Difficulties With The Staff

Close up of two embroidered excavators, one in a pale thread with a very square stitch, the other more golden thread, in shel chain stitch.

I’ve been a bit bothered about this pair of workmen ever since I finished them. The pale stone coloured thead is a bit too close to the background colour, and the squarish stitch looks too spiky, too contorted, and very uncomfortable.

What’s more, no matter what highlight and shadow I have added, I’ve not liked it more. So while I’ve been working on sunlight and shadows, I’ve been thinking about it.

The same two workmen, but the pale stitching has been taken out.
Close up of the same two workmen. The pale yellow braid stitch of the Difficult one is being unpicked. Sigh.

Out it has come, and good riddance!


With what should it be replaced? Clearly not Braid Stitch/Cable Plait Stitch (depending on which dictionary you have beside you!) in pale yellow. Only about half of the workman was reinstated before being swiftly removed.

Well, the decision was swift – the action, rather less so!

The two workmen are now both in shades of tawny gold, and the one at the back has a cap of Cable Plait Stitch and garments of Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Fortunately all that playing and wrestling with it brought something else to my mind.

Hungarian Braided Chain is an old favourite, and I had been dismissing it because I’d already used it, but in one of the finer threads. Here in undivided stranded cotton, it has enough authority to back up the Shell Chain of the workman in front, and the slightly darker shade of gold helps too.

I think I’m happier now…


  1. I don’t think we should make rules for ourselves, like each stitch may only be used once. By changing the thread, how many strands, the colour, the size and the evenness we can make two of the same stitch look very different from each other. I agree that the Hungarian Braided Chain looks good, especially in a darker shade.

  2. Sue Jones says:

    I think you picked a good stitch, and a good colour. Limiting your stitch choices to one use each, does encourage thinking outside the box, especially in the middle stages, when it’s too easy to fall back on old favourites. But towards the end, when exactly the right stitch is already inside the box, it becomes a hindrance rather than an inspiration.

  3. Lin says:

    He does work rather well now. xx

  4. Karen says:

    He does look happier. Amazing what difference is made just by changing colour and texture.

  5. Linda says:

    I agree it was too pale, it is looking much better now.

  6. Alex Hall says:

    Lovely. You can’t beat Hungarian Braided Chain!