Back stitch tutorial

To learn how to do back stitch, why not check out my back stitch tutorial. It includes:

  • illustrated embroidery stitch instructions
  • a back stitch video
  • tips for success
  • variations on back stitch, including whipped back stitch
  • Royal School of Needlework stitch bank.

Back stitch uses

Back stitch is one of the most popular embroidery stitches – you’ll see it everywhere!  It’s super-useful for outlining shapes, like the circles in my stitch sampler design.  

You can use back stitch for outlining more irregular shapes, like the petals on the eighth circle on my stitch sampler kit, but you may have to vary the stitch length to fit the shape as needed.

Back stitch used to outline petals on stitch sampler kit


Back stitch tutorial

Back stitch tutorial
  • Bring the needle up at 1 and down at 2. 
  • Bring the needle up at 3 then down at 1. 
  • Continue stitching, keeping your stitches evenly spaced. 

Back stitch video

Tips for success

  • The trick with back stitch is to keep all the stitches the same length, without leaving any gaps. 
  • Don’t make your stitches too small as it can be hard to control tiny stitches and they’ll take a long time to do.
  • Get used to looking at the line you're about to back stitch to work out what size stitch you'll need to do so the stitches are evenly spaced along the length of the line. So then you won't have to use a much longer or shorter final stitch at the end of the stitching line.

Download my free stitch guide covering 10 easy embroidery stitches, including back stitch.

Variations on back stitch

Back stitch is very versatile. Firstly, you can use it for outlining shapes and for creating lines, curved or straight.

Secondly, you can use it to fill shapes by stitching lines of back stitch close together. If you offset the stitches so the back stitches on the next row start halfway along the first row it creates a pattern like bricks, so when back stitch is used like this it's called brick stitch.

Thirdly, you can whip back stitch. That means you thread strands, usually in a different colour, through the back stitch you've already worked. You can see this on one of the sheep in my sheep embroidery kit:

Whipped back stitch on sheep embroidery kit

Whipped back stitch tutorial

Whipped back stitch tutorial
  • Do a row of back stitch first, not too small otherwise you won’t be able to get your needle and thread under them when you do the whipping.  
  • Thread a needle with a contrasting colour. Going from right to left, bring it up through the fabric at the start of the back stitch.
  • Bring needle under your first back stitch, between the back stitch and the surface of the fabric. Bring needle over the stitch and then put needle under the second back stitch, between the stitch and the fabric.  Repeat.
  • The diagram shows the whipping done very loosely so you can see how the stitches are formed. Pull the stitching tight enough for it to lie flat against the back stitch as shown in the sheep photo.
  • Finish by taking your needle down at the end of the back stitch.

More on back stitch

The Royal School of Needlework has a stitch bank which aims to preserve every known stitch. It will become a world-wide directory of embroidery stitches. You can read their stitch bank entry for back stitch and see their back stitch tutorial here. Plus their entry on whipped back stitch.