Learning to sew chain stitch embroidery is a great basic start to a beautiful hobby and a way to decorate all kinds of fabrics. Chain stitch is a simple yet effective way to link other stitches together or just a standalone decorative stitch for filling and outlining.
Chain Stitch Embroidery Tutorial
The embroidered chain stitch is an easy stitch for the curves in patterns or a wonderful filler for a design. It has been around for centuries and was very popular with the Chinese as they decorated fine silks with delicate chain stitch designs.
How simple is chain stitch embroidery? It really is a one-two-three kind of stitch. Looped together, the chains link with each other, and you can direct their journey across your fabric for as long as you wish. So, set your hoop up, choose your thread, and get ready to go looping chains together.
Chain Stitch Embroidery - Video
My basic stitches video includes the chain stitch. Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly sewing and craft videos.
How to Do Chain Stitch Embroidery
If you are new to embroidery, then have a read of my article on how to embroider for lots of suggestions on tools and basic techniques for your new hobby.
- HOOPS - Like all embroidery, chain stitch is easiest when sewn in a hoop or frame to hold the fabric tight. This will help you get nice and even stitches and prevent any puckering of the fabric. Hoops are cheap and don't need to be large as you can move them around on a larger piece of fabric.
- FABRICS - The best fabrics for embroidery are open weave fabrics that are easy for the needle to penetrate. Try linen or an unbleached calico like my sample. Decorative embroidery used for wall hangings is often done on aida fabric which has a really open weave and threads that you can count.
- NEEDLE - For most of these fabrics you will just need an embroidery needle with a large eye. Read more about types of hand sewing needles.
- THREADS - For my sample I have used a 6 strand embroidery floss. This gives quite a chunky look to the chain stitch embroidery that I like. You can use less strands for finer work if you have more patience than me.
Chain Stitch Embroidery Step by Step Instructions
Embroidery thread is normally threaded singularly. (ie the thread is not doubled over). If you have any problem getting a thick thread through the eye of the needle, use a needle threader. This nifty little device will save you a lot of frustration.
Step 1 - Starting Embroidery Chain Stitch
Bring your floss up through the back of your hoop at your starting point at (1).
What to do with the tail - Leave a tail at the back to catch in later so the back is neatened beautifully. Hold the tail thread securely as you start your first chain stitch or put some tape over it. You could also tie a knot in the end for a faster alternative.
Step 2 - First Embroidery Chain Stitch
Your thread is now on the right side of the fabric. Insert the needle at point (2) which is next to point (1) where the thread came to the front of the fabric. (It should be a separate hole).
Exit the needle at point (3) which is just in front of (1) and (2).
IMPORTANT: Wrap the thread under the tip of the needle and gently it through to the right side. This will make your first chain.
Size of Stitches - The distance of (3) from (1)(2) determines the size of the chain. If you are just doing a sample to learn how to do chain stitch embroidery, then make (3) ¼ inch (6mm) from points (1) and (2). This will give you a large enough stitch to see what you are doing in the beginning. You can move down to really fine stitching as you gain more confidence.
Here is how it looks once the needle has exited at (3).
Step 3 - Anchor and Repeat
The embroidery floss is pulled through and acts as the anchor for the next chain. Continue to create chains as you insert the needle into the space in the previous chain next to the point where the last insert was made. Just to be clear this is next to point (3) above and inside the chain.
Wrap the floss around the needle and there is your next chain.
Look how a whole chain can be curved or straight.
Tips for Sewing Chain Stitch Embroidery
- DON'T PULL - Do not pull too tightly as the chain will lose its lovely linked effect and the material will pucker.
- CONTROL - Hold each stitch gently with your thumb over the top so you can control the loop. As you practice, you will perfect the size and shape of each stitch.
- GAPS AND SIZING - Watch the gap you leave as you insert the needle to make each stitch as this determines the size of the stitch.
- UNPICKING - If you should change your mind this stitch is easy to undo and start again. The loops just unravel, and you redirect and go again.
Chain Stitch Embroidery Variations
Chain stitch is such a great basic stitch it stands to reason that it would be the foundation stitch for many variations. Chain stitch variations can be as simple as adding a different colored thread to this beautiful stitch. It is an excellent outliner, edge definer, and a good filler in stitch too.
We will cover several variations, and it could be a good idea to make a sampler of the stitches and use a fabric pen to write the name of the variation underneath.
