Embroidery Stitch Guide

DMC’s General Stitching Tips:

  • Prevent the thread from twisting while you stitch by turning your needle a slight quarter to half turn with each stitch.
  • If your thread gets twisted while stitching, drop the threaded needle and let it hang freely until it “unwinds.”
  • Avoid running the thread across the back of the fabric to go to a new stitching area. Instead, start and stop in each section to assure that running threads don’t show through on the front side of the fabric.
  • Keep your hands clean and avoid handling food and drinks when you stitch.
  • Mark dots for uniform stitch size; to achieve uniform stitch size, use a ruler or tape measure to mark tiny evenly spaced dots along the stitching line. You will learn to gauge stitch distances with experience.
  • Stab “up and down.” When working with your fabric in a hoop it is preferable to stab the needle vertically up and down through the fabric when making each stitch.
  • Keep your tension even. To create smooth uniform stitches, pull each stitch with the same amount of tension.
  • If the stitch is too loose the stitch will appear limp and if the stitch is pulled too tightly the fabric will pucker and cause the design to become distorted.
  • Learn how to use both hands when stitching. Learning how to manipulate the needle takes practice and learning how to hold a hoop while stitching takes time. Sometimes both hands are necessary to complete a stitch and the hand holding the hoop must be used to assist in keeping a loop in place while the other hand stitches.
  • A floor or table stand allows you to keep both hands free for stitching. If you find it difficult to use both hands while trying to hold a hoop, try using a stand.

Embroidery Stitch Guide

The stitches are grouped into four types, each offering different effects and uses for embroidery:

  • Outline – Used for outlining the elements of your design
  • Border – Used to secure edges and to add textural dimension to your design
  • Detached – Used to create decorative details or in mass to fill in open areas of the design
  • Filling – Used to create shading or to solidly fill in a design area

Running Stitch

Uses: outlining, straight and curved lines.

  • Work from right to left.
  • Bring thread up at 1 then down at 2, up at 3 and down at 4 and continue.
  • The spaces between the stitches can be the same length as the stitches or shorter for a different look.

Tips:

  • Keep an even tension and avoid pulling thread or the stitches will pucker.
  • See Laced Running Stitch for a variation of this stitch.

Back Stitch

Uses: outlining, straight and curved lines.

  • Work from right to left.
  • Bring needle up at 1 and back down at 2.
  • Move left and bring needle up at 3, then back down at 1. Continue stitching.

Tips:

  • Make shorter stitches for curved lines and shapes.

Make shorter stitches for curved lines and shapes.

Split Stitch

Uses: Outlining, straight and curved lines, filling a shape by working rows closely together.

  • Work from left to right.
  • Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2.
  • Bring needle back up at 3, splitting the center of the previous stitch.
  • Take needle down at 4 and then back up at 2.
  • Continue stitching.

Tips:

  • Make shorter stitches for curvy lines.
  • Use to outline a shape before stitching Satin Stitch to create a raised effect.

Stem Stitch

Uses: Outlining, straight and curved lines, stems for plants, filling if rows are stitched closely together. Creates a rope like appearance.

  • Work from left to right.
  • Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2.
  • Bring needle back up halfway between 1 and 2 at 3, just slightly above the first stitch.
  • Be sure to keep thread below the needle.
  • Continue stitching

Tip:

  • Make smaller stitches for curved lines to maintain a rounded smooth look.

Chain Stitch

Uses: Outlining, straight and curved lines, filling if rows are stitched closely together.

  • Work from top to bottom.
  • Bring needle up at 1 and then reinsert needle in same hole, forming a loop.
  • Bring needle up at 2 and pull thread to tighten loop until desired shape is achieved.
  • Repeat multiple stitches to create a chain.
  • To end the row make a small stitch over the last loop to hold it in place to secure thread on backside.

Tip:

  • It is important to keep your thread tension even to create a consistent looking chain.

Couching

Uses: Outlining shapes, straight and curvy lines, spirals, bold dimensional accents, decorative borders.

This stitch involves two threads: a thicker foundation thread, (also called the laid thread) and a thinner thread (called the couching thread).

  • Bring foundation thread onto the front and place along the design line.
  • Bring the couching thread up under the foundation thread and make a tiny stitch over the thread, going back into or very close to the entry hole.
  • Continue making evenly spaced stitches over the foundation thread to anchor the foundation thread in place.
  • To finish couching, bring the foundation thread onto the backside and secure it.
  • Secure couching thread on backside.

Tip:

  • Use a matching colored thread for the couching stitches to blend in or a contrasting color for a bolder look.
  • Use DMC cotton Floss (1 ply) to couch down solid color foundation threads and use DMC Metallic Embroidery Spool Thread (1 ply) to couch down metallic foundation threads.
  • Click here to lean more about couching threads and embellishing ideas.

Blanket Stitch

Uses: Straight and gently curved lines, borders and finishing edges.

