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detail from "shield".method of workingdetail from "shield".


The three work stages:

The embroidering of the contours of the motifs.

Filling in the background.

The making of the border.

Alternative methods


The cloth

For the cloth, on which you are going to embroider, it is necessarily to use a fabric with the same number of threads to the centimeter in horizontal and vertical direction. (The same number of warp and weft threads to the centimeter) We advise you to use white or ecru linen or cotton with 10, 11 or 12 threads to the centimeter.


Embroidery threads

DMC thread, number 16 is very suitable. This is not the well-known six-strand embroidery floss, but it's one threaded and it is sold in strands of about 23 meter. There are lesser colors, but that's not really a problem. You can use it on even weave linen that has 10 or 11 threads to the centimeter. DMC thread number 25, that's the six-strand embroidery floss, is also very useful. On the same kind of cloth I use normally 2 threads for the cross stitches and 3 for the running stitches ( Holbein stitches). For the "contour-border", normally embroidered in the same color as the cross stitches, I use also 3 threads. I embroider over 3 threads of the cloth. That's the usual way in making Assisi embroidery (see also below). Doing so, the background gets a somewhat open structure, witch is more beautiful and exposed on a wall, looking to it from a normal distance, it shows up well.

Choosing colors.

You have to be careful in choosing the colors. Because of the power of the design it's absolutely a mistake to use sweet and soft colors. Then the color of the background must contrast the color of the outlines of the design. I advise strongly to use the darkest color for the outlines of the motives. I gave the following combinations, which all have proven to be good choices (the numbers are DMC numbers):

  • black (310) and indigo blue (322 or 312)
  • black (310) and Turkish red (321)
  • black (310] and saffron yellow (740)
  • Mahoney brown (301 or 421) and blue (939)
  • Mahoney brown (400) and green (935)

For sure, other combinations are possible, but, with no doubt, the colors have to contrast.


Use a blunt needle to avoid splitting the fibres of the background.


Although the technique of making Assisi embroidery isn't difficult, it's wise to start with a simple design. For instance, a small border or a medallion. Mostly because the order of working is important. In using a clever working order you will discover a mistake at an early state, so correcting them is less work. Mistakes you can't ignore, because they will cause problems, later, when you fills up the background.

So, choose a pattern and make a print of it. Choose the colors and the kind of embroidery thread you want to use, DMC 16 or DMC 25. Buy a piece of linen or cotton cloth with 10, 11 or 12 threads to the centimeter and the strands and you can start.

!! It seems that embroidery floss DMC 16 is no longer available (2008)

In making Assisi embroidery, you can divide the work in three parts:

The embroidering of the contours of the motifs.

Filling in the background.

The making of the border.

The embroidering of the contours of the motifs.

part of the pattern of "devils-square".
In the explanation, this pattern is used as an example.

The contours are embroidered, back and forth, in running stitch. They are worked in horizontal, vertical and diagonal direction. All the time you make the stitches over three threads of the cloth.

drawing for the explaination how to make the contours of the motifs.





The thin gray lines are the threads of the cloth. The black ones are the embroidery thread at the upper side of the cloth, the dotted line at the underside. Every stitch is made over three threads of the cloth, in horizontal, as well as in vertical and diagonal direction. To embroider over three threads is the same as passing over two holes. Later, by going back you finish the contours. See also the pictures below.

Start in the middle of the cloth with the center of the design. Embroider the contours without all the details.

It's a bit annoying, but you can't permit yourself making little mistakes and not to correct them. Irrevocably it causes problems during the making of the background. But it's inevitable to make one, now and then. So to minimize the extra work and to discover mistakes as soon as possible it's wise to pay attention to the following rules of the game:

Embroider the contours by going forwards and back as shown below. If you make the contours at once, it's much more difficult to undo and after discovering a fault, it's twice as much work.
Figure out a working order in such a way that you can stay as close as possible at parts, which are already made. In this way you have a possibility to control. Also, try to connect as soon as possible to already made parts. Omit details; you can make them while you are going back. The drawings below give some more comment.

fig 1


fig 2


fig 3


fig 4

See figures 1 to 4 above: The small arrows give the working direction. The black line is the working thread on the upside, the dotted line on the downside of the cloth. Start in the middle of the pattern (fig. 1, big arrow). If you arrive at a part what is already made (fig.2, big arrow), then go back( fig.3), until you arrive at a new part of the contours. (fig.4, big arrow).


Go on with the part witch is not yet made, without starting with the details. Coming at a finished part (big arrow)...




Go back again. During this way back, you embroider the details (big arrow).




At the big arrows there are more details, which has to be embroidered during you way back. 




Continue to go back until you arrived at a new part of the design (big arrow).

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Filling in the background.

Embroidery of the cross-stitches.

In the pictures below, the thin gray lines represents the threads of the cloth.
The green lines represents the embroider thread and the black dotted lines represents the embroider-thread at the down site of the cloth.
The arrows give the direction, in which to embroider.

In Assisi embroidery you always pass over two holes of the cloth on witch you are embroidering to put the needle in the third hole. (That's the same as surpassing three threads).

Rows of cross-stitches are made in two stages. First half cross-stitches are made, going from left to right (see drawing at 1). Next, going from right to left, the cross stitches are finished (see drawing at 2).



If you embroider more rows, you make first all those rows by embroidering half cross stitches (see at 3) and thereafter, by going back, the rows are finished one by one



In a piece of embroidery all the cross stitches are made in one direction, that's to say in horizontal of vertical direction. Also the upper thread of every cross-stitch lies in the same direction. In that way you get a more even effect.


Filling in the background

Start at the bottom left with a row of half cross-stitches. At the end of the row go to the right by making half cross-stitches in the row directly above the already made half cross-stitches. In this way, going from left to right and from right to left you fills the background with half cross-stitches. If it's impossible to go on, go back while you're finishing the half cross-stitches. As soon as you arrive at an empty part of the background, you go on with making half cross-stitches on that empty part until you can't go on. Then you go back again, finishing the half cross-stitches and so on and so on. Study the drawings down below. You will get a good idea how it works. In the beginning it's a bit difficult, but gradually it becomes much more easier.

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 The border

Finally the border is embroidered. This border also is made, going back and forth, in straight stitch and always over three threads.


Alternative methods

  • Embroider the outlines not in double running stitch, but embroider these outlines at once.
    Disadvantage: if you make a mistake it's more difficult to go back and it's twice the work.
  • Embroider over 2 threads instead of over 3 threads.
    Advantage: you will make lesser mistakes and you can work a bit faster.
    Disadvantage: The result is less satisfying. That's because a more open background is more beautiful. Nevertheless because the result is finer, if you work over 2 threads, it good be very right to do so if it's a piece of work to look to from short distances (for instance a small table-cloth).
  • You can start with the background and after that making the contours of the motifs
    Advantage: The outlines stand out more clearly.
    Disadvantage: I never tried, but to me it seems a bit more difficult.
  • For the background it's possible not to use cross stitches, but another stitch. Formerly they used often the long armed cross stitch
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