Hand Embroidery Stitches and Tips


by Mary G. Holland


“Undersea Fantasy”, contemporary embroidery by Nancy Larsen

Vintage patterns for sewing, crochet, or knitting, that The Pattern Chest offers in digital download PDF format, often include fine embellishment details like hand embroidery.  Here are a few tips for beginners to try as you develop your skills.

SELECTION OF THREAD: Using the desired embroidery yarn, make a few stitches to determine the correct number of strands and to make sure that the selected stitches and thread will cover the transfer line completely.

When you are satisfied with the results, complete the design.  Stitch details are shown below.

 SELECTION OF STITCHES: The shapes of the designs will suggest the type of stitch to choose for large or small areas,.  Study the stitch details given on this page, and try them out on scraps of fabrics to see how well they will work.  Generally, small oval-shaped, pointed leaves and similar areas can be filled best with slanting satin stitch.  Larger, wider leaves will look and work better if you use fishbone stitch, open leaf stitch, or satin stitch leaf.

Satin stitch is particularly useful to cover any small area solidly.  For larger areas, you can use long and short stitch, rows of outline stitch, or chain stitch when a solid effect is desired.  Work the rows of outline or chain stitch close together, and follow the contour of the area being embroidered.  If a more open work seems suitable, open buttonhole stitch, couching, diagonal filling, cretan stitch are good choices.

Flower stems can be done in outline stitch, chain stitch, or split stitch.  Small, individual petals are simply worked in lazy daisy stitch or radiating straight stitches, and centers may be French knots.

Other stitches that can be used for scattered embroidery in an area are fly stitch, seed stitch, and star stitch, or cross-stitch.  Experiment with different stitches and combine them to see how they look before you embroider the actual piece.

To work cross-stitch, all bottom stitches should be in one direction and all top stitches in the opposite direction (see Stitch Details.)  Be sure ends of all cross stitches meet in the same space.

SHADING: Long and short stitch is the stitch used most effectively for shading one color into another, or different tones of one color.  This stitch is started with stitches of long and short lengths in the first row.  Successive rows are done with longer stitches of similar length.  Practice this stitch to learn how best to blend stitches and colors smoothly.

When embroidering flower petals or leaves, start on the outside of curved areas.  Angle the long and short stitches of the first row towards the center and work from top to bottom of stitch.  Work the stitches to fill the petal, also angeld to center; work them between stitches of the preceding row and to fit within the outlined area.  Make stitches in this row and succeeding rows from bottom of stitch up into already made stitches.

To start shading, you may wish to do just a few stitches in the new color or tone first, while still working a little more loosely with the first color.  Gradually, add more of the second color until the first color is eliminated.  The importance of blending will be seen in the smooth and natural flow of one tone to the next, or one color into another.

Basic Hand Embroidery Stitches

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