Author of "A History of Hand-made Lace" etc. Ideas From Old Samplers - Scandinavian Peasant Work - Canvas Embroidery on Plain Material, How it can be Done - The Importance of Corner Ornamentation - The Planning of a Bedspread Cross-stitch embroidery is one of the earliest types of needlecraft. There are Syrian examples of antique workmanship which rival in colour and design any modern specimens. Persian women were amongst the finest embroiderers of the East, and taught their art to the natives of China and Japan, who are the cleverest imitative craftsmen in the world.

Intelligent workers will do well to seek inspiration in design from early specimens in our museums. The simple device of the chequered canvas enables the worker to copy a pattern easily by means of counting the stitches, thus obtaining a more accurate pattern than by making a free-hand drawing, for which few have the necessary skill.

Those who possess old samplers should copy some of the lovely borders to be found either framing the letters, numerals, and devices, or some quaint pattern which we often see finishing a line or serving as an ornament.

The old strawberry pattern is a favourite one; the fruit in this is sometimes done with the long canvas embroidery satin-stitch, sometimes entirely with cross-stitch. There are in the possession of the writer examples on samplers of each method of working this pattern. It is pleasing to perpetuate on one's modern house-linen the pattern or device given to us on our great grandmother's sampler.

From the tenth to the twelfth centuries all needlework executed in Europe was of Eastern origin, and possessed many of the features of the early Phrygian and Babylonian embroideries-the European workers emphasised its sacerdotal character. They added richness in material and also in ornament until each pattern gave elaborate symbolism, and gold, silver and precious stones ousted the woven flax thread of earlier days. The old pictures of saints, emblems, and heraldry were worked with the minuteness and untiring patience usually associated with Oriental endeavour. But cross-stitch still persisted simultaneously with the opus Anglicanum and richer types, and it has emerged triumphantly from the ineptitudes of the Victorian era, returning in a large measure to the simplicity of former days

Strawberry pattern from the outside border of an old sampler. The pattern is often worked in satin stitch in samplers of a later period

Strawberry pattern from the outside border of an old sampler. The pattern is often worked in satin stitch in samplers of a later period

When working in a plain material tack canvas over. Embroider the pattern, then pull away the canvas one thread at a time

When working in a plain material tack canvas over. Embroider the pattern, then pull away the canvas one thread at a time

When working in a plain material tack canvas over. Embroider the pattern, then pull away the canvas one thread at a time

When working in a plain material tack canvas over. Embroider the pattern, then pull away the canvas one thread at a time

Canvas embroidery in the present day is seen in its higher manifestation in petit point, a single crossing of the thread of a closely woven linen canvas, which is quite distinct from the double crossing of the Berlin cotton canvas horrors of fifty years ago. The work is extremely laborious, and is chiefly used for needlework pictures and such small pieces of high artistic merit The effect is like that of old tapestry.

Pleasant Work

Modern cross-stitch in its most usual form is identical with the peasant work of most Scandinavian countries, notably of Germany and Russia, where it appears on household linens and also in a minute form for marking purposes.

When worked on a plain surface, such as linen or huckaback, canvas is usually tacked over the material to be decorated, as will be seen in our illustration, and when the pattern is worked over, the threads of canvas are carefully removed one by one, when the design remains on the linen.

This method can also be used when single-stitch embroidery is the style chosen instead of cross-stitch; the work thus done by means of the canvas needs no tracing on to the material, and great regularity in the working is ensured, for the counted canvas threads are a certain guide.

Care must be exercised so that the needle never pierces the canvas when the embroidery is being done, for if such a mistake occurred the canvas would be sewn down, and the thread could not, except with great difficulty, be removed when the work was complete.

Another rule in this very simple work is that the stitches should be crossed all one way and very evenly. Some people perfect each stitch at once, others do a row of under-stitches first, then cross afterwards - this matter is largely one of convenience. If the pattern is made up of many separated stitches, it is best to perfect each one at once before counting the threads for placing the next; if there is a small group of stitches, it is permissible to work all one way, then return, crossing each stitch of the group.


