An introduction to
double running stitch

You can stitch Blackwork in double running stitch or backstitch. If you haven't tried double running stitch now is your chance. It has two major benefits.

  • Firstly it is reversible, so the back of your work will look the same as the front.
  • Second, it uses less thread

So how do we do double running stitch?

Its simple. All we need to do is follow a line on our chart/pattern and stitch every other stitch in one direction. When we reach the end, we just turn around and come back again, filling in the missing stitches.

The following video from one of my workshops will show you how easy it is.

If you would like to try out the technique, I have created a free blackwork design with step by step instructions for forming the pattern in double running stitch. 

What if I want to use backstitch?

There are no laws that say you cannot use backstitch for blackwork. However, your work will be neater with double running stitch.

The photograph shows the reverse of the work. Can you see how much thicker the square on the right looks?

Photo showing the reverse side of backstitch and double running stitch

I used backstitch to outline that one! If you look carefully, you will also see where I carried the thread across the corners. On a finer fabric, this shadowing may be visible from the front of the work.

There is a way of cheating if you really want to use backstitch. Check out the diagram below to see how you can avoid those ugly corners.

Diagram showing how to work double running stitch and backstitch

A tip for straighter lines

Can you see in the diagram how I slant alternate stitches in the double running stitch row?

Believe it or not, this makes the stitched line look straighter! Try it and see what I mean. When you bring the needle up at 7, keep it below the stitch already in that hole. Then when you take it back down at 8, keep the needle above the existing stitch.

Try to avoid splitting the existing stitches. If you look closely at the photograph of the squares further up the page, you see that I split a stitch on the bottom row of my double running stitch square. Ooops.


How many strands of floss should I use?

You will find instructions in any kits or charts that you buy for how many strands to use. Normally we use one strand for the filling patterns and maybe two for the outlines.

Some of my patterns use shading techniques where you will occasionally use two strands for the darker areas of a design.

How do I carry the thread from one place to another?

If you are moving to an area that is far away from your current stitching, I would recommend fastening off and restarting.

However, if you only need to travel a short distance, you can use the outlines to do so. Run your working thread through the back of the outline stitches to bring you to where you need to be. Try not to carry the thread across the back of the patterned area as it may show through on the right side.

Fastening on and off

When you start a project, it can be a good idea to use an away waste knot to start your thread.

Tie a knot in the end of your thread (don't worry, we will cut it off later) and push the needle down through the fabric from the right side, up in a corner somewhere away from where you will start stitching.

Bring the needle back up in position for the first stitch and follow the pattern. Later you can snip off the knot and fasten off the thread as explained below.

If you already have stitches in place on your work, you can slip the needle under a few stitches on the back of the work to anchor a new piece of thread.

Always try to fasten off under an outline if possible. It will be less noticeable. When you are reaching the end of your thread, do a quick mental check to see if you think it will reach the other side of the shape you are filling in. If not, fasten it off at the outline and use a new length.

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