A Bookmark Evolves

Another bookmark? Well, you know how I like making bookmarks! There was this little counted-thread pattern that I was playing around with on Monday night. It’s a close relative of some of the other woven stitches I have been playing with over the last few years. I woke up on Tuesday morning, looked at my doodle cloth and thought: what can I do with that stitch? I definitely wanted to play with the variegated colours of Gütermann Sulky Cotton 12 that I have collected over he years. That pattern worked in blocks of four, and these gorgeous colours… There was a strip of 32 count linen on the table and it was my day off….

The 12th of February is Charles Darwin’s birthday, born and raised in Shrewsbury, so I interrupted my stitching to go down to the Bellstone for the Birthday Toast. (It was a result of Shrewsbury’s Darwin Festival that I started Tortoise Loft the Blog, back in 2009.) Having wished the old boy a happy 210th, and done a few other things in town in the afternoon, I returned to the bookmark. By bedime it was all finished – despite quite a lot of unpicking on the way. Even the buttonhole stitch border and the tassel were done. So obviously I shall call this little pattern Darwin’s Star!

Here’s a close-up of the four star block:

Below is the pattern for the star – four stars arranged in a square, as on the bookmark, make a block with a wheel-like centre. (Obviously you could arrange the little square stars in endless different ways, depending on what you are making.) The stitch works best with a single thread, pearl cotton or similar, rather than a stranded thread. Pearl cotton 12, or 12wt cotton hand-sewing thread, like the one I am using here, is a good option for 32 or 36 count linen or 16 or 18 count Aida. On a coarser fabric you would want a thicker thread, such as pearl cotton 8. (I am not listing the colour numbers for the Cotton 12 used here, as the range available has changed slightly over the years. The thread doesn’t have to be variegated, plain threads are just as good. Select a colour or colours that please you.) You can work it on non-evenweave fabric by transferring the points, You could even try it on gingham or spotted fabric with a bold thread.

Each star covers a square of 12 by 12 threads. The top left chart is the ‘pop chart’ for the design – the places where the needle will be going in and out. The four inner points (bright blue on the pop chart) are the starting points for the groups.

Top right shows the first set of stitches. Each stitch of the group of three starts from a single starting point and goes down at one of the outside points as shown. Work the shortest one first, then the one to the corner, and finally the long one to the next side. Then come up at the next starting point and work the next set of three stitches, until you have done all twelve.

Bottom left shows the second layer. I’ve changed to bright blue for clarity, but you would normally carry on with the same thread colour. It’s a mirror image of the first layer, starting from the same starting points but going in the other direction. There’s only one difference: when making the third stitch of each group (the long stitch that crosses the corner), slip your needle UNDER the third stitch of the previous layer before going over the previous second stitch and down at the end of the previous first stitch. I have tried to highlight the points where the ‘blue’ thread goes under the red-brown. Once you try this, it will make sense – the weaving will look right.

Finally, there are four straight stitches making a diagonal square between the starting points. That is an purely optional stage. If you leave it out you will get an octagonal space. You can leave the space open, or put other stitches in the centre. Eyelets? Woven Circles? See what can you come up with.

Dear readers, I’ve blogged about a few of the other woven and interlaced counted stitches like this one, over the last few years: woven circles, woven stars, etc, but there are plenty of others. Do you find them fascinating, as I do, or would more how-to’s for them bore you? Let me know.

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12 Responses to “A Bookmark Evolves”

  1. I’m intrigued by Darwin’s star, I must say. And four of them together make almost the ghost of a Maltese cross within square..

    • suetortoise Says:

      The simpler, eight-point version shows the Maltese cross even more clearly when worked in fours. Just work a Woven Star with all the points around a square – in the corners and at the middle of each side.

  2. This bookmark is really charming, both in the colours and with the stitching. I love the name of the pattern too!

  3. Please keep going! I love these counted thread stitches. I do Like surface embroidery, silk ribbon and stumpwork, but I go back to counted thread to relax. And your ideas are magical! Thank you so much. It’s lovely to see you pop up in Needle N Thread Community, too. I loved the dragon.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Thank you, Alison. Counted thread is my relaxing technique, too. Building patterns with these geometric stitches keeps me amused for hours.

  4. I used one strand Dinky Dyes silk on 28 count lugana. I tried one strand of Wildflowers, but it was too thick. For this, I did each corner before moving to the next one so that the colors stayed together. Hmmm, I can’t post a picture here; I posted one on Needle N Thread on Facebook. I really like this kind of counted thread work. It’s relaxing.

    • suetortoise Says:


      Thank you Beth – I’ve been able to add the picture. I saw your star on Facebook, and it looks really good. The way you have changed the order of stitching, makes the colour-changes in the silk thread much smoother than my version.

  5. I love your woven stitches, thank you so much for sharing Darwin’s Star – both the beautiful bookmark and the stitch diagram! Your stitch combinations and designs are always interesting. I’d love to try this one myself; the center might serve as a nice frame for an Algerian Eye stitch too 🙂

    • suetortoise Says:

      Thanks for the encouragement, Aurelia. I am very happy to keep playing with stitches. Eyelets should work well in the centre of these stars: sqare, diamond, circular….

  6. Erica Marsden Says:

    I won’t be bored at all if you give tutorials on these woven stitches. I will be trying this one on Friday…Thank you.

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