Top 10 Must-Know Hand Embroidery Stitches

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If you have ever browsed through an embroidery book, especially the vintage variety, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to make sense of the different types of stitches the patterns might require. Some of the stitches may seem too challenging or perhaps laborious, but fear not, hand embroidery stitches are fun, and with practice, can become quite easy.

ten embroidery stitches

Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Hand Embroidery

Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Hand Embroidery

From supplies to popular stitches, get the essentials you need to know for beautiful hand embroidery!Get My FREE Guide »

Let's discover the 10 best hand embroidery stitches

Once you familiarize yourself with basic stitches, you will find that they are the foundation to those more elaborate stitches that once seemed too difficult to tackle. Here are ten embroidery stitches to know as you move forward with hand embroidery.

(Want to save this post? Click here to download the PDF version of this embroidery stitches guide, PLUS get bonus tips for choosing the right supplies and finding inspiration for your projects.)

1. Running stitch

Running stitch

Complete running stitch

The running stitch is good for outlining an embroidery design and is a very quick stitch to do. There are two ways to do the running stitch: the first method is similar to hand sewing and can be completed by pushing the needle and floss in and over the fabric in one continuous motion; the second method can be literally pushing the needle through the fabric and pulling it back up. I have heard this called the “punch and poke” or “stabbing” method.

2. Backstitch

Backstitch

Completed backstitch

Unlike the running stitch, the backstitch creates a solid line and is good for hand embroidering text or outlining a design. Begin by pulling the needle and floss up through the fabric and do one stitch forward. From underneath, space the needle out the length of your desired stitch, pull up through the fabric, and bring the needle and floss back down through the end of the previous stitch.

3. Split stitch

Beginning a split stitch

Split stitch

Completed split stitch

Similar to the backstitch, the split stitch creates a solid line with an added texture to it. This stitch is appropriate for text and outline as well, but it also works to fill designs and create variation from the running or backstitch. To begin, pull your needle and floss up through the fabric and create one straight stitch. Your needle and floss should be on the underside of your hoop. Bring the needle up through the center of the stitch you just created and stitch forward the same length as your initial stitch. Repeat by bringing the needle up through the center of each stitch.

4. Stem stitch

Beginning a stem stitch Stem stitch Completed stem stitch

The stem stitch got its name from being the common stitch used for the stems of flowers or vines. I like to use this stitch for text because it can curve nicely with letters. Similar to the split stitch, you create one straight stitch forward and bring the needle and floss up underneath the fabric, but instead of going through the center of this initial stitch, you will bring the needle up just to the side of the stitch.

5. Satin stitch

Starting a satin stitch

Stitching a satin stitch

The satin stitch

Completed satin stitch

A good filler stitch, the satin stitch creates a smooth appearance. I like to use this stitch to fill in hearts or the leaves of flowers. Take your needle and floss and create one stitch. Bring the needle up again just next to the opposite side of the initial stitch. Keep the stitches close to one another, as required to fill the pattern or design you are working with.  

6. French knots

Starting french knot stitches Working to stitch french knot The french knot hand embroidery stitch

Stitching a french knot

Single french knot

Multiple completed french knots

This is a favorite decorative stitch for almost everyone that I know. French Knots can be used to accent designs or create fun fillers for most designs. You’ll have to use two hands to create the French Knot by bringing the needle and floss up through the fabric and wrapping the floss around the needle twice. Hold the end of the floss taut and bring the needle down just next to the space where it came out through. Keep holding the floss taut as you pull the needle through. You can vary the size of your French knots by wrapping the floss around the needle anywhere between one and three times.

You might also enjoy our post 5 Foolproof Tips for French Knots.

7. Chain stitch

Starting a chain stitch

Beginning a chain stitch

Loop for a chain stitch

Second "link" in a hand embroidered chain stitch

Stitching a hand embroidered chain stitch

Multiple links in a hand embroidered chain stitch

Completed series of chain stitches

I used to think I would never learn to do this stitch, then I tried it, and now I love using the chain stitch. It makes for a great outline stitch as well as a frame for a pattern or design. Take your needle and floss and create a stitch, but before you pull the floss all the way through the fabric, allow it to form a loop. Bring the needle up through that loop in order to tether it from being pulled all the way through the fabric and pull. Place the needle either directly in the hole you just stitched, or close to it, and pull through creating another loop by not pulling the floss completely through the fabric. Pull the needle up through the loop to tether it and pull. Repeat the steps to continue the chain. When you reach the end of the chain, simply create a small stitch over the loop.

