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!


Phoenix: Texture and pattern

This crewel piece is such fun to stitch! Everything I’ve tried – even if it hasn’t worked they way I hoped – has been just a joy to work. I really think that crewel work is becoming my favorite kind of embroidery…until I work on something different! I love the rich colors of the Renaissance wool and the different textures that wool produces. Unlike silk or cotton, wool is thick and a bit fuzzy. The knots are rougher than ones made with cotton or silk. They’re cozier looking – I just want to sink into them.

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