  • Work from left to right.
  • Bring needle up at 1, down at 2 and up at 3, keeping the thread looped under the needle.
  • Pull thread through and shape stitch as desired.
  • Repeat multiple stitches until complete.

Tips:

  • For an even line of stitching keep the height of the stitches even throughout.
  • To vary the look of the stitch, change the height of each stitch making one long and one short.

Whip Stitch

Uses: is used for seaming fabrics, either right or wrong sides together. The stitches should be about 1/16" apart, and only as deep as necessary to create a firm seam.

  • Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2 making sure to pierce both pieces of fabric to bind together.
  • Bring needle back up at 3 and down 4, continue stitching the seam.

Tip:

  • Leave a tail of thread when you start, and work several stitches over it to secure and hide the thread.

Ladder Stitch

Uses: Applique, bind two seams together.

  • Bring needle up at 1 and through the fabric a short distance to 2, keeping the thread hidden under the fabric (dashed lines).
  • Bring needle over to 3 and repeat.
  • Only the vertical stitches should show on the front of the fabric. Stitches indicated by dashed lines will be hidden in the base fabric, or in the folds of the appliqué.
  • Continue stitching.

Laced Running Stitch

Uses: Borders, decorative outlining.

  • Stitch a line of Running Stitches.
  • Bring the lacing thread up at 1 and lace it under the next running stitch.
  • Continue lacing the thread up and down through the running stitches keeping the loops even.
  • To finish the lacing, bring the lacing thread onto the backside under the center of the last stitch.

Tip:

  • Use a blunt tip Tapestry needle for the lacing thread. This will help prevent you from piercing the fabric or the Running Stitch threads.

Coral Stitch

Uses: Decorative borders, foliage, plant stems

  • Working from right to left, hold the working thread to the left of the starting point (or the last stitch). Insert the needle into the fabric above the working thread and bring the tip of the needle out just under the thread. Wrap the thread around the needle from left to right and pull the needle through the resulting loop.

Cross Stitch

Uses: Borders and filling if worked in adjacent rows.

To stitch a line:

  • Stitching from left to right, bring needle up at 1, down at 2, then up at 3 and down at 4.
  • Continue stitching across to end of line.
  • Start back stitching from right to left, make crosses by bringing the needle up at 5 and down at 6. Continue until all crosses have been stitched.

Tip:

  • Be sure to keep the top stitch on the cross the same direction throughout a project.

Upright Cross Stitch

Uses: Borders, fillings, decorative.

  • Work left to right.
  • Create a horizontal stitch by bringing needle up at 1 and down at 2.
  • Create a vertical stitch by bringing your needle up at 3 and down at 4.
  • To create the next upright cross stitch bring your needle up at 5 and down at 6.
  • Bring your needle back up at 7 and down at 8.
  • Continue stitching.

Herringbone Stitch

Uses: Border, edging, can be stitched over a ribbon or braid to hold it down.

  • Work from left to right.
  • Bring needle up at 1, and down at 2.
  • Bring needle up at 3 and down at 4 to create an elongated cross stitch.
  • Bring needle up at 5 and continue.

Tip:

  • Mark two parallel lines with Water Soluble Pens to keep stitch height uniform.

Chevron Stitch

Uses: Border, edging, can be stitched over a ribbon or braid to hold it down.

  • Work from left to right.
  • Bring needle up at 1, down at 2.
  • Bring the tip of the needle back through the fabric halfway between 1 and 2 at point 3.
  • Bring the needle up to 4 and make a backstitch by bringing your needle up from 5 down at 6.
  • Bring the tip of your needle back through the fabric halfway between 5 and 6 at point 7.
  • Bring your needle down at 8 and repeat the stitching sequence.

Tip:

  • Mark two parallel lines with Water Soluble Pens to keep stitch height uniform.

Cloud Filling Stitch

Uses: Filling in spaces

  • Lay a groundwork of small, evenly spaced vertical stitches, alternating the placement of the stitches as shown in the diagram.
  • Weave your thicker secondary thread through the network of stitches in rows.
  • When starting from the right, thread the needle under the first vertical stitch, then bring tour needle through the vertical stitch to the lower right. Next, thread your needle under the next vertical stitch to the upper right. Continue stitching in a zig-zag motion to the end of the row.
  • Work the next row in the opposite direction.

Tip:

  • Use an embroidery hoop to keep your tension even throughout, and don’t pull too tightly when weaving your secondary thread through your vertical stitches.

Feather Stitch

Uses: Decorative border edges, seam embellishment, foliage and stems.

  • Work vertically, from top to bottom.
  • Bring needle up at 1 and back down to right at 2, leaving a loop on the front.
  • Bring the needle back up at 3 and pull thread to shape loop as desired.
  • Insert the needle to the right of 4 at 5, leaving a loop of thread on the front.
  • Bring needle up at 6 and pull thread to shape loop.
  • Take next stitch to the left and continue stitching.
  • To finish, take a small stitch over the last loop.