8. Lazy daisy

Starting the lazy daisy stitch

The lazy daisy hand embroidery stitch

Completed lazy daisy stitch

This is a version of the chain stitch often referred to as the "detached chain stitch" or "lazy daisy." Instead of continuing the chain, there is a small stitch made just over the end of the loop to create what looks like a daisy petal. Just like the chain stitch, take your needle and floss and create a stitch, but before you pull the floss all the way through the fabric, allow it to form a loop. Bring the needle up through that loop in order to tether it from being pulled all the way through the fabric and create a small stitch over the top of the loop. Space out the next loop or use the stitch to create a daisy.  

9. Feather stitch

Starting feather stitch Working on a feather stitch

Completed feather stitch

Another variation of a chain stitch is the feather stitch. This stitch looks great as a frame or border to an embroidered piece. Similar to the chain stitch, you will use the second stitch to anchor the loop of the previous stitch, but this stitch covers more space. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric and create a straight stitch, but don’t pull the floss all the way through. Allow a loop to form and bring the needle up through that loop. Space the next stitch over in the opposite direction from the previous stitch. Create another loop by not allowing the floss to go completely through the fabric. Pull the needle up through the loop and repeat on the opposite side.

10. Seed stitch

Starting a seed stitch

Working on a hand embroidery seed stitch Completed hand embroidery seed stitches

This is a good filler stitch. Depending how close or far you space out your seed stitch, you can create a wide fill or layers of floss that appear to have dimension. Imagine tossing the contents of a seed packet into the air and watching the seeds fall randomly on the ground. That same concept applies here. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric and create a straight stitch. Bring the needle and floss up through the fabric again in a different angle. Continue until you have a filled area.

ten hand embroidery stitches

These stitches in no way comprise the totality of gorgeous hand embroidery stitches that exist, but they are exactly what you need to get you started. If you are already a seasoned embroiderer, maybe these will remind you to revisit those old tried and true stitches you may not have used in a while. I had forgotten how much the chain stitch used to intimidate me, but now, I'm so glad I tried it because it really is a fun stitch.

Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Hand Embroidery

Beginner’s Guide to Beautiful Hand Embroidery

From supplies to popular stitches, get the essentials you need to know for beautiful hand embroidery!Get My FREE Guide »

62 Comments

mark

I am a old guy I am thinking of doing this so I will have something to do. I have never done anything like this before. can I do this.

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Leda Dodds

That is such a good idea! In the 80’s i got a book and taught myself. I also learned macrame and made large hanging basket holders and a lot of other things that i gave as gifts..an embroidered pillow by a man would be extra special gift. Great idea. And now we have the internet to help you out!!

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margaret kinsella

can you remember the name of the book as i went looking for one in my local book shop , they had not got any. Thank you Margaret

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Gaye Hemingway

Of course, why not? I’m all thumbs and if I pay attention to what I’m doing and be mindful, if I don”t rush, and believe I can do it, amazing things happen. That goes for almost everything in life. Enjoy it.

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Samantha

hey mark, it’s been awhile since you posted on here – but i wanted to say, i recently started working in a nursing home and one of the residents has BEAUTIFUL framed landscaped embroideries all over her walls and when i told her i was very impressed, she said her husband had done them all! he got into it after he retired and she said he couldn’t stop! so i hope you have started and found a nice new hobby 🙂

– samantha

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susmitha

its really so beautiful, like to learn more french knot rose

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Judy

I came across an alternative to the French knot, which is the colonial knot. Being fairly new to embroidery myself I find this one more consistently perfect.

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Adrienne

So, I have been practicing my stitches and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the basics. My question to you is, once I find a design I like, how do I know which stitches to use? Is this something I just need to figure out on my own or is there a certain protocol for determining this? I’d like to use my own drawings. Thank you!

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Anjana Jude Kocherry

There’s no such protocol for it. You can do it as you wish. The only thing you’ll have to make sure is to do”satin stitch” to fill in flowers or objects.Enjoy your stitching time !

