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|There is very little recorded history of square stitch. I have been told by some beaders that it is found in African beadwork of the past and work originating from the 15th Century in England. In the early 1990s, how-to instructions for this stitch began to appear in books and bead related magazines. We are now building our square stitch history with these samples which will become a sampler reference.|
When I began to research square stitch, I could not find any information on the stitch dating past about 15 years. I went to The Bead Society of Great Britain (BSGB) and asked if anyone had seen square stitch in older dated beadwork. I received a request back to scan square stitch beadwork and email images so the stitch could be easily identified for research. BSGB has a beadwork stitches page in one of their newsletters that includes a square stitch illustration, however, this was not adequate for research.. I then contacted the Bead Museum in Arizona and was told they have no examples and do not know of any older dated square stitch. Next I contacted Jamey Allen and he related that he had not seen examples of older beadwork with this stitch. Jamey stated years ago he developed a square stitch for his own use out of necessity. He did, however, tell me to contact Valerie Hector as a historian on beadwork.
Valerie asked for a reference as to the type of square stitch to be discussed. My references were to square stitch examples in Creative Bead Weaving by Carol Wilcox Wells, page 83 and the New Beadwork, by Kathlyn Moss and Alice Scherer, page 99. Here is the information Valerie passed on to me:
"I study beadwork from various parts of Asia. As far as I can tell, square stitch is seldom found there. There is one possible exception that may have been used by some of the Straits Chinese peoples who lived along the Straits of Malacca that separate peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. The Straits Chinese developed a syncretic culture which merged influences from their original homelands in south China with influences from their new Malaysian and Indonesian neighbors. This multiculturalism may account in
some part for the great variety and ingenuity of the beadworking techniques they employed. Certainly, it looks to me as if the Straits Chinese experimented more with beadworking techniques than did their mainland Chinese counterparts--but then, much of mainland Chinese beadwork seems to have been lost or destroyed in the chaos of 20th century social and political changes. I have not yet documented square stitch in mainland China--but only time and further research will tell.
"I say square stitch may have been used by the Straits Chinese because I have two pieces in my collection composed entirely of what looks to me like 2-drop square stitch. Here's the problem: these pieces are 100 years old, in fragile condition, and nearly perfect--all the beadwork is intact. To determine beyond a shadow of a doubt that square stitch was indeed used to make them, I'd have to cut a significant section and unravel it To do so would damage these rare pictorial pieces. There is a tiny area where a thread is cut on one piece, and I did unravel this area ever so slightly, and as far as I can tell, it looks like 2-drop square stitch. But without unraveling further, I cannot say for sure. I am at least fairly certain that it is a single continuous thread stitch that looks a lot like square stitch, i.e. that it is not a multiple thread stitch, which would rule out square stitch."
I want to thank Valerie for sharing her thoughts and experience on square stitch. It is always difficult for historians to put into words information that is still under the magnifying glass and only just beginning to reach the surface. Eventually, with the help of Valerie Hector, Jamey Allen and other beadwork historians, we will compile a beadwork history.
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