Basic embroidery stitches are like building blocks for your project

Basic embroidery stitches for surface work

Basic embroidery stitches are simple to work, but we all need some guidance when we first start. The links below will take you to a page about each one, that shows how they are worked and variations in the way you can use them. 

There are other pages on this site which give ideas for stitches that you can use for lines, flowers, leaves and lettering.

They can also be grouped into categories according to the way they are worked. These different types are explained on this page. 

Quick Links to other stitches

Hardanger embroidery

Pulled thread


For me, the joy of needlework for me starts with choosing the basic embroidery stitches I want to use in a project.  I have been stitching since childhood and over the (many) years since then I have built up a long list of favourites.

When I embroider, I get a thrill from watching my own hands create something new and beautiful. But what if you are new to the hobby and don't yet have the skills? 

The definition of simple basic stitches can vary but all involve pushing the needle down through the fabric and back up again. Taking things a little further can involve wrapping the thread around the needle in between the two steps above to create knotted or looped stitches.

Learning new embroidery stitches isn't difficult, but it does take practice and patience. First, it's important to read any instructions carefully. The instructions should tell which type of needle to use and which threads will work best. 

Finally, practice makes perfect Be patient and don't get discouraged. The more you practice, the easier it will become to master the techniques.

When many people think of embroidery, they think of beautiful samplers and heirlooms passed down through the generations. But embroidery can also be used for practical purposes. It's commonly used on clothing, bags, and hats. But it can also be done on home decor and fabrics like quilts and curtains.

One option is to begin with a ready made kit. However, these may not necessarily be designed with beginners in mind, and therefore only provide a quick diagram and no detailed instructions for how to tackle the stitches. This means you have to look elsewhere for more information. If the diagram is labelled with the stitch name you at least have somewhere to start, but often that vital detail is missing meaning you can't easily look them up on the internet or in a book.  

Taking the time to learn the embroidery techniques will pay off, as you will soon come to recognise the diagrams provided in commercial kits. 

Choosing your stitches

Have you considered how you are going to use your embroidered item when it is finished? Will it be on clothing that you will wear frequently? Perhaps it will be a cushion or a wall hanging?

Once you have figured that out, you will need to think about whether your stitch choice is practical. If an item will end up being washed weekly with the stitching (and threads) stand up to this wear and tear? 

If you are planning to complete your work as a cushion (or pillow) will it be comfortable to rest on, or will bumpy areas be annoying?

If you are making a tablecloth will the embroidered surface be smooth enough to prevent glasses from toppling over?

As you gain more experience you will be able to answer these questions and more. But in the meantime you might want to practice various stitches so you can see first hand how they appear when worked. 

Create your own stitch sampler

How about testing a stitch on a scrap of fabric before putting the time into including it in your project, only to find out it is not the best choice?

In fact, your tests could turn into a project of their own - a sampler. If you were a Victorian child, this is something you would have done at school. After trying out stitches, keep your sampler in your needlework basket as a reference for future projects.

Stitch samplers are a fun and easy way to practice your basic embroidery skills.

You can vary the stitches, either intentionally or by making "happy little accidents", to add to your repertoire. How else do you think new stitches came into existence over the years?

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