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Klosterstich hands on tutorial – part 2 – how I do my Klosterstich embroidery :)

I know, as nice as my 12th century wedding dress project might be, if you are reading my blog there is a good chance that we share the love for “early” medieval embroidery like Klosterstich, Bayeux Stitch,… Therefore I decided to “pick up the thread” of the Klosterstich tutorial again which I recently started and to make up or the recent lack of postings about medieval and medieval inspired embroidery. 😀

Racaire - Klosterstich - medieval embroidery

Some of you might remember my posting “Klosterstich hands on tutorial – part 1 – how to start your Klosterstich embroidery“. Since I posted the first part I of this tutorial, I spent so much time thinking about the second part that I actually thought I already posted it. But when I went through my postings, I discovered that the second part of my Klosterstich tutorial was still due. Fortunately this is a mistake which can be easily corrected. *lol*

Well, it took some days to put this posting together but today I am finally able to present the second part of the Klosterstich hands on tutorial to you:

Klosterstich hands on tutorial – part 2
How I do my Klosterstich embroidery 🙂

2014-10 - Racaire - Klosterstich - cloister stitch - medieval rose - hand embroidery - medieval embroidery - sneak-peek

As soon as you started your thread at the back side of the fabric – either as shown in my first part of the “Klosterstich hands on tutorial” or as you would normally start your embroidery – you can proceed with the actual embroidery on the front.

2014-10-30_04_33_44_RacaireAt the picture on the left you can see how I make my very first stitch for the first line of Klosterstich. To keep my Klosterstich embroidery “lines” as straight as possible, I usually try to use the weave of the fabric to guide my embroidery stitches.

Short side note about the fabric – the best fabric for Klosterstich embroidery is rather basic linen fabric with a plain weave as you can see on the picture on the left. Btw. this kind of weave is called “Leinwandbindung” in German. The very basic weave of this plain weave fabric is a great advantage when you are working at your Klosterstich embroidery as the vertical threads can give you a great vertical lead for your embroidery.

And now you might ask why this point – working your Klosterstich as vertical as possible – is so important for your Klosterstich embroidery. Well, as soon as you take a look at some of the extant Klosterstich embroideries – especially at close up pictures of the embroidery – you will discover that most of the Klosterstich “lines” are worked vertically. Though you might find some small exceptions to this rule, this sections are rather small and not very common.

And here are some interesting examples of extant Klosterstich embroidery:

  • Maltererteppich – about 1320/30
    (Weiberlisten Teppich – link to wikipedia information in German, some small pictures)
  • Tristanteppich – cloister Wienhausen, Germany, about 1330
    (link to a picture, wikipedia)
  • Osterteppich – cloister Lüne
    (link to a picture, wikipedia)

Btw. you can find a nice article by Christian de Holacombe as well as some nice pictures of Klosterstich embroidery at the West Kingdom Needleworkers Guild website: “Klosterstich: convent embroideries in wool”.

But now let’s return to the Klosterstich hands on tutorial again:


Along the lines of the pre-drawn pattern I do my very first stitch at the top pattern line of the left border and then go straight down to the bottom pattern line where I place my second stitch back to the backside of the fabric.

As you can see at the very next picture, I place the next stitch back to the surface rather close to the last stitch.


Then I make the very fist couching stitch over the thread I have just laid before – this is the reason why this technique is also called “self-couching technique”. As you can see at this pictures, I try to work the couching threads as close as possible to the thread I am couching.


Now pull I pull my needle and thread through the fabric. If your first line is as short as the one I am working on here, one couching stitch will be enough, otherwise you just need to repeat this stitch until your thread is “secured” and couched down with couching stitches.


Short side note – as you might have already noticed, I am working the couching stitch into the twist of the thread. This way the couching thread nearly disappears and enriches the thread.

Another important detail you might like to pay attention to is the length of your couching stitches. If they are too short they will look like small knots. And if they are too long, it also disturbs the smooth overall look because they don’t properly fade in into the embroidery surface you are creating.

