Otomi embroidery

Otomi embroidery

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A picture on Pinterest caught my eye yesterday. It shows a woman holding a long panel of fabric embroidered with big, colorful motifs. I have seen this picture before, but not until yesterday I clicked the link to learn more about this beautiful piece of needlework.

Isn’t it odd, that although you pin and look at so many things on Pinterest, you seldomly actually click to see what is behind this picture – what is the story – what are these 10thousand tipps the Pin is advertising loudly? With the last kind of Pins – those which say they link to a page with 10 tipps to something – I tend to click them to see if there really is said information. Sadly many Pins lead to just the picture or to a page which links to the actual page. So why should I want to repin that?

But that’s another story. The said picture with the embroidery lead me to an interview with Joanne Zorkendorfer on sf girl by bay. Joanne owns olli a company making wonderful home decor pieces out of traditionally crafted materials (seams to not be available anymore) – like otomi embroidery. Otomi embroidery is originated Mexico. The stitch used is called ‘false satin stitch’ by Joanne on the website, but looking through the pictures and a video where a woman stitches, I would say it’s a long and narrow herringbone stitch stitched very close to cover all of the fabric underneath. The wonderful, large motifs are created by stitching rows of stitches.


Of course I had to try it out! I picked a bird motif from a magazin cover laying on the table, and just started. I used my favorite linen fabric and 3stranded cotton (somewhere I found the information they use 3strands of 6stranded embrodery thread). After some stitches I found my choice of fabric and size of motif was not suitable for 3 strands, so I switched to 2 strands.

It definetly takes time to practice this skill. The herringbone stitch embroidered this way creates a satin stitch-like but slightly different texture. Due to the crossing of threads in the middle it has a braided look – which makes this stitch more durable than a satin stitch this long. The obvious benefit from this form of herringbone stitch over the satin stitch is the amount of thread you safe. While the satin stitch uses the full amount of thread on both sides, the herringbone stitch creates only two lines of stitches on the back, while the whole front is covered in thread.


One thing I have noticed is that the more slanted the herringbone stitch gets the smoother it looks. I will try out more in this direction, but after looking at detail shots from the traditional Otomi embroideries I can see they make the stitch slightly slanted most of the time.

This type of embroidery is exactly what I needed for new pillow covers I wanted to make. So I will practice some more and make some then. This is a lot of work, but it stitches away much faster than you would think. I think it resembles Hawaian Quilts in appearance – the color blocks – contrasting colors – floral and animal motifs.

If you want to explore this kind of embroidery further I have created an Otomi Pinterest board with detal shots and motifs.

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  1. Hi, thank you for the informative post. I am beginner with this stitch and having trouble understanding how will it work if my thread ends mid way of a design. Where will I re-start? Can you please help!

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