The laced backstitch used in hand embroidery is somewhat like the whipped backstitch. To create the laced backstitch, the needle passes under a line of previously stitched backstitches, but instead of always passing under the stitches in the same direction, the laced backstitch passes under in alternate directions from stitch to stitch. To put it really simply, the needle goes up under one stitch and down under the next.
You can see a short line of laced backstitch in the photo above, in blue and green thread. The backstitch foundation is worked in the blue thread, and the green thread is laced behind the backstitches in a serpentine manner.
You can alter the look of the laced backstitch by playing around with it a bit. You can alter the tension on the lacing thread, so that the lacing is “hugging” the backstitch, or you can stop short of pulling the thread all the way through, to form “bumps” in the lacing that stand away from the backstitch line (as you can see in the video below). You can also lace the line in one direction and them come back and lace it again in the other, to completely surround the backstitches with your lacing thread.
How can you use the laced backstitch in hand embroidery? It works well as thick stems in crewel work. Imagine a line of dark green wool for the backstitch, with light green wool for the lacing, laced in both directions and pulled tight against the backstitch. This would create a two-toned line that has a bit of width and texture to it.
The laced backstitch can also be effectively used in seam treatments in crazy quilting, as well as for borders or bands on samplers. You can incorporate the laced backstitch in your surface embroidery as a variation on any line stitches.
In the video, I’m working with perle cotton #5 on linen. You’re not restricted to even-weave linen for backstitch and its variations. It can be worked just as well on plain weave (non-counted linen). Also, it’s helpful to use a tapestry needle with the lacing part of this stitch, because the blunt point of the tapestry needle won’t snag your backstitches.
Here’s the video for the laced backstitch. I hope you find some fun uses for it!
If you’re looking for more stitch instruction and inspiration, feel free to check out the collection of Hand Embroidery How-To Videos here on Needle ‘n Thread!