Learn Hand Embroidery Stitches

To help you learn hand embroidery stitches we are going to look at filling in shapes. Previously I suggested some ideas for embroidering lines.

I drew some circles and ovals onto my fabric with a pencil, overlapping some of them. I then used a variety of stitches to fill these shapes. The thread used is Fine Cotton from Oliver Twist, and a little Pearl Cotton no. 8 for contrast.

Sampler showing many different filling stitches

I filled the shapes in the photograph with the following stitches...

1. Closed herringbone

2. Satin over a split stitch outline

3. Chain stitch filling

4. Seeding surrounded by Stem stitch

5. French knot centre, surrounded by detached chain

6. Trellis couching surrounded by Stem

7. Spiders web center, surrounded by blanket stitch

8. Open Fishbone


As you learn hand embroidery stitches...

 ... you'll discover that we can use some for both lines and filled areas. There are various ways to do this...

  • stitching multiple rows side-by-side
  • working them in a spiral into the centre (shape 3 in the sampler)
  • working the "line" across the entire width of an area (shapes 1 and 8). 

You can also use "detached" stitches (normally placed individually) as a fill by...

  • placing them close together (center of shape 5) 
  • placing them side by side (outer section of shape 5)

More on this below.

Solid or open?

Just because you are stitching an area totally enclosed by a line, you don't have to hide the fabric entirely. Mixing some solid sections with others that have a "lighter" treatment can introduce exciting contrast into your project.

The next photograph shows 4 different diaper patterns, a term used for repeating elements within a space. Whether arranged in horizontal/vertical rows, diagonally or randomly, these mini motifs produce an attractive effect.

The threads used here were no. 12 cotton pearl and 2 strands of DMC Light Effects. I outlined each heart in stem stitch.

Heart sampler showing various filling stitches

From left to right, clockwise, the stitches are...

I will describe how to work each filling below.

Sheaf stitch

Many people learn hand embroidery stitches without ever discovering this little treasure! It is really easy to work, comprising a group of three straight stitches set side-by-side.

Then bring the needle up in the center and thread it under the left-hand stitch. After taking the thread around the "sheaf" tuck it underneath the right-hand stitch before taking it to the back of the fabric.

Pull firmly enough to draw the long stitches together in the center.

Ermine Filling

This is another simple combination - a long vertical stitch, with two crossing it diagonally.

The arms of the diagonal stitches extend further to the sides at the top than they do at the bottom, and they sit towards the bottom two-thirds of the vertical thread.

Tete de Boeuf

If you have ever eaten at a French restaurant, you will recognize the word boeuf, as a translation of beef. This motif is so named as it is meant to represent the two horns and head of a bull.

We work it with a combination of a fly stitch and a detached chain. 

Four-legged knot

I have only ever seen this used as a filling. Try not to pull it too tight or you will lose the effect.

Take a vertical stitch then bring the needle out to the right side as if you were going to make an upright cross.

Insert the needle just to the right of the first arm and up in the same movement, over to the left. Tuck the working thread under the needle and pull it through the fabric.

Maneuver the thread so that it comes out of the middle of the cross, then secure the knot by taking the needle down fractionally below and to the left of the center.

Thank you for stopping by

I hope you have enjoyed this page and will continue to learn hand embroidery stitches with me by visiting other pages on the site. A good place to start is the stitch index page

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