green stem stitch embroidery

Stem Stitch

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.

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 is worked right to left for right-handed people.


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!




As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support.

Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos

designer, teacher, speaker

Elizabeth enjoys doing all types of sewing and needlework and teaching others new techniques. For more information or to have her speak to your group click HERE.

Scroll to Top