How to Make a Chain Stitch in Embroidery

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Chain stitching is an ancient technique useful in more intricate work. The chain stitch is essentially a series of looped stitches that, together, form a chain-like pattern. If you crochet, you might have noticed that this stitch looks somewhat similar to an initial chain row in crochet.

The chain stitch is also extremely useful. It can be used for edging on borders, to outline a design, or even as a filler!

This stitch is very popular and has been used around the world for centuries, dating back to at least the 5th century BC in China! This stitch can be found in crewelwork, Hungarian written embroidery, Kashmiri numdahs, Jacobean embroidery, Iranian Resht work, and in Central Asian suzani. Soon, this ancient stitch will be found in your own work!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Figure 1: Push the needle back throughFigure 2: A small loopFigure 3: Creating your next loop in the chainFigure 4: A small two-loop chain... we're chain stitching!
Figure 1: Push the needle back through
Figure 1: Push the needle back through | Source
Figure 2: A small loop
Figure 2: A small loop | Source
Figure 3: Creating your next loop in the chain
Figure 3: Creating your next loop in the chain | Source
Figure 4: A small two-loop chain... we're chain stitching!
Figure 4: A small two-loop chain... we're chain stitching! | Source

Your First Chain Stitches

Step 1: Start out by bringing your needle up through the fabric as you would with any other stitch, then bring the needle back down (figure 1) through the same hole, slowly, in order to form a loop (figure 2.)

Hint: Be careful not to pull your thread all the way so that it's taut. You'll want to create that loop as it's the basis of this stitch. If you've pulled it taut, you can gently pull the stitch back up to create the loop.

Step 2: Gently lay the loop flat against the fabric. Then, push the needle up on the inside of the tip of the loop (figure 3) and make another loop (figure 4.) Congratulations! You're making chain stitches!

Tips & Tricks

Continue making loops and closing with the next loop until you've completed a row. When you're finished, tie off your chain stitch by bringing your needle in at the tip of the inside of the loop and then making a small straight stitch to the outside of the loop.

Here are some quick tips and tricks for making awesome chain stitches:

  • Practice makes perfect: Play around with the various loop shapes and sizes and just make a number of chain stitches. This way you'll not only get the hang of how to make a really nice chain stitch, but you'll also learn how to make different looks with this stitch.
  • For this tutorial I used a piece of floss with all six strands. If you use fewer strands, you can create a more defined look.
  • If you're having trouble making your loops the same size, you can use a small, wooden dowel (sold in most craft stores.) As you're pulling your thread to create your loop, you can thread the dowel into the loop so that the loop is no larger or smaller than the diameter of the dowel. You can pull the dowel out when your loop reaches the desired size and reuse it for the next loop.
  • If you pull on your loops to stretch them out before starting your next loop, you can create skinny, less loopy chain stitches. Likewise, you can press your loops into a rounder shape with your fingers before making your next loop to make very loopy, thicker, and more defined looking stitches.

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