How to stitch: Trellis stitch

Next up in my series of stitch tutorials is trellis stitch. This is a great stitch for filling larger areas quickly. It’s also got massive creative potential!

At it’s core, trellis stitch is a lattice like grid. In fact, you might also know it as lattice work or lattice stitch. It’s a type of couching stitch, i.e. long lengths of thread on the front of your work are secured in place with smaller stitches.

You can keep it as a simple lattice which makes for a good open filling stitch. Or you can use the lattice as a base to embellish and add some (or lots!) of creative flair.

The trellis stitch lattice

The essence of trellis stitch is a series of long stitches that you work into a lattice grid.

You can orientate your lattice any way you wish. I think it tends to looks best worked straight on, i.e. with vertical and horizontal stitches, or diagonally at a 45° angle. It’s also easier to stitch this way as you can use the grain of your fabric to help you keep your stitches parallel.

To start, begin with your first long stitch across the middle or widest part of the area you are filling. Starting here should make it easier to keep the same angle as you stitch.

Your long stitches go across the full area you are stitching and are worked parallel to each other. Work from the middle out to one side, then come back to the middle and work to the other side.

Image showing the right side of a circle worked in long vertical stitches.

As you work, make sure that you are keeping the spacing between your stitches consistent as well as keeping your stitches parallel to each other.

To help me check I’m creating a parallel stitch, I hold my thread across the fabric first so I can see where to take my needle down. You can actually stitch through your thread onto your outline, so you know you’ve got it spot on.

Image showing how I check where to finish my stitch by holding the thread out long and parallel to my other stitches.

Once you have worked all of your vertical (for example) stitches, complete your grid by working your horizontal stitches. Again, I start in the middle or widest part of my shape. Working out to one side, then the other. This helps me to be most accurate in getting these stitches at 90° to my first stitches.

The spacing between your horizontal stitches should be the same as that between your vertical stitches. So that you create a series of squares.

A useful way to check if you are bringing your needle up the right distance away is to push your needle most of the way through your fabric and then lay it along your fabric where the stitch will go. This allows you to check that the spacing looks correct before pulling your thread through.

Image showing how I check the positioning of my next stitch by laying the needle along the fabric parallel to previous stitches.

If you really want to be precise, you can use a ruler or cut yourself a strip of paper to use as a guide. I used a ruler to check every stitch in my RSN assessment piece, but other than that I find that judging by eye is good enough for me.

Securing your stitches

As your lattice stitches are long, they can be prone to shifting around or getting caught on something. Sometimes they also appear to stand away from your fabric. Not the result we want! To fix this and keep your trellis nice and secure, it needs to be finished with some holding stitches.

You can use all sorts of stitches as your holding stitches. You can also get creative with colour. As long as they’re holding your longer threads down securely, they’re doing their job!

To keep things simple, let’s start with small straight stitches. You should work these over every intersection on your grid. Make sure you keep your stitches a consistent length and going in the same direction. Unless you want to create a deliberate pattern by varying them.

Image showing the stitching of small pink securing stitches over the intersections of a blue trellis stitch lattice.

If you have some intersections near the edges of your shape, you might think you can skip these. While it’s true that these intersections don’t really need securing, they’ll stand out for being visually different. So I put a stitch across all intersections.

Your basic trellis stitch is now complete!

Trellis stitch variations

There are all sorts of ways you can get creative with trellis stitch.

The easiest is simply to vary the colours that you use for the holding stitches. In the two examples below, I stitched the long lattice stitches using the same shade of blue. You can see how the different colours of securing stitches change the overall colour effect.

Two examples of completed trellis stitch. Above a blue grid with pink securing stitches. Below a blue grid with lighter blue securing stitches.

I also varied the spacing between the lattice stitches and the size of the securing stitches. The circles are the same size, but by using closer lattice stitches and longer securing stitches in the blue and pink example, I’ve created a denser, darker filling.

A trellis stitch variation that I’ve enjoyed experimenting with is creating layers of grids next to each other, which is sometimes referred to as battlement trellis. I like the tartan/check style look that this gives.

Two examples of creating a tartan effect with battlement trellis. The top example uses pinks and blues, the lower example greens and yellow.

As you plan your stitching, remember that the colour you use first will be the least visible when you’ve finish stitching. In the green and yellow example, I started with the darkest shade of green and you only see little bits of this underneath the lighter shade.

With battlement trellis you only need to secure your final lattice grid. As by securing this, you’ll also secure all your other stitches. You can best see this in the pink and blue example above, only the final dark pink lattice is secured with small blue stitches.

More inspiration

There are lots of great examples of stitchers getting creative with the colours and stitches that they’ve used for trellis stitch. Check out my crewelwork Pinterest board for some ideas.

There are so many trellis stitch options that I’ll be creating another blog post going into detail on how to stitch some more of them, so keep an eye out for that. If you sign up to my mailing list below, I’ll let you know when new posts go live so you won’t miss a thing!


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