Well, compared to extant embroidery you are actually not doing it wrong if you make small or long couching stitches. I have seen very short and very long couching stitches on extant Klosterstich tapestries as well as some that even go over more than just one laid thread or against the twist of the thread. But I personally prefer a very smooth and proper Klosterstich embroidery surface. Therefore I try to work my Klosterstich embroidery as smooth as possible which can be achieved with medium length couching stitches laid into the twist of the thread.

And now to the second “line” of Klosterstich embroidery:


I place the first stitch for the second Klosterstich “line” along the top line of the pattern. It might look like I just placed it above the other stitch but it is actually shifted by a little to the right. And the second stitch is placed again at the bottom line of the pattern as you can see on the picture underneath:


Then I place my next stitch a little bit higher then the last stitch – always as close as possible to the laid thread.


And another couching stitch can be placed over the laid thread now:


Btw. as soon as you have a Klosterstich “line” at one side – I normally have them on my left side because I work my Klosterstich embroidery from the left to the right – you really don’t need to worry where you place the second part of your couching stitch (as you can see above).

Sometimes I even pierce a little bit of the thread of the previous Klosterstich embroidery on the left. If you don’t go too far into the previous Klosterstich embroidery, it is not really visible but connects the embroidery surface a little bit more. Something that you won’t even notice until you try to rip out your Klosterstich embroidery again because you have to repair some moth damage or messed up the pattern… 😉

And now one more couching stitch to complete the Klosterstich “line”:


Btw. please take a close look at the picture above – maybe you notice how much more body the laid thread gains with every couching stitch. While the bottom part of the second stitch with the couching stitch over it looks like you used a nice thick thread here, the upper part looks still rather thin.

And here a picture of the new completed Klosterstich “line”:


As you might notice, the part in the middle still shows that you are actually working with a thinner thread than the embroidery might suggest. To keep this small visible “disturbance” as little as possible, I try to keep the distance between the couching stitches as little as possible. The best result can be achieved when you start the next couching stitch at the same height where you finished the previous couching stitch.

And here is a picture of this section after more stitches:


I took the close-up picture which you can see above and below from two different angles to give you a better look at the couching stitches and the final effect.

As you can see on the picture underneath, the surface couching on top of the laid thread creates a nice effect to which I normally refer to as small “waves”. This effect can be easily achieved with a regular stitch length – it just needs some practice.


And finally, here is a picture of the finished Klosterstich section:


And here is a picture of the back of the finished embroidery:


Yes, this embroidery technique is not only beautiful when you look at the front side. When you are working with the Klosterstich technique most of your thread will actually end up on the right side – the front side. This is especially great when you start working with special threads which aren’t cheap at all.

I hope that this second part of the hands on Klosterstich tutorial helps to clarify any questions you might have had after reading my Klosterstich handout. And you can download my Klosterstich handout here if you haven’t downloaded it already:
Craft with Racaire – Medieval Embroidery Technique Handouts

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions! 😀 [emember_protected not_for=3-4 do_not_show_restricted_msg=1]

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I hope that after this detailed hands on tutorial of how I do my Klosterstich embroidery you get an even better insight why I think that this medieval embroidery technique is such a great embroidery technique – regardless if you want to cover a rather small or big textile surface with embroidery.

And my “Malterer”/”Weiberlisten” tapestry is a great example of what can be achieved with the Klosterstich nowadays:

Racaire - Klosterstich - medieval embroidery

Every time I take a look at my Klosterstich wallhanging now, I am really glad that I stayed the course and finished it. But well, I am not sure if I will ever start a huge project like this again – it took me about 4 years to finish it. Yes, this wallhanging contains an endless amount of Klosterstich stitches. *lol*

Best regards Racaire

My Klosterstich handout can be download here:

Craft with Racaire – Medieval Embroidery Technique Handouts

Previous postings of this Klosterstich hands on tutorial: