Take your needlework projects to another level by adding specialty stitches to your next project. With their intricate and interesting shapes, specialty stitches will not only make your projects distinct, they can add unique textures.
The Algerian eyelet is popular for its sleek and versatile shape and may be worked in a row or alone as a motif. When worked correctly, the center of the stitch forms a small hole—or eyelet—from the needle continually going in the same center hole. Different thread materials, like ribbon, may also be used, but the tension creating the center hole will vary depending on the material.
Other names: star stitch, star eyelet stitch
What it is used for: flowers, stars, and interesting border patterns
How to stitch: The needle should always come up at the outer edge and go down in the center. Work the stitch clockwise. If you want to emphasize the center hole, gently poke the end of a larger sewing needle into the center to widen it.
Tip: Work each straight stitch into the center hole and pull the thread slightly so that the fabric minimally distorts. It is this tension that creates the hole in the center of the stitch.
The chain stitch is one of the oldest stitches in embroidery history, dating back to ancient Chinese embroidery. Today, the chain stitch and its many variations are not exclusive to embroidery; they are also found in many other forms of needlework.
What it is used for: The series of looped stitches is most commonly used to form a chain-like pattern. Single chain stitches may also be used to form flower petals and leaves (see lazy daisy).
How to stitch: Bring the needle up from the back. Once pulled through, hold the thread with your free thumb. Reinsert the needle right next to the entry point, forming a loop. Bring the needle up from the back a short distance forward, inside the loop. Don’t pull so tight that the loop is lost. Continue the chain by using your free thumb to form another loop of the same size. Repeat until you have the desired amount of chain stitches. Anchor by fastening your final loop with a small couching stitch.
Tip: Use a gentle amount of pressure to hold the loop or it will resemble a straight line instead of a chain.
The four-sided stitch is a versatile stitch that can be worked horizontally, vertically, diagonally, in single rows, or in groups. The stitch is comprised of straight stitches that form a square on the front and a cross on the back.
What it is used for: found in many types of needlework but especially in pulled work and Hardanger embroidery
How to stitch: Use straight stitches to form a square. Where you begin the stitch will vary depending on which direction your series of stitches will go (vertically, horizontally, etc.). Keep in mind that no matter the direction, your last stitch of the first four-sided square should always be the first stitch of the next four-sided square in the series.
Tip: Tightening the tension will create a lacy effect with a hole in each corner.
Because of its simplicity, the lazy daisy was traditionally one of the first stitches children would learn for their samplers. A variation of the chain stitch, the lazy daisy may be stitched alone or in a group.
Other name: detached chain
What it is used for: often used to make leaves or worked in a circle to form a flower motif
How to stitch: Follow the directions for the chain stitch, but instead of using multiple loops to anchor your stitches, use a small couching stitch to anchor the single loop.
Tip: By filling in the loop with a knotted stitch, cross-stitch, or bead, the color and texture of the stitch can change.
The rice stitch is most commonly used to create a textured background and is usually worked in individual blocks or rows.
Other names: crossed corners, William and Mary stitch
What it is used for: as bands in samplers, borders, to replicate a lattice or fence, or as a background stitch
How to stitch: First, create a foundation of large cross-stitches (can be worked over two or four fabric threads), then work a diagonal stitch over each corner of the cross-stitch.
Tip: Achieve different looks and textures by using different thicknesses of thread or multiple colors.
Along with the chain stitch, the satin stitch dates back to early embroidery and is considered one of the oldest embroidery stitches. The series of straight stitches should lie evenly and closely together, creating a shaded and filled-in look.
Other name: damask stitch
What it is used for: mostly for embroidered projects, but can be used in cross-stitch and needlepoint projects to add shading or to fill an area
How to stitch: Bring the thread up through the fabric and make a single straight stitch, making sure the floss lies flat. Complete each stitch exactly like the first, keeping them very close to the previous stitches. If done correctly, there should be a smooth, even edge. Use only for small areas, as long satin stitches can become loose and untidy.
Tip: To prevent the fabric from puckering, use an embroidery hoop or frame.
The Smyrna cross is very similar to the Algerian eyelet except it does not have an eyelet in the middle. The Smyrna cross may be worked over two or four threads; when worked over two threads, the cross is similar to a bump. Working over four threads can showcase the individual elements of the stitch, but will leave some open canvas areas.
Other name: double cross
What it is used for: buttons, stars, sampler borders, or anywhere a bumpy texture is desired; also great for small areas requiring a lot of texture
How to stitch: The Smyrna cross consists of a regular cross-stitch with an upright cross on top. Work the stitch according to the diagram. Or, start the stitch by making an ordinary cross-stitch, then making an upright cross over it.
Tip: Always work the stitches in the same manner.