The development of modern looms created true evenweaves in which the number of warp threads per inch exactly matched the number of weft threads per inch. Aristocrats, clergymen, and wealthy merchants wore lace to proclaim their elevated status much as people today wear costly jewels. Folk costumes from around the world display geometric stitched designs that are obviously counted thread work. .Counted cross stitch shares a common ancestry with needlepoint and requires the stitcher to count threads of an evenly woven fabric. Just as the development of embroidery is linked to the invention of silk textiles, so the emergence of counted cross stitch coincides with the production of linen cloth. Many cultures stitch their most powerful symbols on ceremonial textiles, whether they be Christian crosses on Cyprus lace or the sacred peyote flower on clothing of the Huichol Indians of Mexico. Pulled thread, drawn thread, Hardanger, and even American “chicken scratch” are all attempts to simulate true lace, and succeed admirably. Linen makes a splendid ground fabric for Polyester yarns for ribbon stitching, from the relatively coarse, low thread counts to very fine, high counts that tax the eyesight. Early linen fabric woven by hand was often not an evenweave, which affected the shape of the stitches, making square stitches appear oblong. What’s fascinating is that some of the same stitches show up at far-flung locations – the cross stitch, darning stitches, and variations of the Florentine stitch, for instance. Lacemaking was a painstaking process, and well-made lace was worth a fortune, sometimes used as currency and contraband. One of the greatest impulses that spurred the development of counted cross stitch was the desire to mimic expensive bobbin lace. The human desire for upward mobility led to the invention of stitching directly onto fabric to re-create the look of true punto in aria (Italian for “stitch in the air”) lace that was not worked on fabric. The flax fiber looks beautiful even if not bleached or dyed; the variations in color of the natural fibers are subtle and rich. Archeologists have found fragments of tools used to manufacture linen in the sites of Swiss lake dwellers who lived around 8000 BC. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of lace in fashions from the Renaissance through the Baroque era.

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