Line Stitches

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Line Stitches

As line stitches, we use to name all those stitches which cover a thin line only instead of a wider area. This doesn't mean, however, that line stitches are not suitable for filling an area. They can be used as filling stitches, too, just by placing one line stitch next to the other.  

But in general, all these running, back, chain etc. stitches go under line stitches in the stitch dictionaries in order to distinguish them from the stitches which cover a wider area by themselves. And that's how I will handle it, too. 

       Running Stitch

     Whipped Running Stitch

     Holbein Stitch

        Backstitch

    Whipped Backstitch

     Laced Backstitch

        Split Stitch

       Stem Stitch

       Outline Stitch

       Chain Stitch

       Chequered Chain Stitch


Running Stitch

Deutsch

Vorstich

English

running stitch

Español

punto (de) bastilla

Français

point avant, point droit

Italiano

punto filza

Nederlands

rijgsteek

Polski

ścieg przed igłą właściwy, fastryga

Português

ponto adiante, ponto de alinhavo, ponto de passagem

The running stitch, also called basting stitch, is the most basic of all line stitches. well, actually the most basic of all sewing and embroidery stitches. It is used both in counted embroidery, particularly in its version known as Holbein Stitch, and in surface embroidery. The technique is as simple as can be: you bring your needle up to the surface of the fabric at the intended starting point, bringt it down again at a certain distance, depending on the desired length of the stitches, up again, then down again and so on - all the time following the line you intend to cover.  

You can play with this stitch just as you like; the stitches and the spaces between them don't have to be necessarily all of the same length. 

Running Stitch

Running Stitch

Deutsch

umwickelter Vorstich

English

whipped running stitch, cordonnet stitch

Français

point avant surjeté

Whipped Running Stitch

Italiano

punto filza avvolto

Português

ponto adiante apanhado

There is a whole bunch of whipped stitches in embroidery. I will not list them as separate stitches, because, basically, whipping is always done the same way, though the result will look a bit different every time, depending on the basic stitch you whip.   

For a whipped stitch, you work the basic stitch first. Then you change your needle to one with a blunt tip, a so called tapestry needle, in order to avoid snagging the thread by the tip of your needle. You come up with this needle right at the beginning of the stitches, then slide it through the first stitch without piercing or scooping up any fabric, repeat the same movement on the second stitch, and so on until the end of the line, where you put your needle down again right at the end of the last stitch. Whipping is normally done by carrying the whipping thread always from the same side of the line to the other - from right to left, left to right, top to bottom and suchlike.

Whipped Running Stitch

Whipped Running Stitch

Holbein Stitch

Deutsch

Holbeinstich

English

Holbein stitch, double running stitch, line stitch, two-sided stroke stitch, square stitch, Roumaninan stitch, Chiara stitch

Français

point Holbein

Italiano

punto scritto

Nederlands

dubbele rijgsteek, Holbein steek

Polski

ścieg Holbein, podwójny ścieg przed igłą, ścieg rumuński

Basically, the Holbein stitch is a running stitch with the appearance of a Backstitch. To accomplish that, you work the whole line in running stitch as usual, then turn the fabric over and work the same line backwards in running stitch again, but in a reversed order. That is to say, you put your needle in where the stitch in the first line comes out, and out where the stitch of the first line goes in, this way closing all the spaces between the running stitches. 

If you wish, you can change the thread colour when working in the opposite direction.

Holbein Stitch

Holbein Stitch

Backstitch

Deutsch

Rückstich, Steppstich

English

backstitch, point de sable

Español

punto de pespunte

Français

point arriére, point de picûre

Italiano

punto impuntura, punto indietro

Nederlands

stiksteek

Polski

ścieg stębnowy, stębnówka

Português

ponto atrás, ponto pesponto

Svenska

efterstygn, sticksöm

If well done, the backstitch is most reminiscent of a straight machine stitch. Just make sure to place your stitches evenly in a smooth line and to put your needle exactly in the same hole where the last stitch ends. This stitch is worked backwards on the surface and forwards on the back of the fabric, as shown in the diagrams below. On the backside, the backstitch creates a kind of Stem Stitch, while the latter forms a backstitch on its backside, hence these two stitches can be deemed reversible. 

