Here is some information on embroidery stitches and how to work them effectively

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Back stitch

Back stitch illustration

Back stitch is most often used to outline an area of a design.
Each back stitch is worked along one side of a square or diagonally across the square as indicated on the chart for that particular design. On Aida fabric the back stitch is worked across one block, on evenweave fabric the stitch is usually worked over 2 threads of the fabric.
When using back stitch in a design, these stitches are usualy worked last and with a finer thread. For example, if 2 strands of thread have been used to work a cross stitch pattern, the back stitch will be worked with one thread.

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Bullion knots

bullion knot illustration

To work a bullion knot, bring the needle up at one end of the stitch. Now take a stitch through the fabric the length of the finished bullion knot and wrap the thread around the needle as many times as required. Keeping the thread quite tight around the needle, gently pull the needle through the fabric. Complete the knot by taking the needle back at the end of the stitch.

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Chain stitch

chain stitch illustration

To work chain stitch, bring the needle through the fabric at one end of the stitch. Insert the needle back into the fabric at the same place and bring the needle point back up at the opposite end of the stitch. Loop the thread around the needle and pull it through the fabric. Repeat the procedure to make a row of chain stitch. To finish a row or make a single chain stitch (lazy daisy stitch) take the needle back to the wrong side where it came through over the loop to secure it.

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couching illustration

To work a line of couching, start by laying the surface thread along the line it is to cover. As this thread will often be damaged as it passes through the fabric, it is a good idea to take the thread end through the fabric from the right side rather than bring the length that will be seen up from the wrong side. This will ensure that any area that is damaged will be hidden. Thread a needle with a matching fine thread and bring this thread up to the right side next to the other thread. Take the needle back to the wrong side by making a tiny stitch over the first thread and then bring the needle back up a little further along the edge of the surface thread. Continue along the length of the first thread, making tiny stitches across it, until the entire length has been secured. If you are working on evenweave fabric you can make the tiny stitch by taking the fine thread over the surface thread and back into the same hole from which the thread came up. The stitches that hold the surface thread in position should not pierce it, but simply sit around it holding it in place and can be worked as close or as far apart as needed. For example, a row of couching done on a tight curve will require stitches closer together than a row done on a straight line. Once the line of stitching has been completed, fasten off the thread used for stitching, take the free end of the surface thread through to the wrong side at the required point and fasten that off as well.

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Cross stitch

cross stitch illustration

To work a cross stitch, bring the needle through the fabric in the bottom left hand corner of the "square" to be filled (1). Take the needle back down in the opposite diagonal corner of the "square" (2) and bring it up in the bottom right corner (3). Complete the cross stitch by taking the needle back to the wrong side in the top left corner (4), thus creating the second diagonal line. If a row of cross stitches is to be worked, they may be worked either as individual stitches or by working steps 1 and 2 across the row and working steps 3 and 4 on the way back. All cross stitches should have the same diagonal line on top, otherwise the stitches will reflect the light differently, affecting the look of the finished work.

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French knot

French knot illustration

To work a French knot, bring the thread out at the required position, hold the thread with the thumb and wrap the thread twice round the needle. Hold the twists on the needle with the index finger and re-insert the needle close to where it came out. When the needle is halfway through the fabric, stop and arrange the knot neatly but not too tightly on the surface of the fabric. Gently pull the needle and thread though. If the knot disappears you may have twisted the thread the wrong way round the needle. Varying the number of times the thread is wrapped round the needle point will vary the size of the knot but 2 or 3 wraps is most common.

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Running stitch

running stitch illustration

To work a line of running stitches, bring the needle through the fabric at one end of the line. Take it back to the wrong side, on the line, a full stitch length away from where it emerged, and then bring it back up another stitch length away from where it last passed through the fabric. Continue along the line in this way, ensuring all the stitches and the gaps between the stitches are the same length. Working back along the row, filling the gaps and creating a solid line of stitches is known as double running stitch or Holbein stitch and is used for outlining in preference to backstitch, particularly in blackwork.

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Stem stitch

Stem stitch illustration

To work stem stitch, bring the needle up on the line to be covered and take a fairly short stitch while holding the loop of thread to one side. Bring the needle halfway back along the stitch formed and pull the first stitch into place. Continue in the same manner. When using stem stitch to cover a curved line, ensure the needle always passes the previous stitch on the inner edge of the curve. This will create a smooth curve.

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Straight stitch

straight stitch illustration

To work a straight stitch, simply bring the needle through the fabric at one end of the stitch and return it to the wrong side at the opposite end of the stitch. Take care not to pull the thread too tightly as this could pucker and distort the work.

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