How To: Stem Stitch

What is a stem stitch?
The stem stitch is a hand sewing embroidery stitch and a great alternative to the back stitch. When sewn the stitch gives a slightly raised texture with a rope like finish and is therefore great to use on curves as well as initials and numbers. The thickness of the finished stitch can be amended by the number of embroidery threads used. For a video on how to sew the stitch watch our tutorial on YouTube: How To: Stem Stitch.

Sewing a stem stitch
Start by preparing a needle and thread. When using embroidery thread the number of threads used will change the thickness of the finished stitch. We used 3 threads in this tutorial.

Tie a knot at the end of the thread and bring the needle through to the right side of the fabric (leaving the knot at the back of the fabric).

When completing a stem stitch the first stitch is slightly different to the rest of the stitches. We recommend drawing a line (in a removable pen) to stitch along, especially if you are sewing along a certain shape, initial or number.

Move the needle forward 1/4″ (5mm) and enter the fabric. Bring the needle out of the fabric halfway between where the thread exits the fabric and where the needle enters the fabric. Hold the loose thread below the stitching line with the other hand.

Pull the thread through the fabric to create the first stitch.

Move forward from the previous stitch 1/8″ (3mm) and insert the needle into the fabric.

Hold the free thread (that exited the last stitch) below the stitching line with the supporting hand.

Bring the needle back out of the fabric in line with the end of the previous stitch, directly above the stitch. Watch our corresponding YouTube tutorial (How To: Stem Stitch) for a more detailed visual.

Pull the thread through and complete the same technique for the rest of the stitches.

We are completing the stitch with a stitch length of 1/8″ (3mm), however the length of this can vary depending on what you are working on and the fabric you are using. Corners will require a small stitch length to look neat.

When you have finished sewing, start sewing the next stitch (move forward the required stitch length) and take the needle through to the back of the fabric. Tie a knot to fasten the stitching.

Check out our corresponding YouTube tutorial (How To: Stem Stitch).