Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Embroidery How To: Backstitch

I had a request on my Vintage Embroidery Pattern post to show you all how to tackle some of those great vintage patterns. Since embroidery isn't something you magically learn all at once overnight, here is part one in a series of tutorials that will help you to learn how to bring these pattern to life, and how to eventually create some patterns of your very own.

If you are just starting out you will need:

An embroidery hoop (or several of varying sizes)
Fabric you want to embroider on (if you are just practicing I recommend getting some cheap Muslin in either white or beige)
Embroidery Floss in your favorite colors
hand sewing needles
Embroidery transfer pen, or other method of pattern transfer (check out the embroidery area of your favorite craft store for the possibilities)
Needle threader*

*While not necessary, a needle threader sure comes in handy. If you don't know what a needle threader is here is a nice little visual for you, I found the image on Wikipedia:

Now, to get to learning some simple embroidery. I decided to start out with the backstitch as it is very versatile and you can do many embroidery patterns from start to finish with nothing but this stitch if you so choose. It can be used on both straight and curved lines and can look quite different on each individual line you stitch based upon the length of your stitches and thickness of your thread.

To start out, you may want to draw yourself several lines on your fabric, and trace some circles as well to practice making curved lines too. I like using the embroidery transfer pens, as they wash out easily from finished work.

Once you have your line transferred onto your fabric, thread your needle with your embroidery floss of choice. I am in love with this dark orange right now, and lucky for me it shows up great for tutorials :) Tie a knot at one end, and then start your stitch by pulling your needle through your fabric from back to front, about 1/4 inch from the end of your line, as shown below:

Since the backstitch is named because, well, you stitch back, I always start 1/4" from the end of my pattern line and then stitch back to the end of the line. If you want to do shorter stitches, just start in that far from the end of your line. Then, stitch to the end, like so:

To do the next stitch, push your needle through about 1/4" from where your first stitch ends, and stitch back so they meet:

Continue on with this until you finish your line:

Once you are done, tie a knot on the back. The back of your stitches will look something like this:

Once you have practiced a bit your stitches should be fairly uniform and you can start trying out more difficult patterns, or things you have drawn yourself!

Next: French Knots!!


  1. Fantastic tutorial! I have quite a few of the Sublime Stitching patterns, and I almost always use the backstitch for them. It's pretty much the only stitch I know for now, but it works perfectly for those patterns.

    1. Thanks! It's a great stitch because pretty much any skill level can master it in a day or two, and of course, many patterns are made up almost entirely of straight and curved lines :)

  2. Thank you for starting a tutorial series on embroidery! You really break everything down to the nitty gritty helps so much!

    1. You are very welcome! I always like to give as much detail as possible, because I know I can be confusing in my written details sometimes. Words aren't always my strong suit :)

  3. Love this site. Thank you. How do I get more?