Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bayeux Stitch

Recently I did a workshop with Penny Cornell on Bayeux stitch, a stitch that originates from the Bayeux Tapestry. This historical embroidery is believed to have been made almost 1000 years ago in the 1070's and it can be seen in Bayeux, France where it now hangs. It depicts the Norman conquest of Britain and ends with the Battle of Hastings. The embroidery is half a metre wide and almost 70 metres long.

William and Harold in a hunting scene from the Bayeux Tapestry (Wikipedia Commons photo)
The stitching was done on linen and it was embroidered with wool. Stem stitch or outline stitch was used to outline the figures and motifs. These were then filled in with laid threads that were couched down into place. The couching thread sometimes matches the laid threads and at other times contrasts with them.

For my sample of Bayeux stitch, I started by laying down yellow thread and couching it down with the same yellow colour. Then I tried laying down dark green threads and used light green to couch them down. Its was interesting to see how much lighter the dark green appeared with the light green threads overlaying it.

I always find the back of an embroidery interesting, so here it is. You can see that there is almost no yellow or dark green thread on the back because Bayeux stitch makes very economical use of thread.

Finally, I tried laying down light green thread, laying a yellow couching thread on top of it, and using the dark green to do the tiny couching stitches. 

I like the effect of using all three colours together because it has a lively all-over texture and pattern.

I think I need a lot more practice to get those couching lines parallel and evenly spaced, but I did enjoy trying out Bayeux stitch. Perhaps wool, as they used on the Bayeaux Tapestry, is more forgiving? 


  1. very pretty, I want to learn that stitch, thanks for sharing

    1. Hi Audrey. Thank you for leaving a comment when you visited. You may also be interested in seeing some other small examples of Bayeux stitch canvas work that were shown at an exhibition last year. I covered a little note book with squares of different coloured stitches and you can see it here on the shelf second from the right.