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on stem or outline stitch...

There is something you should know. The stem stitch and its close relative, the outline stitch, eludes me. I can kind of do it, but it never looks pretty. I believe that a good part of this is because I embroider with the stabbing method in a hoop, not the sewing method.

But I have happy news!

stem stitch

Do you see this? Do you see that pretty stem stitch? Here's another look:

stem stitch

And better still:

stem stitch

This last pic is from a finished piece that I'm still not quite ready to share. But the point is, I'm stem stitching. Sort of.

Really what I'm doing is back stitching, but placing the needle further back, and under the previous stitch. I learned this version from Amy of Early Bird Special, and I am so thankful she shared this method! Yes, it's technically cheating, but it's better than nothing.


  1. I admit that when I first learned the stem stitch, my brain couldn't wrap around it either. I have no idea why, but I just could.not.get.it. Finally, it clicked (thanks to a tip from a friend) and now it's one of my top 3 favorite stitches (especially to use for filling a large space and give it some texture).

    Your stitches look gorgeous! Here's the way I teach it in my classes, in case it helps. I think I had issues with the sewing method at first, too, but now that I've got it down, I prefer it by far to the stabbing method. It makes the stem stitch work F-A-S-T! :)

    When starting out, I teach this method with a water-erasable pen. Once it "clicks" you don't need this step:

    1 - make three dots, one stitch length apart, with a water erasable pen on the line you are stitching. When you look at the dots, imagine them as A-B-C, respectively. B

    2 - Bring your needle up at A and pull it all the way up (I knot, so I pull up until the knot is flush against the back of the fabric)

    3 - Skip over B and go in at C. Use your finger on the back of the fabric to "encourage" your needle up at B.
    ** Important! Keep your thread in a U-shape *under* your needle. Your needle needs to go *over* the thread as it moves across. **

    4 - Your needle will come up above and in the middle of your first completed stitch. This is your new "A" The next hole over (the last one of the first stitch) is your new "B" so you move ahead to an imaginary "C" and bring your needle back up in the new "B" (the last hole of the first stitch). It's a little tough at first, but it gets easier with practice.

    As I read back over this, I realize how nutty it sounds written out. It makes me want to do a tutorial on it. I want to spread the stem stitch love! ;)

    Can't wait to see what that bottom project is. :)

  2. Very nice! Your stitches are beautiful! Don't make us wait too long to show us your projects!

  3. I have never been able to make a pretty stem stitch either. Can't wait to try this method because your stitches are beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  4. love your blog!you have one more follower!

  5. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Huzzah! The stem stitch demystified-I thought I was the only one that had such troubles with this one-thanks!

  6. Hi Mollie! Thank you for sharing how I do the stem stitch! It's the only way I could get it to work, & it's ok to cheat sometimes, right? :)
    SO glad it's helped you. I love the stem stitch & it's one of my favorites. :)
    Are you on Twitter? I couldn't find you? If so, I'm @earlybirdie Follow me, and I'll follow you! <3
    Happy Stitching!

  7. Thank you, Amy! I'm not on Twitter...it has been one of my last social networking hold outs...we'll see...

  8. That's the way I do it to!! I have tried the sewing method too, and actually, I prefer it, but I seldom work out of a hoop, so it isn't always an option. Yay for the Back-Stem-Stitch!


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