This technique was originally reserved for embroidery on silk and velvet using coarse thread. It is known as laid work.  References to the names of stitches in this category are from Therese de Dillmont’s Encylopedia of Needlework.  They are equally elegant using finer threads on any number of fabrics of sufficient weight to complement their bold beauty. A needleworker might like to experiment with padding to create a high-relief, adding to the dimension of the work.

The stitches are used for large design areas not suitable for satin stitch. If all of the objects in your piece are done with these stitches, and the designs are outlined with stem stitch, it is called Arab Work.

For further reading, Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book and Weldon’s Encyclopedia of Needlework also have several pages devoted to laid work, with split stitch (wool), stem stitch and other patterns “laid” upon a ground of satin stitches to create lovely textures in large designs.

General Directions:    You will need to use a hoop to maintain constant tension.   The sample was executed with
perle coton No. 5 on 1400 linen,  while the finished piece was worked in Caron Waterlilies.   It is highly recommended that you practise these stitches at least once with heavy thread.   Once you see how they are done, and how simple the process is, you can then incorporate them into your embroidery repertoire.

Begin your work with running stitches to anchor the thread. It is sometimes easier to start in the center of an area as shown in the examples. PLEASE NOTE:   The sample is an incomplete example. You would normally start at the center, go out to one end, then return to the center. From this point, repeat the process from the center to the opposite end. After the base stitches are laid, you then proceed with the second set, then third (if any).

Use long lengths of thread – approximately one yard (one meter). You will use the “stab” method of embroidery.  Although shown below for illustration, the sewing method will not give you reliable results.

laidwork 1

STEP ONE: Using the stab method, stitch across design. One method of working, shown at left, is to leave a space between each stitch for a single strand, and fill this space on a return journey as shown below.

laidwork 2

The back of your work should look like tiny running stitches, the space between to be filled on the return journey.

laidwork 3

STEP TWO:  The return journey, with all spaces filled. Continue using the stab method. The needle in the graphic is placed to show direction only. Because the fabric threads give and take as the needle pierces it and pushes embroidery threads aside, some spaces may already be filled. Skip these and continue on until the surface is filled neatly, with threads side by side (not overlapping one another).

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laidwork 4

STEP THREE: After the base threads have been laid, and using a tapestry needle, neatly attach a new thread on the back of work and come out at the front perpendicular to the ground threads. Go over four threads, under four threads, over four threads, etc. in a basketweave pattern to the opposite end. Bring needle to back of fabric, and again to front next to the thread previously laid. Repeat this pattern three more times. Although the original directions stated going over and under THREE threads, the number can be adjusted to suit the size of threads and design used.

laidwork 5

STEP FOUR: Then, begin with UNDER four threads, over four threads, etc. Repeat this sequence four times. Continue until the design has been filled.

You may have to adjust your stitches for areas not directly in line with your work as shown in example.

laidwork 6

Finished leaf with plaited stitch and a border of closed Herringbone stitch, both areas outlined in stem stitch.