Sunday, September 11, 2016

German Brick Stitch Embroidery

Particular to Germany in the 14th & 15th centuries, the pair of counted-stitch embroidery techniques we call brick stitch are found on many extant purses, and were used as a graphic technique within wall hangings. In nearly every extant case, brightly dyed silks were used on linen ground fabrics. When we recreate these techniques, evenweave cloth is used. Using set lengths, stitches are worked strictly in one direction (most often vertically), so that lines and shapes are created to form repeating patterns.

For BRICK STITCH (sample pattern above), only a single stitch length is used (typically a 4-thread stitch). Stitches are arranged so that each successive column of stitches is offset from the previous column by half a stitch length, forming a brick pattern. Brick stitch designs are oriented straight on the piece, rather than on an angle, and the regular grid of the brick pattern makes it easy to create figures, including plants, people and animals.

For SATIN STITCH (sample pattern above), stitches are used at lengths of 2, 4 and 6 threads per stitch. If a longer stitch is required for the pattern, the length is covered by stacking multiple smaller stitches to cover the length. For example, there is no 8-thread stitch; two 4-thread stitches are used instead. To create the design, stitches are either nested against each other to form corners or intersections, or offset from each other to create lines. The offset of one stitch from the next one over is one thread either up or down from the previous stitch. Due to the technical nature of this technique, the designs of German satin stitch pieces are set on an angle- the straight lines of the design run obliquely across the plane, rather than horizontal or vertical.

When it comes to counting, there are 3 basic ways that a person may prefer to do it. You can count either:
  • the number of threads the stitch will go over
  • the number of holes the stitch will go over including the one it comes out of and goes back down through
  • the number of holes the stitch will go over not including the beginning and ending hole
When I create brick stitch pieces, I like to use 28-count evenweave cotton or 32-count evenweave linen. Both of these are available from my local craft store. When I'm not worried about the authenticity of the materials, I use DMC's #5 Pearl Cotton for the embroidery itself. It comes in skeins in a range of colors, and has a satin-like sheen that works well for this technique. When I'm being more serious, I like Rainbow Gallery's Grandeur silk (which is the same size as the pearl cotton) or Splendor silk. For the Splendor silk, I use only 4 strands.

(By the way, you can see my general process for converting a brick stitch embroidered panel into a drawstring purse here.)
A Stitch Out of Time - several patterns and examples, as well as research regarding the use of these techniques
Taschen - some advanced techniques and inspiration
Medieval Arts & Crafts - look under the “brick stitch” tag
For more, take a look at the "German embroidered brick stitch" Google search results.
Or use the search bar on my sidebar to search for "brick stitch" on this blog for my projects!


  1. This reminds me of the visual look of Western Ukrainian embroideries. Different stitches, but there's overlap in the embroidery traditions between that area. (I was doing research for a Ukrainian embroidered linen tunic -- I'm sure it looks like other places as well :P)

    Very bright and beautiful contrasting pattern!

  2. The same design pattern is used in balochi embroidery with same stich i want to know the connection between these people