Embroidery Stitch Guide


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Working with Embroidery Floss

FlossTo prepare your floss for use, find the tail at the end of the skein (bundle). Hold the skein lightly with one hand while pulling gently on the tail with the other. Cut off your needed length of floss. Twenty inches (50 cm) is a good length to work with but to save time re-threading on larger projects, you may choose to cut your length as long as 36 inches (90 cm). Remember that longer lengths will tangle more easily, so do take care to let your needle and thread “hang free” from time-to-time, so that a natural untwisting can occur.

StrandYour pattern will direct you to use varying numbers of strands for different stitches within your project. Even when all six strands are called for, it is important to separate all the floss strands before sewing with them. The result will be smoother, and you will get fuller coverage on your fabric.

Separate your strands by firmly pinching a single strand with one hand, and gently pulling it away from the remaining strands which are loosely held by your other hand. Once separated, realign and smooth out the number of strands you need.


 

Running Stitch

Running StitchThis stitch creates a dashed line.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the fabric so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

To make a running stitch: Weave your thread and needle in and out of the fabric. The stitches on the surface should be of equal length and evenly spaced.

To end: Bring your thread down to the reverse side of the fabric and either tie it off, or weave it through four or five stitches to anchor it. Cut it close to the final stitch.


 

Backstitch

BackstitchThis stitch creates the appearance of a solid line.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the fabric so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

To make a backstitch: Bring your thread up on the stitch line and then make a small backward stitch down through the fabric. Bring the needle up again one stitch-length in front of the first stitch, then make another backward stitch, inserting the needle into the front hole of the stitch you just made. Continue in this manner, keeping your stitch lengths even.

To end: Bring your thread down to the reverse side of the fabric and either tie it off, or weave it through four or five stitches to anchor it. Cut it close to the final stitch.

Tip: With practice, you will develop a keen sense for inserting your needle back into the precise spot on your felt that it previously passed through. When you place it right, your needle will almost “fall” through the felt, and your backstitch will appear even and continuous.


 

Satin Stitch

illustration_satinstitchThe satin stitch is used to completely fill in a small area with parallel straight lines of floss so that the fabric does not show through. When sewing animals, this stitch is commonly used for eyes and noses. Its name is the result of the stitch’s satiny appearance.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the fabric so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

Satin StitchTo make a satin stitch: Make straight stitches across the shape, keeping your stitches snugly pressed together. Take care to line up your entry and exit points evenly. If you have traced an outline on the fabric, ensure your entry and exit points go just beyond the line so that it doesn’t show.

To end: Bring your thread down to the reverse side of the fabric and tie it off, or weave it through four or five stitches on the reverse side to anchor it. Cut off.

Tip: A great way to stay on track when making a satin stitch is to first backstitch the outline of the area to be covered. You will then have a handy guide for your satin stitching. Do ensure your satin stitch covers the backstitch guide line.


 

Blanket Stitch (Common Edge)

Blanket StitchingThe blanket stitch can be used to attach two pieces of fabric together while maintaining an attractive appearance on both front and back. It can be tricky starting and stopping your threads between the two layers, but if done properly, it produces a nice, clean result.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free.

To make the blanket stitch: Align your front and back fabric pieces together. From between the layers, bring your needle up through the back piece of fabric, piercing a little ways in from the edge of the fabric. Typically, you’ll want your stitch width and depth to be the same; one-quarter of an inch (half a cm) is a good approximate length to use. If too large, your project edges will pucker.

Now loop your thread around to the front and pierce through both fabrics so that your needle comes out in the same spot that you just brought it through on the back. Bring your thread and needle up and tuck it under the loop at the edge of the fabrics, moving your needle from right to left.

Now, pierce your needle through both layers a second time, to the left of the previous insertion point. While pulling your thread through from the back, tuck your needle and thread forward through the thread loop that is closing at the top. Pull the thread snug and you will see that a line of floss begins to form along the edge where your fabrics meet. Continue in this manner until you finish the piece or need to re-thread.

 

To re-thread: If you run out of thread before finishing your blanket stitch, you’ll want to be sure to hide your knots between the two layers. When your thread is close to the end, begin your last stitch but only pierce through the front piece of fabric. Pull your thread through snugly, then anchor and knot your thread to the inside of the front piece of fabric, being careful not to pierce the front. Cut your threads close to the knot.

re thread 1blanket re thread 2Now, re-thread your needle. With your knot between the fabrics, pull through to the back in the spot where your last stitch would have come out if you had completed it. With your needle, grab the thread from the previous half-stitch on the front side, and pull it up so that it runs along the edge of your project. Continue your blanket stitch as before.

To end: When you approach the place you started, make your last full stitch, then slide your needle under your very first stitch, along the edge of the two fabrics and knot it.

