Bayeux Stitch

Before I begin to stitch the gorgeous design by Nicola Jarvis, I need to do some practice stitching. Yesterday I set up a little piece of linen twill on my Needle Needs Millennium Frame and drew a quarter circle and a small round circle. These are roughly the shapes I’ll be stitching on the Acorn crewel work piece.

Bayeux stitch covers a relatively large  area of the design and I’ve never worked it for a complete piece. I started, of course, by looking in all of my books. I looked in:

The Embroidery Stitch Bible, RSN Crewelwork, Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches, The Coats Book of Embroidery, The RSN Embroidery Techniques, Erica Wilson Crewel Embroidery, Edwards Crewel Embroidery, The Art of Crewel Embroidery, The Embroiderers Handbook, Embroidery Stitches by Snook and not ONE of these books had a diagram or instructions on how to do Bayeux Stitch. Not one.

So , off I went to the internet where I found this site: Racaire’s Embroidery and Needlework. She is a master at Bayeux stitch and also has quite good instructions for how to do the stitch. In addition to her site, I decided to write to Tracy Franklin and ask her about it. She is stitching the same design for Nicola Jarvis’ show. She responded with another site – Feeling Stitchy – where there was a good diagram and instructions and a book recommendation. The book she recommended is by Jan Messent. In fact, she didn’t recommend just one of her books, but pretty much anything by her as a good source for history and design. I ordered Celtic, Viking & Anglo-Saxon Embroidery: The Art & Embroidery of Jan Messent. I can’t wait for it to arrive!

Now, back to Bayeux stitch…

If you take a few minutes to look at the Racaire’s Embroidery and Needlework site, you’ll see how beautiful Bayeux stitch can be. I sat down and laid the long, vertical stitches. Then I went back and did one horizontal stitch and couched it down. I continued and was quite happy when I stopped for the night and went to bed.

When I came home this afternoon, I decided to have another go and this time placed the vertical stitches more tightly together. As you can see, it looks much better…I think. At least it looks more like Racaire’s stitching which I think is fabulous!

I’m going to continue to practice and perhaps I’ll discover some tricks for Bayeux stitch. It usually happens after I’ve done the stitch for a while, in different shapes, sizes and applications. That’s where I need your help. I don’t have a long time to experiment with this stitch and I certainly don’t want to experiment on the final piece! So, if you have any tips or tricks for making Bayeux stitch look as beautiful as possible, please share them! Thank you!!!

12 thoughts on “Bayeux Stitch

  1. I love laid work w/couching. A lot depends on the wool/threads used, of course, but I presume your wool is not a matter of choice in this case (not that I think that the one illustrated is not a good one).

    One thing I might try is spacing the couching stitches out to say, every third vertical laid thread or so. Generally they are spaced regularly across the length of the horizontal thread rather than packed, at least on the few old pieces I’ve seen.

    With some threads I’ve used I’ve needed to use a more or less pointed/rounded needle for the couching as some threads don’t seem to “mind” being split a little bit and of course others show it right away…I play around with various needles to get the look I’m after.

  2. In France, there is a lady who teaches the Bayeux stitch, and who sells reproduction kits of the Bayeux Tapestry (wool threads/linen). The site is: – there is an English version of her site. On her site it states that she was trained at the only school in France that teaches this stitch “officially”.

    Other than that, I found nothing on YouTube or other web resources, other than the one you found (Racaire)that I found a couple of years ago, as well as Messent’s books. You would think one of the embroidery stitch bibles would explain such an important historic stitch. Have you checked with Nicola for help?

  3. It certainly looks better with the long stitches more closely spaced. I’ve not worked it on a twill so I shall be interested to read of your experiences!

  4. When I did the Bayeux stitch (from Racaire’s directions, also), I angled the couching stitches slightly so they fit together closely. The ground laid stitches should not separate but lay close togther so no ground is seen. Once it got going it was fun in large areas but fiddly in small ones.

    I’ve been on an Jan Messent kick lately and dug out all of her books that I have and acquired a couple more of the older ones. She has a great book on the Bayeux Tapestry and her stitching of the missing end of it. I just got the Celtic, Viking and Angelo-Saxon book and just love it–such inspiration! You’re in for a treat.

  5. How I envy you, Kathy. One day I am going to reproduce part of the Bayeux Tapestry; it is one of my favourite pieces of art.
    As well as Jan Messent’s ‘Celtic, Viking and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery’, I think you would find the next book more useful. It is called ‘The Embroiderers of the Bayeux Tapestry’ and describes how the whole thing including the stitching was made. David M Wilson’s ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ is another great resource.

    In addition to the books, there is a blogger who is making a reproduction of the tapestry. Her address is: It may be worth a look to see how it’s done.

    Good luck.

  6. I love Racaire’s work. She also has a fantastic handout for the Klosterstich – which is loads of fun. One of my acquaintances says that Bayeux stitch is like coloring with yarn 😉 I think the same of the Klosterstich.

    I can’t wait to see the progress on your project. Looks like fun!

  7. Just came across this topic and it has been a great help. I purchased a Bayeux kit about 10 years ago after seeing the real thing in France. It is over 1m long and is the section where Mt St Michael is in it (chosen because we went there as well on our travels). Reading your comments and using the links on how-to-do the stitch, has given me the confidence to try and start (won’t say complete) this mammoth project … once the 4 and 2 year old are in bed of course!

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