Master 12 classic embroidery stitches and you are on your way to hours of getting creative with thread and needle. Below are embroidery stitch how-tos with illustrations and examples.

If you’d like a printable guide to the stitches described below, click here to request the booklet printable: Hand Embroidery Stitching Guide.


Straight Stitch.

Bring needle and thread up through fabric at 1. Insert the needle back in at 2, and make a straight line.

Straight Stitch is used here on Bessie’s Blossoms in a variety of combinations: for the orange and blue flowers, for the bit of green grass, for the leaves on the light green branch, and for the short shading stitches on the cow’s ear.

Satin Stitch

Bring needle and thread up at edge of shape you’re filling (1). Insert at the other side of shape (2). Come back up a little below 1 (3).

Satin stitch is used here for the shadowing curve around the top of the tire in Vintage Truck.

Outline Stitch

Bring needle and thread up through fabric at 1. Insert needle back into fabric a stitch-width to the right (2) and then come back up just before the previous stitch (3). The result is overlapping stitches. (NOTE: you’ll start at the LEFT end of line to be stitched.)

Outline stitch is used to outline the cat, the headboard and the cluster of pillows in Catnap.


Back Stitch

Bring needle and thread up through fabric at 1. Insert needle back into fabric a stitch-width to the right (2) and then come back up a stitch-width to the left (3) of the thread. (NOTE: You’ll start at the RIGHT end of line to be stitched.)

The windows on this building in On The Canal are outlined in Back stitch in blue and plum.


Whipped Back Stitch

Stitch the design completely with Back Stitch. Then pass needle under 1st stitch (1). Come back over that stitch (2), and then go under the next stitch (3). Do this again and again so that all of stitches are wrapped.

Take a look at these double doors in On the Canal. The outermost brown border is done in Whipped Back stitch.

Split Stitch

Do this like the Back Stitch EXCEPT, enter right through the middle of the previous stitch rather than to the left of it. This is great for tight detailed curvy lines.

The detailed curves of the dog in Vintage Truck called for a Split Stitch. It gives a thick rich line but enables great control over the curves.

Lazy Daisy

Bring needle and thread up at 1. Insert back at same spot and up at 2. As you do this, loop working thread under needle at 2. Pull the thread all the way through and create a snug loop under the working thread. Insert needle back down very near 2 to secure. Loops can be combined to created a full flower.

In Formal Garden the Lazy Daisy stitch is used in a variety of sizes and combinations to render flowers and greenery.

Chain Stitch

Bring needle and thread up at 1. Insert at the same spot and up at 2. As you do this, loop working thread under the needle at 2. Pull thread all the way through to create a snug loop under the thread. Repeat by inserting needle at 2 and coming up a stitch ahead–again with the working thread looping under the needle.

The wing of this bird in Holiday Folk is partially filled with several rows of chain stitch. Look, also at the red lines int he tailfeathers for more chain stitching.

French Knot

Bring needle and thread up through fabric at 1. Wrap thread twice around needle (front to back). Hold thread taut and insert needle back very very close to 1. Continue keeping thread taut. Slide wrapped thread down to fabric and pull needle all the way through to the back–which creates the French Knot on top of the fabric.

See French Knots on To The Woods surrounding the sun and topping the little flower stems below the camper van.


Fly Stitch

Fly Stitch. Bring needle and thread up at 1. Insert to the side at 2 and back up at 3. As you do this, loop working thread under needle at 3. Pull the thread all the way through and pull snugly to create a “V”. Insert needle back down very close to 3 to secure. Taut, deep stitches will look like a “V” and looser, shorter stitches like scallops.

The Fly Stitch is used in a number of ways on To The Woods. It’s used for the water waves, for the back fin on the fish and for teh toes on the bear.

Leaf Stitch

Leaf Stitch. Bring thread up at top center of leaf (1) and insert about halfway down the leaf (2). Come up a bit to the left of top center (3) and insert below bottom of last stitch (4). Come up a bit to the right of top center (5) and insert again at 4. Continue working side to side along top and filling to bottom of leaf.

The cluster of leaves on the quilt in Catnap is rendered with the Leaf stitch.

Wagon Wheel Stitch (aka Rosette Stitch)

Wagon Wheel. Add 5 straight stitches that go from outer edge of circle into center. Come up next to center. Weave needle and thread over and under the “spokes” of wheel, going around until wheel is full. At end insert needle at wheel edge, hidden just under the last round. Don’t pull too tightly as you weave. Let the thread layer up to create a rosette.

The tree on No Place Like Home is filled with both leaves and Wagon-Wheel Stitched apples in the tree.