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Easy Embroidery! Lesson 2 (Stem stitch)

So here’s the second of three FREE lesson of my online embroidery course for complete beginners, East Embroidery! Check out the filmed lesson and the course notes below and give stem stitch a bash in your own time. Then just come back next week for the last free lesson and check out last week’s blog post on running stitch. If you love what you see pick up the course and join the amazing exclusive Facebook group for just £45. You get a full 12 lessons to do in your own time and extra course notes inspirations, help and support.

So, stem stitch… fancy a go?

Stem Stitch

Youcan check out my film that shows you how to do stem stitch above. You can also find the following handy info in the documents of the exclusive Easy Embroidery! Facebook group when you buy and join.

  • How to build up your course confidence.
  • How to start and finish a line of stitches.

How to do stem stitch

Top tip! The shorter your stitches, the tighter the ‘twisted’ effect. This is important on curved lines because longer stitches make them look prickly!

Start by making sure your fabric is clean and taut in your embroidery hoop. It’ll make stitching easier and more accurate. Choose your thread and load up your needle with at least enough thread to get you from one side of your hoop to the other. Knot it and…

Working in whichever direction feels comfy to you, bring your needle up from the back of the fabric where you want the line of stitches to start.

Decide on the size of your stitch, making it no more than 5 millimetres long. Bring your thread through to the back of the fabric, placing the stitch at a slight angle so that the end is one or two millimeters lower than the start of it.

Now bring your needle back up through the fabric, this time above and against the first stitch, exactly halfway along it. Then bring the needle back down through the fabric at exactly the same length and angle as the first stitch. You should now have two identical stitches, half of each lying against each other. Hang on in there because this take practice.

Keep working in this way until you get to the end of your line of stitches and secure as usual. Make sure that each stitch is held at the same angle as the others, that it starts halfway along the last stitch and that it is exactly the same size as the last stitch too. Do the Stem Stitch Dance, which means getting out of your seat and wiggling because you’ve learned yet another embroidery stitch. Whoop!

Practice notes

On a piece of practice fabric, draw a spiral. Start near your hoop edge, making it tighter as it curls inwards. Start at the outer part of your mark with a stem stitch that is up to a centimetre long and at an angle that’s a few millimetres deep. As you get closer to the centre of the spiral, and the line becomes tighter, make your stitch lengths and angles smaller.

Question: what do you notice about how the stitch looks? Does the spiral look neater with smaller stitches and angles? Or do you prefer the loose effect of longer stitches and deeper angles? What do you think the tighter roped effect would be useful for? And can you think of an effect or motif that could be created with the looser stitch?

Extra fun!

  1. Ona piece of fabric, write the phrase you’d love to stitch on a hoop. Using stem stitch, follow your writing. Make the stitches as neat as you possibly can. Does the stitching become meditative at any point?
  • Doodle a range of shapes on your fabric – imagine the kind of doodles you make while in a queue for a call centre. Start following them with stem stitch but this time use as many different colours of thread that you have available for different parts of your doodle. Notice how the twisted detail of the stem stitch pops in brighter and lighter colours and almost disappears in darker and richer colours.

Mess it up!

Forget the small and tight stitches and angles. Instead make your stem stitch deliberately random with different stitch lengths and angles. Does the effect remind you of anything? Does it annoy the shit out of you? Are you starting to notice which depth of angle you prefer? And what happens if you try to weave thread through it like you did with the running stitch lesson?

Lesson challenge

How many ways can you find to use stem stitch? Try wavy and straight lines and sharp and rounded corners. For something less abstract, stitch bunting on your fabric: draw a line across your hoop with evenly spaced triangles hanging off it. Stem stitch it, filling in each ‘flag’ with coloured running stitches.

Don’t forget to come back next week for the second free lesson which is on stem stitch. You can find out loads more about the Easy Embroidery! online course here and here and are welcome to message me here if you have any questions.