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Basic Embroidery Stitches: Pictures, Diagrams, and How-Tos

With just a few basic stitches, you can create dynamic embroidered effects. Combine the basics and you can elevate the texture and dimension of your designs. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself creative leeway—make your own variations and you may be surprised at the results. Follow the step-by-step instructions to learn these 13 essential stitches.


 

Backstitch:

When to use: The perfect stitch for outlines, this simple stitch works best when a very precise line is necessary.


How-to: To backstitch, pull the needle up at A, insert it back into the fabric at B, and bring it up at C. Continue in the same manner.

 


Blanket Stitch:

 

When to use: This decorative stitch can be a bit confusing at first, but with a little practice, you’ll pick up the overlapping pattern and be stitching it with ease.


How-to: To blanket-stitch, pull the needle up at A, form a reverse L shape with the thread, and hold the angle of the L shape in place with your thumb. Push the needle down at B and come up at C to secure the stitch. Repeat for as many blanket stitches as desired. You may wish to make all your stitches the same length, as shown in the illustration, or vary the lengths.

 


 


Chain Stitch:

When to use: Versatile as a decorative stitch, outline, or border, this textured stitch is a series of loops joined together to resemble a chain.


How-to: To chain-stitch, pull the needle up at A, form a U shape with the thread, and hold the shape in place with your thumb. Push the needle down at B, about 1⁄16" from A, and come up at C. Repeat for as many chain stitches as desired.
 


Cross-Stitch:

When to use: Gaining its popularity from charted designs stitched on the uniform squares of Aida cloth, cross-stitch works well for free-form embroidery on other fabrics as well. It’s simply two straight stitches, crossed at the centers.


How-to: To cross-stitch, pull the needle up at A. Insert it back into the fabric at B, and bring it up at C; then push the needle down again at D.

 


Featherstitch:

When to use: Overlapping V-shape stitches give this stitch its distinctive featherlike look.


How-to: To featherstitch, pull the needle up at A, form a V shape with thread, and hold the angle in place with your thumb. Push needle down at B, about 3⁄8" from A, and come up at C. For the next stitch, insert needle at D and bring it out at E; continue in the same manner.
 


French Knot:

When to use: This raised knot makes a nice dimensional accent when stitched alone, sprinkled throughout a design, or grouped together to fill a space.


How-to: To make a French knot, bring the needle up at A. Wrap the thread around the needle two or three times without twisting it. Insert the needle into the fabric at B, about 1⁄16" away from A. Gently push the wraps down the needle to meet the fabric and then pull the needle and thread through the fabric slowly and smoothly.
 


Lazy Daisy Stitch:

When to use: One loop, similar to the chain stitch, is tacked down with a tiny straight stitch to form this versatile stitch. Make one loop for a leaf, or stitch several in a circular pattern to fashion a flower.


How-to: To make a lazy daisy stitch, pull the needle up at A and form a loop of thread on the fabric surface. Holding the loop in place, insert the needle back into the fabric at B, about 1⁄16" away from A. Bring the needle tip out at C and cross it over the trailing thread, keeping the thread as flat as possible. Pull the needle and trailing thread until the loop lies flat against the fabric. Push the needle through to the back at D to secure the loop.
 


Running Stitch:

When to use: Another simple stitch perfect for borders and outlines, this stitch resembles a dashed line.


How-to: To make a running stitch, pull the needle up at A and insert it back into the fabric at B. Continue in the same manner, loading several stitches on the needle at a time.


Satin Stitch:


 

When to use: When you want to fill an area with solid stitching, the satin stitch is the perfect choice and is recognized by its closely spaced straight stitches.


How-to: To satin-stitch, fill in the design area with straight stitches, stitching from edge to edge and placing the stitches side by side.


Split Stitch:


 

When to use: Use your embroidery needle to split each previously made straight stitch and create a textured line perfect for flower stems and outlines.


How-to: To split-stitch, pull the needle up at A and insert the needle back into the fabric at B, about 1⁄8"–1⁄4" away from A. Then, holding thread atop the stitching line, bring the needle back up at C, piercing through the center of the first stitch, and pull the thread down at D so it lies flat against the fabric. Continue in the same manner, pulling with equal tautness after each stitch. '


Stem Stitch:

When to use: Just as its name implies, this stitch is often used for flower stems and outlines and works well for curved lines.


How-to: To stem-stitch, pull the needle up at A. Insert the needle back into the fabric at B, about 3⁄8" away from A. Then, holding the thread out of the way, bring the needle back up at C, half way between A and B, and pull the thread through so it lies flat against the fabric. Pull with equal tautness after each stitch.

 


Straight Stitch:

When to use: Sometimes all you need is a basic stitch. The straight stitch is just one stitch sewn in any direction.


How-to: To straight-stitch, pull the needle up at A. Insert needle back into the fabric at B. Continue in the same manner.


Whipstitch:

When to use: Another basic stitch, the whipstitch is used to join two finished edges or to attach a shape to a foundation.


How-to: To whipstitch, pull the needle up at A. Insert needle at a diagonal angle through the front edge at B, resulting in a slanted stitch, and picking up only one or two fabric threads at a time. Continue in the same manner.


Click here to see our complete guide to embroidery!

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