A Stitch in Time: Rosette-Chain Stitch

The rosette-chain stitch (Figures 1 and 2) belongs to the large chain stitch family because the working thread is looped on the surface of the background fabric and held in place by another stitch. Other better-known members of this family include the lazy daisy, chain, buttonhole, braid stitches, and all of their many variations.

rosette-chain stitch

The rosette-chain stitch is a specific variation of the twisted-chain stitch and is also called the bead-edging stitch when it’s worked adjacent to a turned-under edge of fabric (Figure 2). As its secondary name suggests, this braid-like stitch forms a decorative line of stitches for the edgings on collars, cuffs, baby items, towels, and even samplers. As its primary name suggests, this stitch creates a small rosette or a petal-like flower shape (Figure 3) when sewn clockwise in a small circle. An additional stitch or stitches can be added to the center of this rosette to further enhance its floral appearance (Figure 3, square inset). These stitches can include cross-stitch, rice, Algerian eye, Smyrna cross, or any other small square stitches and even a cluster of French knots.

rosette-chain stitch

Although I could find no specific references of this old stitch being used specifically on antique British or American samplers, I assume that such was the case because this stitch is a much simpler stitch than the braid stitch, which was frequently used on antique British samplers and Elizabethan clothing. Renowned needlework author Jacqueline Enthoven in her book The Stitches of Creative Embroidery, published in 1964, reported to have seen this stitch on a colorful Spanish embroidered blouse made in the 17th century. The rosette-chain stitch can be used for decorative straight and curved lines, bands, borders, and fillings, as well as for individual floral motifs.

rosette-chain stitch

The rosette-chain stitch is worked from right to left. Note the slight difference in the needle placement between Figures 1 and 2. Do not pull the loops too tightly for the loops will then lie on top of each other or close up, spoiling the intended flat braid effect. Hold the bottom loop of the stitch down with tip of thumb or finger or temporarily pin this loop in place. This will also help to keep the loops a uniform size and shape. Spacing the rosette-chain stitches closely together or far apart can dramatically change the final appearance. Regardless of the spacing between the individual stitches, care should be taken to space the stitches evenly to retain the braided look. The rosette-chain stitch is best worked between two horizontal pencil drawn or running stitched lines on tautly stretched nonevenweave fabrics or between the thread lines on evenweave fabrics. End this stitch near the top (Figures 2 and 3).

A somewhat tightly twisted or heavy thread is the suggested thread to use for the rosette-chain stitch. Thread that is a little stiff is a distinct advantage for this stiffness helps to create better and more easily formed loops. The heavier the thread, the greater the distance between the stitches can be. Some of the possible threads to use include metallics (pearl cotton, braids, and floss), narrow ribbon, flower thread, silk, or cotton pearl cotton. Overdyed threads will provide a dramatic effect.

—Deanna Hall West

Deanna Hall West is PieceWork’s needlework technical editor; she previously was the editor of The Needleworker magazine. Stay tuned for more stitch tutorials from Deanna in the months ahead!

Enjoy learning about a variation of cross-stich in “A Stitch in Time: Rice Stitch.” Read the entire “Stitch in Time” series!


Learn more about historical needlework with these PieceWork magazine collections!

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