Basic Hand Embroidery Stitches from the Learn with Me Series

About a year ago, I started a “Learn Hand Embroidery with Me” video series on YouTube. I invited anyone that was interested to follow me as I attempted to learn hand embroidery. I am still learning, and still sharing my journey. In this post, I am going to go over the basic hand embroidery stitches that I have shared so far, and explain how they are done, type of stitch, and the best situations for each stitch, along with what I like and dislike about some of the stitches. Some of these embroidery stitches are very similar, and some are also known by other names, so it can get confusing. I will link each stitch to the appropriate YouTube video tutorial for your convenience.

Embroidery Basics: The Stitches to Know

I am also including the Running Stitch at the end of this post. Somehow, as I began my embroidering journey, I missed one of the most basic hand embroidery stitches (if not the most basic), which is the running stitch. So we will take care of that at the end of this post!

One of the most basic hand embroidery stitches, the running stitch - and it's very versatile!

Here are the basic hand embroidery stitches that are covered in my “Learn Hand Embroidery with Me” YouTube video series:

  • Straight Stitch
  • Back Stitch
  • Whipped Back Stitch
  • Stem Stitch
  • Satin Stitch
  • Chain Stitch
  • Fishbone Stitch
  • Fly Stitch
  • Coil Stitch
  • Lazy Daisy Stitch
  • Split Stitch
  • French Knot

Straight Stitch:  The straight stitch is a basic in-and-out-of-fabric stitch. It can be used in many situations, to create lines, textures, and is often used in grass designs, or leaves. The straight stitch is similar to the running stitch, but is often used as an isolated stitch. It can also be used for outlines and quilting.

Back Stitch: The back stitch creates a solid outline for curved and straight designs. Work the back stitch from right to left, coming up through fabric, and back down at stitch length. Back down at stitch length (space) and back up close to last stitch. The back stitch should look as close as possible to a machine stitch. In the referenced video, I made the mistake of leaving gaps in my back stitch, and someone brought it to my attention. There is now a annotation in the video correcting that error. Yep, still learning, but sharing the journey.

Whipped Back Stitch:  Work the whipped back stitch by doing a line of back stitches, then work your way back to the beginning by passing your needle and thread right to left under each stitch to create a spiral wrap around your stitches. You can have fun by using a contrasting thread. This is an easy stitch and great for outlining. Keep stitches small and even.

Stem Stitch:  The stem stitch is one of my favorite basic hand embroidery stitches at this point. It’s easy to work, and follows curves and lines well. But this stitch can confuse you. If you have your working thread on the right, it is the stem stitch, but if you keep your working thread on the left it is considered the outline stitch. To me, it is a stem stitch either way. So take it for what it’s worth. Work the stitch by bringing thread up through fabric, then at stitch length, go back down into fabric with needle. Pull through until you have a loop of working thread at the right, then pull needle and thread back up.

Chain Stitch:  The chain stitch is a fun and versatile basic hand embroidery stitches. It can be worked as a fill stitch in multiple rows or a distinctive outline stitch. It can be found on vintage pieces, and is also used in today’s embroidery designs. Work the stitch by coming up through fabric, then going down beside the point you came up, until you have a small loop. Bring needle and thread back up at stitch length, inside the loop, until the loop secures around working thread. Go back down into fabric beside point you came up, and repeat from beginning until you are done with chain stitches.

View Video for Straight Stitch, Back Stitches, Chain and Stem Stitch here.

Satin Stitch:  The satin stitches are the hardest basic hand embroidery stitches for me. Consistency and even stitches is the key to this stitch. It takes practice to achieve that nice smooth, even look. It’s a beautiful filling stitch, when done well. It’s also a stitch that must be done with your fabric in an embroidery hoop. Some stitches you can work without a hoop, but not this one! Work the satin stitch by bringing your thread across the shape you want filled, and then returning to the starting point under the fabric, and repeat as close to the last stitch as possible to create smoothness. Satin stitches can be short or long, but if they are too long they may become loose and untidy. You can split into shorter, more manageable stitches.

Split Stitch:  Worked by coming up through the thread of the previous straight stitch. Used for outlines or fill. The split stitch creates a unique painted affect, and works best with loosely twisted thread, such as crewel, since you will be using the needle to split your thread.

View Satin Stitch  and Split Stitch video here.

