Friday, September 30, 2016

Bands and Borders: Linear Design

Dome and peaks bargelo pattern in reds and blues


Linear design can be useful for many projects. It can be used to decorate clothing, table linens, kitchen and nursery curtains, and pillowcases to name just a few. We have already discussed patterns appropriate for some of these uses in past posts on:

Swedish weaving appropriate for borders
Swedish weaving examples appropriate for borders


Spanish blackwork (February 27, 2014; October 6, 2015)
Holbein embroidery (August 20, 2014)
Needleweaving (October 17, 2014; May 29, 2015)


Today, however, we are going to concentrate on linear patterns in needlepoint and bargello.


Using needlepoint or bargello for linear designs opens up many new possibilities for projects such as watchbands, headbands, hatbands, belts and suspenders, eyeglass and cellphone cases, purses and tote bags, desk sets, picture frames and many other things. Many of these can be made on plastic canvas as well as fabric canvas.

Linear bargello design

On the post for November 30, 2014, we showed a needlepoint hatband with a butterfly design on a lady's straw hat. A word of advice seems appropriate here about such projects as belts and hatbands. Measure the length of canvas you will need for the project exactly. Mark the ends of this measurement on your canvas. Now find the exact center of your design and the exact center of your canvas. Mark the place where these two coincide. You will want the design to match as perfectly as possible where the two ends of the canvas meet, either at the front or the back of the item.

Red hat with needlepoint band
Red hat with needlepoint band
If you are using separate design motifs, as I did with the butterfly hatband, determine how many evenly-spaced motifs will fit on your finished project. Mark where the center of each design will need to be and measure the spaces between them. Each end space at the joining should be one-half of the space between two of the motifs. By taking very careful measurements of the repeated sections of your design and of the spaces between them, you can plan a pleasing, nearly seamless, transition at the canvas joining. Make the joining of the two canvas ends as nearly invisible as you can make it. Incidentally, the butterfly hatband slips smoothly off of the hat, to be replaced by one of a number of other hatbands in various patterns. One hat, but many different styles.

Linear needlepoint examples from Native American motifsSome of the most attractive designs that I have done have been based on Native American artwork. Three of these samples are shown at the left. These are done in traditional Southwestern colors, but you could do them in any colors you choose. I believe I would initially keep the dark, medium, and light colors in the same positions that they occupy in the patterns. You can always experiment more freely once you are thoroughly familiar with the designs.

Flame stitch sample in reds and pinks


One of the nicest things about a linear design is that you can repeat the entire design many times on the same project, This can be done either vertically or horizontally. Look, for example, at this simple symmetrical motif made up of elements of bargello “flame stitch” design.



I can repeat the design both above and below the pattern line in a variety of colors. I'm currently working on a pillow top where a similar design done in 15 different colors is repeated over and over.

Multicolored flame stitch pillow top in progress
Multicolored flame stitch pillow top in progress

Another nice thing about linear designs is that examples are all around us. We should never lack for ideas to adopt for, or adapt to. needlework. Here are two samples taken from notepads meant to attach to your refrigerator with magnets so that you can write grocery lists on them. The top one could be used alone or repeated in parallel horizontal rows. I would use the pattern as it is, but also reverse it so that the triangles in the center would become diamonds. The second would make an attractive trim for a garment as it is. I think I would use it as vertical stripes separated by plain, solid-colored stripes on a pillow or tote bag. You may want to start an envelope or folder of designs cut out of magazines, gift wrap, or print fabric that inspire you to convert them to needlework motifs.

Border designs from commercial notepads
Border designs from commercial notepads

Enjoy your design experiences,



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