Fractional Stitches

Fractional stitches (1/4, 1/2 and 3/4) are simply cross stitches with missing arms. They are used to provide a rounded look to a picture (1/4 and 3/4), or an airy look (1/2).

Fractional stitches (1/4 and 3/4) can be much easier to do on linen or other evenweaves. On aida, the needle needs to punch through the middle of the little square in order to complete the stitch. This can made somewhat easier by using a small sized needle (#26 or #28). No "punching through" is needed on linen, as the needle simply goes between the two threads.

A 1/4 stitch is done by coming up from one corner of the square and going down in the center.

A 3/4 stitch is most often done by stitching the short arm first, like a quarter stitch. It is completed with a 1/2 stitch to make the other two arms. Note that this is an exception to the rule that all stitches must go in the same direction, as the long arm of the 3/4 stitch may go either "/" or "\". There are some occasions where people choose to do the 1/2 stitch first and anchor it down with the 1/4 stitch in order to achieve a certain effect.

Frequently, a 1/4 stitch and a 3/4 stitch share a single square. This means that a decision is left up to the stitcher. Which side is the 1/4 and which the 3/4?

As in just about every other area, this is up to you. Here are some different methods. Each provides its own distinct look.

  • If there is a backstitch dividing the two sides, stitch two 1/4 stitches and let the backstitch divide them.
  • Determine which side is in the foreground of the picture, and make that side the 3/4 stitch.
  • If neither side is in the foreground, make the 1/4 stitch in whichever of the two colors gets there first. Fill in the 3/4 stitch as you come by with the second color.
  • Make two 3/4 stitches.

Sometimes a pattern calls for an entire area to be filled with 1/2 stitches rather than full cross stitches. If there are no definite instructions, it is up to you to decide which direction the 1/2 stitches should go--the same as the bottom half of a full cross stitch or the same as the top half. "Bottom" half stitches are more intuitive for some people. "Top" half stitches tend to blend into the background more, which might be the effect you want. Sometimes the picture itself makes a direction obvious. For example, 1/2 stitches used to represent feathers in a wing should probably slant the way the feathers themselves would slant.