Tip:

  • Mark 4 parallel guidelines to create even width stitches (be sure to use a removable marker as the stitches wont fully cover the guidelines)

Lazy Daisy Stitch (Detached Chain Stitch)

Uses: Stitch in a circle to create flowers, single stitches can be leaves.

Similar to the chain stitch, but the loops are “detached” instead of connecting.

  • Come up at 1 and back down in the same hole or right next to point 1, forming a loop on the front side.
  • Bring needle up at 2 and pull thread to shape loop into desired shape. Pulling tighter creates a straighter looking stitch, while a looser thread creates a more rounded loop.

Tip:

  • Finish center of flower with a cluster of French Knots.

Fly Stitch

Uses: Stitch in rows for edging or singly for accents, plants and foliage, decorative lines, interesting filling.

  • Bring needle up at 1 and down at 2, leaving a loop.
  • Come up at 3 and with the needle over the loop, pull the thread to shape a V.
  • Go down at 4 to anchor the V shape.

Tip:

  • Lengthen the anchor stitch to form a Y.

Seed Stitch

Uses: Filling spaces, flower centers, background textures like leaves, snow and sand.

Two small straight stitches side by side and randomly placed to fill an area.

  • Come up at 1 and down at 2.
  • Come up at 3 and down at 4.
  • Continue grouping stitches together randomly and at different angles to look like they are scattered like seeds.

Tip:

  • Stitch in even rows for a decorative border stitch.

French Knot

Uses: Decorative dots, filling flower centers, leaves, plants, eyes.

  • Bring needle up at 1.
  • Hold thread taut with other hand and wrap the thread twice around end of the needle.
  • Gently pull the thread so that the wrapped threads tighten and while holding it taut, insert the needle next to 1. Pull thread through onto the backside until the knot is formed and lies securely on the surface.

Tip:

  • To make a larger knot, wrap the thread around the needle a couple of extra times or use a thicker thread.

Bullion Knot

Uses: Decorative dots, leaves, plants

The Bullion Knot is very similar to the French Knot, but you loop the thread around the needle more times, producing a worm of a knot that is inserted a slight distance from the needle’s original entry point.

  • Make a back stitch, the length of the bullion knot required.
  • Bring the needle out at 1, but do not bring it out all the way.
  • Twist the thread around the needle point, as many times as is necessary to equal the length of the back stitch.
  • Holding the left thumb on the coiled thread, turn the needle back to 1 and insert it in the same place. Pull the thread through until the bullion knot lies flat.

Colonial Knot

Uses: Use alone as decorative accents, or stitch close together to form lines and or fill in shapes.

  • Bring need up through fabric and wrap the thread up, over and behind the needle forming a figure 8 around the needle.
  • Insert the tip of the needle back through the fabric, close to where it first came up, but not in the same hole. Pull the thread carefully until a knot is formed, then push the needle to the back and pull the thread through.

Tip:

  • Use instead of a French knot if you want a slightly larger and higher knot.

Star Stitch

Uses: Decorative accents, stars, flowers, in a row for a border, disperse randomly for loose filling or stitch close together for denser filling.

  • Starting at the top, bring the needle up at 1 and down to the center at 2.
  • Bring the needle up at 3 and down to center at 2.
  • Continue stitching in a clockwise direction until you have 8 evenly placed stitches to create a star.

Tip:

  • To create an eyelet effect, tighten the tension on each stitch to create an opening in the center. This technique works well on evenweave fabrics.

Satin Stitch

Uses: Solid filling for shapes, great for monograms

  • Bring needle up at 1, down at 2, then back up right next to 1 and down right next to 2.
  • Place stitches closely together to fill in area.
  • Be sure the thread lays flat and without any twisting to produce a smooth look.

Tip:

  • To raise the stitching, Split Stitch just inside the outline of the shape before starting.

Padded Satin Stitch

Uses: Solid filling for shapes.

  • Stitch a cluster of seed stitches.
  • Stitch the satin stitch over to create a beautiful raised look.

Long and Short Stitch

Uses: Filling of larger shapes especially when color shading is desired.

  • First work a row of alternating long and short Satin Stitches. Keep the upper edge of the design line even.
  • Next work a second row of long even length stitches into the short stitches of the first row, passing the needle through the tip of the stitch above.
  • Continue stitching rows until the shape is nearly filled and the last row of long stitches are worked along the bottom of the design line.
  • Stitch the last row with short stitches to fill in the open area along the bottom.

Tip:

  • To achieve shading, change the thread color as needed by row.

Beading

DMC Beading Needles are thin enough to accommodate most bead holes for easy threading right onto your needle. To stitch on a bead use 1 ply matching colored floss. Knot one end of the thread and thread your beading needle. Bring needle up through the fabric to the right side and thread a bead onto the needle, slide it down to the fabric for correct positioning and then continue with your stitch. Continue sewing beads using this running stitch. On straight lines, depending on the size of the bead, several beads can be threaded on the needle and sewn on in a single stitch. Every 3 or 4 beads, take a back stitch to secure. Always use good quality glass beads for your embroidery project as plastic beads can melt during ironing.