Cretan Stitch is a versatile looped stitch. As you can see by the image to the left, I love using it for borders. In this case, for the waterline.
Cretan Stitch in Practice
This stitch creates a lovely zigzag line that you can make wider or narrower as you wish. Placing one stitch right next to the last one is sometimes called “Closed Cretan Stitch” and merits its own entry in stitch dictionaries. You will see this quite a bit. Make a stitch just slightly differently and change the name, and it suddenly becomes worthy of its own entry. This is one of the reasons I say that embroidery is a lot less complicated than it appears at first glance. Seeing a stitch dictionary full of 1000 different stitches can be scary. But you don’t really have to learn all of them to have access to all of them. Now that we’re halfway into the year, the stitches we look at will more and more be a combination of stitches we’ve already seen, or slight variations on a theme.
Stitching it “Correctly”
When stitching Cretan stitch in the traditional manner, you should think about 4 stitching lines. The top, the secondary top, where the stitch comes out to catch the loop, the bottom, and the secondary (or inner) bottom where again the stitch catches the loop. This will give you the nice little rows of house-shaped stitches you often see in the stitch dictionaries. Carol Leather has a WONDERFUL tutorial demonstrating this correct way of forming this stitch, and giving suggestions.
As usual, though, my suggestion is to just play with it. Cretan stitch can be as variable as the wind. If you aren’t stitching it “correctly” but it still gives you the look you want, so be it. As I said, I like it for borders. I also like to use it with a very fine thread as a trim on dresses in pictures. Or in a thicker thread as a trim on my REAL dresses!
How to Stitch It
The video link is below. The left handed instructions start at 4:02. As usual, I highly recommend learning to work in a freestanding frame and stitch two handed. Doing so lets you go in any direction with any stitch you like.