Your embroidery project is perfect – except for one thing: it could really use a fuzzy bee, thistle top, or dandelion floof. How do you add a little texture to a flat embroidery? Why – Turkey Work/Ghiordes Knots, of course! These are part of the embroidery artist’s secret arsenal, the addition of texture in just the right places to increase the dynamic “oomph” of the piece. These unique stitches create a beautiful, fuzzy, fluffy addition to your design, and are easy-peasy to stitch! Check out the history and technique below!
What is Turkey Work/Ghiordes Knot?
This stitch creates a fluffy, plushy pile, and imitates carpet. Historically, it was stitched in Turkish carpeting, which is where the name derives (not from the bird!). The Ghiordes knot references the town from which it originated, northwest of Izmir, in modern day Turkey. It’s a commonly used rug stitch and has been adapted for surface hand embroidery.
This knot is also sometimes known as turkbaff, or the symmetrical knot, and is one of the two most common knots used in rugmaking – the other is the Sennah knot. The stitch winds around the fabric and then has two ends that remain on top of the fabric, ready to be fluffed into the knotted pile.
It is a symmetrical stitch – as both ends are part of the fluffed pile. It is quite a strong knot, and when used in carpeting, results in very plush, thick carpets.
How do I Stitch it?
This is a really easy stitch – and most of the fun comes after you’ve stitched around the area. I use stranded floss for Turkey work, as the thread strands fuzz up nicely!
It functions very much like a backstitch. To start, don’t tie a knot! Just leave the thread and poke down into the fabric from the front, leaving a moderate tail. Then, poke back up on the left side of the hole, and stitch a small stitch down (over one or two threads in the fabric). Finally, come back up to the left of that hole. See how the stitch “locks” those two threads in place? Then, poke back down where you went down before, leaving a loop (don’t pull the thread taut – this is what makes your carpet). Come up in the same hole you just came up in and move across to stitch, and then down and up again from the left. Between these two stitches should be a loop. As you continue, more loops will form. These are your carpety bits. The closer and smaller your stitches are, the lusher your carpet!
Once you have many loops however you want them, then the fun part comes! Once the area has been filled, take your scissors and snip the loops! Don’t worry, the stitches won’t come out, as they’re “locked” in place. They will initially look just like a bunch of threads – don’t worry, the fuzzy is coming!
Take your needle eye, and start to gently rub it over the thread ends. Because they’re stranded, this will begin to separate the strands and fuzz the ends. Perfect, fuzzy, floofy, fun!
You can also make Looped Turkey Work if you want the loops to remain as flower petals or other decoration. Leave the loopy bits uncut, and arrange them to fit your design. Simply use a pencil or knitting needle to help make sure they’re all the same length, or leave them organic for a more relaxed look.
What Should I Use This Stitch For?
You can use this stitch for SO MANY THINGS! From cat or dog fur, to grass or moss, to facial hair! You can also use Turkey work styles of stitches for beautiful long hair in your portraits, or for dimensional grass, or for bee fluff!
If you’re stitching a house, use this for a tiny rug, or a bed cover, couch pillow, or corner plant. It works great as
flower pistils, textured ground area, or tree leaves in the distance. You can cut it short, leave it long or loopy. What would you use this for? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll give it a try!
Below is a video from www.needlenthread.com showing how to work this stitch. Someday I will have some instructional videos of my own – but for now, this is one of the best. Check it out, and let me know how this fuzzy stitch inspires you!