Stem Stitch Tutorial

If you’re new to embroidery and want to know how get started, I recommend reading the Embroidery Basics tutorial first.

The stem stitch is very similar to the outline stitch, but the key difference is in the placement of the thread. More on that later. The stem stitch, much like the outline stitch, is most often used for curves and outlines.

Here’s a quick look at the steps. I’ll break each of these down below.

Stem stitch tutorial by The Stitch Emporium

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1: Begin by stitching a straight stitch in the fabric, then pull the thread through until you are left with a small loop.

Step 2: Push the needle through the fabric halfway between the entry and exit points of the first stitch. Pull the thread all the way through until the first stitch lies flat. Make sure you pull the needle and thread through above the loop.

Step 3: Begin another straight stitch the same length as the first stitch. Again, leave a loop of thread.

Step 4: This time, bring the needle back up through the entry hole made by the previous stitch. Pull the thread all the way through so the stitches lie flat.

Step 5: Continue stitching, always making sure to bring the needle up through the hole left by the last stitch before pulling everything flat. You can see as you progress that these stitches wrap around each other and create a seamless line.

The final result!

Outline stitch versus stem stitch

The difference between outline stitch and stem stitch is the placement of the thread. On the left, the needle comes out below the loop of thread to create an outline stitch. On the right, the needle comes out above the loop of thread to create a stem stitch.


In other words, when stitching outline stitches, keep the loop above the line of stitches; for stem stitches, keep the loop below the line of stitches.

Explore more tutorials.


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