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How to Embroider | DIY Embroidery Stitches Guide

Embroidery is a classic hobby for good reason: it’s easy to pick up, but takes some practice to build real skill and technique. Embroidery is great for personalizing gifts, decorating pillows and other linens, creating pieces of fabric art to hang on the wall, and much more. Most importantly, it’s a fun avenue of artistic expression.

how to embroider guide

How to Embroider | DIY Embroidery Stitches Guide


Don’t be intimidated if you’re just getting into embroidery. Start with these seven simple stitches, and you’ll be making beautiful flowers, writing, or anything your imagination can conjure up in no time!


For all of these stitches, you’ll start with:

  • blank piece of fabric (cotton is best)
  • embroidery hoop, if you have one
  • embroidery thread
  • needle
  • scissors


embroidery supplies


To start your needle, thread one end of a length of thread through the needle. Knot the far end and trim any excess. It’s helpful when first beginning to draw on the fabric with a fabric pencil, and then trace those lines or fill in those shapes with your stitches.


threaded needle

Embroidery Stitch Guide:

Running Stitch

embroidery stitch-04


The simplest stitch of them all is the running stitch. Simply poke your thread up through from the bottom of the fabric where you want to start. You can either weave your needle back and forth through the fabric and then pull it through, or you can poke the needle in and out at the desired point and do each stitch individually.


Backstitch (AKA Back Stitch)

embroidery stitch-01

The back stitch is similar to the running stitch, except that it connects the spaces as it goes. It’s great for outlining, and is used frequently in embroidery. Begin by poking your needle up through the fabric at the desired starting place. Thread the needle down through the fabric at the desired distance apart to form a single stitch. Poke the needle back up through the fabric a stitch’s distance away from the end of your previous stitch. Poke through the top of the fabric at the end of your first stitch and pull the thread through. This will create a continuous line. Repeat until the desired length is reached.


Split Stitch

embroidery stitch-07

The split stitch is a lot like the back stitch, but with some added texture. It can be used for outlining and adding textural interest to your design. Begin by making one stitch, just like with a back stitch. Poke your needle up through the back of the fabric and through the middle of your first stitch, threading the needle and thread up and through the stitch. Finish your second stitch at the same length as the first and pull your thread through to the back of the fabric. Continue by beginning the next stitch in the middle of the previous one, and so on and so forth.


Stem Stitch

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The stem stitch earned its name by being a well-suited stitch for embroidering flower stems. It can be an interesting stitch for lettering and outlining, too. It begins with a single stitch, just like the others. When beginning your second stitch, start it halfway right up underneath your first stitch. End your second stitch next to the first, much like you would with any of the previous stitches. Start your third stitch just underneath and in the middle of the second stitch, and so on.


Satin Stitch

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A satin stitch is great for filling in space and adds texture. Start by pulling your thread up through the fabric at the very top, left-hand corner of the area you want to fill (feel free to adjust your starting point based on your dominant hand). Complete your first stitch by running the thread through the bottom-most, left-hand corner of the area. Start your second stitch right next to where you started your first stitch, and finish it right next to where your first stitch ends. There should be no visible gaps between stitches. Continue until the area you want to fill is full.


French Knot

embroidery stitch-03

A french knot is a simple twist knot that is good for making spots, dots, or small eyes. Start by threading your needle up through the fabric where you want the knot to be. Wind the base of the thread around your needle two or three times and start to poke the needle through the fabric right next to where you came up from. Be sure to keep the loops in place. Use your other hand to pull the string next to the loops tight, so that they tighten up and shift down to the base of the needle into what looks like a knot. Poke the needle the rest of the way through the fabric and carefully pull the thread through, all the while keeping the other end of the thread taught to keep the knot in place. When there is not enough thread left to do both, place one finger over the knot and use the other hand to carefully pull the remaining thread through. Don’t pull too hard—you’ll undo the knot.


Cross Stitch

embroidery stitch-02

Cross stitching is a whole genre of hand sewing unto itself, but the basic stitch is useful when doing embroidery. The stitch makes little X’s, and can be a fun, textured way to fill space. Think of each completed cross stitch as a little box. Start by making a diagonal stitch from one corner of your box to the other. Poke the needle and thread through at the opposite corner, and finish the stitch at the final corner, making an X. Repeat as many times as you like, connecting the X’s.


And just like that, you’re embroidering! See how easy that was? Once you are comfortable with the basics, try your hand at pre-made embroidery designs, as well as sketching your own creations. Whatever projects you’re working on, if you practice these easy stitches, you’ll be creating masterpieces in no time.


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