Chain stitch tutorial

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

  • illustrated embroidery stitch instructions
  • a chain stitch video
  • tips for success
  • variations on chain stitch
  • Royal School of Needlework stitch bank.

Chain stitch uses

Chain stitch is one of the oldest and most widely used embroidery stitches. You can find examples in both antique and contemporary textiles from across the world.

Chain stitch is popular for outlines but it can also be used for filling shapes. As it’s formed from interlinked loops, the texture is different from other stitches used for outlines. You can see it in this photo of the fourth circle on my stitch sampler kit.

Chain stitch tutorial, example from my stitch sampler kit

Chain stitch tutorial

Chain stitch tutorial


  • Bring the needle up at 1 and down again into the same hole, forming a loop with the thread. 
  • Bring the needle up at 2 with the thread behind the needle. 
  • Pull the thread to make an oval shape. 
  • Repeat these steps to make a chain.  Keep your stitches the same even size and shape. 
  • To finish off, make a tiny stitch over the thread to hold the last loop in place.

Chain stitch video

Chain stitch tips

  • Keep your stitches evenly sized and make the loops a consistent shape. You're aiming to make fat, oval shaped loops. If you pull your thread too tight, you'll get thin, flat loops.
  • Make sure your thread doesn't get twisted so the stitches lie flat. 

Download my free stitch guide covering 10 basic embroidery stitches, including chain stitch.

Variations on chain stitch

Chain stitch is another versatile stitch. Firstly, you can use it for outlining shapes, especially where you want a thicker or more textured line than you'd get from using back stitch or stem stitch

Secondly, you can use it as a filling stitch by working it in rows to fill the space. You need to learn how to change stitch direction, so take a look at reverse chain stitch (also know as broad chain stitch) if you want to use chain stitch for filling a shape. 

And finally, there are all kinds of variations you can achieve, such as whipped chain stitch, twisted chain stitch, knotted chain stitch or open chain stitch which gives a ladder-like effect. 

More on chain 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 about chain stitch and see their chain stitch tutorial here.