Stem Stitch

green stem stitch embroidery

Stem stitch is the little black dress of embroidery stitches.  It is a bit more formal and refined.  Certainly more dressy and impressive than back stitch, it is still a basic stitch that should be in every embroidery skill set.  It is especially good for lines with gentle curves, as it handles the curves better than backstitch, but it is more difficult for sharp corners.  It takes a bit of practice to get a smooth clean line, but it is worth the investment.

It is actually a variation of back stitch. Check out basic back stitch and lots of other variations HERE.

When to use it

  • stems (obviously)
  • outlines
  • lettering
  • stripes
  • anywhere you want a smooth line

How to do it

Bring the thread to the front of the fabric.  Similar to back stitch, the line can be worked from right to left or left to right.


Again, similar to backstitch, put the needle in behind the starting point, and bring it up in front (the direction you are moving).  The difference between stem stitch and back stitch is that the needle is at a slight angle to the line you are making.  It goes in at the bottom of the line and comes up at the top.


For the next stitch, the needle goes in BESIDE the stitch that was just made, just underneath it in the middle of the stitch.  The needle comes up again just ahead of the stitch.  These stitches are usually longer than back stitches.  Notice that the stitches overlap quite a bit.


Continue in this way, taking the stitch back beside the line, and out a bit at the front.  This line will be wider than backstitch with the same strands of thread, because there are two stitches beside each other.


When you’re done, you have a nice smooth line!




Elizabeth DeCroos - Epida Studio.

Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos is the designer and teacher at Epida Studio. She loves to work in quilting, pojagi and embroidery and teach these techniques to others.
Learn more and get her to speak to your group.

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