Fishbone Stitch:  A great stitch for filling in leaves. It’s considered a solid filling stitch, and works best when worked close together and using stranded thread. Like the satin stitch, this stitch needs to be hooped to prevent puckering. To work the stitch, use a fine fabric marker, or fine pencil, to draw a dotted line down the middle of your leaf or shape you are going to fill. Take a small straight stitch from the top of your shape on the dotted line (usually point of leaf shape). Fill the shape by working from side to side with a slanted stitch (creating a V-shape). From the bottom of the little top stitch come up through fabric on left side, back down at center line, and up on the right side. Continue until leaf is filled.

French Knot:  This is an isolated stitched used in many ways. Use it in clusters, or in rows to create lines, and texture. To work a french knot, bring needle and thread up through the fabric, hold the thread taunt with left hand, place end of needle under the thread, and begin twisting the needle to wrap the thread around it 2 or 3 times. Keep holding thread taunt, and insert needle into fabric and pull through fabric. You will have a cute little knot!

View Fishbone Stitch and French Knot Stitch video here.

Fly Stitch:  The Fly Stitch is a one of our basic hand embroidery stitches that stands out – it looks like a Y and is used in rows as a border, or as a fill stitch, and may be considered an isolated stitch. It is sort of a fun stitch to work with. Work stitch by coming up on top left of where you want the stitch, go down on right side top of stitch, not pulling thread all the way, leaving a loop. Insert your needle in between these two points, but slightly below them (in the loop). Pull thread through, and you should have a V shape. Now, make a vertical straight stitch that anchors the V, and now forms a Y. You can make your anchor stitch as long or short as you like.

View the Fly Stitch video here.

Lazy Daisy Stitch:  This basic stitch has many names, such as chain, daisy, picot, detached chain, etc. It is most frequently used for leaf and flower shapes. To work a lazy daisy stitch, come up through fabric, and go back down right next to where you came up. Let your thread form a loop, then at stitch length, insert needle and gently pull thread to create a petal shape. Anchor stitch by doing a tiny stitch over the thread to hold the petal (or leaf) shape.

Fern Stitch:  A very pretty, delicate, feathery stitch. It’s an easy stitch to use for branch effects, flower sprays, and other designs. Start the stitch by making a straight stitch, then insert your needle to the left of the straight stitch about half way, and angle \l then go to the right and do the same thing. You can make your angles short of long for different effects.

View the Lazy Daisy Stitch and Fern Stitch video here.

Coil Stitch (Bullion):  Bring your needle through the fabric from the backside, then into your fabric a short distance away, and back up at stitch length, without pulling needle all the way through fabric. Wrap your thread around the needle six or seven times, then pull the needle through fabric and the coil.  Be sure to use a needle with eye small enough to pass through coil.  Hold coil flat on fabric, and pull working thread in opposite direction to make the coil secure.  Insert needle in same spot as beginning.  A very interesting stitch that is fun to play with.  You can make roses and other flowers using this stitch.  It also makes and interesting, highly textured fill stitch.

View the Coil (Bullion) Stitch video here.

One of the Most Basic Hand Embroidery Stitches:
The Running Stitch

The running stitch is simple, but versatile, and used as a component in more intricate stitches such as the whipped running stitch. It can be worked in rows, lines, as outlines in designs or in quilting situations.

Work the Running Stitch along line with an in-and-out motion. Bring needle up through fabric, and back down at stitch length desired. Come back up at stitch length, and repeat. If you want closer stitches, just go shorter distance between stitches, and pick up less fabric with the needle. See the video link at the very end of this post for the running stitch and basic couching stitch tutorial. It’s short and sweet – about two minutes!

Couching Stitch:  Couching is used to lay down a thicker, bulkier thread. To work couching stitches, lay down your thick thread on your line to be couched. Hold in place with left hand, and work your couch stitch from right to left. Use a finer thread and tie down your thicker thread with tiny tie-down straight stitches. Work stitches fairly close together to stitch around curves and corners.

Watch my short Running Stitch and Couching Stitch video tutorial below:

About Bonnie

Bonnie has been sewing since she was a child, and her love of playing with thread has only grown since then. She continues to sew, but has a newfound love for all things embroidery.

2 thoughts on “Basic Hand Embroidery Stitches from the Learn with Me Series

    1. Any woven fabric such as quilters cotton, muslin, or linen are good choices, and should be available at any fabric store. I used a linen for this tutorial. You could also use Aida cross stitch fabric, which is woven fabric with even weave for counting stitches, which is available at most craft stores. The denser your embroidery design, the heavier your fabric should be to support the design.

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