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Melissa Bird

if you’re not comfortable with the satin stitch check Jacabean embroidery. It uses other stitches for filling in objects, like the long and short stitch or the lattice stitch. All are very easy to master.

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matt

it made me mix up all the names u shuld have put the name at the top of each instead of botom 😛

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pnk

These are good guides, but I agree with Matt, having the titles (names) at the TOP would work better.

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Faith

Thanks for the insight. I’m gonna try my hands on this stitches:)

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shian

I enjoyed reading this n I think I learned some new stitches thank you. You are and interesting writter I think ill get better as I go along, I have me fabric right infringe of me so I am going to make a try right sway!! .

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Kamali

I already lean this all in my embroidery class it too fun and intresting

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Rani

I didnt understand all the pictures except running stitch,satin stitch french knots and seed stitch because im a kid >.>

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diana

Looking at the stitches I really thankful that I came aross this on the internet.

I am very interested in learning more of diffrent fancy stitches as I am keen in embroidery works

loking forward

di

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Aderonke

Nice and good but what’s the name of that tiny little wood that you used in holding the fabric

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Safire Volkova

Im not good at sewing stitches its very difficult for me.How can I learn sewing if it is very difficult for a first timer like me?

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Kristen Valencia

The best thing to do is just practice. Try it, don’t be afraid of the stitching. The more you stitch, the better your technique will become.

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Stavroula (Stavy ) ♥

Practice and browse the web on how to do embroidery. Study the pictures or read the instructions carefully and try to how to do embroidery and just practice and practice until you got it. Nothing makes something perfect without practice ♥

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Stavroula (Stavy ) ♥

Well this site is so awesome. It makes me interested in doing embroidery! French knots though… but who cares? I’m going to practice it anyway. Now I want to do stuff with embroidered pictures. This site is amazing. 🙂

Stavroula. ♥.♥ ~~♪

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Jhaye

Thanks for making this.. I need it for my review in my exams.. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Jhaye

Hey, about that, what do you call the little wood tied around the cloth?? Just asking… Anyway, even if Im a 13 year old guy, I like making this.. Thanks…

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Marsha D.Gainer

Thanks for your sharing! ^^. I’m a beginner and i’ll visit your website usually.

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Linda

Do you know where I can purchase high quality flour sack dish towels for embroidering? Those at several local craft stores are not very good quality, not hemmed and not perfectly square!

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TimFea

I am stitching white on white on 200 hankies. Does anyone have ideas for quickly transferring the design to each hankie? Also, I need the finished product to look completely white, so the transfer will need to be able to be washed/ironed/etc. out. or maybe a pale gray transfer would be light enough to be covered by the white thread? Thank you!

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regina drumond

Thank you for your clear instructions…I will try them soonly
hugs
regina

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Mariya

Hey, its amazing… Viewing diz site itself encouraged me to learn tha stitches…. And every day i try 1 stitch… And till now successfully i have learned 6 stitches… I m just a college gng who is very enthusiast tp learn frm ur site.
Thank you
Thank you

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Fhizzy Adeniy Olufisayo

All this stitches re really improtance for me to knw Wow I Love It All

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Donna

Thank you!!!
Just wondering….Are you left handed? This is a wonderful post, but the photos seems like they’re for a left handed person…

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Eniola adegbuyi

Hv actually learn more on embroidery but still wish to hv more knowledge of it

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alesia mangal

I like the satin stitch because i did it already in school and it was nice but it takes time to do.

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bob

I thought the simple ones were going to be on the website aswell?

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Louise

Hello, i believe that i saw you visited my web site so i got here to return the
want?.I’m attempting to in finding issues to enhance myy web
site!I assume its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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Ally

Nice tutorial, pretty informative. The only problem i saw was that you technically did whats called the outline stitch instead of a stem stitch, but the only real difference between the two is whether you come out above or below the working thread, so its a pretty common mistake, but other than that you did a beautiful job.

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Ramji

Thanks for the nice tutorial.it is very useful for the beginners.

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eula gibbs

I am trying embroidery for the first time and found the instructions for the basic stitches easy try follow. Thank you.

Reply

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