Backstitch

Backstitch

Deutsch

umwickelter Rückstich

English

whipped backstitch

Français

point arrière surjeté

Português

ponto atrás apanhado

Whipped Backstitch

The working sequence is the same as in the Whipped Running Stitch. Work a row of backstitch, then using a tapestry needle, pass a second thread through each backstitch top down or bottom up, but always in the same direction. 

Whipped Backstitch

Whipped Backstitch

Deutsch

umschlungener Rückstich

English

laced backstitch

Laced Backstitch

The difference between the whipped and the laced backstitch is that in the latter, the second thread is carried under each backstitch only. Move the needle through beneath the first stitch top down, then beneath the second stitch bottom up, beneath the third stitch top down again and so on. The result is a nice wave line, which you can pull tighter or looser according to your own wishes.  

Laced Backstitch

Laced Backstitch

Split Stitch

Deutsch

Spaltstich

English

split stitch, Kensington outline stitch

Français

point de tige fendu

Italiano

punto diviso

Polski

ścieg rozłupany

Português

ponto fendido

This stitch is my absolute favourite when I need a fine drawn line. Because of the fluent passage from one stitch to another, the resulting line gets a much more continuous appearance than a Backstitch, Chain Stitch or Stem Stitch line. Stem stitch looks more or less ropey, and it is thicker, while backstitch looks like a dashed line with the dashes close together. Split stitch is most similar in appearance to chain stitch, save that the "chain links" here are barely visible.

To achieve this fluent appearance, work a straight stitch and bring your needle from the back to the front of the fabric right through this stitch. In other words, you split the thread, but you split it always from the bottom up, not the other way round. 

Split stitch works best with a single thread. You can split only one thread a time, that's why using more than one thread makes no sense - it just wouldn't look like a split stitch. 

Threads with a wider spread (coverage), such as Coton floche à broder (floche) or crewel wool, are generally easier to split than a single thread of stranded cotton, though I personally don't have problems with the latter either. If you have difficulty splitting a thread from the back, just give the thread a little tug before splitting it, so that it lies flat and tight on the fabric. 

Split Stitch

Split Stitch

Stem Stitch

Deutsch

Stielstich

English

stem stitch, crewel stitch, stalk stitch, South Kensington stitch

Español

punto cordoncillo (hilo a la derecha)

Français

point de tige

Italiano

punto erba (filo a destra)

Nederlands

steelsteek (draat nar rechts)

Polski

ścieg sznureczkowy

Português

ponto pé de flor, ponto cordão, ponto haste

Svenska

stjälkstygn (högersydda)

The stem stitch is an all-time-to-go stitch, when it comes to working nice straight lines. It is easy to perform, it looks nice, and depending on the length of the individual stitches, it forms either a slightly, but evenly twisted line, bolder than a Split Stitch line (long stitches) or a distinctly twisted rope-like line (short stitches). 

The most important thing about the stem stitch is the position of the working thread, which is opposed to that of the Outline Stitch. This position depends on the stitch direction. Simply put, it should always lie below the needle when considering a workflow from left to right. That implies the following rules:

Workflow

Position of the thread in relation to the needle

left to right

below

right to left

above

top to bottom

lefthand

bottom to top

righthand

To work this stitch, bring your needle up at the starting point, go down one stitch length farther, and come up again in the middle of this stitch, taking the needle halfways back. The next stitch should be more or less half as long as the first, and from now on you keep coming up with your needle in the point where the previous stitch ends. 

To end the line, just bring your needle down as you would for a next stitch.

Stem Stitch

Stem Stitch

As most of the line stitches, you can of course whip the stem stitch. The working principle is the same as in the Whipped Backstitch.

