In this instructable, I'm going to teach you several basic embroidery stitches. This free mountain sampler will teach you all about the stitches via repetition. :)
Here are the stitches you'll learn while embroidering this sampler:
- Stem stitch
- Running stitch
- Satin stitch
- Chain stitch
- Split stitch
This sampler is part of my FREE Embroidery Class! Please check it out to learn so much more than I cover in this instructable. :D
Step 1: Tools + Materials
- 6 inch plastic embroidery hoop for stitching
- 6 inch wooden embroidery hoop for framing
- A water soluble marking pen
- Sewing pins (for transferring pattern)
- Embroidery needle
- Pinking shears
- Iron + ironing board
- Printer for printing the pattern (pattern is included below)
To Print the Patterns
Download and open the PDF files. When selecting print options, make sure the print is scaled at "full size" or "100%" - this will ensure you print the pattern at the right size.
- Embroidery floss in your chosen colors (see below)
- A 9 x 9 inch piece of fabric
- The mountain sampler embroidery pattern (included below)
Choosing Floss Colors:
- 4 colors for the mountains - I used 1 color for each different bit of stitching
- Yellow for the stars + moon
- 1 color for the sky
- 1 color for the border
Step 2: Transferring the Pattern and Hooping
Cut out a piece of fabric with pinking shears that's slightly larger than your hoop. Press it with the iron so it's flat and unwrinkled. Let the fabric cool completely.
Transfer the pattern using the hoop or pinning method. (For more information on these transferring techniques, check out my FREE Embroidery Class!)
Once the pattern is on the fabric, place the fabric into the hoop with the design centered as shown. You need the design to be facing up - not down inside the hoop.
Step 3: Chain Stitch
First, we'll tackle the border of the design. We're using the chain stitch for this because it's a beautiful but simple decorative stitch.
Depending on how long you make your stitches, the look of the chains will change. I prefer the shorter chains, but longer ones can almost look like scales or tiny feathers.
Here is a quick video to show how the chain stitch is done - it's sped up slightly for ease of watching:
And now I'll walk you through it in pictures!
Thread a needle with between 12-18 inches of floss and knot the end.
Now, starting anywhere along the outer pattern line, make a tiny stitch, about 2-3 threads wide. Leave a small loop instead of pulling the stitch tight.
Bring your needle up to the left of the tiny stitch, a little less than a 1/4 inch away. Pull the thread through gently so you don't pull the loop closed. Place your needle through the loop and pull on the floss - the loop will close with your floss under it.
Now, insert your needle in the same hole (or right next to) where you came up next to the tiny stitch! To insert your needle into the same hole, use a finger on the hand holding the hoop to pull the knot in the floss out of the way.
Pull the floss through to tighten, and TA-DAAAAA! Your first chain stitch. It will go very fast from here.
To keep going with the chain stitch, just keep bringing the needle to the front of the fabric a little less than a 1/4 inch away from the last chain. Then, push your needle under the chain stitch and put your needle through to the backside of the fabric at the bottom of the new chain stitch you're making.
Never try to force your needle when pushing it under the chain stitches. If you're having to force it, you're not going UNDER the floss, you're trying to push THROUGH it. Instead, remove the needle and try pushing it under again without snagging the floss. Forcing it through can cause all kinds of ugly problems.
When you run out of floss, it's easy to stop and start again. Finish the last chain stitch you can and then knot the floss on the back.
The back of the chain stitch will look like this - just like a very nice backstitch, oddly enough! As you can see, I've knotted it and am ready to start my new piece of floss.
Flip the hoop back over and thread a new needle and knot the floss. Bring it up right below the last chain stitch and pass it under the chain to keep on stitching.
Now we'll go over covering up that first tiny stitch! Try to space your chain stitches so that you have room for just one more when you get around to the original chain stitch.
Bring your needle up through the middle of the first chain stitch!
Pass the needle under the last set of chain stitches and then back down through the original stitch.
