Home > Glossary


Algerian eyelet - Often called the "basic" eyelet, it contains only eight stitches. Great visuals are shown on www.inaminuteago.com in their stitch dictionary.

Aztec stitch - The Aztec stitch is unique to Mexican samplers and is traditionally worked in very bright colors. It is an openwork technique in which threads are removed to leave woven blocks surrounded by thread bars; the pattern is formed by the path taken as the bars are wrapped. (Pat Rozendal, Interweave Press). The Aztec stitch can form different patterns depending on how the colors are worked and the direction they are stitched in.

cutwork - Overarching term referring to designs made by cutting away threads. In lacemaking, the cutting away of threads in a woven fabric to create a design. Two types of cutwork are reticella and drawn thread work. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 159.) The sampler by Martha Atkinson has some fine examples of both types of cutwork.

darning - Darning involves interweaving new threads into the warp and weft of a cloth to patch holes and tears. It was a VERY important skill for a household embroider to acquire, especially prior to the mid-nineteenth century, when advancements in spinning and weaving technology made textiles more affordable. (Samplers from A to Z, Pamela A. Parmal, curator of textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)

drawn fabric embroidery - Embroidery in which stitches are used to draw fabric yarns together to produce an openwork effect. Not be confused with Drawn Thread Work. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 185)

drawn thread work - A method of decorating fabrics by drawing out certain yarns and fastening the remaining yarns into patterns with fancy stitches. Drawn yarns sometimes are replaced by others of different colors. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 185). The sampler by Martha Atkinson has bands of drawn thread work. Refer specifically to pictures two and three for detailed look.

Florentine stitch - Also known as bargello, Irish, flame stitch. This ancient kind of needlework originated in the Italian Renaissance and is named for its place of origin. Basically it creates a series of peaks and valleys in the form of large Vs across the fabric.

hollie point lace - A needlepoint lace worked in patterns, often scriptural, used in churches during the Middle Ages. The specific hollie stitch used to make up hollie point lace is a type of buttonhole stitch with a twist. The pattern arises from the omission of stitches, leaving blank spaces within the lace. The name was originally holy lace, or holy point. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 272.)

linsey-woolsey - Coarse loosely woven fabric made of linen warp and wool filling; sometimes cotton was substituted for linen. One of the ways to identify linsey-woolsey is by the color of the fabric. It was originally called linsey derived from Linsey, a village in Sussex, England. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 328.) We found some additional details on Wikipedia indicating that linsey-woolsey was an important fabric in Colonial America due to the relative scarcity of wool, but was known for its warmth, durability and cheapness, not necessarily for its looks.

Queen's stitch - The most complex and time consuming of stitches. Peak usage appears to have been between 1780 and 1810. Late in the 19th century, the name gradually changed to rococco stitch. For more details see Swan, Plain & Fancy, p. 231.

reticella lace - A type of cutwork lace in which open areas are cut in a background fabric. The open areas are decorating by designs made by using a needle to wrap threads around each other. Reticella is distinguished from other forms of cutwork because it is NOT an embroidered lace in which designs are made by displacing, pulling out, or cutting from the base fabric. (Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 469.)

tambour work - An embroidery technique involving sewing with a hook onto material stretched on a drum-shaped frame (tambour means drum) and was brought to France from China in about 1760. The resulting stitch was a very fine chain stitch. Chain stitch as we know it today is essentially a poor man's tambour.

tammy - A strong, lightweight wool, plainly woven, often glazed. Usage began in 1750's (England). Tammy cloth was used as straining cloths/sieves, as well as bed and window hangings, petticoats and the linings of men's coats. "This being of wool, did all the evil things it could: it shrank, it curled, it furnished food for moths. The stuff itself resembles mohair in its sheen, and was probably chosen because the threads were more even than in linen, and finer in quality." (Bolton & Coe, pgs 389-390)

vanity sampler - One in which the stitcher has removed (or intentionally omitted) the last number or last two numbers in the date on her work. Was typically done to hide her actual age.

whitework - Needlework done in white threads on a white fabric. (Fairchild'e Dictionary of Textiles, pg. 629.)