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Pistil Stitch: Stitches to Savor

Learn hand embroidery. Watch a step-by-step demonstration of the pistil stitch as seen in the June 2014 issue of American Patchwork & Quilting.

Designer Sue Spargo has been sharing stitches to savor in every issue of 2014 for American Patchwork & Quilting magazine. She shared these stitches from her Creative Stitching book and this one is called the pistil stitch. The pistil stitch is often used for flower stamens or petals, and it's simple to form--it's a combination of a straight stitch and a French knot. And whether you use it to go around the outside of an applique shape like a circle here or you use it in the center to form, as we said, the stamens of a flower or a simple geometric shape, it's best formed using a milliner's needle. And a size 1 milliner's needle is a long needle, the eye is big enough to accommodate the pearl cotton that she is using, and the nice thing about a milliner's needle is the shaft is equal in proportion from top to bottom, so when you're pulling it through the French knot of the pistil stitch, you don't have a difficult time pulling the eye through, which sometimes you do when the eye of your needle gets wider at the end. Now remember, when you're looking at pearl cotton there's usually a number associated with it. I'm going to be using size 8 here. You could use a size 3, a 5, or even a 12. So to make a pistil stitch (I'm going to do this in the center of my applique), first come up where you want the center to be. Then you're going to take your first stitch (decide which direction you want to go before you make your wrap; I'm going to go in this direction), and the first think you're going to wrap is take my needle and wrap thread around it, and I'll say five times: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Now, keeping those wraps on the needle and holding them in place with my finger, I'm going to make my stitch about a quarter inch or 3/8" away. And you can see that those wraps are still on the needle. I'm going to push them down to the tip of the needle that's in my fabric and hold them with my left hand so they stay taut against the fabric and pull my needle all the way through. That makes my first pistil stitch. Then, if I wanted to continue around that same center point, I'd bring my needle back up, pull the thread taut, wrap again with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and decide where I want my next stitch to go. So, I'm going to work my way around the circle, and there, I'm going to pull my thread taut. My wraps are against the tip of my needle and I'll hold them in place with my left hand while I pull the needle through underneath with my right. And my second one is there. Now I could continue around the circle or if this was an applique and I wanted to make a flower center, I might come up again and make a little bit longer one. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Here, like a real flower might have where the stamens are uneven. So, I decide where I wanted that to go, pull it taut, hold the wraps with my left thumbnail, and pull it tight. So, they don't all have to be the same length. The pistil stitch is a great stitch an one I hope you'll give a try.