Stem stitch tutorial

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

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

Stem stitch uses

Stem stitch is used to outline shapes when a thicker, more rope-like effect is needed, for example on flower stems or branches. It's similar to back stitch but instead of the stitches being end-to-end they overlap, which gives a thicker line.

Stem stitch is used to outline two of the circles in my sampler stitch design. You can see the rope-like effect most clearly on the top of the circle in the photo below:

Stem stitch on my stitch sampler kit

Stem stitch embroidery tutorial

Stem stitch instructions
  • Bring the needle up at 1 and down at 2 but don't pull the thread tight.  This allows you to easily see where to bring the needle up at 3, about half-way along the first stitch. 
  • Pull the thread through and then put the needle down at 4, again leaving the thread loose. 
  • Bring the needle up at the end of your last stitch (2). 
  • Put the needle down at 5 and repeat.  

Stem stitch video

Tips for stem stitch

  • If you're stitching on a curve make your stitches smaller so they go round the curve more easily. The tighter the curve is, the smaller your stitches need to be. 
  • If you're joining a circle of stem stitch, like in my stitch sampler kit, you'll see the join if your final stitch is end-to-end with your first stitch. Instead, carry the final stitch half way along the first stitch before finishing it off.

Download my free stitch guide covering 10 simple embroidery stitches, including stem stitch.

Variations on stem stitch

Most stitches can be whipped, including stem stitch. Whipping just means threading another colour through a line of stitching. It’s an easy way to add colour and a heavier texture.

More on stem 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 stem stitch and their stem stitch tutorial here.