5 simple embroidery stitches to sew by hand on evenweave fabric

Yesterday on QUILTsocial we transferred my needle roll embroidery design to DMC Charles Craft Monaco Needlework Fabric using 3 simple techniques. Today we embroider the design on the evenweave fabric.

First, though, we should talk about threads and needles. There are so many amazing threads available for embroidery – from cotton, silk, and wool to rayon, metallics, and novelty threads! And most come in a variety of weights.


Embroidery floss has six strands that you can divide – so you can use 1 or 2 strands for fine embroidery or up to 6 strands for more dramatic stitches. DMC embroidery floss comes in solid colors and variegated cottons. It’s also available in Satin Floss (rayon), Light Effects (polyester) and  Mouline Etoile (73% cotton –27% Polyamide metallic). All of these can be divided up and used as single strands but each one has a different type of texture and finish. Matte, shiny or sparkly – whatever your pleasure!

Perle Cotton (or pearl cotton) comes in many different weights – from #3 which is the heaviest to #12 which is the thinnest. Like embroidery floss, DMC perle cotton comes in variegated or solid colors. It is non-divisible and provides wonderful volume and dimension to embroidery.

Choose the weight of thread to get the look you want. Fine threads for fine embroidery and thicker threads for stitches that are more dramatic. Once you’ve got your fabric and threads, you need to pick your needles.

An assortment of DMC perle cottons and embroidery flosses


The type of needle you pick is determined by the type of stitch you want to do. For basic stitches, like the ones we’re doing today, I love to use Clover Chenille Needles. They have a large eye so they’re fairly easy to thread and have a nice sharp point.

Use a milliner’s needle to make stitches that need to be wrapped around the needle, like French knots.

For stitches that are woven over other stitches, use a tapestry needle; they have a blunt tip that won’t split the foundation stitches.

For all needle types, choose a larger needle for a thicker thread. Like thread, usually the larger the number on the needle, the smaller the needle, so a size 22 chenille needle is smaller than a size 18 chenille needle. You can usually buy a package with an assortment of sizes such as the Gold Eye Milliners Needles shown below.

An assortment of hand embroidery needles


There are so many different and amazing embroidery stitches!! When I started really getting into embroidery last year, I couldn’t believe how many stitches I didn’t know!! But many of the stitches you find in embroidery books are simply variations of the basics. Today is about the first five embroidery stitches you should start with and master.

Before you start stitching, you may want to put your fabric into an embroidery hoop like the UNIQUE CRAFT Plastic Embroidery Hoop.

Stitch 1 – Running stitch

The running stitch is also known as the darning stitch and a quilting stitch. To make a running stitch, simply pass the needle over and under the fabric in a regular, even manner. You can make your stitches as big or as small as you like. Later this week, we’ll talk about fun variations of the running stitch.

A running stitch diagram

Stitch 2 – Back stitch                                       

The back stitch is a great, basic linear stitch good for outlines or as the foundation of other, more complicated stitches. Basically, you come up from the back of your fabric and push the needle tip into the fabric behind where you came up, then bring the needle tip up to the front of the fabric, a little in front of the first stitch. This way you make a continuous line with your stitching.

A diagram of the back stitch

Stitch 3 – Stem stitch

This easy, linear stitch makes a slightly heavier line than the back stitch and looks very nice around curves. If you’re right-handed, you work from left to right. Come up from the back of your fabric along the line of your pattern, keep the thread below your needle, and make a small backward stitch. Pull the fabric through and make another small backward stitch so that your needle comes out a little behind the first stitch. Keep stitching in this manner, overlapping each subsequent stitch, but make sure your working thread is always below your needle. When you go around tight curves, make your stitches a bit smaller to make the curve nice and smooth.

A stem stitch diagram

Stitch 4 – Chain stitch

The chain stitch is a great one to use for curves and heavy lines, and you can also use it to fill in areas – I’ll show you how to do that tomorrow.

To make this stitch, come up from the back of the fabric and then put the tip of the needle back into the same hole, bringing the tip of the needle to the front of the fabric a short distance along your drawn line with the thread wrapped under the tip of the needle. Pull the thread through and then put the needle tip back into that second hole and repeat the process making sure that the thread is always under the tip of the needle when you bring it through to the front.

A chain stitch diagram

Stitch 5 – Blanket stitch (or buttonhole stitch)

The blanket stitch is my old friend!! This is the stitch I use all the time when I’m doing wool applique and fusible applique, so I can almost do it in my sleep!! This stitch can actually be worked in two different directions. I do my blanket stitch working from left to right and my friend Nellie, who is also right-handed, does hers right to left. Either way, it’s a great edging stitch!

First, come up to the front along the edge of your applique or on the drawn line, then put your needle into the applique and come up a little way down the edge (or the line), making sure that the thread is tucked behind the needle tip. Pull the thread all the way through and repeat.

A blanket stitch diagram

Here is a little video showing all these basic stitches and some of the DMC threads I’m using for my project.

Use these different stitches to embroider the stems of the flowers and the lines under the flowers like I did. Don’t worry if some of my stems and lines look like they have more complicated stitches. They started out as running stitches, back stitches, stem stitches, and chain stitches, but I’ll show you on Friday how I threaded and wrapped them to make them more interesting.

Part of the needle roll applique design

Now that you’ve mastered some of these basic stitches using Clover Needles and DMC Floss and Threads, it’s time to learn how to fill in areas of your applique design with more great stitches. Come back tomorrow to see this flower garden design come to life!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: 3 easy ways to transfer embroidery designs

Go to part 3: 3 key embroidery filling stitches for your embroidery designs

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1 comment

Silvia Rocchetti September 20, 2021 - 3:04 pm
This is beautiful. I would like to know more.
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