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embroidery basics: fill stitches • part 1


Most of the time when I embroider, I think of outlines. That’s my favorite part, and the way I see artwork, so it makes sense. But by filling areas with color, lines and designs, you get a completely different look. Some of my favorite embroidered pieces that I’ve seen include some kind of fill stitch.

There are some traditional methods of filling in an area, and we’ll get to those next time, but I thought I’d start with some quick methods that don’t require much practice at all.

To learn and practice all of the different fill stitches, I made a simple rain pattern. Transfer the pattern (you’ll find it at the end of this lesson) and you’re ready to go.
Ready to be filled
Normally I would use regular six-strand cotton, but to change it up a little, I’m using Color Variations Pearl Cotton from DMC. This is mainly because I wanted a shiny, bold look for the final piece. I’m also starting all of my raindrops (except for one) with an outline of backstitch.
Filling with straight stitch
The first fill is called a seed or rice stitch. All you do is fill in the area with short little straight stitches. It is really, really easy.
Filling with straight stitch
You can change the look of this stitch by altering the length of the stitches, how close they are, and their direction. You could also use different colors. This stitch is great for creating texture.
Filling with running stitch
Filling with running stitch
A variation on the seed or rice stitch is to make line after line of running stitch. You can make everything line up precisely, or be a bit more casual about it. This fill is reminiscent of Japanese sashiko embroidery.
Filling with back stitch
For a more solid fill, stitch row after row of your favorite straight stitch. Follow along with your outer line, or create other patterns in the lines.
Filling with back stitch
I used a backstitch, but a split or chain works too. I haven’t used this method of filling much, but in just a short amount of playing, I already like it. You can see variations of this a lot in wool crewel work.
Filling with french knots
Filling with french knots
On of my favorite looks for fill stitches is an area filled with french knots. You can place them really close together, or give them a bit of space, as I’ve done here. You’ll either have a fuzzy area, or one that is polka dotted!
Fill stitches
That’s four raindrops filled in, and next time we’ll do the rest!


Be sure to check back on Monday for a very exciting announcement! I can't wait!

11 comments:

  1. I love these tutorials. The olive makes them so cute.

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  2. Very useful, up until now I've just been sewing lines upon lines of boring straight stitches to do any filling in. Your tips are helping me no end!! =) x

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  3. Your timing couldn't be more perfect! I was just investigating different fill in stitches! Thanks once again.

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  4. I've always wondered about fill stitches! This is great - thanks!

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  5. What a great post! Very inspiring I must say. I'm ready to get started.

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  6. Thank you for your post. I have just started my very first embroidery piece (exciting!) so seeing this is perfect timing!

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  7. These are great ideas for fill stitching - I always just use a satin stitch, which is a little boring...I'll have to try some of these soon!

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  8. Thank you so much for this post. I want to let you know that I posted a link to your blog in CBH Digital Scrapbooking Freebies, under the Page 9 post on May. 14, 2011. Thanks again.

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  9. french knots! french knots! (chanting) why are they so cute? LOVE your raindrops! xo

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  10. Anonymous9:17 AM

    one of the absolute best embroidery how-tos I've ever seen, ever. Good pics, well written, nice tone, very good instructional style. Thanks!

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  11. this is my first time learning/doing embroidery and Mollie is making my experience pleasurable!

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