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Embroidery Stitch Tutorial – Learn to Backstitch

The backstitch is one of the easiest embroidery stitches to learn.  It covers the pattern line in a series of straight little dashes with no space in between the stitches.

Supplies needed:

  • a skein of standard DMC embroidery floss
  • a needle — (embroidery size 7 is a good choice)
  • scissors to trim your floss
  • fabric with pattern traced onto it (already placed into an embroidery hoop)

First, cut a piece of embroidery floss 18”-20″ long.   I just use a piece approximately the length of my arm :).

Standard DMC embroidery floss is made up of 6 individual strands. The number of strands that you use will determine the thickness of your completed stitched line. I typically use 2 or 3 strands for most projects.   In this example, I will use 4 strands just to make it easier to see my stitches.

To separate your floss, gently hold one end of your cut length. Now, pull a single strand up and out – slowly and gently to avoid tangling. Set it aside.  Repeat until you have the desired number of strands for stitching. Rejoin the separated strands by lining them up at one end and gently stroking down the length till they sorta stick together.

Now you will need to thread your needle and tie a small knot in one end. I have posted a photo tutorial that will teach you how to tie a perfect knot for stitching.   In the future, I’ll teach alternative methods for securing the first few stitches (leaving a tail and then weaving it in at the end, or using a waste knot) but for now, a small knot should be fine.

1. Starting from the back of your fabric, insert your needle at point A (the start of your stitching line) and pull it all the way through to the front.

2. Insert your needle down at point B and pull it through to form your 1st stitch. I like to use a stitch length of approximately 1/8”.

3. Come up from the back at point C (which is one stitch length from the end of your 1st stitch) and insert your needle at point B into the same hole you previously created. Pull it through to form your 2nd stitch.

4. Repeat this process until you complete the line of stitching.

You can stab your needle up and down and pull your fabric through each time (nope – not for me!) OR…. you can go much faster by doing steps 2 and 3 in one motion before pulling your thread through all the way.   See below.

The back of your work will have an overlapping line of thread on it.

To tie off your thread, weave your floss through the stitches and then form a small loop and insert your needle through it to make a tiny knot to secure it. Trim close to your knot.

TIP – Avoid jumping from one set of stitching to another across an open area.  Anytime I need to stitch in a new and unconnected section, I always tie off and restart my thread.  This avoids a messy back and the likelihood that the excess thread will show through the front.

TIP – As you go around curves, taking smaller stitches helps to avoid a choppy look.

Now you can use this simple stitch to try out my free crayon embroidery medallion pattern (coming soon) or on some of the patterns available in my etsy shop.

Happy stitching!


How to tie a perfect knot for stitching


It seems simple right? Most instruction sheets start with “thread your needle and tie a knot in your thread”.   Then they get to the good stuff.

Over the years I have taught many craft and stitching classes and have found that I can’t just assume that everyone has been taught how to tie a knot.   New stitchers often struggle and then mistakenly think that they just aren’t talented at sewing before they’ve even gotten started.    It’s one of those thing like tying your shoelace: easier to just do it than to explain.  It’s also much easier to teach in person, but I’ll give it a shot here.

First you will need to thread your needle. To do this I pinch the thread between my index finger and thumb of my left hand with just a smidge sticking out free. Then I take the needle in my right hand, squint, and push the eye (the hole) of the needle over the thread ends until they go through. Grab the thread and pull it through the hole about 3-4″ to keep the needle from becoming unthreaded.

Now we will tie the knot at the opposite end.

Hold the needle in your right hand with the point facing away from your palm.  Hold the end of the thread in your left hand.

Now place the needle over the thread end and pinch both the needle and the thread end in your right hand as shown.

Using your left hand, wrap thread around the needle approximately 3 times. The more you wrap, the larger your knot will be.

Lightly pinch the wrapped section with your right hand index finger and thumb to keep them in place.

Let go of the thread with your left hand and grab the needle.  Keeping your right hand still pinching the looped end,  you will pull that needle (and the thread that follows) out.  Go slowly.   Pinch more with your right hand as you get close to the end and it will tighten that knot right where you want it.

You should end up with a knot near the end of the thread. Sometimes it’s a loopy disaster.  That’s ok.   Just trim it a bit on the end and start over. Keep practicing and you will get better at it.

Trim the end close to the knot and you are ready to stitch :).