Knitting That's Not

Swatch embroidered in five colors in knit stitch on canvas by Nell Znamierowski's mother. The stitch creates a herringbone effect that looks much like knitted stockinette stitch. Photo by Joe Coca.
The back of another knit-stitch swatch embroidered in three colors on canvas by Nell's mother. Photo by Joe Coca.

While working with us on a PieceWork article about her mother’s needlework (“After Ellis Island,” November/December 2012), Nell Znamierowski sent us samples of her mother’s handwork. Among the intricate pieces of embroidery, cutwork, and crochet were little swatches that, at first glance, looked like knitting. But they weren’t. They were an embroidery technique called knit stitch. We were intrigued and asked Nell to tell us more; her article is featured in our July/August 2013 issue, “The Embellished World.”

Here’s Nell:

Canvas pillow cover embroidered with knit stitch by the author's mother, Helen Wojnar Znamierowski, inspired by needlepoint pillow covers seen in an issue of Woman's Day in the 1960s. Photo by Joe Coca.

People have all sorts of favorites: foods, colors, clothes, time of day. My mother, Helen Wojnar Znamierowski (1904–1982), an avid embroiderer, had a favorite stitch for canvas work. As a young girl in southern Poland, her needle-arts teacher taught her many interesting stitches along with other techniques such as crochet, lacework, and cutwork. But when it came to covering canvas, she always was drawn to the knit (or soumak) stitch, a diagonal stitch with a herringbone effect that looks like flat knitting and naturally forms a slightly indented line where the stitches meet vertically.

In Poland, Mother had used the knit stitch many times, especially in large projects such as a lightweight rug that also could be hung on the wall and a giant pillow cover. But in the United States she was so busy with crochet, cutwork, and sewing that she didn’t return to canvas work and the knit stitch for more than thirty years. The occasion that prompted the return was a photograph that she had seen in her favorite inspirational magazine, Woman’s Day, which in the 1960s had a significant needlework/crafts section. In the photograph were several needlepoint pillow covers of different designs and colors. She felt that one of them had the perfect colors for my New York City apartment and that its tile-work pattern was modern enough for my tastes.

On her next visit to the city from her home in upstate New York, she brought the photograph, and I agreed with her about the colors and design. We never discussed which stitch she would use since she had said she knew how she was going to do it. “It” turned out to be the knit stitch, not the stitch that had been used in the project in the magazine. . . .

Read the rest of Nell’s story and learn more about the knit stitch embroidery technique in the July/August 2013 issue of PieceWork. Discover new stitches, old ways, and fascinating stories all year long and subscribe to PieceWork today.