Tramme is a great stitch for contemporary canvases and has a fascinating history (at least to me).
First, today's use. Tramme is a fantastic symmetrical stitch that is clean and simple, yet provides texture and color. It is also incredibly, and stupidly, easy as it is a version of couching.
The easiest part is adding the base thread. It can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. The stitch diagram shows a vertical tramme. For this example, add the base thread in vertical rows, skipping a row in between threads (numbered steps on the diagram). When you reach the bottom or top of a row, simply go across two rows from where you are and insert the needle and return in the opposite direction.
Add the accent rows (lettered steps) on top of the base thread.
The only trick is how to finish off the base thread. If you have a stitched area nearby, insert and tie off the base thread there. If not, while it is still on the needle, take the base thread and pull it up through the canvas in an unused area just out of the way. Once you tie down the rows with the accent thread, there will be plenty of space for you to tie off the base thread in the accent thread on the back.
It's a great stitch for large or small spaces. My favorite base threads are velour, a larger cotton pearl (#3 or #5), or a single ply silk (Silk & Ivory, Pepper Pot Silk, Vineyard Silk). I cover those with a complementary metallic in the same or contrasting color. A fun background is a single strand of a light sheen metallic (Fyre Werks Soft Sheen, Flair, Neon Rays+) with a very light matte accent thread (Elegance, smaller cotton pearl). The trick here is to ensure the metallic thread lies flat and wide.
The diagram is on the whimsicalstitch.com Pinterest board at www.pinterest.com/whimsicalstitch/whimsicalwednesday and a photo of a stitch example is on Instagram at www.instagram.com/whimsicalstitch. Be sure to follow both channels!
Now, a very brief history. Tramme is also a type of needlepoint canvas. On a trammed canvas, a professional stitches the design (not painted nor transferred), using long horizontal stitches of various lengths and colors of wool. The stitcher purchases the tramme kit with this canvas and the wools required to complete it. The stitcher stitches over the horizontal wool threads with continental stitches (or cross stitches) of the same color wool, using the horizontal stitch as the guide for color and number of stitches required. Shading is easier in a tramme needlepoint because there is there is no question what color thread to use as the stitcher is covering the horizontal lines with the exact same color thread and a wider range of colors are available in the wool fibers used.
An example of a tramme kit can be found here: http://www.najlasboutique.com/catalog.php?item=29&all=yes&ret=catalog.php%3Fpage%3D2%26all%3Dyes
Many of the finest trammed tapestries are stitched on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The art was passed down through many generations of skilled stitchers.
Enjoy! Let us know your favorite needlepoint spaces to use a tramme stitch.