come up at the outside of a full cross to start the feather stitch.

herringbone with feather step 3
And start feather stitching, going under the cross and over the feather stitch (if this is confusing, wait for the two color pictures, that might help).

herringbone with feather step 4
Here’s the second feather stitch in progress.

herringbone with feather two colors
Here’s a look at making the feather stitch with two colors.

herringbone with feather stitch overlay
And here they are all done.

Really, it makes sense while doing it.

And because I can’t help myself, I did some experimenting with thread widths and stitch widths on paper.
herringbone with feather stitch overlay on paper


Stitched up this griffin, based on a photo of a wood cutting I took on a boat in Ohio.

The outline is 4 strands, and the smaller details: seed stitches, detached chain on the wing, etc are 2 strands of floss.

Don’t be fooled, I didn’t draw this pattern by any means. My sketching skills are very limited. I printed my photo (on regular paper) the size I wanted to stitch (this is a 7 inch hoop), drew over outline of the photo, and then used my Saral transfer paper (which is awesome, btw) to transfer that to my sketch book. Traced that with a thin sharpie. Then traced it yet again with a flashlight and blue washable quilter’s pen to the fabric. And finally stitched it. (In case your counting, that means I “drew” this griffin four times. Five, if you count stitching.)

I’m thinking about possibly trying it again, but this time with either a little more detail, or with fill stitches to give it some texture. We’ll see.


As I’ve said before, I got this book from the 1870s for a quarter at a book sale in college.

metric system

My favorite page talks about the metric system. There’s something really nice about the quality of the paper. It’s a little bit more cloth-like than most paper you’d just run across in a 21st century book. It’s almost more like construction paper in its texture (though not nearly in thickness).

third piece in progress

Sometimes I sketch on a plain piece of paper, then scan it, flip it, print it back out and trace the sketch using red transfer paper. And other times I don’t feel like it, and I just sketch directly on the reverse side of the page that I am going to stitch. I learned the hard way the first time not to sketch on the front, that the outline will subtly show through. You have to look for it, but it’s there.

Then I poke some holes. Sometimes I do a whole line, sometimes a whole section. I’ve found that doing the outside lines first makes my life easier. But I generally don’t do holes for the french knots. Sometimes they get too big and it pulls through. Not good.

third piece in progress

I split my floss in half, so I use three strands. When stitching, the tension is important. You don’t want to pull to tight or the paper will rip. Not tight enough and the stitches are too loose. I’m extra careful when pulling through so I only take the stitch in one direction at a time. It feels a little extra-elementary, to pull the floss all the way through in one direction only, but it’s worth it.

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