Outline Stitch

Deutsch

Umrisslinienstich, Stielstich

English

outline stitch

Español

punto cordoncillo (hilo a la izquierda)

Français

point de tige contrarié

Italiano

punto erba (filo a sinistra)

Nederlands

steelsteek (draat nar links)

Polski

ścieg sznureczkowy

Português

ponto pé de flor, ponto cordão, ponto haste (fio à esquerda)

Svenska

stjälkstygn (vänstersydda)

The outline stitch is the mirror-inverted sister of the Stem Stitch. When working this stitch, you just keep the working thread to the other side than in stem stitch. This is to say, when you are working from left to right, the working thread lies above the needle. For other stitch directions, you just reverse the thread position from the little table above: 

Workflow

Position of the thread in relation to the needle

left to right

above

right to left

below

top to bottom

righthand

bottom to top

lefthand

As unimportant as the position of the working thread might seem, it does make a significant difference to the appearance of the stitch. An outline stitch will never show the same ropey look as the stem stitch does. It looks more like an undifferentiated, slightly twisted line. That's why it is best suited for ... you guessed it - outlines.  

The graphics above don't show this difference, admittedly, but you can compare the two photos of the Stem Stitch and the outline stitch, and you see what I mean - at least I hope so. The sample isn't the best stitching in the world, it isn't even good stitching, but compared to the stem stitch sample, you can see that, even if you'd like to call it a rope, it is a very loosely and unevenly twisted rope, not nearly as distinctly structured as the stem stitch rope. 

Outline Stitch

Outline Stitch

Chain Stitch

Deutsch

Kettenstich

English

chain stitch, tambour stitch

Español

punto de cadaneta

Français

point de chaînette

Italiano

punto catenella

Nederlands

kettingsteek

Polski

ścieg łańcuszkowy

Português

ponto cadeia

Svenska

kedjesöm

To work a chain stitch, bring your needle up at the beginning of the line and down in the same hole, leaving a certain length of thread on the surface. Then bring your needle up a little ways down inside this loop, and pull the thread through. Don't pull it too tight, just so that it creates a kind of a chain link. Next bring your needle down again in the same hole it had come up, then up again a little ways down inside the working thread, pull the thread through etc. 

To end the line, come up inside the working thread and bring your needle down outside it, right next to the point where it had come up. 

Chain Stitch

Chain Stitch

Also the chain stitch can be whipped. To do this, pass your tapestry needle (see Whipped Backstitch) under each chain stitch, always in the same direction. 

Chequered Chain Stitch

Deutsch

zweifarbiger Kettenstich

English

chequered chain stitch, magic stitch

Polski

łańcuszek dwukolorowy

Wanna work some magic? Not that embroidery wasn't magic in itself, right? So you could say we're gonna work a double magic. We're gonna work a chain stitch in two colours and all that in one go. Actually, it's not magic at all, of course, but a very simple technique.

To execute a chequered chain stitch, thread your needle with two strands of floss in two different colours. Begin as you would a normal chain stitch: come up at the beginning of the line, put the needle down in the same hole, leave a loop of thread on the surface. In this case, it will be a loop of the two threads. 

And now comes the trick: Bring your needle up a little ways down inside the loop, but only inside one loop of thread, that is the strand of the colour you want to begin with. To do that, the other loop of the second colour has to be cast aside a bit, so that it remains untouched - more or less like in step 2 of the diagram below.

Before you bring your needle down again in the same hole, you have to pull this second thread through separately, because it is a bit longer now than the first. So as not to leave a loop on the backside.

Next come up inside the loop again, but this time inside the the second colour while casting aside the loop of the first colour. Again, after pulling the threads through the fabric, give this last thread an extra little tug to pull it through completely. 

Thus alternating the colours in every chain link continue working your chain stitch line, until you anchor your threads outside the last link as you would do with normal chain stitch. 

Chequered Chain Stitch

Chequered Chain Stitch

As you can see in the photo above, the colour sequence in the chequered chain stitch isn't limited to one by one only. You can easily alternate them two by two, one by two etc. as well. A more irregular sequence (and even more so more than two threads), though, can be a quite troubling, as I learned in my Colbert Embroidery Practice Piece

Credits for the multi-language stitch names:
agulhas da méri, Illustrated Glossary of Embroidery Stitches - 1

Dictionary of Stitches.docx - source unknown, please give me a hint, if you know something about the authorship (maybe an Italian blog?)

Mary Thomas's Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches


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