Canvaswork cushions in depth

This article looks in depth at two needlepoint cushions that were inspired by the traditional knit patterns of the Aran Islands. If you’re a knitter you’ll know that there’s a huge revival in traditional knitting styles and Ravelry (the online knit and crochet community) has hundreds of entries for ‘Aran’.

Cream Cushion in Aran Style

The design for the Cream Cushion comes from a pattern Aran Needlepoint by Cindy Lee Arbelbide that was published in 1979 by Leisure Arts. Contrary to popular mythology Aran knitting as we know it emerged in Ireland in the 1930s and reached an export peak in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a fascinating story of canny marketing and women’s history. If you want to know more there’s a great post by Kate Davies here.

The cushion was stitched by Audrey Schultz.

You can see in this photo one of the central concepts of Aran designs – a symmetrical pattern around a central axis.

Cream Aran Cushion

Now to the stitching for those of you who like to have a close look at the surface stitching:

Detail of Aran Cushion

Here there’s a Rosette Centre surrounded by squares in Fern Stitch and Double Cross Stitch Variation covering 6 threads.  The linear elements around the squares include Basketweave Stitch, Buttonhole Half-Moons, Wheat Stitch, Upright Cross Stitch, Half and Half Stitch, Oblong Stitch and Double Leviathan Stitch.

The next square is even more technical…… it has a Ribbed Spider Centre and the squares around it are worked in Wheat Stitch with Upright Cross Stitch then Woven Plait Stitch, Fern Stitch, Knotted Stitch, Continental Stitch and Buttonhole Half and Three-Quarter Moons.

Centre Square of Aran Cushion

A small Rosette element where you can get a good view of the Buttonhole Half-Moons, the Wheat Stitch (looks like a wheat sheaf) and the Flat Squares with a French Knot filling each centre.


Here’s another square with Large and Small Ribbed Spider Stitches.


This square has a Rose Centre worked in Rose Stitch…….


These next two photos are eye candy for you…..


Brown and Cream Cushion

I don’t have any information about the provenance of this cushion’s design and thought you might just like to look at the richly textured surface…..the stitches are traditional canvaswork elements with less complexity and intricacy than those in the Cream Cushion.

But there are a couple of special stitches – the brown squares are done in Rhodes Stitch while that square of stitched wool with a pile that makes you want to touch it is done in the appropriately named Velvet Stitch. Audrey says that to create this effect you stitch loops over knitting needles and then cut the top of the loop away to get the thick pile.

Audrey’s execution of these stitches is exquisite and masterful – soooo inspiring!


Just awesome Audrey and thank you so much for sharing these lovely treasures with us.

Thanks also to Stewart Bath for the photos that let us look so closely at the surface stitching.



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