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Chicken Scratch Embroidery

Updated on November 7, 2014

Depression Lace, Amish Embroidery, Snowflake Lace, or Gingham Embroidery

Whatever you call this needlework, chicken scratch embroidery is pretty!

I had seen chicken scratch embroidery before, but didn't know what it was called. When I looked it up online, I searched for "gingham embroidery" because this type of embroidery seems to always be done on gingham fabric.

I came across this vintage pillowcase shown here at a thrift store recently. It's a great example of chicken scratch embroidery. These pieces remind me of smocking, which is often done on gingham fabric, too. But unlike smocking, the needlework doesn't gather the fabric. This stitching looks a lot like cross stitch to me.

In my research, I found out that this needlework goes by lots of names:

~ gingham embroidery

~ snowflake lace or snowflaking

~ Amish embroidery

~ Depression lace or Hoover lace because it was done as a way to dress up fabric during the 1930s when money was scarce

~ teneriffe lace

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Chicken Scratch Stitches

It involves only about three or four types of stitches -

the running stitch, the cross stitch, the double

cross stitch, and (if you want to consider

it a separate stitch), the threaded running stitch.

Source: Needle N Thread

Gingham Embroidery Pillowcase - Keep an Eye out for Vintage Linens

There are lots of names for this stitch including chicken scratch, Depression lace, snowflaking, and gingham embroidery.
There are lots of names for this stitch including chicken scratch, Depression lace, snowflaking, and gingham embroidery.

I've seen many vintage pieces with chicken scratch embroidery on them through the years. Aprons, pillows, and pillowcases are just a few linens that women stitched on to dress up their gingham fabric.

Photo Credit: Peggy Hazelwood

Supplies Needed to Make Chicken Scratch Embroidery - You'll Just Need a Few Things

Needlepointers recommends having the following supplies on hand to make your own chicken scratch embroidery designs:

~ embroidery needle (size #24) with a large eye so the floss can fit through

~ embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut

~ embroidery scissors

~ embroidery floss

~ gingham fabric

~ needle threader, if needed

Bad Handwriting

Handwriting that is hard to read

is also called chicken scratch.

Chicken Scratch How To on YouTube

This YouTube video is 13 minutes long but provides some great information if you want to start chicken scratching yourself.

Gingham Fabric for Gingham Embroidery - Make Your Own Chicken Scratch Creations

For beginner's projects, start with gingham fabric with wider squares. Use the smaller squares for more advanced projects after you've tackled a few chicken scratch embroidery projects.

Popularity of Chicken Scratch

From the 1930s to the 1950s,

chicken scratch embroidery was often done

on aprons making this look very popular.

Source: Needlepointers

Embroidery Books Featuring Chicken Scratch Designs

Add a Gingham Lace Apron to Your Collection - Vintage Finds for You

These chicken scratch pieces are ready to be added to your vintage linen collection, in case you don't have the time or inkling to make them yourselves.

Gingham Lace

While it's not real lace-making, lace stitch is a type

of needle weaving worked on gingham

that produces many lacy looks.

It's not difficult to do and works up quickly.

Laurie Latour, Guest Blogger at Needle N Thread

Affiliate Disclosure

This author, Peggy Hazelwood, participates in Amazon, eBay, All Posters, and other affiliate advertising programs. When you click an advertising link on this page and make a purchase, I receive a small percent of the sale. Thank you for reading this far!

Have You Seen Chicken Scratch Embroidery Before? - Have you ever made any embroidery like this?

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    • Beaddoodler profile image

      Jennie Hennesay 

      4 years ago from Lubbock TX

      This is a technique I've never seen before. Thank you. Very informative article.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Does your blog have a contact page? I'm hvaing problems locating it but, I'dlike to shoot you an email. I've got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      5 years ago

      I have seen this before, but I didn't know it was called "chicken scratch" embroidery. I think I like it even better with that tidbit in my noggin. I love that it only uses a few different stitches! As an embroidery novice, I love techniques that look fancy without actually being very complicated.


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