unusual embroidery

Last week, Janice sent me a photo of a piece of embroidery she found at a folk art/fabric art store where she lives. She wondered if I'd ever seen anything like it before. And I hadn't, although we both agreed that the center looked like the spider web stitch. I assumed it was some variation of that stitch and asked if I could post the photo on my blog to see if any of my readers had any info on it. Sometimes there are regional variations on stitches and I know I have a lot of readers who live in foreign countries. You never know.

So, this is the stitch...

Isn't it cool?

Janice emailed me back later to tell me that she thought it was called tenerife. I did a little research and it seems that the original technique is Spanish—from the Canary Island of Tenerife specifically—and is indeed called tenerife, or Sol Lace (more examples here). The base threads were originally stretched across pins with the cross threads woven into them. And the resulting lace is very delicate and pretty.

Janice's example, which has the base threads in the fabric corners and uses embroidery thread, seems to be a less delicate variation. At some point in history the Spanish introduced the original technique to South America and in Paraguay it's now called Ñandutí lace. Ñandutí means "spider web" in Guaraní, the official, indigenous language of Paraguay. Perhaps this is the variation we're seeing here.

Ruth, at Needlpointers.com has some examples here. (warning - music on the page)

Some instructions for a Teneriffe Lace Christmas ornament. And a butterfly design.

Have any of you tried this or know anything more about it?

*Updated to add a direct link to Deepa's blog post about Kamal Kadai, an Indian surface embroidery technique that looks a lot like our picture. Thanks for commenting, Deepa!


Pasha said...

I don't know about this piece but I do know that it isn't nanduti--as I have seen that. Unfortunately I can't find the piece I have to show you. Nanduti is more of a stand alone piece and much looser and spiderwebby. I have to say that this work on the gingham is spectacular though!

Deepa said...

This looks like Kamal Kadai to me.Kamal Kadai is a form of Indian embroidery and involves surface weaving.Here's the link


Unknown said...


You have a wonderful blog, and I think I come here almost everyday.

When I saw this post,I remembered an embroidery design on my friend, Deepa's, blog which looked similar.

you can check it here in this link



Anonymous said...

That is so very interesting and different. I've never seen embroidery like that before. The kitty embroidery on the last post is very sweet.

Kathy said...

Very pretty and unique looking.

Niesz Vintage Home said...

Very pretty!
One of these days I'm going to learn how to embroider.

Kimberly :)

Anonymous said...

Yes - this is very 1950's american and earlier. I learned it from my mother and it was in her embroidery book. It made my niece's favorite Christmas dress when I embroidered some patterns over a Christmas checked fabric. Very pretty and rather easy. I also added a metallic thread to my white (this is traditionally work done in white) and it made it very attractive to a six-year-old. I have heard this called Irish embroidery but the name in the book is tenerife.