The Crane – playing with silken thread, Part One

Japanese Bird

Japanese Bird

I decided to make a “Useful Pot For Putting Things In”, as Winnie-The-Pooh would have called it, for my cousin for Christmas. In fact, I cheated and merely embroidered a design for a lid!

I found the motif in the Japanese section of “Pattern Motifs: A Sourcebook” by Graham Leslie McCallum. I think it’s a crane. The design is very pared-down, and I thought it would make a good way to show off some of the superfine silk thread from Stef Francis, maybe even an excuse to use some more unusual stitches to see how the threads show them off.

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall that I tweeted this picture of the stitch I eventually chose to use.  It’s called Hungarian Braided Chain, and I found it in one of those books by Edith John that I mentioned when I began embellishing the Circles Skirt. If you think of it as Heavy Chain with the needle weaving over and under the threads as shown here, you will get the idea.

I’m very taken with the stitch, in fact. It creates a fascinating textured line, and colour changes in an over-dyed thread bring it to life even more. I can imagine using it in plain thread  as an indication of braid on clothing, or ropes on a ship, or even simply in side-by-side rows to create a textured effect.

This is the first – so far unfinished version, in superfine silk on silk habotai. The relatively short colour changes in this thread create subtle changes from stitch to stitch, emphasizing the structural patterning and texture. When the destined pot arrived I decided the combination looked altogether too hot and bothered, and went rummaging in my stash again…

Close Up Of Stitching On The Crane

Close Up Of Stitching On The Crane

The fabric I finally chose is a rough dupion from The Silk Route, in a golden cream colour which is extraordinarily difficult to photograph, and I picked a slightly different silk thread, more restricted in colour range. Using four strands of  thread produced a lovely cable-like appearance, which you will see if you open the photo at full size.

The dark section of the design, behind the bird’s head, I worked in a dense version of trellis stitch, with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lies all tied down with tiny cross stitches. Even working in a hoop or frame, trellis stitch cane be a bit of a challenge to stitch, but I made it in the end!


  1. Janice says:

    The Hungarian braided chain stitch looks beautiful. I can think of a possible use I might have for it too. I’ll bet those tiny stitches tying down the criss-cross threads were a challenge! So easy to miss a thread. But at the end of it all, I’m sure your cousin was delighted with her Christmas present.

  2. coral-seas says:

    It is a crane, you see it a lot in Japanese embroidery and it is a emblem that I like a lot. There is also a two bird version. This is very nice. Thank you for showing us the Hungarian braided chain, I really like the look of it.

  3. Sue Jones says:

    I had great fun playing with Hungarian braided chain after I discovered it through Needle’n’Thread. It does work well for random threads. (I also tried double and even triple HBC, just to see if they worked.) That Stef Francis thread is very, very nice to stitch with. This one of mine was random rayon thread rather than silk.

  4. Lady Fi says:

    It’s coming along nicely.

  5. Terrie says:

    Like the way you do the textural lines bring it to live.

  6. Cynthia says:

    That’s a lovely stitch made even more beautiful by the overdyed thread.

  7. Lovely thread and beautiful stitching!

  8. Jules says:

    What a fabulous gift. Lucky cousin.x

  9. Andy LW says:

    What a beautiful gift to receive. Thank you for introducing us to Hungarian Braided Chain – especially as I have just taken delivery of fabulous Stef Francis shaded silk threads.

  10. Alex says:

    That really is lovely and the braided chain looks really interesting. I really must start extending my repertoire of stitches. Even in close up your laid threads are so even!

  11. Carolyn says:

    I love Hungarian briad chain and have seen anique pieces worked in this stitch in a red wool. Your overdyed thread really works well.

  12. Penny says:

    The intricacy of your work constantly amazes me. These threads and stitches are gorgeous.

  13. karen says:

    definitely not cheating in my opinion….exquisite embroidery as a gift….