Pat Rozendal's Aztec stitch bookmark.
Photograph by Joe Coca.
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.
This design is adapted from a nineteenth-century Mexican sampler in the
Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas. For more on the Witte Museum's collection
of Mexican samplers, see the July/August 2004 issue of PieceWork.
NOTE: The six charts associated with
this project are saved as Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) files.
The charts, which are provided in links throughout the instructions, can
be viewed and printed only with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download
a FREE reader, click Adobe
Acrobat Reader . For your convenience, the file size is noted
next to the PDF icon so you can estimate your download time. Finally,
if a PDF file takes too long to download, use these instructions
to save the file instead.
- Zweigart Edinburgh, 36-count 100% linen fabric, #3217/222/55
Cream, 10 x 13 inches (25.4 x 33.0 cm), 1 piece
- Anchor Pearl Cotton, 100% cotton thread, size 12,
68 yards (62 m)/ball, 1 ball each of #47 Carmine Red, #306 Medium Light
Topaz, #388 Medium Ecru, #876 Pine, and #926 Very Light Ecru
- John James Needles, tapestry size 26 and sharp size
Sewing thread, ecru
- Stretcher bars, 9 x 12 inches (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Materials are available at needlework and fabric
stores or from mail-order or online resources.
6 1/8 x 1 15/16 inches (15.6 x 4.9 cm)
Notes: Stabilize the edge of the fabric with a zigzag stitch
and turn the edges under so the stretcher-bar tacks go through two layers
of fabric. Mount the fabric on the stretcher bars; stretch the fabric
as tightly as possible in both directions. Maintain tension while stitching
by restretching the fabric as necessary. All stitches are worked with
one strand of pearl cotton. Unless otherwise indicated, use the tapestry
needle. Work the pattern in the order described below. The open-work grid
is created by removing two threads and leaving six in both directions.
Hold the stretcher-bar frame so that one of the longer ends of the frame
is closest to your body. Using the marking pen, mark off a rectangle in
the center of the fabric that is 194 threads wide by 42 threads high,
with the long side of the rectangle parallel to the longer end of the
frame. The four-sided stitches will be worked around this rectangle. Using
#926 and starting in the upper right-hand corner, work the four-sided
KB) across the top edge of the marked rectangle. To turn a corner (Figure
2; stitch A is the last stitch of the previously stitched row), rotate
the work one quarter turn to the right; take stitch 1 over the top of
one of the stitches of the previous row shown at #1 in Figure
KB). Continue the four-sided stitches around the perimeter of the rectangle.
When complete, rotate the frame to its original position.
Cutting and Removing Threads
The two threads bundled in the four-sided stitches are the threads that
will be cut. Begin removing bundles of two threads around the inside of
the rectangle formed by the four-sided stitches. Cut the first bundle
of horizontal threads at the inside of the top left corner at #1 (Figure
KB – the red wavy lines mark the threads to be cut); cut the other
end of the same thread bundle inside the top right corner; remove the
threads. Repeat for the first vertical bundle of threads at the inside
of the top left corner (Figure 3, #2) and at the inside of the lower left
corner. Cut and remove the bundles of horizontal threads across the bottom
and the two vertical threads down the right side. Finish making the open-work
pattern: Beginning at the top left corner, count down six threads (three
bundles of two each), and cut the next bundle of two horizontal threads
(Figure 3, #3). Cut and remove the other end of the same thread bundle
on the right side. Continue to the bottom. Repeat for the vertical threads
(Figure 3, starting at #4 and #5).
Using #876, work the scrolls along each of the long sides; refer to Figure
KB) for stitching direction and positioning in relation to the edge of
the four-sided stitches. Bring the needle up at the base of each arrow
and take it down at the point. You will use a combination of back, running,
and satin stitches (the beginning and ending threads for the Aztec stitch
will be hidden behind the satin stitches). Stitch the scroll design along
each short side; refer to Figure
KB) for stitching direction and positioning in relation to the edge of
the four-sided stitches.
The front of the Aztec stitch bookmark.
Note that when you're working this stitch, you create bars by wrapping
pairs of threads in a direction that positions the threads according to
(29 KB) ; move
over the bars from left to right and across each woven square (formed
by the unpulled threads) from the lower left to the upper right. Wrap
each bar four times. Make sure there is enough thread in your needle to
work across an entire row.
To begin, hold the frame so that one of the longer ends of the frame is
closest to your body and begin at the lower left corner (Figure 6). Using
#926, anchor the thread behind the scroll satin stitches on the wrong
side of the fabric in the border and bring the needle up in the empty
square in the lower left-hand corner (Figure 6). Wrap the first two threads
together tightly; make sure to cover the threads of the fabric by laying
the wraps side by side until the bar is filled. Work across the fabric
in rows, progressing from lower left to upper right, wrapping the bars
and carrying the thread across the woven squares. When you reach the top
of the row, anchor the working thread by going behind the cross-stitches
(formed on the back of each four-sided stitch) and carry the thread from
one row to the next. When you are finished working a set of three rows,
skip over the stitches where threads have been removed (trying to go behind
them may cause the cut ends to come loose). Rotate the work (and Figure
6) at the end of each row so the needle is always horizontal, pointing
right to left under the threads of the fabric to wrap the vertical bars
and pointing top to bottom under the threads of the fabric to wrap the
Note the gray stitches of the fourth diagonal row in Figure 6: There are
two threads adjacent to each other that occupy the same holes when you
diagonally cross the center of each woven square of threads. Stitch the
rows in order in the following colors starting at Row 1 (Figure 6): Rows
1 - 6, 16 - 21, 25 - 27, 37 - 42, 49 - 54, and 64 - 66 in #926; Rows 7
- 12, 31 - 36, and 58 - 63 in #388; Rows 13 - 15, 22 - 24, and 67 - 72
in #306; Rows 28 - 30 and 55 - 57 in #47; Rows 43 - 48 in #876. Rotate
the frame 180 degrees and cover the remaining bare threads by starting
at the previously stitched Row 1 and working from left to right toward
the corner and in the following colors: Rows 1 - 6, #876; Rows 7 - 9,
#926; Rows 10 - 15, #306. Note that Row 1 of these last filling stitches
is adjacent to the previously stitched Row 1.
Remove the fabric from the stretcher bars. Wash the fabric; rinse until
the water runs clear. Iron dry with a pressing cloth.
Count out two threads from the outside edge of the scroll design and remove
the third thread; repeat on the other three sides. Count out eleven threads
from the previously removed thread and remove the twelfth thread; repeat
on the other three sides. Count out ten threads from the previously removed
thread and cut between the tenth and eleventh threads; repeat on the other
Miter the corners: With the right side of the fabric face down, fold each
corner at a diagonal at the first pulled thread. With wrong sides facing,
fold at the outer removed thread lines and fold under again at the inner
removed thread lines to create a hem. Using the sharp needle, blind stitch
the folded edge of the hem to the edge of the four-sided stitches.
About the Designer: Pat Rozendal
of Houston, Texas, is an embroidery teacher and a needlework historian
specializing in samplers. She has studied Mexican samplers in museums
in the United States and in Europe.