To hide the tail of your thread, pierce your threaded needle back into your project at the spot of the last stitch, and bring it back out to the front some distance away. Cut your thread free close to the surface of the fabric and “puff” the area until your thread tail retreats back inside.

TIPS

Blanket stitching around a protruding point: Anchor your thread only slightly in from the edge of the fabric at the protruding point, instead of your usual stitch depth. Then continue stitching as normal on the other side of the point.

blanket stitch protruding

Blanket stitching around an indentation: Imitate a crow’s foot pattern when blanket stitching around an indentation. This will prevent your edge line of thread from pulling away from the fabrics.

Indent


 

Appliqué Blanket Stitch

As well as joining two pieces of like-sized fabric together along their common edge, the blanket stitch can also be used as a decorative way to fuse one piece of fabric on top of another larger piece of fabric. This illustration demonstrates the difference between the two uses:

AppliqueVSCommon

With the common edge blanket stitch, your stitching hugs the edge of two or more pieces of aligned fabric. With the appliqué blanket stitch their is no aligning of edges — your stitching hugs the edge of only one piece of fabric, fusing it to a larger piece of fabric.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the base fabric piece so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

To make the appliqué blanket stitch:

  1. Bring your thread up from the underside of the base piece at the point along the edge of the appliqué piece where you want your blanket stitching to begin.
    applique stitch 1
  2. Pierce back down through both layers slightly in from the edge of the appliqué piece, and on a right angle from where you first brought your thread up in step #1.
    applique stitch 2
  3. Bring your thread up directly beside your first exit point (in step #1) and directly below your first entry point (in step #2). Your thread must go through the loop created in step #2 in order to anchor your stitch.
    applique stitch 3
  4. When you pull your stitch tight, your thread will form a right angle.
    applique stitch 4
  5. Continue your appliqué blanket stitching by piercing back down through both layers, beside the entry spot in step #2.
    applique stitch 5
  6. Bring your thread back up directly below the entry point you just created. Remember to go through the thread loop on the front.
    applique stitch 6
  7. Pull your thread tight, and continue stitching in this manner.
    applique stitch 7

Once you have mastered the basic steps, you may be comfortable combining each entry and exit point in a single stitch, as shown below:

Blanket stitch shortcut

To end: For your final stitch, after pulling the previous stitch snug, pierce back down through your base fabric directly beside the previous exit point, along the edge of the appliqué. Anchor your thread to the underside of the base fabric (without piercing the surface) and tie a knot, then cut off.

Or, if appliquéing completely around an object, use your final stitch to finish off the first stitch made. Again, tie off on underside of the base fabric.


 

French Knot

FrenchThe French knot adds texture to embroidery projects by placing a three-dimensional ball of floss on your fabric surface. While it takes a little practice to get it right, it’s really not that hard when you get the hang of it. Some people avoid making them altogether. If you are one of these people, considering substituting small beads in place of French knots.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the fabric so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

illustration_frenchknotTo make a French knot: With your right hand, bring your thread up at the required spot. Pinch the thread with your left thumb and pointer finger a few inches from where it emerges. Now bring the needle down below the spot where you are pinching and wrap the thread snugly around the needle three times. Still pinching the thread snugly with your left hand, twist the tip of the needle back to the starting point on the felt and insert it close to where the thread first came up. Do not put it in the exact spot or your knot will pull back through. Pull your needle and thread through to the back, leaving a small knot on the surface.

If you have trouble during your practice attempts you may be anchoring the thread with your left hand too tightly when pushing the needle back through the fabric. Hold it snugly but do not provide too much tension.

To end: Anchor your thread to the underside of the fabric (without piercing the surface) and tie a knot, then cut off.

Note: Reverse the instructions above if you are left-handed.


 

Split Stitch

This decorative stitch is created using multiple, even-numbered strands of embroidery floss.

To start: Pass your embroidery floss through the needle. Make a knot in one end of your floss – keep the other end free. Run your thread up from the reverse side of the fabric piece so that the knot will be hidden when your project is finished.

To make the split stitch:

Forward Split Stitch

OPTION 1 – Forward stitch method: Create a single stitch in your fabric. Then bring your needle back up piercing through the stitch you’ve just made (towards the front end of the stitch) splitting your threads in two. Pierce back down though your fabric ahead of the first stitch. Continue along the stitch line in this same manner.

…Or…

Backward Split Stitch

OPTION 2 – Backward stitch method: Create a single stitch in your fabric. Bring your needle back up a half stitch-length ahead of the first stitch, and then bring it down backwards through the first stitch, splitting the threads of that stitch in two. Continue along the stitch line in the same manner.

With either method, make sure that you split your stitch evenly so that there are equal number of threads on each side of the split.

To end: Bring your thread down to the reverse side of the fabric and tie it off, or weave it through four or five stitches on the reverse side to anchor it. Cut off.