Practical Matters – Plaited Braid Stitch Part III

Now for some fun!

Some uses of PBS other than in Scrolling Vines

Jeanne of the Just String blog shows her pea pods calyxes worked in PBS

The image below is from book The Embroidery at the Burrell Collection, page 106
(Sorry it’s not clearer – the original image is tiny). I’m pretty sure that the outline of the marigolds is done in PBS.


The following photos are courtesy of Kimberley Mitchell :


The Original Embroiderers Weren’t Perfect

Have a look at the following photo :


Look on the left hand side.(Click on it for a bigger image). The left hand ‘chain stitchy’ side is out of whack with the right hand ‘loopy’ side.

Also, on the right hand side at the bottom, the braid crowds in on itself as it goes around the curve to approach the top of that pale leaf.

And the Layton Jacket!

The legs of the PBS are showing on the underside of the top right vine. On the vine below it, the PBS braid rather stretches out as it approaches the edge. Maybe the embroiderer was in a hurry to finish? :-)

The Elizabethan embroiderers churned out miles and miles of PBS braid, but they were human too.
You can also see in the photo there was a a braid finished at the jacket edge with a single stitch over the last pretzel

Miscellaneous Tips

I found keeping a finger on the back of the pulled through thread helped check that I wasn’t leaving loose thread on the back, which would later work through the linen and loosen the pretzels.

I think that if you can use your needle to unpick several pretzels, you understand how the stitch is being done.

Other tips  
Yvette Stanton’s Left/Right Handed Embroiderer’s Companion Books contain important tips on 

    : thread thickness: working two lines of PBS to join at a point
    : working two lines of PBS to join at an angle

    I think that the key to learning this stitch is learning how to do the very first pretzel. Then learning the mechanism of doing a full pretzel.  I was so scared of Plaited Braid Stitch, but now I’m just fine with it. I need to work on my tension, but I think I have a handle on it now.

    I think that the next thing for me to do is to go back and look at heaps of historical embroidery and really examine  PBS, using what I’ve learnt. Particularly where it comes to width and ‘nesting’ of pretzels of the braid.

    BUT I know where to go from here, and improve my PBS. I have the resources to hand – all that information I’ve researched for this post. :-)

    Talking about braid width and intricate details of the threads used has stretched me a bit, given that I’ve only just learnt the stitch. I am absolutely indebted both to Kimberley for her help and allowing the use of her private photographs in writing this blog entry, and to Melinda for letting me borrow her brain as well as asking me to be involved with her Sampler Instructions. - this is the post I recently wrote about Melinda’s sampler

    Any mistakes are on my part. Do let me know in the comments if you don’t agree on any point or have something to add. I can add it into the final article with an acknowledgement if that’s ok.

    My blog template occasionally won’t let people make comments. You can mail me at if you have problems, and I’ll post your comment.

    Finally, I hope that these tips help you learn the Dreaded Plaited Braid Stitch as well! :-)

    You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
    9 Responses
    1. Your last photo – Layton Jacket. The upper linear stitch on the right appears to be the same as the spread out stitch on the lower right side. But neither is Plaited Braid. I had not seen that one before — but Thank You for the photo — I’m off to diagram it! It will go into one of the two spaces in the sampler reserved for “future finds.”

    2. suetortoise says:

      I really enjoyed this section of your article – some inspiring photos there to give me more ideas. (Alas! I’ve already got more ideas waiting their turn than I’ll ever have time to explore in my life, but who cares.) Sometime when I get around to it, I’ll do a Tortoise Loft blog post on combining PBS with counted thread patterns – another way that the Elizabethans used it, and one that’s going to be fun to play with now that I can do the stitch reasonably neatly. I think you’ve proved to everyone that it isn’t a stitch to be dreaded, there’s just a knack and a rhythm to be learned, and there’s far more than one way to get even the basic version of the stitch to work. Thanks for your hard work in writing these three posts. Now let’s all go and have some fun with it!

      • elmsley rose says:

        Thankyou Sue :-)
        The post on combined PBS and counted thread sounds really really interesting!!!

        “Knack and rhythm” – those are good words to put in my conclusion!

    3. Rachel says:

      Yes, early embroiderers were very far from perfect – there’s some shocking flaws on the Bayeux Tapestry too – but at least it looks as though they enjoyed it!

      I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t quite pick up PBS to use on a project without practising it first, but like you, I’m much happier with it than I was!

      • elmsley rose says:

        That’s why I put that section in. To remember to just enjoy, relax, create. That those embroiderers weren’t machines, and neither are we! There’s a lot more to the process than technical perfection.

      • suetortoise says:

        PBS does need practicing before you start a project, Rachel, and always with the same thread and fabric as the actual piece. You need to get ‘in the groove’ for that particular combination. It is worth doing – it saves you a lot of unpicking!

    4. Anonymous says:

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. Thank you for reminding us that the Elizabethan stitchers weren’t perfect either. So important to remember!

    6. meri says:

      Hi Megan!
      Hope all is well with you.
      Hugs from Portugal

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>