An Essential Guide to Embroidery Stitches for Beginners
Any embroidery project begins with a single stitch done with needle and thread: a few lines, dashes, concentric circles, and knots will completely transform the fabric, adding texture and dimension.
Several kinds of embroidery thread are available, so it's important to choose one with a weight that suits the weight of your fabric and the stitches intended. Bulky thread on fine fabric will pucker the material; light threads embroidered on heavy cloth can be difficult to see. Only when a thread is the proper weight for a particular material will it create the desired appearance: gently raised stitches with a satin finish on a smooth background.
There are several stitches to choose from for your projects: the straight stitch, stem stitch, and back stitch all create clean lines. The running stitch results in dashed lines. The chain stitch and fern stitch both create a visual effect that the names imply. The satin stitch fills up a shape with thread in any number of ways. And as for diminutive embellishments, there are three classic options: french knots, bullion knots, and woven wheels. To begin a stitch, simply thread your needle and tie a knot at one end. Bring the needle up through the back of the fabric at the point where you'd like thread to first appear, until the knot. To end a stitch, push your needle back through the fabric and tie a knot close to the fabric, trimming excess with detail scissors.
Each stitch is clearly explained with illustrations and step-by-step instructions, with finished examples to show how it can be applied to create a glossary of the most basic embroidery stitches. All can be mastered with practice, a needle, and thread.
As a beginner, this is one of the first stitches you will learn. To work a straight stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric and back down at a space in order to create a line of thread. Use it to produce linear shapes and simple linework. Straight stitches of same length positioned close together are also referred to as seed stitch.
This is a versatile stitch for seaming, mending, and gathering fabrics. To work a running stitch, weave the needle in and out of the fabric a few times before pulling the needle through; the spaces between these stitches can be the same length for a uniform look, or varied lengths for a sporadic pattern. Use it to produce linear dashes in a straight or curved formation, or in the Japanese mending method of sashiko.
With its rope-like appearance, this stitch maintains a smooth, rounded look. To work a stem stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric and down at a slight angle, then back up slightly above the first stitch and down again parallel to the second stitch. Each stitch should be the same length and should begin halfway along the previous stitch. Use it for making curved lines in monograms and freeform embroidery.
These stitches are made close together with no fabric showing between them. To work a satin stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric and back down at a space, then up close to the first stitch and back down again close to the second. When stitching, keep the thread flat without any twisting to produce a smooth look. Use it to fill in solid shapes or monograms.
This is one of the strongest, most adaptable stitches. To work a back stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric then back down behind the thread of the previous stitch; repeat, connecting each stitch. Use it to produce curved lines and shapes, like cursive writing.
Its name implies the produced visual effect. To work a chain stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric and back down at the same point, producing a loop; repeat connecting a second loop to the first. Use it to produce a series of looped stitches, forming a chain-like pattern like the details in this embroidered quilt.
Each stitch is worked as a group of three straight stitches, ending in the same inserted hole. To work a fern stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric and back down at a space, then make two diagonal stitches from the first stitch. These three stitches can be the same length or varied to create an organic foliage effect. Use it to make flowers, plants, and leafy designs like this raffia throw rug.
This knot takes practice, as it should be made taut but not tight. To work a french knot, wrap thread around the needle to form a knot on the surface of the fabric. For a smaller knot, wrap thread around the needle once. For a larger knot, wrap thread around the needle a few times. Use it to produce decorative spots, fill in flower centers, or dot an "i."
The bullion knot is similar to the french knot, though advanced in technique. To work a bullion knot, loop thread around the needle several times, producing an elongated knot that is inserted a distance from the needle's original entry point. Use it to make large decorative roses, leaves, and plants.
Though elaborate in appearance, this stitch is made in two simple steps. To work a woven wheel, make a six-pointed star of straight stitches and then weave the working thread over and under the spokes until you reach the original center. Use it to make floral designs like these decorative brooches.