How To: Five Handy Embroidery Stitchescomments (15) September 2nd, 2008
I have a confession to make . . . hand embroidery is super easy. I know I shouldn't say that; it's in my best interest to keep the mystery of the stitches to myself so that others hire me to stitch for them, but frankly . . . it's just coloring with thread. There, now I've done it. I'm sure I'll be hearing from the Stitcher's League of America where they'll revoke my stitching privileges. That's not to say that it can't be difficult and challenging, just that it doesn't have to be. The learning curve is a lot more friendly.
I'm amazed when other, more accomplished crafters talk about how hard it seems. These are people who sew clothing and knit and make jewelery! Their crafts require math and counting and dangerous tools! Trust me, if I can figure this stuff out, anyone can.
Here are five stitches that I can't live without. (French knots are also on my list, but why do another tutorial when the lovely Jennifer Stern rocked an awesome one out a few weeks back? Check it out! French knots are super cool!)
|Get more embroidery information:
• How to Embroider a Greeting Card
• Embroidery Term of the Week: Topping
• The Last Stitch: How to Finish Your Hand-Embroidery
• How to Turn Photos into Embroidered Portraits
Split Stitch: The split stitch is great for everything. Outlines? Yep! Letters? You betcha! Fills? Heck, yea! It's the perfect stitch to use on clothing or accessories or anything that's going to get a lot of action since each stitch locks the stitch before it down. I like to use shorter stitches for outlines and letters because they give you more control on curves and such, and a longer stitch on fills so that I'm not stitching until the next Olympics.
That's why it's called a split stitch!
The back of your split stitch should look like the front of the back stitch. That's how you know you're doing it right!
Stem Stitch: I LOVE the stem stitch! Once you get it down, it's the easiest outlining stitch in town. It also has a cool ropey look about it that makes it great for lettering. Like the split stitch, use shorter stitches when you're working anything with curves.
This stitch is great to work "from the front," which means you can poke the needle through and out of the fabric without switching your hand from back to front. This makes stitching go much faster and makes the whole process easier on your hands.
Just like with your split stitch, the back of your stem stitch should look like a back stitch.
Back Stitch: The back stitch is a great outline, especially if you want a homespun effect to your work. It's also great when using a few strands of floss to get thin, almost pen-and-ink-style line for backgrounds and fills. I've used it several times when doing black and white embroidery to add lowlights and textures. As a fill, it makes for great texture. Make the stitches in a bricklike fashion, and you've got a pretty long/short style fill (I used to call this a running stitch until I was corrected by a lovely commenter, normasews. A running stitch actually looks like a broken line! Thanks normasews!)
Since you can't start the second stitch at the end of the first without pulling the first stitch out, you need to start the stitch on the away side of the stitch.
The back stitch line should look like a perforated line in paper.
The back of the back stitch will not look like the back stitch! It should look like a running stitch when done correctly.
Chain Stitch: I love the chain stitch as much as I love the stem stitch. Ask me which one I love better and I couldn't choose—it'd be like picking a favorite child. Don't make me do it! Big and loopy, it makes a great accent stitch, while tighter it makes a great old-timey-looking outline for patterns and letters. I've also used it as a fill and find that the openness of the chain makes for great texture when stitching hair or fur.
This is another great stitch to work from the front and goes like rockets once you get it down.
Like the split stitch and the stem stitch before it, the back of the chain stitch will also look like our friend the back stitch.
Blanket Stitch: The blanket stitch is my go-to joining stitch. If you look in my shop, you will see it over and over and over. I love the old world of this stitch and like to use it to add a handcrafted look to mundane, everyday items. This stitch looks hard, but it's so very easy once you get it down. The stitch is worked right to left, like the pictures below. The pictures may look strange or flipped but that's just because I was stitching upside down for the camera, the stitches are still going the right direction.
This stitch is also great to join edges or as a decorative border on blankets, quilts, home accessories, and clothing.
If you're using the blanket stitch on an edge, the front and back should look the same. If you're using it to join two flat pieces, then the back will look like evenly spaced vertical lines.
Now stop worrying and start stitching! There are tons of patterns out there from Jenny Hart to vintage-looking Aunt Martha to Etsy finds, or you can even make your own (which I'll be covering in the weeks to come)!
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