This is Part One (additional tutorials follow next week) - for a printable version, click here
Have you ever been reluctant to try a project that features decorative stitches or hand-embellishing because you weren’t sure how to do the stitches? If so, you’ve been missing out! Decorative stitches are fun and easy, and I’ve often said that embellishing is my favorite part of creating a new design. Decorative stitches only look complicated, but we’re going to break them down into individual steps so it’s just a matter of bringing your needle up at one point and down at another. Before long, you’ll be happily stitching away and your friends will want to know how you do it! But first, let’s quickly cover the types of threads to use:
Threads come in all types of fibers, including cotton, wool, polyester and silk, to name a few. You can also use metallic threads, yarn and just about anything you can string through the eye of a needle. I’ve been asked many times what threads I use for my patterns, so here’s my secret: I use plain old embroidery floss I buy at my local craft or fabric store (yep, that’s as secret it gets). I use embroidery floss because it’s cheap, comes in a gazillion colors and creates a beautiful result, but mostly because I already have a huge basket of it in my workroom. Now, I’ll admit I sometimes get a little fancy and use hand-dyed embroidery floss or lovely threads by Valdini like you’ll see below, but I usually stick to whatever is in my floss basket. If you’d like to learn how to dye your own embroidery floss (called “overdyeing”), you can find a nice tutorial on my blog at http://americanpiedesigns.blogspot.com/2013/02/new-tutorial-how-to-over-dye-embroidery.html.
So Let’s Get to It! There are hundreds of decorative stitches, but they all boil down to several basic stitches that are worked with slight variations. We’re going to start with seven of the most popular, and then I’ll show you more stitches in later tutorials coming next week:
- Basic Running Stitch
- Back Stitch
- Blanket Stitch (also known as the Buttonhole Stitch)
- French Knot
- Cross Stitch
- Herringbone Stitch
- Daisy Chain (Daisy Stitch; Lazy Daisy; Chain Stitch)
Basic Running Stitch: This is probably the easiest decorative stitch to learn. It can be worked in straight or curved lines and is used for outlining and making stems and vines. Bring your needle up from underneath. Next, weave the needle in and out of the fabric, taking two or three evenly-spaced stitches. Pull the needle through and repeat as desired. If I am working with a quilt or other material where I am stitching through layers, I like to make one stitch at a time, rather than loading two or three stitches on my needle at once. Stitching one stitch at a time makes each stitch look fuller and more finished.
Cross Stitch: There is more than one way to complete the cross stitch. It can be worked one stitch at a time, or it can be worked in rows such as when embroidering large areas on a pillowcase or similar project. To work it one stitch at a time, bring your needle up from underneath at 1 and insert it back down through your fabric at 2. Bring need up at 3 and back down at 4. Repeat the sequence as many times as desired. If you want to work rows of cross stitch to fill an area, work the first half of the stitch all the way along the row and then return and work the second half of the stitch back to the beginning of the row.
Herringbone Stitch: The herringbone stitch is a variation of the basic cross stitch. It is often used to embellish crazy quilts and also often used as a decorative stitch in borders. Bring your needle up from underneath at A and insert it back through your fabric at B. Bring your needle to the front again at C and back down at D. Bring your needle up at E, down at F and back up again at G. Repeat the sequence as many times as desired.
It Looks Complicated, But It’s Not! Like I said, decorative stitches look complex and hard, but it’s just a matter of bringing your needle up at one point and down at another--easy peasy! In no time at all, you’ll be embellishing your quilts, jackets, pillows and other projects with decorative stitches and your friends will be in awe and wondering how you do it. If you’d like to share your secret, there’s a full-color printable version of these instructions here, and of course you like to share, right?