Lazy Daisy Chain Stitch
The Lazy Daisy is a variation of the chain stitch embroidery that is extremely popular and best of all, easy to sew. The loops are sewn individually around a circle to form petals.
Open Chain Stitch
This stitch is sometimes known as ladder stitch and square chain stitch. It is helpful to draw two parallel lines to keep the ladder running in the right direction and spaced accurately.
- Mark points 1, 2, 3 on your lines. A is your starting point, and your thread comes from under the fabric to the top.
- Insert the needle into the fabric at point (2). Opposite (1) and bring the needle out of the material at (3) with the loop of thread running under the needle.
- Mark a point (4) opposite point (3) and insert the needle in at this point, bringing it out under the fabric at point (5).
Follow this pattern, and the open chains will form a ladder effect. Do not pull the threads too tightly because the fabric will pucker.
Detached Chain Stitch
The detached chain stitch refers to a chain stitch not joined to the other chain stitches. It is often known as lazy daisy stitch and is used to make petal or leaf designs. The loop of the detached chain is secured with a small stitch at the tip of the loop to create the desired petal effect. When these stitches are worked in a circle, they form the daisy's petals.
- Secure your thread on the wrong side of the fabric. Bring the needle to the right side and create the first loop of the chain in exactly the same way as you did for the ordinary chain stitch.
- Secure the loop with a small stitch at the top of the chain loop. Instead of continuing the chain with other stitches linked together, this securing stitch is used in place of continuing the chain. Detached chain stitches have variations, but they are best known for creating lazy daisy stitches.
Whipped Chain Stitch
- Sew a row of chain stitches in the direction or space you wish to fill on your design.
- Thread a contrast thread onto a needle and secure it from the reverse side of the fabric at the starting point of the chain you made.
- Then with the needle and thread on the right side, thread the contrast color between the loop of each chain. Push the needle under the loop and bring the thread over the loop.
- The whipped chain will give a corded design.
Zig Zag Chain Stitch
Sewing chain stitch in a zig-zag fashion gives an interesting effect, and the stitch is really easy to do because it is just a variation of the basic chain stitch.
- Draw a baseline in a wipe-out marker to give you a guideline for the zig-zag stitches.
- Make your first loop of the chain stitch slanting at a 45o angle pointing away from the line.
- Insert your needle into the chain loop you have made and make a second chain slanting towards the line at a 45oangle.
- Continue in this manner to complete a row of zig-zag chain stitch.
Cable Chain Stitch
This stitch has a small loop connecting each chain stitch. The small stitch separates the chain and gives it the cabled effect.
- The step that makes the link is made by wrapping the thread once around the needle before inserting it into the fabric and slipping the needle a little space into the fabric before scooping up some material for the following chain.
- Finish off as you usually do for any chain stitch ending off neatly at the back.
Checkered Chain Stitch
Checkered chain stitch is an interesting variation of chain stitch made by using two different colors of thread simultaneously.
- Thread your needle with contrasting or shades of a color and see how attractive the effect of checkered chain stitch is on your embroidery. This effect looks good as a border.
Backstitched Chain Stitch
The basic chain stitch has a line of backstitch through the middle. The backstitch can be sewn in a contrasting color or the same color to give texture to the chain stitch.
Now you have just a few simple variations of one of the basic embroidery stitches, chain stitch. Once you have mastered chain stitch, the additional variations help this stitch be something special. 'Keep it simple,' they say, and these variations help that simple stitch become a little more sophisticated.
Chain Stitch Embroidery - In Conclusion
There you have it, a simple single chain stitch that can decorate anything as a border, filling in stitch or an outliner. It drapes easily across your fabric and is easy to control.
Chain stitch embroidery is a must to learn for every beginner. It will continue to be a favorite as you see its potential in so many different scenarios. Getting caught up in chain stitch will keep you ‘linked – in’ to embroidery!
MORE EMBROIDERY STITCHES
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch Embroidery
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch
Chain Stitch Embroidery
- Embroidery Hoop
- Embroidery Needle
- Embroidery Fabric
- Embroidery Floss
- Bring the needle up from underneath. Point (1).
- Insert the needle at point (2) which is right below point (1).
- Bring the needle up at point (3) which is in front of (1) and (2). The distance away will determine the size of your chain stitch.
- Wrap the thread under the needle tip and pull through. Don't pull too tight or you will close the chain.