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In this class I thought it might be more instructive to you to be able to follow the design process from start to finish. Those of you who wish only to stitch the design as shown can skip to the end of the instructions. But if you're interested in designing your own work, I've included notes on my thought processes as I proceeded with the project. Probably some of you believe that designing can only be done by special, talented people and that it's a magical, flawless process from start to finish. It may be less daunting to know that it's rarely a smooth path from beginning to end.

I thought tulips the perfect subject matter for our design. Originally growing wild in Central Asia, they were brought to Asia Minor by the Seljuks and adorned the palatial gardens of Ottoman Turkey. They were one of the most popular subjects for decoration of textiles, pottery and other objects during the 15th -17th centuries and, along with carnations, are thought to symbolize fertility.

Click here to go directly to the instructions, drawings and charts


OBJECTIVE: Design a class piece to fit the Ottoman Embroidery theme for May


1) subject matter suitable to period. Try flowers such as carnations or tulips which were popular tile and textile design motifs

2) style appropriate to Ottoman Turkish decoration in fashion during 15th-17th centuries

3) use colors typical of the time. Tile decoration was blue, turquoise, tomato red, some ochres, white and green, sometimes purple. Fabrics and embroideries had a wider color range, and included much silk and metal embroidery, but reds and blues seem to predominate.

4) design must be reasonably small and degree of difficulty applicable to a wide audience. Instructions must fit in designated amount of space for On-Line class. A 5" square design which fits Sudberry House boxes would be good.


Stylized tuip motif popular on fabrics and building tiles of the time. See bibliography for some examples.


1) select design which fits well in 5" square. Started with 4" design from Treasury of Turkish Designs and enlarged to correct size.

2) select fabric/canvas with thread count which allows accurate interpretation of design. Simplify design if necessary. (Note: if design cannot be simplified, enlarge pattern and/or choose a higher fabric count).

3) select colors/threads. Choose more than necessary to allow for changes as work progresses.


1) Do a line drawing on paper which can be traced onto the canvas. On a separate copy, make notes regarding colors and decorative stitches, if any. (insert line drawing with notes)

2) For the person who knows exactly what they want and who prefers to work from a graph, this would be the time to chart the design, either on paper or computer. The line drawing could be scanned into a cross stitch charting program. My finished product rarely is exactly the same as my beginning idea, so I'll skip this step for now.


1) trace design on canvas with permanent pen.
2) stitch outline of floral motif
3) chart on computer
4) continue stitching. Whoops! The original color idea for the petals isn't looking too great. A solid dark blue would look better than a variegated, but try a couple of different ideas on the computer before making a change. Deep turquoise looks good ­ go with that.


1) finish stitching the motif with the new selection of colors.

2) time to decide about background. Original idea of a plain dark blue background now seems a little boring. Try some other possibilities on computer.

3) of the two backgrounds I like best, the red background is more true to design styles of the Ottoman period. See if this works in bargello. Use a variation on the design we sent shops as a free pattern in March.



1) Instead of just one thread for the red, I think I'd like the play of textures if I used both silk and Impressions in the same color.

2) Hmmm..this is looking interesting, but maybe the flower won't show up against the red so well after all. And it may get confusing for an inexperienced stitcher to do a lot of compensating around the design.

3) Stitch the center panel around the flower in needlepoint in dark blue.

4) Nope! I don't like this. Back to the drawing board!

5) After trying several more color combinations on the computer, I think the red is best after all. Rip out the blue and go back to the original plan. This is very difficult to compensate, however. If I were to do this again, I would stitch the background first, so I could more easily count out the pattern repeat.

PROJECT COMPLETE..MAYBE: Now that I've finally finished the class piece, I've got lots of ideas for developing this pattern further. Guess I'm going to have to find the time to do a much larger version of this!

You'll find more ideas for developing appropriate backgrounds in Ginger McTeague's article, The Perfect Background. Part I appeared in April and Part II will be featured later in the year. Check our Site Archives under Feature Articles.

We'll be featuring another approach to design in August, when our theme will be Teamwork. We'll focus on people who take a cooperative approach to design, in pairs or in teams.


Akar, Azade, Treasury of Turkish Designs, Dover Publications, NY, 1988
Humbert, Claude, Islamic Ornamental Design, Hastings House Publishers, NY, 1980
Jenkins, Marilyn, Islamic Pottery, A Brief History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, 1983
Price, Christine, The Story of Moslem Art, E. P. Dutton & Co., NY, 1964
Rogers, J.M. and Ward, R.M., Suleyman the Magnificent, Tabard Press, NY, 1988


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