Learn how to do Feather Stitch embroidery!

Tree motif worked in feather, chain and straight stitch

The attractive feather stitch is a looped embroidery stitch that is easier than it may first appear. 

Stitch it on evenweave fabric, and it has a neat, regular appearance, which works well in a border. 

In contrast, use a more tightly woven fabric to achieve a delicate, organic appearance that resembles branches, twigs, vines, stems, seaweed or coral. You can tuck tiny stitches against the main stem, such as those on my small flowers page

In nature, a branch grows from the trunk of a tree outwards. However, we work our stitch in reverse, beginning at the tips of the twigs. 

I used the stitch for the smaller branches in the tree motif. For the thicker branches and trunk, I used chain stitch. I stitched this tree on a crazy quilt block. You will often find this stitch used to cover the seams between different fabric patches in crazy quilt embroidery.

Overlapping rows of Feather stitch

In the next photograph I worked the brown feather stitch first, and then overlapped this with the white stitching.  

I didn't transfer a drawing on to the fabric. I just let the stitches wander wherever they wished to go, varying the size of my stitches as desired.

I used six-stranded embroidery floss for both these examples. 

On this page I will explain how to work the basic embroidery stitch along with...


Feather stitch step by step - worked in an embroidery hoop

I suggest you tackle this stitch on evenweave (or Aida) fabric in a hoop when you are first learning it. That way you can count the fabric threads and know that you are placing your stitches correctly. It is also easier to keep your tension even.

I picked four fabric threads for the size of my sample, but you can work the stitch at whatever size you require. 

Feather stitch step 1

Step 1 in working single feather stitch

Bring your needle to the surface where you wish to start your feather stitch. Count four fabric threads to the right and reinsert the needle. 

Pull the needle through, but leave a loop of thread below your work. Push the needle back up inside the thread loop, two threads to the left and four down. 

Pull the thread right through gently until the stitch sits comfortably on the surface. 

Feather stitch step 2

Step 2 in working single feather stitch

You will have a V-shaped curve with the thread emerging from the centre bottom. 

Bring the needle back up four fabric threads to the right, and repeat. 

Feather stitch step 3

Step 3 in working single feather stitch

Now work a stitch in a similar manner, but position it four fabric threads to the LEFT of the previous stitch. 

Feather stitch step 4

Step 4 in working single feather stitch

Alternate the position of your stitches as you continue along the row, working one on the right and the next on the left.

Row of single feather stitch worked on evenweave

For the photograph of my completed row of feather stitch above, I have turned the work so it travels from left to right. You can actually work your stitches from top to bottom or left to right, whichever feels most comfortable to you.

Single feather on evenweave

The row above is worked in the same manner, but I worked on a 6 across and 3 down basis to create a wider, but shallower, effect. 

Feather stitch video

I don't know about you, but I often find it easier to watch a stitch being worked rather than trying to follow a written description. I worked the following video in a hoop, but this time on a plain weave cotton.

Double feather stitch

Double feather stitch worked in different threads

You can vary the basic stitch. You can work more than one stitch on each side before moving across to the other, producing double and triple variations. 

The next photograph shows the stitch worked at different scales. The chunkier sample uses Splendor Frosty Rays, which is a sparkly ribbon. I used Splendor Strandable 12-ply silk for the finer sampler.

To make it easier to understand, in the video below I used a checked fabric. However, there is no need to be this exact in lining up your stitches when working on your own projects. 

Straight-sided feather stitch embroidery tutorial

Straight sided feather stitch step 1

In this variation when you bring your needle up inside the loop of thread you move it across so that it is vertically below the previous stitch instead of centered underneath it.

This gives it the characteristic straight sides.

Then, as in the original stitch, you change to working on the other side, again vertically. 

Straight sided feather stitch step 2

Straight sided feather is then the basis for the next variation.

For this example I used a Perle thread made by Rubi. which was lovely and soft but firm, on 28 count evenweave fabric once again.



Crossed feather stitch

Crossed feather stitch 01

After completing your row of straight sided, you then fill in the gaps on the next row to achieve a plaited effect.

You can choose whether to use the same thread/colour or to use a contrasting one. This can be a contrast of colour or thread texture.

The stitch method is exactly the same as the straight sided variation. 

Either of these variations make a decorative seam treatment for a crazy quilt block, or a border in a counted design. 

Crossed feather stitch complete

Combining feather with other stitches

Embellished single feather stitch

You can take things further by embellishing feather stitch with other stitches as shown on the green and pink project (from left to right)

  • detached chain stitches tucked alongside the main "stem"
  • detached chain stitch again but at the end of each "point"
  • French knots, either singly or massed together
  • three straight stitches grouped together to form tiny flowers

Have fun, and experiment to see what effects you can get. You never know, soon feather stitch might become one of your favourites! 

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