Silk, wool, flax, thread, or cotton can be used, according to the type of work engaged upon, but a fairly smooth and rounded thread is the most desirable; it should vary in thickness according to the size of the perforations in the canvas.

Very fine blue or red ingrain cotton or linen thread is required for marking linen, for if the material is of close weave the threads crossed are small and close; if a coarse cotton were used the work would stand out too much.

Other Methods

Holbein-stitch is the name given to the single outline which is sometimes used for enclosing various coloured cross stitches, and sometimes as an ornament by itself This stitch must be worked very regularly, both sides being exactly alike.

The canvas embroidery, as distinct from cross-stitch, of which our coloured plate shows so many examples, is done either oh plain material, such as cloth, linen, silk of satin, by means of tacking canvas over and afterwards removing the threads, or is worked straight on to one of the many ornamental canvases which are sold for the purpose. When selecting one of these canvases, see that the threads are well rounded and separated in the weave, for the work is much easier when the hole for the needle to slip into is well defined.

Canvas is now made in a large range of colours, and very harmonious results may be obtained by blending the embroidery silks well. The number of corner patterns given in our coloured plate should be found very useful, for however well a pattern repeats, corners are very baffling to execute evenly.

It is a good plan to first work the four corners of the square to be decorated, counting carefully so that the outside lines are begun on the same thread, which runs right to the opposite corner; the embroidery should then be worked towards the centre of the line from each side, so that when the pattern meets in the middle any difficulty in widening or narrowing a set of stitches

Pattern on plain linen in cross stitch, which was embroidered over canvas, now removed

Pattern on plain linen in cross-stitch, which was embroidered over canvas, now removed

Toilet bag made out of two d'oyleys embroidered in cross and Holbein stitch occurs on the plain line and not in the more complicated corner.

Toilet-bag made out of two d'oyleys embroidered in cross and Holbein-stitch occurs on the plain line and not in the more complicated corner.

With regard to the stitch itself, the matter is so simple that a description of how to commence will be superfluous to all but the beginner. Bring the needle and thread up from the back through the left hand corner of one of the squares of canvas, then pass the needle down the hole in the canvas on the top right-hand side, thus a slanting stitch will remain on the top side of the canvas. To complete the stitch, that is to make the upper cross, bring the needle up from the back through the top left-hand corner of the canvas square, and pass it down through the right-hand corner. This stitch repeated indefinitely, together with the Holbein-stitch, suffices for plain cross - stitch embroidery.

With canvas embroidery, which is sometimes used in conjunction with cross-stitch, and sometimes by itself, there is no crossing; the thread is simply brought up through a hole of the canvas and the holes counted; it is taken down through the hole which gives the length of stitch required. Canvas embroidery is like any other satirist itch embroidery, except that byworking on canvas great accuracy is obtainable by means of counting the threads without previous drawing of the pattern.

Another way of arranging a piece of cross-stitch is to work the ground and leave the pattern plain. No different stitches are required for this; the Holbein outline and cross-stitch filling are all that are required.

This method is very effective on large pieces of work. A bedspread may be worked in this way, a wide border all round having such a filled-in background. Sometimes alternate squares of canvas and plain linen are used for bed furniture, the canvas alone being worked. Such method of decoration much facilitates working, for the separate squares are easy to carry about while the embroidery is in progress, and only the bulky piece is undertaken at the end when the sewing together of the squares commences.

It is quite correct, according to old precedent, to sew together alternate squares of lace and cross-stitch embroidery; or, should the task of embroidering all the squares be too arduous to undertake, some of them might be of plain linen, which looks excellent as a border, alternating with lace squares. The end of a sideboard cloth might be three squares deep of such chequer at each end, the large portion in the middle being of plain linen.

It adds greatly to the value of such linen squares, from the decorative point of view, if they are sewn with open-hem stitching instead of a plain hem.

Canvas embroidery is especially suitable for such decorative articles as cushion-covers, piano-covers, sideboard cloths, dressing-table cloths, and other objects which should be worked on a good firm substance. Finished with fringe or a thick make of lace, such as torchon or other peasant lace, cross-stitch or canvas embroidery wears and washes well. It requires good eyesight, but it is simple of execution and thoroughly artistic when done