Make a spring Scandi pillow with Assisi embroidery, a kind of reverse cross stitch where the backgrounds are stitched and the main motifs left untouched. It originated in the Italian town of the same name. Holbein stitch is used to add finer details and flourishes, but in Assisi work it’s called Chiara stitch. Worked on an evenweave fabric, usually cream or white, the traditional colours are red, blue, green or gold for the backgrounds and black or brown for the outlines. Common motifs are mythical creatures, although flowers and geometric designs are also popular. For this stylish cushion, the Assisi embroidery is worked on bands of cross stitch fabric, which are then sewn to a plain cotton, and edged with ric rac.
- 16 count Aida, 5cm x 70cm
- Grey cotton, 66cm x 80cm
- Cushion pad, 30cm x 35cm
- Embroidery thread, red, black, one skein of each
- Tapestry needle, size 24 or 26
- Coordinating sewing thread
- White ric rac, 1.3m
- 30cm x 36cm
Make a pillow
1 Download and print the cross stitch chart. Cut 5cm x 70cm of Aida in half. Fold one half in two to find the centre, mark with a small stitch and place in an embroidery hoop. Thread a tapestry needle with two strands of red embroidery thread. Knot the end and take it down through the fabric at the edge of the band. You can snip this off once the first few rows of stitches have been completed.
2 Starting at the centre of the charted design and working outwards, begin to work the cross stitches. Work in rows from left to right. Bring the needle up at the lower left hole of one square of the fabric and back down at the upper right hole of the same square. This forms a diagonal stitch. Continue making rows of diagonals.
3 Once you reach the end of the row, work back over each stitch with a diagonal that slants in the other direction. Work subsequent rows in the same way, making sure that the top stitch of each cross lies in the same direction. Move the fabric in the hoop as often as necessary until all the cross stitched areas are complete. Thread the needle with a single strand of black and work the outlines and details in Chiara stitch or back stitch. Repeat with the other length of Aida.
4 When you have finished both strips, press them lightly on the reverse. Cut two 33cm x 38cm pieces of grey fabric for the pillow. Put one aside for the back section. Place the other flat on a work surface and position the two bands across the width of the fabric. Pin in place.
5 Cut ric rac into four equal lengths and pin on either side of the embroidery. When happy with the arrangement, stitch everything in place by hand or machine. To make the pillow, place the front and back pieces right sides together, pin and stitch around three sides with a 1.5cm seam allowance.
6 Clip the corners and trim off any excess Aida and ric rac that may be protruding from the seams. Turn the pillow out and press lightly, then insert a cushion pad. Fold raw edges to the wrong side and slip stitch to close.