ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

TARTAN + TARTAN

Use the Tartan Stencil to achieve a plaid look on your fabric using the most basic stitch—the Straight (or Running) Stitch. Tartan embroidery is achieved by using strategically placed straight stitches on the square grid (as covered in The Geometry of Hand-Sewing) laid out by the Tartan Stencil. This design is made up of 1/4” squares that are evenly spaced with some larger spaces that you can leave empty for a more traditional Tartan plaid look—or fill them with appliqué and beading for more embellishment. Because of the straight, geometric nature of this stencil and technique, we recommend using it on garments that have more straight lines, such as the Cropped Car Jacket shown above.

On the original Tartan embroidery design, we used three different colors of Button Craft Thread with the colors passing over and under each other to further mimic a classic plaid pattern. We now use Embroidery Floss to achieve this look since there are more colors to choose from. The embroidery can be completed using a single color of Embroidery Floss or Button Craft Thread if you’re going for a more tonal look.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

We’ve had a number of requests to share this technique, so we’ve provided instructions and illustrations below for the Tartan embroidery treatment using three different colors of Embroidery Floss (or Button Craft Thread, if you prefer).

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

You will work this stencil in blocks as shown above to cut down on the number of times you need to knot off and start a new stitch. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. To begin one 16-square block, come up at A and sew a Straight Stitch as shown above until you go down at B. Turn and come up at C and sew a Straight Stitch as shown until you go down at D. Knot off on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the four columns of vertical stitches in this block, repeat this process in the center of the next two blocks as shown above. Come up at A and sew four Straight Stitches. Go down at B, turn, and come up at C. Sew four Straight Stitches and go down at D. Knot off.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Next, you will complete the horizontal stitches in your 16-square block with the same method used to complete the vertical stitches. Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Come up at A and sew a Straight Stitch across to B. Go down, turn, and come up at C. Sew a Straight Stitch across and go down D. Knot off on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the four rows of horizontal stitches in this block, repeat this process in the center of the next two blocks as shown above. Come up at A and sew four Straight Stitches. Go down at B, turn, and come up at C. Sew four Straight Stitches and go down at D. Knot off. Complete all vertical and horizontal stitches before moving on to diagonal stitches.

Next, you will stitch the diagonal lines across your blocks in a second color. You may complete each 4-square block individually, but we recommend sewing two 4-square blocks at once to save time and cut down on the number of knots on the backside of your fabric.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the diagonal lines in your second color, you’ll be working two 4-square blocks at a time in an alternating pattern as indicated above by the darker squares. If you wish to bring in a third color, this will be sewn as indicated by the lighter squares above.

Thread your needle, love your thread, and knot off. Come up at A and go down at B. Come up at C and go down at D making a slightly shorter stitch than the rest. Come up at E, go down at F, and come up at G. Repeat this pattern to complete the rest of your block. Sew all diagonal lines in the same direction for an entire row of blocks before going back across with the same color (much like sewing cross stitch).

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Once you’ve completed a row of diagonal stitches in one direction, go back across the row crossing the stitches you’ve just sewn in the opposite direction. Come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a short stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come up at G. Continue this pattern to complete the blocks. Sew all diagonal lines in your second color before moving onto the third.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

Once the second color is complete, thread your needle with your third color of choice, love your thread, and knot off. You will be filling in the blocks that were skipped before. Using your third color, come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a small stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come back up at G. Finish the block using by continuing the pattern. Complete the row of blocks working in the same direction in your third color.

ALABAMA CHANIN – TARTAN + TARTAN

To complete the Tartan embroidery, you’ll now go back across the same row working with your third color until you have crossed all of the stitches in your third color on the same row. Come up at A, go down at B, and come up at C. Make a small stitch and go down at D. Come up at E, go down at F, and come back up at G. Finish the block using by continuing the pattern. Complete the row of blocks working in the same direction in your third color.

Since this treatment focuses on embroidery rather than cutting away fabric (like Reverse Appliqué or Negative Reverse Appliqué), this technique is great for outerwear or a structured skirt as it adds a bit of weight to a garment. If you try it out, be sure to share your work with us on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #thegeometryofhandsewing.

13 comments on “TARTAN + TARTAN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to read 13 comments
  1. Elsie

    Thank you for sharing this technique. Wonderful, like everything AC. I think it looks like something I can do with practice — very geometric. The fabric doesn’t look like your medium weight cotton jersey. Please share what you used.

    Reply
    1. Alabama

      Hi Elsie,

      Thank you for the kind words. The fabric used for both the Cropped Car Jacket and the fabric detail shown is an organic French terry that was used in a previous collection.

      This technique works beautifully on our medium-weight jersey as well—we’ve even applied it to lightweight jersey with beautiful (and durable) results.

      Reply
    1. Alabama

      Hi Nicola,

      This technique was completed using 4 strands of embroidery floss. Let us know if you have any other questions. Happy sewing!

      Reply
    1. Alabama

      Hi Mary,

      The stencil was applied using Textile Paint. However, these particular samples were stenciled with a darker paint color that, paired with the texture of the French terry used, made the paint almost disappear underneath the embroidery.

      Please let us know if you have any additional questions.

      Reply
  2. Sue

    I’m always thankful how generous Alabama Chanin is with teaching techniques. I’ve just started using my grid guides in #thegeometryofhandsewing and it is such a great learning tool!

    Reply
    1. Alabama

      Thank you, Sue. We’re so glad to hear that the guides from The Geometry of Hand-Sewing have been so helpful. We hope you’ll share your work with us on Instagram using #theschoolofmaking and #thegeometryofhandsewing.

      Reply
    1. Alabama

      Hi Bill,

      Two of the colors used in these examples are currently unavailable. However, we do still have Ochre Embroidery Floss, and the two closest colors we have to replicate the other two colors would be Dark Grey and Camel. Happy sewing!

      Reply