Here's the finished chain stitch! I placed my needle under the "cover up" stitch, just so you can see how well it blends in.
Here's a photo of how the back looks. I used 5 lengths of floss to get all the way around!
Now that we've mastered the chain stitch, let's learn the back stitch. :D
Step 4: Backstitch
Now, let's stitch the outlines of the mountains. We're going to use a backstitch for this. The backstitch I do is slightly modified so that there is less overlapping of floss on the back, which means you'll have neater embroideries and a little less floss waste!
The backstitch is the stitch I use the most. It's great for outlines and text!
Here's a quick video of how to work the backstitch:
And now I'll show you how I stitched the mountains!
Thread a needle with 12-18 inches of floss and knot the end.
Make your first stitch by pushing your needle through to the front of the fabric where the mountain outline meets the chain stitch border. These stitches will be about 1/4 inch long.
To do the backstitch:
- Bring your needle through to the front of the fabric and take a stitch to the right.
- Bring the needle back to the front of the fabric a stitch length to the right and then pass the needle through to the back of the fabric using the hole at the end of the first stitch. (As shown in the top right photo in the collage)
- Use the hole at the end of the farthest right stitch to bring the needle back to the front of the fabric.
- Repeat until you're done! You can backstitch to the left or the right - but try it to the right first to get the rhythm down. As long as you keep your stitches even lengths it will look great!
The most important thing about the backstitch is to make sure you're using the hole that forms at the end of a stitch to start the next stitch anytime you can.
Take a look at the back of my backstitch below - see how everything is nice and neat? That's what you want. You'll use less floss that way and keep everything nice and organized.
Here's the left mountain stitched! See how I was careful to keep the floss on the lines, even on the back? I stitched up and over the mountain to the right, and then worked my way left across the bottom of the snow cap.
Stitch up and over the right mountain - up the left side and down the right side! When you get to the end, you can see there's a fair bit of space between where you are and where the next bit of the mountain outline is. You could knot the thread and start again, but let me show you a better trick.
Flip your hoop over! We're going to use the stitches on the back to carry the floss back up to where we need to be to finish the mountain.
Push your needle under the next stitch up from where you are and pull the floss through.
Continue to weave the floss through the stitches, going up to where the snow cap line is.
Now, bring the needle to the front of the fabric and keep stitching!
Use this weaving method anytime you need to travel a little to get to the next area of stitching. It saves time and floss because you won't have to knot and start over! It also keeps your embroideries looking nice by keep the stitches on the back organized.
Here's a photo of the back of the backstitching so you can see how the weaving looks when it's all done.
Step 5: Split Stitch
Now we'll divide the mountains into sections by using a split stitch.
The split stitch is a little like a traditional backstitch, but instead of coming up at the end of the last stitch, you bring your needle up through the middle of the last stitch. This makes a very textured line of stitching - sort of like a tiny and messier chain stitch.
Here's a quick video showing how to work the split stitch:
And now I'll show you how to stitch it on the mountain pattern!
Thread a needle with 12-18 inches of floss, and knot the end.
Bring the floss to the front of the fabric right next to the backstitch border of the mountain and make a tiny stitch (1/8 to 1/4 inch) to the right.
Now, hold on to the thread tail coming from the first stitch with the fingers of the hand that's holding the hoop. Pulling your needle through the stitch works better if you hold it down!
Bring your needle through the very middle of the first stitch and pull the floss through.
Continue taking small stitches to the right, coming up in the middle of every previous stitch. Keep your stitch length even for the best looking results!
Keep on stitching until you get to the end of the line, and finish by ending as close to the backstitch border as you can.
Now, repeat the split stitch on all the other curved dividing lines.
Here's what the front and back of the stitching should look like when you're done!
Now we'll move on to straight stitches.
Step 6: Straight Stitches
Once the split stitches are in, it's time to fill in the different layers of the mountain using straight stitches. You'll also want to stitch the + symbols in the sky - those are little stars.
