Herringbone stitch, as the name suggests, looks like a row of interlaced fish bones. This useful stitch is worth knowing for its versatile nature and the easy way it fills space on any piece of embroidery. Herringbone stitch is found in some quilting circles as part of ‘crazy quilting’ because it is an effective way to decorate the seams in quilts. It looks especially nice along the hems and bodices of children’s clothing. Follow these easy steps and when you feel confident, try some variations to the basic herringbone stitch.
Herringbone Stitch – Preparation
- BEGINNERS – If you are new to hand stitching, have a read of my article on how to embroider. This will go through the basic supplies and stitches of embroidery.
- HOOPS – Like most hand stitches, herringbone stitch is easiest when done on an embroidery hoop or frame. These are relatively cheap to purchase in bamboo or plastic and come in assorted sizes. If you have a large area or border to stitch, you can still use a smaller hoop and move it along your fabric periodically. Smaller frames are easier to handle for beginners.
- FABRIC – I have done my samples on an unbleached calico but you can do this stitch on any open weave fabric such as linen or Aida fabric. It can also be done on tighter woven fabric such as that used in clothing but you may just need a thimble to push the needle through the fabric repeatedly. Herringbone stitch makes a nice border on tops.
- NEEDLES – Embroidery or crewel needles are best used for thicker threads. (Read types of hand sewing needles). These have larger eyes to make threading embroidery floss easier. If you have trouble threading then use a needle threader. This simple device will eliminate a lot of frustration.
- THREADS – In order to show up your carefully stitched work, you will need to use thicker threads. Embroidery floss is commonly used but finer crochet thread can be used as well in some circumstances. Floss comes in 6 twisted strands and I used all 6 for a thicker look. Sometimes using 3 threads can look neater since the threads are less likely to separate.
How to do Herringbone Stitch
Step 1 – Draw Guides
If you are following a border with the herringbone stitch, it is wise to draw two parallel lines to guide you. As you get more proficient you can skip adding the guidelines. Herringbone stitch is best done on straight rows or rows with the gentlest of curves. It is not suitable for sharply curved lines.
Due to the open nature of the top and bottom of this stitch, your markings will show. For practice, it is ok to use a lead pencil, but you will want to switch to a removable pen or tailor’s chalk for your final product. If you use a removable pen make sure you test it first to ensure all traces will be gone.
Step 2 – First Cross
Bring your thread up from the underside of the fabric on the right of the top line, at point (1).
Insert the needle again at point (2), and out again a short distance away at point (3).
Note that (3) is to the right of (2) and on the diagonal.
You will continually be working this stitch from left to right. This will form the little cross at the bottom of each stitch.
Here is how it looks once the needle is pulled through for the first stitch.
Step 3 – Top of Cross
Then insert the needle in the top row into the point (4), and out at point (5). Notice the direction of the needle – left to right.
On a scrap piece of fabric, experiment with the distance between 4 and 5. You will see that a smaller distance makes the herringbone stitch look more like lacing and a larger distance will look more like larger crosses.
Step 4 – Repeat
Continue making the stitches following these three easy steps and the five points of the pattern.
Here is a completed herringbone stitch. The trick is to not overthink the stitch. If you concentrate on pointing and inserting your needle from left to right along the parallel lines you will find you will get the hang of it in no time.
Remember – The needle should insert left to right
Herringbone Stitch – Variations
Herringbone stitch is a great border or edging stitch and because it is so simple it has many interesting variations. Simply by changing the size of the stitches, you can change the look of the pattern. Creating rows with little or no gap at the top and bottom creates a solid looking stitch which is great for filling large areas. Alternate your thread colors or keep it all the same for a more solid look.
Here is a single herringbone stitch with gaps between each row.
By adding another thread to weave amongst the herringbone you can create another dimension to the stitch. A favorite variation of the herringbone stitch is the double herringbone. This is a simple additional row of herringbone placed along the row. It looks especially attractive when you use two contrasting thread colors.
Alternatives to Herringbone Stitch
A simpler alternative to the herringbone is a cross stitch. It uses a similar motion but results in a single cross. You can use these 2 stitches in conjunction to create interesting and unique borders.
Herringbone Stitch – In Conclusion
Now you know how to do herringbone stitch for borders, quilt seams and filling embroidery, why not try some more embroidery stitches. Use these stitches individually or combine them to create works of art.
MORE EMBROIDERY STITCHES
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross 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