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

Running Stitch

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

Pусский

шов вперёд иголку

Deutsch

Vorstich

English

running stitch

Español

punto (de) bastilla

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

Whipped Running Stitch

Deutsch

umwickelter Vorstich

English

whipped running stitch, cordonnet stitch

Français

point avant surjeté

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

Pусский

шов роспись

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

Pусский

шов назад иголку

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

Whipped Backstitch

Deutsch

umwickelter Rückstich

English

whipped backstitch

Français

point arrière surjeté

Português

ponto atrás apanhado

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

Laced Backstitch

Deutsch

umschlungener Rückstich

English

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

Pусский

стебельчатый шов

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

Pусский

шов цепочка, тамбурный шов

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, magischer 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

Detached Chain Stitch

Deutsch

Margeritenstich

English

detached chain stitch, tail chain stitch, (tied) loop stitch, knotted knot stitch, picot stitch

Español

punto de margarita

Français

point de chaînette isolé, point de bouclette, point de vierge, point marguerite

Italiano

punto margherita

Nederlands

losse kettingsteek

Polski

ścieg stokrotkowy

Português

ponto margarida, ponto malmequer

Russian

цепочка в прикреп

Svenska

öglestygn, mille fleurs

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

The detached chain stitch, also answering to the pretty name "laizy daisy", isn't actually a line stitch, but an isolated stitch. I put it in the line stitches anyhow, because it is a definite chain stitch, and I thought it proper to keep all chain stitches together, isolated or not. Besides, there is no reason not to line up a couple of lazy daisies.

As a basic, though isolated chain stitch, it works exactly the same way as the chain stitch itself, save that the beginning and the end of the line coincide in one single stitch, that is the first (stitch) shall be (the) last (stitch). 

As the name of this stitch implies in almost all languages - and as you can see at first glance - this stitch is perfect for working all kinds of flowers, leaves and floral motifs. And it is easy to modify: if you wish to change its shape a bit (say, to widen it), just work a couple of anchoring stitches more around the loop. I did this in my very first sampler, where I dubbed it the "not so lazy daisy stitch". 

Detached Chain Stitch

Detached Chain Stitch

Petal Stitch

Deutsch

Girlandenstich

English

petal stitch, pendant chain stitch

The petal stitch is a combination of a kind of Stem Stitch and the Detached Chain Stitch (Lazy Daisy). With the stem stitch as a base, it takes curves very well. You just have to take care to adjust the angles of the pendant chain links so that they would not get messed up too much.

Begin with a straight stitch and bring the needle up a certain way back as you would in stem stitch. It should come up on the side of the thread, where you want your petals pending, about two thirds of the stitch length back. At this point work a regular lazy daisy at a sharp angle to the base line, as shown in the diagram below.  

After bringing the needle down at the end of the tiny fixing stitch at the rounded end of the petal, bring it up about half of a stitch length farther in the line and down midways of of the previous straight stitch, on the same side of the thread as you came up for the petal. This results basically in a stem stitch, save that the workflow goes the other way around: in a regular stem stitch, you would bring the needle down outside of the previous stitch and up inside it, but the result is just the same. (Strictly speaking, as the stitch is worked in the diagrams above, it would be rather an Outline Stitch instead of a Stem Stitch.)

Finally, come up a little ways farther again, more or less at the end of the previous stitch, and continue working a Lazy Daisy, then an outline stitch again and so on. You end the line as you would a stem stitch / outline stitch line. 

Petal Stitch

Petal Stitch

I used this stitch as an ornamental seam on a pocket of my needlecase

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Deutsch

ungarischer Kettenstich

English

Hungarian braided chain stitch; Hungarian braid stitch, Hungarian chain stitch, braided chain stitch

The base of the Hungarian braided chain stitch is a reversed chain stitch the links of which get intertwined. This might sound complicated, and it might even look complicated at first glance, but in practice, if you follow the steps one by one, it isn't complicated at all. Just make sure to pass your needle below the correct chain link. This stitch results in a heavy decorative interwoven line. 

Step 1

Work a short straight stitch. 

Step 2

Come up with your needle a little ways farther.

Step 3

Pass your needle below the first stitch.

Step 4

Go down with your needle in the same spot where you last came up to work a (reversed) chain stitch.

Step 5

Come up a stitch length farther, as in step 2.

Step 6

Pass your needle again below the first stitch, as in step 3.

Step 7

Go down with your needle in the same spot as you last came up. 

By now, you've got two loops fastened by the same anchoring stitch (the first straight stitch), the larger one embracing the smaller.

Step 8

Again, come up a little ways farther, but don't pull your last stitch tight for the moment. Just leave a wide loop on the surface as is shown in the diagram below. This little "trick", though not imperative, will make the next step easier.

Step 9

Now comes the important part: you pass your needle below a loop again, but - and this is essential! - not the last one but the second last one! That is why we left the last loop sitting loosely, you see? This way it is much easier to spot and take up the second last loop to pass the needle below it. 

Step 10

Only now, while your needle is still stuck below the second last loop, pull the last loop tight. 

Step 11

Now pull the needle through the loop and go down in the same spot as you last came up, leaving a bigger loop on the surface.

Step 12

Come up a little ways farther.

Step 13

Again pass your needle through the second last loop, which is now the next loop to the previous you've passed through. This is to say that it is solely the anchor stitch through which your needle passes twice. From that point on it passes through every loop only once. When you click on the third diagram below (the one in the middle of the line) to enlarge it, you can see very clearly which loop you have to scoop up this time.

