Hints for Duplicate Stitch

Making the Stitch

The duplicate stitch is a V shape--same shape as the Vs on the knitted item. Because I can't draw this in ASCII art successfully in html, on a scrap of paper, please draw yourself a V as a reference. Mark the bottom of the V with the letter a. Mark the upper left top with c and the upper right top with b. (Sorry about asking you to make your own diagram!)

To make the stitch, send the needle to the top at a. Go down at b and up at c (all in one motion). Then go back down at a. (In the same motion you can come back up at point a in the next duplicate stitch, which is located to the left of the one you just did--if you're right-handed!)

Beginning and Ending Your Thread

You have the same problem with duplicate stitch as you have with Hardanger and bargello--with the added "bonus" of anchoring threads securely enough to ensure washing. (I wash this stuff by hand or alone on gentle cycle in the washer, incidentally.)

The safest method is an away waste tail of about 3"; don't skimp, especially with RibbonFloss (which tends to unravel); you'll use it all. After you've worked several stitches, thread the tail into the needle and run it back under several stitches. Bring the needle out and over the last stitch run under and then go back the other direction. Take the tail over the last stitch run under (again) and go back the other way. Continue this until the 3" is used up. (Also called a Hardanger finish or a bargello tuck.) This may seem excessive (and you wouldn't do this more than once for Hardanger or bargello), but you'll be really unhappy when your stitching starts to come out after a wash or two. Better safe than sorry! End the thread the same way.

Metallics are especially difficult to work with, I think, so make a generous away waste tail and finishing tail. (Also work with short-ish lengths, as they can fray and look messy. RibbonFloss is especially susceptible to getting fuzzy.)

Figuring Out the Gauge of the Sweater

Most sweaters will not list the gauge, so you'll need to figure it for yourself.

Lay a ruler on the sweater. You'll see rows of Vs. Count how many Vs opening upward there are per inch. Your eyes may play tricks on you: you'll see rows of Vs tipped upside- down, too! Focus on the ones that are right-side-up, that is, opening upwards, as shown below.


In this row of Vs, there are 8 downward openings, but there are 9 upward openings. Supposing that this row of Vs represents one inch, the gauge is 9 stitch/inch because you're counting the upward-opening Vs.


Unless you *want* a tweeded look with the sweater color showing through, consider it a requirement that you strip and moisten your floss. Don't be lazy about skipping this step; you will be very displeased with your stitched result if you do.

The number of strands to use depends on what gauge your sweater is (more on that below). For example, I did a "Drifter" sweater from Lands' End, which is 7-gauge, and I needed all six plies of the floss for coverage. Probably anything 7- to 9-gauge or less will require all six plies; anything less than 7-gauge will probably require more than six. You may have do a few stitches and be prepared to rip them out if the coverage isn't what you'd like.

Another thing that improves coverage is a laying tool. A laying tool helps you control the fiber as you sink the needle so the plies don't become twisted. In my opinion, a laying tool is essential in duplicate stitch if you are using RibbonFloss or any other wide, flat fiber, as any twisting of these fibers reduces coverage substantially.

You may have to fiddle with the stitch--perhaps pull it up and pull it back down again--to get nice coverage. Some individual plies may need adjustment, too. Duplicate stitch isn't quick!

Blended Needles and Duplicate Stitch
There is no problem with blended needles if you're talking about floss.

My general advice toward blending floss and metallics is: this doesn't work too well. If you want to try a blend with floss, you might experiment with something like Candlelight; you might like the look of floss with Balger #16 or #32 braid, or even 1/8" braid. Don't even bother with blending filament!

My preference for a metallic look is RibbonFloss. It requires a laying tool and long tails to bury and is prone to fuzzies, but it's more pliable than Balger 1/8" braid and therefore easier to work with.

Is Duplicate Falling from Popularity?

There is some evidence that duplicate stitch is not as popular now (1996) as it was a few years ago (1994). Evidence: not as many duplicate stitch patterns published new, number of patterns turning up in mark-down bins, not as many patterns featured in magazines. Duplicate stitch has been around for years, however, and it's unlikely to go completely out of style.

This does not have to stop you from this kind of stitching, however! If you can't find a pattern you like, make your own. A type of translucent graph paper scaled for duplicate stitch is available. You lay this over your picture and "color in the boxes" to make your chart. (Remember that duplicate stitch distorts the pattern; it will come out taller.) When doing this with something you didn't draw (especially something you found in a magazine, such as a photograph), remember not to run afoul of the copyright statutes, especially as they pertain to converting images to charts.

copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis
Contact me about reprint permission.

Needlework Home Page | Tips and Tricks | Home Page