Straight stitches are just what they sound like, honestly. They're dead easy! This part will go very, very fast. :)
Here's a quick video covering how to work the straight stitches:
First, let's do the vertical stitches on the mountains. Thread a 12-18 inch piece of floss through a needle and knot the end.
Follow the lines with your needle, covering each vertical line with a stitch.
Go from top-to-top and bottom-to-bottom to move between the lines.
And here's how your vertical lines will look when done! Now we'll move onto the zigzags.
Thread a needle with floss and knot the end. Fill in the zigzags across the layers with straight stitches.
When you're done, the front and back should look like this.
And now, the last part of the embroidery that involves straight stitches: the stars it the sky! I did this a little out of order, so the sky is already filled in. :P
Make a stitch one way, and then the other to fill in the crosses.
Don't carry your floss from spot to spot here - cut it and start a new length for each star. When I'm doing something like this that involves a lot of knotting, I save all the cut ends and knot them at once.
Above are what the stars will look like when you're done! Now we'll fill in the sky and satin stitch the moon.
Step 7: Running Stitches
Now we'll fill in the night sky the rest of the way! As you can see, running stitches are very similar to the straight stitches - fast and easy!
Even though the running stitch is the easiest stitch in the book, here's a fast video showing it in action:
Now let's get the sky stitched!
Use running stitches to cover the dashes in the sky. I like to work from the bottom left and then fill in the area next to the moon with one piece of floss.
Here's the left side filled in.
And here are some photos of the completed night sky! See how I was careful about where I stitched so I didn't have any super long bits of floss running from stitch to stitch on the back? Try to approach it like a maze and work the running stitches logically!
Step 8: Satin Stitch
Now we'll fill in the moon using the satin stitch!
(If you're enjoying the satin stitch, you can also fill in the mountain tops. I did not do that, because I didn't feel like it! That's the magic of embroidery - DO WHAT YOU WANT :D)
Satin stitch is essentially a stitch that is used to fill large areas of your design. If done right, it will look lovely and smooth. You can outline satin stitching, pad it with stitches underneath, or just stitch it plainly. Here, we're going for plain satin stitching.
Satin stitching is one of many stitches that you can really only learn via repetition and practice!
However, here are two golden rules I follow for better satin stitching:
- Use three strands of floss or less. Masters at satin stitching can lay down six strands of floss with no fuss, but that many strands can be hard to control if you're a novice! Three strands gives a smoother, flatter finish and it's harder to tell when you go over an area more than once because the floss is not as thick.
- Start in the middle of difficult shapes. Working from the center out is so much easier than working on oddly shaped edges first. Working on a large and easy area of satin stitching first will warm you up and make you better at the tricky parts!
For more help, I highly suggest reading 10 Tips for a Sensational Satin Stitch.
Here's a video of me working the satin stitch across a square to give you a basic idea of how it should go:
Now we'll fill in the moon with satin stitching!
To start, cut 12-18 inches of floss and divide in it half so you have two lengths of three-stranded floss. Thread one of them through a needle and knot the end.
Starting at the top of the moon, make a tiny stitch from border to border. Then, bring your needle up at the top point of the moon and connect that to the vertical stitch you made first.
Continue stitching by bringing the floss across the shape from border to border, pushing your needle down into the drawn pattern line.
Here's a look at the moon when I was about 1/3 of the way done. It goes fast!
Try to avoid carrying the floss across the back of your satin stitching. This wastes floss and can make your embroidery look pretty chubby, especially if you back it or frame it. I've included photos above to show what the front and back should look like as you stitch.
Always start your new stitch right next to where the needle exited the fabric last.
As you move down the moon, you'll start to slant your stitches.
When you get to the very end, make a tiny straight stitch to make the bottom point of the moon.
And there you are - a fully stitched moon! Not as hard as you thought, right? :D