Flame Stitch, or is it Bargello, Cushion, Florentine, Hungarian Point, Irish or Tapestry? What name do you prefer for this popular straight stitch used throughout history and through many cultures? The thread colors are the stars of this stitch, producing the pattern as it is stitched.
Called flame stitch in the 16th century, it was used on many of the men's pocketbooks that we find examples of today. It is also on band samplers where a variety of stitches are shown. Irish stitch was by far the most used canvas work stitch used during the 17th and 18th centuries if we can judge by the written documentation and examples that have been found. It's popularity lay in the rapid progress for stitching and covering an area over 3 or 4 threads of the canvas versus one.
In the 18th century it appeared on samplers reflecting the popularity of embroidered upholstery for chairs and furnishings. In the 19th century, it was a common stitch worked on canvas and considered to be one of the four main stitches of colonial American embroidery (the other three being cross, Queen and tent stitches). In the 20th century the term flame stitch began being used, probably for the design it created appearing flame like. There is a note in one book that it was after the 1880's that it began to be known as Bargello, Florentine or Hungarian Stitch, as a Hungarian Princess is one of the people credited with the invention of this technique. The bride of a Medici, she brought this work with her to Florence in the 15th century and employed it to cover chairs now in the old Bargello Palace in Florence.
This stitch was favored by the early Pennsylvania Dutch and German settlers in America, and we find many examples on pocketbooks, needle cases, pincushions and Bible covers. This stitch was also seen on many Scottish and Mexican samplers. So who used it first? Who learned from whom? Was this passed around through trade routes and travel?
These stitches give you strong geometrical designs, varied by the length of the stitch and the number of stitches in the repeat. The Hungarian Point differs by the use of long and short stitches to create the design, where in Florentine you use the same length of stitch throughout, changing the design by the placement of the stitch, moving it up or down to create the flame, diamond or other geometrical pattern.
I have found different sources that say one name was used in one century and another saying that name wasn't used until a different century....on several of these variations in names used for this stitch. I have found that most of the earlier sources first called it Irish stitch. But I think what matters the most is to recognize that it was a stitch used throughout our history in many variations of name and style but with the same overall effect. So now you can watch for this stitch and see how many examples you can find where it was used and you can choose the name you prefer to call it by. Here we like Flame stitch, it just goes so well with our primitive alphabet that Julie has designed.
You can find this stitch diagramed in many of your favorite stitch dictionaries and also in several of the books listed below as well as on line. It is a fun stitch to do and to create designs with, choosing your favorite colors for dramatic effects. Find a piece of graph paper, box of colored pencils and have some fun creating a "Flame stitch" of your very own.
Book Sources: (This is only a few, many more are available)
This book helps you design your own patterns in Florentine Embroidery as well as giving you many design variations to use.
B is for...... Brimstone!
Here is Part Two of the Dark Alphabet, featuring a section of flame stitch! For those who are disappointed that Beelzebub didn't make his appearance here, take heart - the gentleman is known by many different names - we can't do a dark alphabet without him, and he will show up soon, I'm sure...
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