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Hand Embroidery: How to Make a Satin Stitch

Updated on February 16, 2023
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Melanie has been interested in cultures, languages, and travel since her youth.

Small satin stitches (berries) on one of my larger projects
Small satin stitches (berries) on one of my larger projects | Source

What are satin stitches?

A satin stitch is a hand embroidery stitch that creates a smooth, flat surface of closely spaced, parallel stitches. It is used to fill in areas with solid color and create a smooth, glossy appearance.

The stitch is worked by making a series of closely spaced stitches that cover the surface of the fabric, with each stitch slightly overlapping the previous one.

The spacing of the stitches and the type of thread used can be varied to create different effects and textures. Satin stitches are commonly used in hand embroidery to create decorative elements like flowers, leaves, and lettering.

Satin stitches are one of the most important stitches in a stitcher's repertoire. This stitch is a filler which means it's used to completely cover a section of fabric. There is a number of variants of the satin stitch, but the satin stitch alone is probably the easiest and most common filler stitch.

So what is a satin stitch? All this stitch really is a variant of the running stitch that is meant to fill in space (sort of like "coloring it in".) Sometimes called Damask stitches, these are really just a series of flat stitches. There are some tricks to satin stitches, though, so it's important to learn some of these in order to make some fab-looking embroidered handicrafts.

Figure 1: Start out by making a running stitch
Figure 1: Start out by making a running stitch | Source
Figure 2: Make another running stitch just above the last one you made
Figure 2: Make another running stitch just above the last one you made | Source

How to Make a Satin Stitch

Before making satin stitches you will need to know how to make a running stitch. If you don't know how to make a running stitch and would like to learn, check out my guide on how to embroider. (It explains a bit about embroidery and teaches some techniques using the running stitch.)

Step 1: If you're already well-versed in making running stitches, you'll want to start off your first row of satin stitches by making a running stitch by going from left to right (figure 1.)

Step 2: Push your needle up just above where you started your first stitch and close this new stitch by pushing your needle down where you ended your last stitch (figure 1.) By now you'll probably notice that all you're doing is making running stitches one above the other, this is pretty much all satin stitches are about. Congratulations! You're making satin stitches!

A group of three satin stitches
A group of three satin stitches | Source

Tips & Tricks for Satin Stitches

Satin stitches can be difficult to master. This is because they have the tendency to get kind of lop-sided if you don't plan ahead. What many people do, myself included, is make an outline in which to make satin stitches. Your outline can either be a simple running stitch or you can even use a fabric marker (washes off with water.)

The thing that's not so fun about satin stitches is that you generally have to keep them small. If you make huge stitches, you risk making something that looks kind of sloppy. Also, long satin stitches can snag very easily. There are variants of satin stitches, though, that allow you to make longer stitches, but they won't have that smooth appearance.

One really nice thing about satin stitches is that they can be used to hide flaws in your work. In fact, these stitches can be made so nicely that people won't be able to tell where you tied off your ends. You'll be able to thread the leftover bits of floss right underneath your stitches!

If you're stitching something that won't have a definite front side or back side, chances are you'll rely heavily on satin stitches.

© 2011 Melanie Palen


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