How do people name a stitch? Historically, stitches and techniques were sometimes named after the area in which they originated (or were thought to have originated), like Hardanger embroidery and Basque knot. Some were named because they resembled something, like chain stitch. I suspect that among early communities of women (it presumably would have been mostly women) who embroidered, new stitches would at first be known as “that lovely looped stitch Dorcas does” or “Martha’s variation on cross stitch” or something like that, before being given more mysterious names like oyster stitch or rice stitch. These names may not always be very descriptive or helpful in determining what sort of stitch it is or what it is likely to look like, but I suppose it sounds more attractive to say “dove’s eye” rather than “stitch that is looped around each of the four bars surrounding it”; it’s a lot quicker, too.
Although the temptation to go for fancy names can be strong, sometimes the name of a new stitch is obvious the moment you see it. What could I call this but “Y-bar”? (Well, all right, I suppose “catapult bar” would have worked too.)
Then one day I was experimenting on one of my doodle cloths and found myself with a new filling stitch. (Well, I’m fairly sure it’s new as I haven’t seen it anywhere else before or since, but do let me know if you have – even better if you can tell me the name as well.)
The stitch looked rather like exaggerated eyelashes, but I felt that “eyelash stitch” would be rather a silly name. What else did it remind me of? It could be one quarter of a sun, but I’d already used sunburst. Sunrise then? A bit too similar. On second thoughts, what’s wrong with eyelash stitch? It’s descriptive and memorable. So eyelash stitch it is – although in a set of four it does look rather more like a sun…
Sometimes the question is, have I just created a new stitch, or is it no more than a combination or variation of existing ones? Can I justify giving it its own name at all? It can be quite difficult to find out whether a stitch has been done before, and if so what it is called, and if it is called the same thing by everyone. After all, what I know as “split twist” is known to others as “branch filling”, and “twisted bar” appears to refer to both a Hardanger filling stitch and something fancy done to an openwork hem, depending on which book or website you look at.
I came up against this question with what I gave the temporary name “looped V”. I’d seen similar stitches in pictures on the internet, but none of them quite like my version, so I decided I’d better give it a proper name. It has two loops and ends in a point, hence my original “looped V”, but that didn’t strike me as a good permanent name. Looped arrow? Looped point? At that stage, the diagram for it looked rather like a stylised mouse’s head with the loops and the two beads I’d added, so I briefly toyed with “mouse stitch”, but in the end I decided one bead was enough, and I didn’t think a one-eyed mouse would work . For now the stitch will be known as looped arrow, unless and until I learn that it already exists and has a name. And what does it look like? You’ll have to wait for Round Nine in the Round In Circles SAL to find out!