CHAIN STITCH Guide: 20 Variations and How to Stitch

Step-by-step instructions on how to stitch the Chain stitch - explore its variations like Twisted, Knotted and detached, backstitched, open and chequered chain stitch to create more intricate designs.

Chain stitch, which is one of the most frequently used embroidery stitches, is a loop stitch; It is also known by names like Tambour stitch and Point de chainette.

chain stitch embroidery motif

This simple stitch is used for outlining as well as for filling. You can use this stitch as a base to create other stitch styles in many different ways.

A loop stitch involves pulling the thread tight after taking the thread under the needle. It can be worked in many different beautiful variations.

You can use any type of embroidery thread to work this stitch. The main considerations are the stitch’s size and the fabric’s weight.

One thing you must remember when you sew the chain stitch is to keep the stitches identical in size.

How to stitch a Chain stitch

Step 1.
The stitch is worked from below to upwards. Bring up the needle at the start of the line.

The needle is inserted and it is then brought up a little ahead ; loop thread around the needle

Step 2

Put the needle back in the same hole it just came through; bring it up a small distance above it. Keep the thread under the needle when bringing up so that a loop is formed.
Remember to pull the needle gently.

Step 3

Repeat making these stitches, always ensuring that you are inserting the needle into the same hole from which the needle came up previously.

a line of chainstitching

Chain Stitch- Variations

Chain Stitch (Detached)

This stitch is also known by the names Lazy Daisy stitch or Daisy stitch. This is a standalone chain stitch. You can use this stitch in many ways: leaves, grass, flowers, etc.  

Checkout this post on 8 ways to make flowers with lazy daisy stitch

detached chain stitch
Detached chain-stitch

Chequered Chain stitch

Chequered chain stitch is made by using two threads of different and contrasting colors. 

Chequered Chain stitch












Open Chain Stitch

(Open chain stitch is also known as Ladder Stitch, Roman Chain Stitch, and Square Chain Stitch).

open chain stitch

Check out the tutorial to sew the Ladder stitch here.

Cable chain stitch

cable chain stitch

Cable stitch, as the name suggests, has a small cable connection between the loops formed by twisting of thread in between the chain stitches. When finished, it looks like a replica of a cable chain.

Learn how to do a cable chain stitch here.

chain cable

Barred Chain stitch

Barred Chain stitch

After making a single chain stitch insert the needle for the next one some 3-4 thread away from the tip of the first chain stitch. Come back up on the line of the chain stitch.

Loop the thread as shown in the picture. Now you will have a chain stitch with a projection. Continue making these stitches. 

barred chain stitch

Alternating Barred stitch

Alternating Barred stitch

This is the same way as the previous stitch, just that every alternate stitch will be done to the other side resulting in projections to either side of the stitching line. 

Whipped chain stitch

Whipped stitch is used as an outline stitch where you want a bold and thick line. Whipped stitches are made on the chain-stitched line. The whipped stitches can be done with a thicker thread than used for the chain stitch loop.

You can make different versions of this stitch, like where you make two whipping stitches in the same loop in opposite directions so that the line is thicker.

Whipped chainstitch

Step 1
Make a line of chain stitches
Step 2
Whip over this line with the same color thread or a different color thread with a thicker and blunt needle (do not pierce the fabric when doing the whip stitches, just go under and over the thread). Make sure that the whip stitches are at the junction of each chain stitch.

Chain stitch – Back stitched

Chain stitch - Back stitched

This stitch is used when you need a thick outline. A line of back stitch is done in the middle of the chain stitch with a same colored or contrasting thread.
Step 1.
Make a line of chain stitches.
Step 2.
Make a line of back stitch from right to left along the center of the loops.

back stitched chain stitch

Twisted Chain stitch

Twisted Chain stitch
The chain stitches are done to the left side of the stitching line which gives this line an attractive appearance.The stitches are made consistently small which makes this textured looking.
This stitch is always worked downwards.

Step 1.

Insert the needle in the stitching line and bring out the needle slightly to the right in front ( not on the stitching line).

