Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Embroidery tutorial 2 -- caught stitches

In my daily art project I'm doing a lot of doodles with various embroidery stitches.  One kind that I have used a lot since childhood are what I call "caught stitches" -- bring the needle up, take it back down again, but don't pull the stitch tight.  Instead catch it with another stitch and pull it away from the straight, much as you would pull the string with a bow and arrow.

When you do this with a single stitch, it's called fly stitch.

When you extend your catching stitch to start a second stitch, you can go on forever in a row, with each stitch attached to the one before.  This is called blanket stitch.  (Technically blanket stitch is worked over the edge of the fabric but here it's just a regular embroidery stitch.

You can turn every other stitch in the opposite direction and it becomes feather stitch.

If you make one end of the stitch a lot longer than the other, you have Cretan stitch.

If you put your needle back into the same hole that it came out of, but catch it a ways away to make a little loop, you get a chain stitch.

If you make only one chain stitch instead of a whole chain of them, it's called detached chain.  If you make a bunch of them radiating from a single point, you get a lazy daisy.

I sometimes find that it doesn't take long to fill my daily square with blanket or feather stitches, and I don't feel like stopping quite yet.  So I often decorate the stitches with little "flowers" made from french knots.


  1. Hi Kathy,
    Have you come across Sharon Boggin's Stitch Dictionary? Many varieties of stitches and directions on how to do them.

    Also, Judith Baker Montano's books are good resources. Although they were written specifically for the crazy quilting fans, I have found ideas for using the stitches in different aspects of my work.
    Sandy Snowden

  2. My grandmother made me a velvet squares quilt and did little embroideries on each square. I should get it out and display it. Mom just gave me a quilt she started where the wool crazy patches are attached to a cotton base with embroidery. Since it isn't finished, I'm going to add some applique shapes and more embroidery. At that point it will have the backing showing. Any suggestions for finishing the back? what are you doing with yours, if you don't mind my asking?

  3. Kathleen, thanks for sharing your daily embroidery stitches. Your sampler is very appealing.

  4. Leigh -- I think I'm going to just hang mine in space as a single layer so people can see the back with its knots and thread ends. I'm intending it to be used as a work of art, not functionally, so I really don't care about the back.

    You might consider putting on a silky back which you tack down to the front at each of the intersections, like a traditional tied quilt -- I think that's a finish that was often used with old crazy quilts.

    For a clean-finished edge, place the backing on top of the finished front, right sides together, stitch around the edges except for a foot left open to turn the package right side out. Then finish the stitching by hand.

    Or you could always put the backing on the back, tie at all the block intersections, then finish the edges with a binding.

  5. Good idea, thanks! I've been thinking about it, and might try the clean-finish approach with wool, instead of the silky. I'm lucky that Pendleton Woolen mills has an outlet here in town and there is often some excellent yardage at a reasonable price. I like looking at the back - I always find the 'process' interesting, but I do want to use it, so for this purpose it needs a back.