Simplicity and elegance are two words that come to mind when I think of four-sided stitch. Simple, because the stitch really only has three steps. Elegant, because of the clean lines and lacy look of this beautiful stitch.
Since four-sided stitch is often worked as a pulled-thread stitch, I like to use a needle that’s a bit larger than usually used for the thread choice. This opens up the hole in the fabric or canvas a bit more, making it a bit easier to pull.
Four-sided stitch is most easily started with a waste knot in the path of the stitch. Come up at the upper left end of where the line of four-sided stitches is planned to be. As this line develops, the tail end of the thread will be covered.
Step 1: Bring the needle to the back just two threads down from where you came up. Give the stitch a little tug. This tug opens up the holes of the canvas or fabric just a bit.
Step 2: Come back to the front of the fabric up two and to the right two threads, as seen in the photos above, to get ready for the next leg of the stitch. Give the thread another tug. Sink the needle again two threads to the left (where step 1 began). Tug once more.
Step 3: Bring the needle up down two threads from the start of step 2. Tug. Sink two threads to the left. Tug.
Then it’s time to repeat the three steps. The next "step 1” stitch starts at the point where the first step 2 did. Keep repeating, giving a slight tug after each stitch, as you stitch from left to right across your fabric or canvas.
Occasionally, I find that I lose track of which leg should be the next to be stitched. There’s a very simple way to find out. Simply look at the back. When stitched in the correct order, four-sided stitch results in a row of X’s on the back of the stitching. Doing the stitches in a consistent order keeps the pull at the corners of all of the little boxes the same.
When you near the end of a thread, bring the tail to the front about an inch further down the line of stitches. This is easiest to see from the back.
To start a new thread, I find it’s easiest to switch to a smaller needle, perhaps even one with a sharp point. Put a waste knot in the end of the thread, and bury it in the back of the most recent stitches. Doing this keeps the pull of the thread the same, so you can’t tell from the front where the thread was changed.
After bringing the thread to the front again, switch back to a larger needle and continue the line of stitching, working over the old thread tail. When you reach the point where the tail comes to the front of the fabric, give the tail a tug to make sure that last stitch is taut. Holding the tail tight, cut it very close to the surface of the fabric. If any of the tail is still sticking up, use your needle to poke it to the back.
When worked in a contrasting color to the fabric, four-sided stitch gives a neat and clean line of stitches and is a great addition to a border.
Four-sided stitch is often worked as a tone-on-tone stitch, though, and that’s when the lacy feel comes out. The stitch itself becomes almost unnoticeable, and the pattern that emerges from the resulting holes becomes the highlight. This is my favorite way to use this stitch.
I’d love to hear about some of the different projects in which you’ve used four-sided stitch. Please share in the comments!