Keep the thread on the left side of the needle.

make the twisted chain stitch

Step 2.

Wrap the thread on needle from left to right, from under the needle.

Continue making chain stitch downwards, left side to the stitching line as in the picture. 

When you continue doing this, a twist is formed on the stitching line, which looks very attractive.

twisted chainstitch looks like this

Heavy Braid chain stitch

Heavy Braid chain stitch

This gives you a very thick outline stitch

Step 1
Make a small straight stitch

chain stitch

Step 2.
Bring the needle back through the fabric a little further down the line.

Step 3.
Now make a chain stitch loop by taking the needle under the straight stitch and bring the needle down at the starting hole.

Make similar stitches downwards, the needle going under the previous stitch subsequently, till you get a long line of thick stitching line.

Continue doing this and you get a thick line of chain stitches.

Chain Stitch ( Zig Zag)

Chain Stitch ( Zig Zag)

In this stitch, chain stitches are made up and down alternatively. When you finish the line, you will get a nice zig-zag line. Chain stitches are made up and down alternatively.

zig zag chain stitch
zig zag chain stitch

Chained Feather Stitch

Chained Feather Stitch

This stitch consists of detached chain stitches made with straight stitches like a feather stitch in a zig-zag manner.

Mark 4 parallel equidistant vertical lines to make the detached chain stitches

One way to do this chain stitch variation is to start by making the detached chain stitches and connecting them with straight stitches. This way, you can make stitches in two different colors.

The other way is this – follow the pictures to know the sequence to make this easy to stitch but complicated-looking stitch.

Make a slanted detached stitch along A-B.

Mark parallel lines

Make a Straight stitch along C-D slanted.

Connect c to d

Come back along E-F and make another slanted detached chain stitch.

come down from E to F

Make another slanted straight stitch along G-H.

Make loop stitches

Come back for a slanted detached chain stitch along I-J which is parallel to the first chain stitch.

It will look like this.

Continue in this way till you have a connected chain.

Chain stitch ( Double)

This is a beautiful border design stitch. Two triangles are made adjacent to each other within two parallel lines to work this stitch.

double chain stitch

Chain Stitch ( Filling )

Chain stitch can be used to fill a design beautifully. Start stitching the outline of the design. Make a very neat outline and you are almost set for a beautiful work. Then fill in chain stitches following the outline.

 A beautiful effect can be achieved by using variegated embroidery floss

Chainstitching used as a filling stitch

Related post : Chain stitch embroidery uses chain stitch as an outline as well as a filling stitch.Checkout the post for 5 commonly used motifs in this work

chain stitch embroidery

Chain Stitch overlapping 

overlapping stitches

This is a stitch in which two chain stitches are made one over the other. The second one is a little bigger.  

Make double chain stitches one over the other

Chain stitch Double variation

Double chain stitch

Chain stitch Double alternating 

Double alternating

Butterfly chain stitch

Butterfly chainstitch

This stitch is made by making straight stitches like in the picture below and tying them together with single chain stitches.

Make bunch of straight stitches

Rosette chain stitch

rosette chain stitch

Check out post on rosette chain stitch for more details on this beautiful stitch.

Wheat ear chain stitch

Wheat ear stitch

Alternating chain stitch

Alternating stitch

This stitch uses two different colors of thread for every alternate chain stitch. You will be using two needles threaded with different threads at the same time.

Related Posts: 

beginners embroidery

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

5 thoughts on “CHAIN STITCH Guide: 20 Variations and How to Stitch”

  1. Ooh wow … finally found a website with all embroidery details all at once
    But question do it also have an option for *crochet* also
    With all basics to variation and pro level stich of crochet.. need
    help. In finding out

    • Hi Ken
      Can you check out this post on background stitches – best stitches to cover large areas; if you are asking about chain stitch, open chain stitch can be used -otherwise chain stitch is a thin line of a stitch to cover large areas.

  2. May I have your email? I have a fascinating chain stitch variation on a dress and would love to know how to replicate it. I would send you a photo. Thanks!

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