Holbein Stitch

Also known as: Double running stitch, Line stitch, Two-sided Line stitch, Two-sided Stroke stitch, Square stitch, Chiara stitch

This stitch follows a pattern where a running stitch is done and the gaps between this running stitch are filled during a return journey of the needle and thread. This causes the stitches to bring out identical patterns on either side of the cloth.

Looking at the history of it, Holbein stitch derives its name from Hans Holbein the younger, who was a German artist. He was a portrait painter of the 16th century, who is more known to have painted Henry VIII and his children wearing clothing with ‘blackwork embroidery’.

Holbein stitch is widely used in Blackwork Embroidery and Assissi Embroidery as well. We can widely see it in cross stitch patterns too. This is because Holbein stitch is a form of counted thread stitch.

Blackwork is again commonly known as Spanish work. Catherine of Aragon was the wife of Henry VIII. She is believed to have brought garments into England from Spain and they had black work on them. Blackwork is done using only black thread.

Assissi embroidery originated from Italy at around 13th and 14th century. It is a combination of blackwork, or Holbein stitch and cross stitch. Traditionally Assisi embroidery employed only Holbein stitch, but later, it incorporated varieties of cross stitches as well. Assisi embroidery is not confined to a single thread color but uses different threads.

I have done two variations of the Holbein stitch. This will help understand the technique.

Variety 1:
Fig 1: Lay a base of running stitch.
Fig 2: Now, start a return journey with the same working thread. As, shown in this illustration, the return journey of running stitch will fill the gaps made during the first onward journey.
You can use a different colored thread for creative effects.
Fig 3: A finished line of holbein stitch would look like this.
Variety 2:
Fig 1:Follow the alphabets to make a step of running stitches along the four stitch lines. Note that all the stitches would be horizontal. Fig 2: Do a return journey by filling up the gaps left by teh first onward journey of the running stitch. This time all the stitches would be vertical.
You can use a different colored thread fro the return journey for a more creative holbein stitch.
Fig 3: A finished ‘temple’ design using holbein stitch would look like this.
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25 Responses

  1. bharti India Google Chrome Windows says:

    Dear Sarah,
    Nice work and very well explained. I have seen very nice decorative kasuti designs on other tutrials also but they didn’t explain how to do it. It will be great if you can show the tutorials of some more beautiful kasuti designs.
    Bharti Tripathi

  2. smita pahwa Norway Opera Mini Unknow Os says:

    hello mam
    may i know if u provide classes for heavy embroiderys like bridal lahanga lachas and sarees with heavy work

    pls reply me on my mail id mentioned above as soon as possible

    thnk you

    • hema India Google Chrome Windows says:

      hi sarah

      amazing work keep it up. can u please some of your samples like kurtas or dresses so that we get some idea.

  3. Jogun Nigeria Google Chrome Windows says:

    Sarah, Your tutorials are amazing and has generated my interest in embroidery. I went through each stitch family and concluded that i had to learn all of them . I started with the running stitch family and completed all on a piece of calico fabric. i’ll work on the others and create a file .

    • sarah India Internet Explorer Windows says:

      Dear Jogun,
      I am delighted that our pages have created an interest in embroidery in you…as it should. 🙂 Do share with us some of your works. We woudl be so happy to see them, and it will also serve as an inspiration to the other new enthusiasts.

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