STEM STITCH & 3 beautiful variations {Embroidery stitching tutorials}

Stem stitch

stem stitch

Stem stitch is a basic outline stitch which every one who embroiders must have used at least once. I remember learning this as the first stitch in my school embroidery class. It is the easiest of all embroidery stitches

This stitch is also known by names like Crewel stitch, stalk stitch and South Kensington stitch

This is a great outline stitch which can be used to sew outlines of all embroidery designs, for sewing stems in your floral designs and also works in outlining very tight curves easily and prettily.

The main considerations when sewing this stitch are

  • Keep the stitches even and small always.; Tension should also be the same throughout.
  • As you sew keep the thread down ( below the needle) to the left of the needle Always
  • Make sure all of your stitches are the same length
  • Make sure your thread always lays to the same side on all of your stitches
  • Always come up in the same hole as the previous stitch
  • When working on a curve, keep the thread to the outside of the curve
  • When working an area start each row from the same side.

The instruction given here assumes that you are working from left to right.The finished stem stitching line will look like a thin line from the front and on the wrong side of the fabric it will look like back stitches.This stitch is used to embroider borders, delicate fabrics, baby clothes  


stem stitch

Step 1.

Thread your needle with 2 strands of embroidery floss. Knot the thread at the end.

Step 2.

Bring up the needle from the back of the cloth with the knot anchored at the back at the start of the stitching line.stem stitch

Step 3.

Take needle down a stitch ( 1-2). Then bring up the needle almost half way back  (2-3 ) ( with thread kept down on the left side of the needle).

The picture shows the sequence of stitches. Please note that the stitches are all made strictly on the stitching line.

Step 4.

Repeat the stitches, bringing up the needle always on the right side of the previous stitch

stem stitch

Portuguese knotted stem stitch

stem stitch

A beautiful variation of stem stitch.
This looks like a rope when stitched with a thick embroidery thread. It is a very popular choice as an outlining stitch. It thickens the stem stitch with cute little knot like projections. 

When making this remember that if you take smaller stitches you will get a thicker line of stitch. Also if you have thicker thread you will get thicker line. 

How to do Portuguese Knotted stem stitch

stem stitch different types

Step 1.
Start stitching one stem stitch upwards

stem stitch
Step 2.

Make two whipping stitches over this stitch.

stem stitch

These will look like small knots.
Be careful not to pierce fabric when doing the whip stitches
Step 3.
Continue doing the stitches.After the first stitch do the whipping stitches over two stitches.

portuguese knotted stem stitch

Whipped stem stitch

whipped stem stitch

This is a variation of stem stitch which is used when you need a thicker line. This is one of my favourite outline stitches. It is very easy to do and looks beautiful especially when the whip stitches are done in a contrasting coloured thread.

How to do whipped stem stitch

Step 1.
Do a single line of stem stitch

Step 2
Thread a tapestry needle ( or any blunt needle ) With a same colour thread or a different coloured thread

Step 3
Make whip stitches over the stem stitching line.

whipped stem stitch

Ensure that the needle do not pierce the fabric at any time when doing the whip stitches. You have to go over and under the stem stitch.

Cable stitch

This is basically a combination of stem and outline stitches; They are used alternately in working the design.It can also be called double stem stitch.

The sequence of stitching the Cable stitch is as in the diagram. Ensure that all the stitches do not deviate from the stitching line. 

cable stitch

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