Step 14

While leaving the needle stuck below the loop for a moment, pull the last loop tight with your fingers. 

Step 15

Finally, pull your needle through and go down working the next chain stitch.

... and so forth ... 

Later on, step #15 is the one you end your chain with after having worked as many links as you wished.

You see, though the Hungarian braided chain stitch is a far more complex stitch than those described before, if you are following it step by step, it isn't complicated to work at all. As with everything: if you've done it once you will quickly get the hang of it.

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch

Feather Stitch

Deutsch

Federstich, Bäumchenstich

English

feather stitch, single coral stitch, briar stitch

Español

punto de coral

Français

point d'épine

Italiano

punto corallo

Nederlands

taksteek

Polski

ścieg gałązkowy

Português

ponto pena

The feather stitch is a kind of open chain stitch. Once you have got the principle, it can be worked in any imaginable way: alternating one-left-one-right, as shown in the diagrams below, or else with a varying number of barbs on every side. You can vary the size of the loops, which will automatically change the spacing, as you can see in the photo below. Just get creative!

Because of its versatility and its ability to take curves well, this stitch lends itself to creating manyfold ornamental or botanical motifs. It is especially suited for aquatic scenes - think water plants or seaweed! 

For a better understanding, I have drawn in three parallel aid lines in the diagram. These lines won't be stitched over, they are supposed to facilitate practicing only. If you have to use aid lines in a regular work, take care to mark them with a water soluble or self-extinguishing pen. Of course, the two ends of a loop don't have to sit at the same height; one side can be shorter or longer than the other, just as you wish. 

To end a row, anchor your thread right below the last loop, as you would in chain stitch. You can also end it by a longer stitch, e.g. to obtain a grass or a seaweed on a stalk. 

Feather Stitch

Feather Stitch

Closed Feather Stitch

Deutsch

geschlossener Federstich

English

closed feather stitch

The closed feather stitch is a simple variation of the Feather Stitch. While the feather stitch is actually a row of Fly Stitches strung together in an open line, in the closed feather stitch, these fly stitches become locked in one another, so that some kind of a decorative border is produced, with a zigzag line within. Or else a line of slotted together triangles. Whatever pattern you choose to read out of it - this stitch is really as simple to execute as the feather stitch itself. 

Unlike with the simple Feather Stitch, you don't need three, but two aid lines to accomplish an even width. If you draw them exactly the length of the planned stitch line, the will be stitched over completely. Just make sure the thread is thicker than the drawing.

Closed Feather Stitch

Double-click here to add your own text.

Closed Feather Stitch

Fern Stitch

Deutsch

Farnstich, Bäumchenstich

English

fern stitch

Español

punto helecho

Français

point de fougère

Italiano

punto felce

Nederlands

varensteek

Polski

ścieg paprotkowy

Português

ponto pé de galinha

When I first saw a fern stitch instruction, my first thought was: "You call that a stitch?" It didn't seem to be a proper stitch to me, because it consists of nothing but straight stitches. You can stitch everything stringing together nothing but straight stitches, after all. Anyway - ok, ok! - I had to buy it being a stitch on its own at the end of the day. It is fern stitch, face it. Nothing but straight stitches in three directions. Looks like a fern? Rather like a horsetail. Or an emaciated tree, as the case may be. 🙄

But look for yourself - it's that simple! Despite - or perhaps because of - as much as twelve graphics necessary to describe all those straight stitches. 😆

There is no reason why you shouldn't play with this stitch at your pleasure: longer and shorter stalks, longer and shorter branches, different angles ... Again, the aid lines are merely supposed to aid in obtaining perfection, if need be. 

Fern Stitch

Fern Stitch

Wheatear Stitch

Deutsch

Ährenstich

English

wheatear stitch, wheat stitch

Français

point d'épi

Português

ponto espiga

Seems that this stitch causes in various languages quite a lot of confusion. In my sources, it is called point épi in French, punto spiga in Italian, punto de espina in Spanish, but a search in Google shows in all these cases either a Fishbone Stitch or a Feather Stitch. One source even calls it raised fishbone stitch (Nederlands dubbele visgraatsteek), although the illustration shows clearly a wheatear stitch. I found it on a Polish embroidery site under the name ścieg piórkowy (whereas piórko means feather!), but it is worked a little differently than the well known wheatear stitch, obviously. That is why I refrained from indicating all of the dubious names, limiting the dictionary to the unquestionable ones only. Though unquestionable might be questionable as well ... I hope the Portuguese name is correct, since it comes from a Portuguese lady?

Obviously, the wheatear stitch required even more graphics than the Fern Stitch, but it does so for good reason, because it is a far more complex stitch than the latter. Complex, however, isn't the same as complicated. The wheatear stitch is as easy to work as most of the stitches before, it just requires some more (simple) steps. Plus I wanted to show you how to add a stalk to the ear if you wish so. 

As with all the stitches, feel free to experiment with this stitch, e.g. working it in various lengths, widths, angles etc. You can see some of my own experiments in the photo below.

Wheatear Stitch

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

Pumora Embroidery, Lexikon der Stickstiche

KUFER z artystycznym rękodziełem

Ateljé Margaretha, Sömsätt

Marina Pastushenko

Mary Corbet, Needle'n Thread

© Design & Content: Angela Nowicki