Simple Stitches that Surprise: Chain Stitch

Now here’s a simple embroidery stitch you can’t live without. The Chain Stitch builds bulky lines on your fabric. Lines that lift off the fabric and say “Look at me!” Using a size 5 embroidery needle, I’ve added curved lines of the Chain Stitch using a size 12 pearl cotton thread called Oranges. (Notice how the True Blues French Knots in between the rows really set off the orange thread.)

In another field on my silk design, I’m making small arcs of Chain Stitches. When you stack offset rows of the arcs, it makes an ogee pattern. This size 12 thread is a lovely green named for your favorite beverage, Pickle Juice. The blue straight stitches in each ogee are also stitched with a size 12 thread. It’s called Ocean. Each time I pick up a size 12 thread to make a Chain Stitch, I use a size 5 or size 7 hand embroidery needle.

A Note about Needles

hand embroidery needle has a long eye and sharp point. Choose a needle that is too small and you can’t thread the needle. Or even if you can squeeze the thread through the eye of that small needle, it will not make a hole large enough to pull the thread through easily. Choose a needle that is too large and you make a giant hole in the fabric that the thread doesn’t fill.

Above is a basic chart to help you choose your needle size for pearl cotton threads. Please note that needle brands vary. A size 3 embroidery needle in one brand may be slightly longer or have a larger girth than a size 3 in another brand. It seems that even the needle industry can’t cooperate.

Simple Stitches that Surprise: Running Stitch

One of the easiest of embroidery stitches is combined here with one of the most frustrating. The Running Stitch is a linear stitch used to create dashed lines on fabric. Here I’m using a size 8 pearl cotton thread called Oranges to make rows of Running Stitches. Easy peasy!

And then comes those frustrating French Knots scattered between the rows. Why do I find them frustrating? Because I have to carefully and slowly draw the thread through the knot to finish it correctly. How am I supposed to do that and watch a movie at the same time?

Despite my tiff with French Knots, I do love how they pop off the surface of the fabric and add pizzazz to our humble Running Stitches. They are the swiftest means of texturing fabric or adding fleece to a sheep. More on French Knots later.

A Note about Batting

The piece I am working on in this series is fused to wool batting using Misty Fuse fusible web. I am stitching just through the quilt top and the wool batting. Later, the backing fabric is added. Why use wool batting?

  • Wool batting gives body to the work so you have something to grip while adding lots of embroidery stitches.
  • It does not have a scrim so you don’t have to worry about the quilt rippling. (Learn more about scrim in my class, Fusing 101.)
  • Wool batting is much easier to stitch into than cotton or polyester batting.
  • It lets you carry threads behind the quilt surface without tying them off and it conceals the carried thread.
  • Wood batting adds dimension to the quilt surface which is what quilting is all about!

Simple Stitches that Surprise: Blanket Stitch

The Blanket Stitch is a working stitch typically used to hold one fabric shape onto another fabric. It works to conceal the edge of the fabric shape and bites into both fabrics to secure the shape into place.

Here you see the Blanket Stitch used on the tree top fabrics that are fused into place. I’m using a variegated size 8 pearl cotton called Lime Frappe. Notice that without the blanket stitch, the two green fabrics appear flat.

But add the Blanket Stitch and the tree top becomes full of juicy healthy leaves. Your basic Blanket Stitch is not only a working stitch, it excels as a decorative stitch. It boldly outlines a shape giving it a defined edge. It livens up fabric shapes giving them extra texture. It is a simple stitch that can surprise you!

A Note About Variegated Threads

The threads I am using in this embroidery are my hand-dyed pearl cotton threads that are variegated in color.  I love using them! Whether using threads with obvious color changes like Lime Frappe (5th from the top) or subtle changes in color like Sprouts (the top thread), variegation adds movement and interest to the design.