Sunday, January 15, 2017

Serendipity at Work

needlepoint border with topstitched diaper pattern
Needlepoint border with top-stitched diaper pattern


SERENDIPITY: The discovery of useful, valuable, or desirable things that you weren't looking for.

The mention of diaper patterns (used in blackwork, redwork, whitework, and Holbein embroidery) in the previous post produced requests for new and different diaper patterns which have nothing to do with babies' bottoms. Those are time-consuming to create. They were not on my current agenda, so I wrote them at the bottom of my planning list as an afterthought.

But I'm a great believer in serendipity. The very next day it came to my aid, as it has done many times over the years. I was looking through a box of folders that I made 40 years ago, when I was teaching English at a business college at night and teaching art and needlecrafts at a Parks and Recreation center during the day at a city on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. Needless to say, I hadn't looked at those folders for a long time! I was searching for some applique patterns for a project I did with my daughter at about that time period. I didn't find them (I will; I never throw good patterns away!), but I did find enough new materials for a number of blog posts that you will see later this year. Among those materials were several sheets of diaper patterns and here they are!

All-over Patterns

All-over patterns are meant to be used in large areas of a design. Before you choose these patterns, it is a good idea to know how dark you want that area of the pattern to appear. The darker the area, the denser the pattern should appear. Denser patterns are made by using lots of short line elements that are close together and limiting the amount of background that shows through them. Let me give you an example. This pattern starts very simply at the left. As we move to the right, new elements are added in each vertical row. See how much darker the pattern is at the last row?

diaper pattern with added elements for increasing density


Here are some additional all-over patterns:

all-over diaper patterns



Tip: It is a good idea to practice a pattern on graph paper before you try it on fabric. Do additional rows both horizontally and vertically until you are sure you know what comes next in the stitching. You may also see the advantage of stitching a pattern on checked gingham before attempting it on monks' cloth, Aida, or even finer fabrics.

Border Patterns

diaper patterns for borders

You can see a border pattern enlarged across the top of this post. They are linear patterns and are often outlined in a border stitch like outline stitch, back-stitch, or chain stitch. Any of the border designs shown can be made wider by adding such outline stitches. You can see from the “flower” borders how very small changes can alter the look of a border, as well as how doubling the stitches in facing rows makes a much wider and bolder design. Some of the patterns are designed to be mitered at the corners so that they make a frame around the major design. Here is an example of a corner design:

diaper pattern for border with mitered cornes

Tip: Some border patterns can be repeated as all-over patterns. To try this, draw two rows of the border pattern, leaving a row of empty squares between them. Experiment until you can find an attractive way to join them, using short stitches. Then include the pattern in your all-over patterns as well as in your border patterns.

Many of the patterns can be done in two or more colors (thereby qualifying them as Holbein embroidery). Here is an example of a pattern done in two colors. See what a difference it makes when the colors are reversed?


diaper patterns in 2 colors

Tip: If you are working a design in a single color and want to emphasize certain parts of the design more than other parts, use more strands of floss or yarn for the emphasized portions and fewer strands for the parts you wish to have remain in the background.

“Spot” or Cluster Patterns

diaper patterns for spots or clusters

These are small designs not meant to connect with each other. They may be used alone in small areas of a larger design or be scattered across a larger area as repeated designs. These repeats are rarely done at random; rather, they are carefully spaced at regular intervals.

Tip: Don't dismiss these designs as too simple, however. Look at this series of designs. Each one begins with the same design in the center. (The original spot pattern is seen in bold pen at the far left). The developing design is shown in pencil, with the added-on stitches shown in bold pen as they are added. You can create some magnificent medallions in this way. The pattern “grows” much as a snowflake does as it falls through the clouds adding features to its outside edges.

development of complex cluster pattenr from simple elements

Tip: Don't be afraid of making mistakes as you sketch these patterns. Who knows? You may create a whole new diaper pattern!

Blackwork and whitework designs are usually done completely in their signature colors of black or white. Redwork, however, is sometimes done in more than one shade of red. When this is done, the denser the pattern is, the darker shade of red is used. Done properly, this gives a three-dimensional appearance to the whole design. It does take some prior planning to make the illusion work, however.

Holbein embroidery is done in multicolor. I am working on a series of new Holbein patterns that you can expect to see in a post a few weeks from now. In the meantime, there is a series of Holbein “spots” across the bottom of this post.

Have fun always,





Critter patterns for Holbein embridery "spots"


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