Embroidery basics for beginners: a step-by-step tutorial to mastering stitch techniques

Embroidery Basics for Beginners: A Step-by-Step Tutorial to Mastering Stitch Techniques

Embroidery, the art of decorating fabric with needle and thread, boasts a rich history that spans cultures and continents. For those who are just beginning their journey into this craft, mastering the basics of embroidery will open the door to a world of creativity. This comprehensive guide is tailored to help beginners understand and learn the essential stitch techniques to create their own embroidered pieces.

Choosing your tools and materials

Embroidery Hoops and Frames: Essential for keeping your fabric taut, embroidery hoops come in various sizes and materials. A good quality wooden hoop can serve as an invaluable tool for beginners.

Fabrics: Plain-weave cotton, linen, or evenweave fabrics are a great choice for those starting out. These materials provide a stable foundation and make counting threads and spacing stitches easier.

Needles: Embroidery needles, typically sharp and with a larger eye to accommodate embroidery thread, are available in different sizes. Beginners might find a size 7 or 8 to be versatile and comfortable to use.

Threads: There is a plethora of thread choices, but six-stranded cotton embroidery floss is recommended for novices due to its availability and ease of use.

Scissors: A small, sharp pair of scissors is crucial. Ensure they are dedicated solely to your embroidery work to maintain their sharpness.

Getting started with basic stitches

Running stitch

The running stitch is the most foundational of embroidery stitches, forming a simple line and serving as the backbone for many decorative patterns.

  1. Thread your needle and knot the end.
  2. Bring the needle up from the back of the fabric at your starting point.
  3. Push the needle back down a short distance away.
  4. Bring the needle up again at a point equal to the length of one stitch.

Repeat this process to create a dashed line. Consistency in stitch length is key.


For continuous lines and outlines, the backstitch provides strength and definition.

  1. Start with a running stitch.
  2. For the second stitch, bring the needle up a stitch’s length ahead of the first stitch.
  3. Then insert the needle back into the end of the first stitch.

Continue this pattern, always stitching backward to the end of the previous stitch.

Split stitch

The split stitch is a method that creates a braided line and is used for delicate lines and curves.

  1. Begin with a single straight stitch.
  2. Bring the needle up through the fabric at the midpoint of the stitch, splitting the thread.
  3. Continue leading the needle half a stitch length forward, splitting the previous stitch each time.

Practicing how to split the thread evenly is essential to mastering this stitch.

Satin stitch

To fill areas with color, the satin stitch offers a smooth, satin-like appearance.

  1. Outline your shape with a backstitch.
  2. Starting at one edge, bring the needle up and then down on the opposite edge, filling the shape with parallel stitches.
  3. Keep the stitches close together for a solid fill.

Tension control is significant in creating a neat satin stitch without puckering the fabric.

French knot

Adding texture is possible with French knots, perfect for dots, eyes, or embellishments.

  1. Bring the needle up where the knot should be.
  2. Hold the thread taut and wrap it twice around the needle.
  3. Keeping tension, insert the needle back into the fabric very close to where it emerged.
  4. Pull the needle through to the back, forming the knot.

Practice maintaining even tension for perfect knots.

Lazy daisy

The lazy daisy stitch, or detached chain stitch, creates individual petals or leaves.

  1. Make a small loop on the fabric surface and bring the needle up inside the loop.
  2. Anchor the loop with a tiny stitch at the opposite end to form a petal.
  3. Repeat the process for more petals.

It’s important to anchor each petal gently to avoid pulling the shape too tight.

Chain stitch

Ideal for creating lines, the chain stitch forms a chain-like pattern.

  1. Start with a small loop on the fabric surface.
  2. Bring the needle up inside the loop and back down on the outside, catching the loop to form a link.
  3. Continue stitching forward, always coming up within the previous loop.

Remember, evenly spaced loops create a more uniform look.

Finishing your work

After completing the stitching, it’s crucial to finish your piece properly. Trim any excess thread on the backside, ensuring not to cut too close to the knots. If using a hoop, remove the fabric and iron it on a soft surface to remove any creases.

Continuing your embroidery journey

As you develop confidence with these basic stitches, experiment with different thread colors, combining stitches, and incorporating various textures and patterns into your work. Seek inspiration from nature, art, and traditional embroidery styles from around the world.

Embroidery is an art form with endless possibilities. With practice, patience, and exploration, you will find your unique style and way of expressing creativity through this timeless craft. The stitches outlined above serve as the building blocks for more complex designs that will foster your development as an embroiderer. Let the rhythm of the needle and thread guide you, and always remember that each piece you create is a testament to your dedication and growth in this beautiful art form.