Satin-stitch is par excellence the stitch for fine silk work. I do not know if the name of "satin-stitch" comes from its being so largely employed upon satin, or from the effect of the work itself, which would certainly justify the title, so smooth and satin-like is its surface. Given a material of which the texture is quite smooth and even, showing no mesh, satin-stitch seems the most natural and obvious way of working upon it. In it the embroidress works with short, straight strokes of the needle, just as a pen draughtsman lays side by side the strokes of his pen ; but, as she cannot, of course, leave off her stroke as the penman does, she has perforce to bring back the thread on the under side of the stuff, so that, if very carefully done, the work is the same on both sides.
Satin-stitch, however, need not be, and never was, confined to work upon silk or satin. In fact it was not only worked upon fine linen, but often followed the lines of its mesh, stepping, as in Illustration 9 (Cushion And Satin Stitches), to the tune of the stuff. This may be described as satin-stitch in the making - at any rate, it is the elementary form of the stitch, its relation to canvas-stitch being apparent on the face of it. Still, beautiful and most accomplished work has been done in it alike by Mediaeval, Renaissance, and Oriental needleworkers.
To cover a space with regular vertical satin stitches (A on the sampler, Illustration 36 (Satin-Stitch Sampler)), the best way of proceeding is to begin in the centre of the space and work from left to right. That half done, begin again in the centre and work from right to left.
In order to make sure of a crisp and even edge to your forms, always let the needle enter the stuff there, as it is not easy to find the point you want from the back.
In working a second row of stitches, proceed as before, only planting your needle between the stitches already done. Fasten off with a few tiny surface stitches and cut off the silk on the right side of the stuff: it will be worked over.
To cover a space with horizontal satin stitches (B on sampler), begin at the top, and work from left to right. The longer stretches there are not, of course, crossed at one stitch; they take several stitches, dovetailed, as it were, so as not to give lines.
The easiest, most satisfactory, and generally most effective way of working flat satin stitch is in oblique or radiating lines (C, D, E), working in those instances, as in the case of A, from the
To Work A
To Work B
centre, first from left to right and then from right to left.
Stems, narrow leaflets, and the like, are best worked always in stitches which run diagonally and not straight across the form.
In the case of stems or other lines curved and worked obliquely, the stitches must be very much closer on the inner side of the curve than on the outside : occasionally a half-stitch may be necessary to keep the direction of the lines right, in which case the inside end of the half-stitch must be quite covered by the stitch next following.
Satin-stitch is seen at its best when worked in floss. Heavy or twisted silk looks coarse in this stitch, as may be seen by comparing the petal D in the sampler, Illustration 36 (Satin-Stitch Sampler), with the petal in twisted silk here given (38). Even the needle-workers of India, astonishingly skilful as they are, get rather broken lines when they work in thick twisted silk (Illustration 39 (Satin-Stitch In Fine Twisted Silk)). The precision of line a skilled worker can get in floss is wonderful. An Oriental will get sweeping lines as clean and firm
as if they had been drawn with a pen, and this not merely in the case of an outline, but in voided lines of which each side has to be drawn with the needle. The voided outline, by the way, as on Illustrations 39, 40, is not only the frankest way of defining form, but seems peculiarly proper to satin-stitch. And it is a test of skill in workmanship : it is so easy to disguise uneven stitching by an outline in some other stitch. The voiding in the wings of the birds in Illustration 40 (Chinese Satin-Stitch) is perfect; and the occasional softening of the voided line, as in the wing of the bird at the bottom of Illustration 40, by stitching in threads comparatively wide apart, is quite the right thing to do. It would have been more in keeping to void the veins of the lotus leaves than to plant them on in cord in the way that has been adopted.
Satin-stitch must not be too long ; and it is often a serious consideration with the designer how to break up the surfaces to be covered so that only shortish stitches need be used. You might follow the veining of a leaf, for example, and work from vein to vein. But all leaves are not naturally veined in the most accommodating manner. Treatment is accordingly necessary, and so we arrive at a convention appropriate to embroidery of this kind. It takes a draughtsman properly to express form by stitch distribution. The Chinese convention in the lotus flowers (Illustration 40 (Chinese Satin-Stitch)) is admirable.
It is the rule of the game to lay satin-stitch
very evenly. Worked in floss, the mere surface of satin-stitch is beautiful. A further charm lies in the way it lends itself to gradation of colour. Beautiful results may be obtained by the use of perfectly flat tints of colour, as in Illustration 40 (Chinese Satin-Stitch); but the subtlest as well as the most deliberate gradation of tint may be most perfectly rendered in satin-stitch.