Basic Embroidery Stitches – Stem Stitch

Peasant Girl Stem Stitch
Pastoral Peasant Girl Stitched in 2011 from a vintage transfer pattern. Stem stitch is fantastic for outlining designs

Stem stitch (or outline stitch) is an amazingly versatile stitch. You can use it to outline designs as in the peasant girl stitchery picture. In multiple colors like this one, a design will pop.This stitch is also the basis for traditional “red work” embroidery, where an entire picture is stitched in red (or blue) thread.

Or you can stitch lines of it side by side to fill an area. (Try stitching spirals of stem stitch starting in the middle to make a circle or oval.

The trick for mastery of this stitch is two-fold.

  1. Smaller stitches for tighter curves.
  2. Always keep your needle coming up on the same side of the last stitch. It doesn’t matter which side, just be consistent!

And remember – have fun! If practicing a stitch is stressing you out, take a break, have a cup of tea and come back to it later. Perfection is overrated!

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