Plaids may go in and out of style in clothing, but they never go away completely. You’ll always find kilts in traditional tartans, plaid flannel shirts, Madras plaid shorts, and plaid school uniforms. In fact they are so enduring that to many plaids are the iconic fashion pattern.
But just because they are iconic doesn’t mean they are hard to translate to needlepoint. In fact stitching a plaid is very relaxing because once you know the pattern, it just repeats. That’s because plaids are just two sets of stripes, one vertical and one horizontal.
In order to stitch a plaid successfully you will need to know two things: the sequence of colors and the width of the different stripes. Both of these things repeat over and over to make up the item you are stitching.
For most plaids these things are the same for both directions of stripes. These make symmetrical plaids like tartans. You can tell these because the blocks of solid colors where stripes of the same color meet are squares.
When stripes are different widths in each direction, for example in a birthday plaid, the plaid is asymmetrical. You can tell these because those solid boxes are rectangular.
It’s very easy to stitch a plaid because they are stitched in Tent Stitch. Stitch the stripes in one direction, skipping every other intersection. Once the stripes are completed in one direction, fill in those open intersections with the stripes for the other direction.
The plaid magically emerges from this process.
Although you can stitch the first direction as stripes in Skip Tent (i.e. in diagonal rows), do not stitch the second direction this way, you will get ridges. Stitch the second direction in straight rows, as Continental. You will also find that the second direction uses slightly more thread than the first direction; this is because those stitches are going over the backs of the stitches you have already stitched instead of over open canvas.
If you want to try an easy and free plaid project, stitch my USA plaid. If you’re ready to do more and want to order a charted tartan, birthday plaid, or custom charted tartan, check out my site, Needlepoint Plaids.