Does anyone do embroidery these days or has it become a lost art? When I was a girl, it was very popular. I learned the basic stitches from my mother before I was 10 years old. Growing up in the wilds of Wisconsin, with no other children close by to play with, I was always looking for ways to amuse myself and embroidery filled many cold and snowy winter hours. After I married and had children, there was little time to embroider, but occasionally I turned out a pair of pillowcases or a dresser scarf. (Remember those?)

I forgot about embroidery for many years, until a few weeks ago when, looking for something in the back of a closet, I came across a neatly wrapped package with a half finished piece of embroidery inside — a child’s quilt cover with cute animals on it. I remembered starting it for a friend’s new grandchild and don’t know why I never finished it. “Do I still know how to do this?” I asked myself. Although my hands aren’t as steady as they once were, I was delighted to find that I was able to do the stitches. I am well on the way to finishing it and when it is done, will donate it somewhere as the baby it was intended for is now in his teens.

Embroidery goes back to the 5th and 3rd Centuries B.C. It was treasured as having high social status in the Medieval Islamic world. Over time, little has changed in the basic stitches — chain, lazy daisy, blanket, stem, French knots are all the same as they were eons ago.

Top 10 Must-Know Hand Embroidery Stitches

If you have ever browsed through an embroidery book, especially the vintage variety, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to make sense of the different types of stitches the patterns might require. Some of the stitches may seem too challenging or perhaps laborious, but fear not, hand embroidery stitches are fun, and with practice, can become quite easy.

ten embroidery stitches

Let’s discover the 10 best hand embroidery stitches

Once you familiarize yourself with basic stitches, you will find that they are the foundation to those more elaborate stitches that once seemed too difficult to tackle. Here are ten embroidery stitches to know as you move forward with hand embroidery.

1. Running stitch

Running stitch

Complete running stitch

The running stitch is good for outlining an embroidery design and is a very quick stitch to do. There are two ways to do the running stitch: the first method is similar to hand sewing and can be completed by pushing the needle and floss in and over the fabric in one continuous motion; the second method can be literally pushing the needle through the fabric and pulling it back up. I have heard this called the “punch and poke” or “stabbing” method.

Backstitch

Completed backstitch

Unlike the running stitch, the backstitch creates a solid line and is good for hand embroidering text or outlining a design. Begin by pulling the needle and floss up through the fabric and do one stitch forward. From underneath, space the needle out the length of your desired stitch, pull up through the fabric, and bring the needle and floss back down through the end of the previous stitch.

Beginning a split stitch

Split stitch

Completed split stitch

Similar to the backstitch, the split stitch creates a solid line with an added texture to it. This stitch is appropriate for text and outline as well, but it also works to fill designs and create variation from the running or backstitch. To begin, pull your needle and floss up through the fabric and create one straight stitch. Your needle and floss should be on the underside of your hoop. Bring the needle up through the center of the stitch you just created and stitch forward the same length as your initial stitch. Repeat by bringing the needle up through the center of each stitch.

Beginning a stem stitch

Stem stitch

Completed stem stitch

The stem stitch got its name from being the common stitch used for the stems of flowers or vines. I like to use this stitch for text because it can curve nicely with letters. Similar to the split stitch, you create one straight stitch forward and bring the needle and floss up underneath the fabric, but instead of going through the center of this initial stitch, you will bring the needle up just to the side of the stitch.

Starting a satin stitch

Stitching a satin stitch

The satin stitch

Completed satin stitch

A good filler stitch, the satin stitch creates a smooth appearance. I like to use this stitch to fill in hearts or the leaves of flowers. Take your needle and floss and create one stitch. Bring the needle up again just next to the opposite side of the initial stitch. Keep the stitches close to one another, as required to fill the pattern or design you are working with.  

Starting french knot stitches

Working to stitch french knot

The french knot hand embroidery stitch

Stitching a french knot

Single french knot

Multiple completed french knots

This is a favorite decorative stitch for almost everyone that I know. French Knots can be used to accent designs or create fun fillers for most designs. You’ll have to use two hands to create the French Knot by bringing the needle and floss up through the fabric and wrapping the floss around the needle twice. Hold the end of the floss taut and bring the needle down just next to the space where it came out through. Keep holding the floss taut as you pull the needle through. You can vary the size of your French knots by wrapping the floss around the needle anywhere between one and three times.

You might also enjoy our post 5 Foolproof Tips for French Knots.

Starting a chain stitch

Beginning a chain stitch

Loop for a chain stitch

Second "link" in a hand embroidered chain stitch

Stitching a hand embroidered chain stitch

Multiple links in a hand embroidered chain stitch

Completed series of chain stitches

I used to think I would never learn to do this stitch, then I tried it, and now I love using the chain stitch. It makes for a great outline stitch as well as a frame for a pattern or design. Take your needle and floss and create a stitch, but before you pull the floss all the way through the fabric, allow it to form a loop. Bring the needle up through that loop in order to tether it from being pulled all the way through the fabric and pull. Place the needle either directly in the hole you just stitched, or close to it, and pull through creating another loop by not pulling the floss completely through the fabric. Pull the needle up through the loop to tether it and pull. Repeat the steps to continue the chain. When you reach the end of the chain, simply create a small stitch over the loop.

Starting the lazy daisy stitch

The lazy daisy hand embroidery stitch

Completed lazy daisy stitch

This is a version of the chain stitch often referred to as the “detached chain stitch” or “lazy daisy.” Instead of continuing the chain, there is a small stitch made just over the end of the loop to create what looks like a daisy petal. Just like the chain stitch, take your needle and floss and create a stitch, but before you pull the floss all the way through the fabric, allow it to form a loop. Bring the needle up through that loop in order to tether it from being pulled all the way through the fabric and create a small stitch over the top of the loop. Space out the next loop or use the stitch to create a daisy.  

Starting feather stitch

Working on a feather stitch

Completed feather stitch

Another variation of a chain stitch is the feather stitch. This stitch looks great as a frame or border to an embroidered piece. Similar to the chain stitch, you will use the second stitch to anchor the loop of the previous stitch, but this stitch covers more space. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric and create a straight stitch, but don’t pull the floss all the way through. Allow a loop to form and bring the needle up through that loop. Space the next stitch over in the opposite direction from the previous stitch. Create another loop by not allowing the floss to go completely through the fabric. Pull the needle up through the loop and repeat on the opposite side.

Starting a seed stitch

Working on a hand embroidery seed stitch

Completed hand embroidery seed stitches

This is a good filler stitch. Depending how close or far you space out your seed stitch, you can create a wide fill or layers of floss that appear to have dimension. Imagine tossing the contents of a seed packet into the air and watching the seeds fall randomly on the ground. That same concept applies here. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric and create a straight stitch. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric again in a different angle. Continue until you have a filled area.

ten hand embroidery stitches

These stitches in no way comprise the totality of gorgeous hand embroidery stitches that exist, but they are exactly what you need to get you started. If you are already a seasoned embroiderer, maybe these will remind you to revisit those old tried and true stitches you may not have used in a while. I had forgotten how much the chain stitch used to intimidate me, but now, I’m so glad I tried it because it really is a fun stitch

http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2014/jun/17/remembering-lost-art-...

http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2014/04/hand-embroidery-stitches/

https://www.google.com/search?q=embroidery+pictures&espv=2&...

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Replies to This Discussion

Lovely!  I like the balloon embrodiery.

I love doing embroidery...and not just cross stitch, which seems to be all they sell anymore.  I do cnfess it's harder to thread the needle now.

the balloons are a padded satin stitch.  You fill it in one way, and then the other.  this looks like they did it several times over.

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