Monday, 13 January 2014

Portuguese border stitch: How to, plus tips and tricks

A new year starting off with a unexpected new stitch is a good omen, it can only mean good things to come.

The stitch I’m referring to is Portuguese border stitch. It’s a new one for me and is similar in execution to raised chain band, which I love doing but haven’t used often in my designs – I can only think offhand of the upcycled fabric tins project in edition 11 of The Stitch & Thimble actually. Nevertheless, the two stitches are similar in that you have to create a foundation row of straight stitches that you then work additional stitches over.

I prefer the look of the stitch worked in more rather than less strands when using six-stranded cotton thread. I’ve used all six strands for this tutorial and it gives a nice, chunky line of stitching – good for insect bodies (dragonflies in particular), filling in areas of embroidery and for substantial borders, as the name suggests.

Dragonfly, embroidered by Barbara Skinner

Tips and tricks:
  • Tension is important when doing this stitch. Try not to pull the foundation stitches out of place when you’re whipping them.
  • Because of the need to keep an even tension, the stitch is easier to work on straight or gently curved lines.
  • Use an even number of foundation stitches so the row of Portuguese border stitching ends off nicely.
  • If you stitch all the foundation stitches from left to right or vice versa – so you get a row of slanting stitches on the back, rather than a double row of running stitches – they’ll hold a bit firmer when you whip them.
  • Lastly, start with a long enough piece of thread to complete each side of the row of stitching to avoid having to join up a new one halfway through. 

As with most things in life, getting the foundation right is a good start. Keep your stitches fairly close together so the whipping stitches don’t sag and make each stitch long enough to accommodate the width of four whips and still leave room for the stitches to slant and create that definitive gap between the middle two stitches.

Stitch all the foundation stitches from left to right or vice versa, so you get a row of slanting stitches on the back of your work.

Bring your needle up below the bottom stitch, in the centre. Take your needle under the second and first stitches, pointing down, and pull the thread through without pulling or distorting the foundation stitches.

Whip the second foundation stitch in the same direction.

Whip the third and second foundation stitches as you did the second and first.

Whip the third foundation stitch.

Carry on whipping – essentially you’re whipping two to start, then whip one, up one (whip two) and repeat.

When you reach the last foundation stitch, take your thread to the back slightly left of centre.

Either take your thread neatly through the back of the foundation stitches (on the back of your work) to the bottom of the row again, or start a new thread at the bottom.

Come up again slightly to the right of where you first brought your thread to the front of the fabric (I came up through the same hole, to the right of the original thread).

Work the second row of the stitch in the same way as the first to complete it – your needle will slant in the other direction now and your thread will lie on the opposite side to when you worked the first row of whipping.

When you get to the end of the foundation row, take your needle down slightly to the right of centre and end off neatly on the back by threading away or securing the end of your thread with a double stitch into the backing fabric. And there you have it, Portuguese border stitch.


Paula Marcondes said...

A very good start. I like this stitch, is is also good for counted thread embroidery. Happy New Year for you!

Robbie said...

How cool..thank you for the lesson!!

Kelly Fletcher said...

Hi Paula. Happy New Year to you too! I saw one or two instances of it being used in counted thread embroidery and it looks great - it also makes spacing your foundation row a lot easier, doesn't it...

Kelly Fletcher said...

Pleasure, Robbie. Hope you enjoy doing it. Happy New Year, Kelly

Robbie said...

I'm using your tips/tutorial for this stitch on my fiber Valentine cards! You can see the start on my blog today! I did link back to this post! Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!

Kelly Fletcher said...

Portuguese border stitch works really well as an outline for hearts - good to know!