A Stitch in Time: The Chevron Stitch

The definition of a chevron is two diagonal stripes meeting at an angle with the point up unless otherwise specified. In needlework, the word “chevron” is used to describe a stitch (embroidery), a particular pattern (needlepoint), or an overall shape. The chevron shape was used extensively in heraldic flags, banners, and woven tapestries. Thread a needle and try embroidering chevron stitch.

The chevron stitch is a decorative, horizontal or vertical line stitch and is quick and easy to sew (Figure 1). After extensive research through numerous books on samplers, needlework history, and embroidery stitches, and online, I have come to the surprising conclusion that this simple stitch has little historical record of its beginning and subsequent lineage. Books on historical samplers don’t specifically mention the chevron stitch. The chevron stitch was used on 18th- and 19th-century smocks in England and Wales. In smocking, the chevron stitch is known as the diamond or surface honeycomb stitches and provides a lot of stretch when combined with the pleated fabric, making it especially good for farmers’ smocks and children’s clothing. However, it does seem to suddenly appear in great abundance and in many variations on crazy quilts, beginning in the late 1800s. [To learn more about smocking, read “Smocking by Hand,” in the July/August 1994 issue of PieceWork.]

The chevron stitch is usually worked from left to right. Following Figure 1, leave Leg A-B loose, adjusting its tautness after returning to the fabric surface for Leg C-D. Repeat this procedure for Legs E-F and G-H. A stitcher can use the quicker “sewing” method for this stitch as long as care is taken to keep the threads parallel when two or more are used. The height and width of the chevron stitch can vary greatly (Figures 1, 2, 3) and sometimes even in the same line. If the upper and lower stitch legs that cap the long, diagonal legs are separated, the stitch is considered an open chevron (Figures 1, 2), but when these cap legs share the same fabric holes, the stitch is called a closed chevron (Figure 3).

This versatile stitch can be used as a line, border, or background (Figure 4) design. When rows of the chevron stitch are sewn closely together in various configurations and beads, buttons, sequins or palettes, and various additional stitches are added, innumerable variations occur (Figure 5). Sewing a row of open or closed chevron stitches and then placing or interlacing an additional thread, yarn, or ribbon under or around the long legs creates even more variations that are bolder than the regular stitch and that can be especially effective as a border design. The additional thread, yarn, or ribbon can be of a different color, metallic, or texture and does not pierce the fabric, except at the beginning and ending of a row. For the laced chevron (Figure 6), the needle simply slides under the long stitch legs of the chevron stitch, and the fiber or ribbon is basically couched to the background fabric by the chevron stitch. For the whipped chevron (Figure 7), the additional fiber is twisted around the long legs of the chevron stitch. When the chevron stitch is worked upon a foundation of other threads or stitches, it’s called a raised chevron and has more prominence than a regular chevron stitch. The chevron stitch also makes an attractive drawn-thread stitch when its long legs are pulled taut. An abbreviated chevron stitch can resemble an “M” (Figure 1) or “W” (Figure 2) and could be used as part of a monogram, such as the long lines of chevron stitches used as a separator between rows of alphabet letters and numerals in a sampler.

As you can see from the above text and illustrations, the chevron stitch is an amazingly versatile stitch and should be used more often by today’s needleworkers.

—Deanna Hall West

We are thrilled to welcome Deanna Hall West back to our A Stitch in Time blog posts. View the entire series here. Enjoy! —Editor

Deanna Hall West is PieceWork’s needlework technical editor; previously, she was the editor of The Needleworker magazine. Featured Image: Scissors and needle case courtesy of Loene McIntyre. Photo by Joe Coca.

Illustrations by Ann Swanson.

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