Introduction: Embroidery 101: Back Stitch

The back stitch is perfect for a smooth uninterrupted line. In the process of creating a chess set with vintage wooden spools, I needed to identify each spool with a symbol for the chess piece it represented. The back stitch was perfect for incorporating the sewing element to the theme of the set as well as creating a clean and clear representation of the symbol, like on this pawn. The following steps will show you how to execute the back stitch.

Step 1: Plan

Apply your plan onto the fabric.

You can freehand with pencil or trace an image underneath. You can even purchase iron-on stencils at a craft store.

Step 2: Thread Your Needle

Thread your needle and tie off one end.

Pull the untied end of the thread to within a couple inches of the tied off end. This will keep your thread short while stitching and help prevent tangling. As you go along, pull the needle to shorten the untied off end so it continues to pull all the way through the fabric. This gives you twice the length of thread to use while keeping the length short while sewing.

Step 3: Starting Your Stitching

Begin by inserting your needle somewhere on your line from the back.

Pull your thread through.

Insert the needle on your line from the front about a 1/4" from where you started.

Pull the needle and thread through.

Step 4: Back Stitch

Go back to the end of your first stitch and insert the needle from the front, but do not pull the needle through.

Like using a straight pin, insert the needle from the back about a 1/4" ahead of where the needle enters the fabric from the front.

Pull the needle and thread through.

Step 5: Repeat

Repeat the last step as you go along your planned line.

Remember that you always go back to your last stitch, and then, from the back, go forward on your line.

I find that it can help to drag the point of your needle on the back of your fabric until you can see it cross your line.

Step 6: Plan Your Path

You want to avoid going back and forth across the back of your fabric, so think about how you will create a smooth path along your lines. With this pawn shape, I was able to create an almost uninterrupted line by using a "figure 8" path.

Step 7: Tie Off

Loop the thread through a few stitches on the back of your fabric and pull the needle though the loop.

Cut off excess thread.

Step 8: Enjoy

Frame your embroidery or make something with it. My chess set is a bit out of the ordinary, but pillows, handkerchiefs, and patches are great ways to display your work. Have fun!

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