Bayeux stitch in a curve

Today I’m going to talk about how I decided to work Bayeux stitch at the ends of the long narrow plank shapes on the boat. I’m not 100% positive if this is what the embroiderers of old did, but it seems logical and from what I can see in the photos it also looks like this is what they did. If only I was in Bayeux and could pop over the the Tapestry to look!


The center section of each plank is straight forward. Lots of long, long straight stitches. At the edges of each plank, where the outline isn’t perfectly straight, I needed to add some short stitches to fill the spaces but basically it was long, long straight stitches. When I came to the right end of each plank, then straight stitches no longer worked. I needed to curve the laid stitches so the couching stitches could be put in running perpendicular to the laid stitches. As the plank shape curved upward, I wanted the couching stitches to slant to the left, reflecting the curve.

The first few stitches I put in were relatively short (in comparison to the long, long ones in the middle of the planks) and mimicked the curve of the plank at the end. You can see in the photo above that the stitches are quite short. If you look really closely, you will see that each stitch is put in either slightly above or slightly below the previous stitch and overlaps the end of the previous stitch by a tiny bit.

DSCF3196After the first curved short stitches were in, I then added longer stitches where I could to fill the space while following the curve. As you can see, the stitches just above the curved line of short stitches are longer and go right up to the point where the curve  begins. The space at the top of the curved shape is not yet filled with stitches because those need to be shorter to go around the curve. You can see one stitch right at the top that runs diagonally – it’s marking out the direction of the next stitches.

The next step was to fill the area running to the top of the plank with shorter stitches, blending them into the previous longer stitches. At this point the stitch is similar to tapestry or long and short shading stitch. The trick is to blend the stitches together so it looks as if the stitch does really curve – which of course it can’t!  To avoid the dreaded “dimple effect” that can happen when the needle comes up between stitches, I angled the needle slightly so it came up a tiny bit under the laid stitch i was blending into. I also angled the needle a tiny bit under the long stitch when going through to the back, again to help blend the stitches. Essentially I am hiding the entry point of each stitch under the longer stitch.


One other trick that worked for me was to use my laying tool to smooth the stitches together – stroke them together to blend them if you like. That seems to have helped a lot.

The most important thing to remember is that the laid stitches will be held down with the couching stitches and these very short couching stitches will distract the eye. Don’t stress out if it isn’t a perfectly smooth surface of laid stitches. The more important thing is that the couching stitches go with the direction of the shape you’re working on.


This was true for the sails as well. The couching stitches need to create a logical texture for the shape and it’s the couching stitches that I focus on when examining the original in the photos in David Wilson’s book.



Do you have any ideas or tricks for working Bayeux stitch around a curved shape? A different method that gives good results? If so, please share it with us!


9 thoughts on “Bayeux stitch in a curve

    • Hi Cynthia,
      That’s exactly what I saw in my book! The couching stitches curve (you can see it really well in the redish plank) and the laid stitches alsoc urve with the shape pf the prow!
      Liebe Grüße,

  1. I haven’t tried this stitch, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t keep the vertical lines vertical, if you see my point. I mean, they would still look vertical on the real ship, they were just going around the bend towards the prow. Or is my ship anatomy too poor for words??=)

    You’re making great progress and I wish I could say that about *any* of my projects recently. Still, as the famous film script says: Tomorrow *is* another day!


    • Hi Elizabeth,
      I think I know what you mean…the lines would curve because the wood would be curved, right? Anyway, whatever we’re thinking it has worked out happily and, if I’m OK with how it looks. that’s the most important right? Don’t worry about your progress…you have a LOT going on!
      Liebe Grüße,

  2. Thanks!
    I have just been doing whatever fits. Obviously there are a couple of different ideas. 🙂

    🙂 I imagine that on the original, curves were done in whatever way was the most comfortable for whoever was doing that area. 🙂

  3. hello,
    perhaps could I help you. I learn bayeux Stitch with Chantal James in Bayeux (the shop site is here
    You work the first stitch level as long and short stitch, but it has to be worked as satin stitch in around 6 cm long areas. you can find explanations for bayeux stitch on my blog

    and to stitch a curved area here

    I hope it could help, and sorry for my bad english.

    • Hi Isabelle,

      Thank you for the information and the link to your blog. You are very lucky to have studied with Chantel James herself!
      Liebe Grüße,

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