The trellis stitch is a filling stitch used in hand embroidery. It’s detatched from the fabric, like the detached buttonhole, but it makes a fuller filling than the buttonhole. It can be worked closely packed, with a firmer tension on your stitches, or you can pull the stitches out a little bit to give your embroidery the trellis look, with larger open holes between the stitches.
The trellis stitch is used in stumpwork quite a bit. It’s a good stitch for adding dimension, especially when stitched in a circle. An excellent example of trellis stitch worked in a circle (spiral trellis stitch) can be found on Just String, where Jeanne worked up a gorgeous photo tutorial, using an amazing sampler she’s working on, to show you how to do the spiral trellis. She even shows you how to make your circle stand up from your fabric, or lay flatter. It’s really a terrific tutorial and her stitching, as always, is minutely perfect, so do check that out when you get a chance.
Another great source of information on the trellis stitch can be found at The Embroiderers’ Story, the blog associated with the recreation of a 17th-century embroidered jacket at Plimoth Plantaion. There, you’ll find several posts about the trellis stitch, and if you take time to stroll through the website, you’ll probably find even more, as there are lots of photos of motifs worked with trellis stitch. You’ll also find, in PDF form, some photo instructions for trellis stitch, worked out by Tricia Wilson Nguyen. The stitch method is slightly different from the method I’m showing you below, although it is the same stitch. If you check out Tricia’s directions and look at her up-close photos, you’ll see a difference in the way the threads set up – the loop on mine stays more or less vertical, while hers cross into each other a little more. They look more distinctly like a trellis. But you’ll notice on the lower right hand section of her finished trellis stitch photo (in the PDF) that the stitches look vertical there. I think it has to do with the wrapping and pulling of the thread. I lay my thread on the fabric and pull the stitch down. In the Plimoth Plantation directions, the needle points upwards, and the working thread is wrapped around the needle for each stitch.
I learned the trellis stitch through Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book, which is no longer in print, but can be found used through Amazon and other used book sources. Although the book is mostly in black and white (including the illustrations), it is an excellent resource for learning stitches, especially if you are interested in historical embroidery. The stitches are shown through drawn diagrams, but they are very clear, and have lots of good explanations along with them. I think this is one of my favorite older stitch dictionaries. BUT – be warned – it doesn’t have the same kind of “eye candy” as the new books today have.
Here are some photos for you – they’re super-up-close…
This is the little rectangle worked in the video. The stitches are kept pretty close together, and you can see the vertical direction on the loop.
These stitches are pulled a little apart, so you can see more of the ground fabric, as the holes between the stitches are bigger.
Here, I started building a circle. The “wall” goes pretty much straight up at this point, because I hadn’t begun to decrease, by leaving out a stitch. If you vary where you begin your decreasing, you can get different dimensional effects.
Before you watch the video, a few notes:
1. Let it buffer a bit before playing. The video is almost 10 minutes long (sorry)! And … yes … I do manage to prattle most of the time (sorry!). Oh, and do ignore the end – “That’s pretty good!” What was I thinking?? But having just managed to record almost 10 minutes of audio instructions off the cuff (well, ok – it was about the fifth time through it, after making all kinds of silly blunders and starting over!), I just couldn’t re-do it, just because I sound like a dork at the end.
2. Try to ignore my ever twisting thread. The disadvantage of filming, especially long sequences, is that I can’t drop my thread to let it untwist!
3. I’m using perle cotton #5. Trellis stitch works well with all kinds of threads, though, and the results can be a lot finer and “airy” looking if you use a lighter thread – it just depends on the look you want.
4. It’s not a hard stitch, and it works along pretty quickly once you get the rhythm going. Don’t be intimidated by it!
5. Have fun with it!
Here’s the video:
For more video tutorials of hand embroidery stitches, please feel free to visit my collection of how-to videos for hand embroidery, where you’ll find a whole bunch of embroidery stitch videos!