Makers Monday: Basic Embroidery Stitches

Yep, yep. It’s Monday… again.
Today we are starting the firsts steps toward making our own hand embroidered portraits.  But before we jump right in I want to make sure that you have the basics down.  So let’s get started.
Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

Today we will be reviewing our basic outline stitches: Straight stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, and split stitch.  If you know these four you can make just about anything.

You will notice on the photos that I drew myself a line using a fabric transfer marker.  I find it makes things easier to see where I’m going and gives me one less thing to worry about.

There are several ways to start your thread which we can review another day, but for the purpose of learning feel free to  simply knot it.

Straight Stitch (aka Running Stitch)

Once you have your thread ready, start by pulling you needle through your fabric from back to front.  Your knot will prevent you from pulling it all the way through.

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

Next, place your needle through the fabric about 1/8-1/4″ (think grain of rice) down from where you started and pull the thread all the way through the back.  Congrats! That’s your first stitch.

You will keep repeating this series leaving each stitch about 1/8-1/4″ from the last.

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

You want to try to keep your stitches of the same length and tension.  It is handmade, after all, so there will be some variation.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  Here are some tricks I use sometimes:

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

Back Stitch:

The back stitch is another simple stitch and one of my favorites for outlining faces.  You can change the length of your stitches to easily alter the look and feel.

Back stitching starts the same as our straight stitch; we start by pulling our thread from the back up and go back down to make our first stitch.  Again, we bring our needle through to the front about 1/8-1/4″ down from where we left off.  However, in stead of moving forward from that point, we actually go BACKWARD and place our needle in the last hole (#2).  This joins the stitches to create a straight and solid line.

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

Stem Stitch

Alright, here’s where things get a little tricky.  The stem stitch is a beautiful stitch that creates a slightly twisted or rope-like look adding variety and texture to your work.  It’s also a great stitch for organic and curvy lines as it can retain it’s quality in even tight turns.

When completing stem stitch I HIGHLY encourage making a line to follow.  It really makes things so much simpler.  It starts similar to the straight and back stitches, but you want to work your downward stroke (#2) slightly to the left of the line. When you come back up you want to make sure to come up beside your last stitch about half way up the length (#3).  You will then go back through about 1/8-1/4″ down from the end of the last full stitch.

Traditionalists will tell you that there is a difference between stem stitch and outline stitch; stem stitch traveling from right to left as pictured below and outline working in the opposite direction.  I you want to read more about that you can go HERE.  Personally, I don’t think much about it.  Being right handed it seems to naturally feel right to me to work in this way. If nothing else, you want to make sure that you are working in the same direction throughout your piece.  Corners can be difficult but there is a great YouTube video HERE if you would like.

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.

Split Stitch

The split stitch is a very simple yet elegant stitch.  You will start the stitch just as you did in straight stitch (#1-2).  For the 3rd stitch you will come up through your first stitch about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way from the bottom- just be consistent. Now complete that stitch (again, think grain of rice).  Ta-da! Just keep going.

I prefer the look of 1/3 of the way from the bottom, but play around with it and see what you like.

Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.
Basic embroidery stitches in easy to follow steps.
In order: Straight stitch, Back stitch, Stem stitch, Split stitch
 And that’s it! You have the beginnings of a fun little sampler.  Are you a better learner by video? Check out the video below or on YouTube HERE:

Want something more fun to practice on?  I am including a free pattern download.  It’s a simple download as pictured.  No need for instructions and the color choices are up to you.  It will look pretty on either plain or patterned fabric.

You can choose to complete it as you wish but I would recommend trying stem stitch on the sun using straight stitch for the rays, split stitch on “damn you”,  and back stitch on “Monday”.  But feel free to change it up. 
Free "Damn You Monday" Embroidery Pattern from Holey Socks Art

I’m giving it to you FREE, but would love that if you are pinning it or otherwise sharing it that you remember to credit me.  It is not for commercial use.  Also, it’s a lot to ask, but I would LOVE to see your finished work!  You can leave a pic in comments or tag me @holeysocksart on Facebook or Instagram.   Enjoy!

Get it HERE.

If you prefer it reflected because you are using transfer paper requiring ironing you can get that download HERE.