Long and short stitch is by far the best filling-in stitch for embroidery. It is also known as the brick stitch because of the layering pattern created by this stitch. Long and short embroidery stitch is the stitch of choice for thread painting and silk shading. It enables the embroidery artist to create beautiful, filled-in designs and use variegated thread to its greatest potential.
Long and Short Stitch Tutorial
What is Long and Short Stitch?
Long and short stitch is a hand embroidery stitch used for thread painting. It uses fine straight stitches that layer over each other for a dense filling stitch. The stitch, as its name suggests, is made up of rows of long and short stitches. The short stitch is half the length of the long stitch.
If you are new to embroidery, read my article on how to embroider for tips on setting up your supplies and some basic stitches and techniques.
You can see a long and short stitch on the donkey below. The stitch looks like the hairs on his body. This was done by my grandmother and is on a large tablecloth. The donkey is so fine. I'm guessing it was done with a single strand of thread.
You will need
- Embroidery hoop. This keeps your fabric taut and prevents puckers and wrinkles from forming from tight threads.
- Embroidery thread. Most embroidery floss has 6 strands that you can separate to the thickness you desire.
- Needles. The most commonly used embroidery needles are crewel needles which have a long eye making it easy to thread thicker embroidery floss.
Long and Short Stitch vs Satin Stitch
Long and short stitch and satin stitch are quite similar, but the long and short stitch is superior for larger areas since there are shorter interlocking threads that won't catch. Long and short stitch also is better for designs with multiple variegated colors and subtleties in design.
If you look at the heart below done with a satin stitch, you can see that the stitches are the entire length of the pattern shape. This makes for threads that can potentially catch and pull. This is why a satin stitch is better for small designs, while a long and short stitch is better for larger designs.
How to Do Long and Short Stitch, Step by Step Instructions
Before you start sewing fancy shapes, it is useful to do a rectangle so you can get your head around the basic method.
Ignore the name long and short and think of this stitch like bricks. If you look at a brick wall, the bricks are laid so they alternate. This creates a structure that is much stronger.
Shapes like leaves and flower petals are more free-flowing and are easier as they don't need to be so exact.
Step 1 - Draw a Grid
The initial measurements of the stitch depend on the project and the area to be filled in. While not essential, it can be useful to draw a grid or some guidelines. This is more important for geometric shapes than for rounded and irregular shapes.
Step 2 - First Row of Long and Short Stitches
Start with a row of alternating long and short stitches. This enables you to set the pattern for the repeat stitches as you fill in the design.
Step 3- Second Row
When you have completed your first row of long stitches, with slight gaps in the shorter stitches, you are ready for the next row.
Stitch in between the short stitches. This is usually the length of the long stitches.
Each stitch is a simple straight stitch, but the layering gives the effect of shading or filling in an area of design.
Continue with the next row in a brick-like pattern. Here I am using a thick thread and being quite precise in the stitch length. For most patterns, you won't be so precise, so you can achieve a soft blended look.
As long as you alternate filling in the gaps, you can vary the stitch lengths. You can see how it looks when you are not being so precise in the flower and leaf section below. It is best to start with rows so you understand the concept of the long and short stitches.
Step 4 - Last Row
Finish the design with a row of short and long stitches like the beginning row. This creates the final edge and completes the pattern.
Long and Short Stitch - Tips
Here are some tips to get the maximum benefit from this artistic stitch.
- Divide your design into manageable chunks to fill in.
- Use a hoop to keep the right fabric tension.
- Use a single thread to create a neat even finish.
- Keep the stitches close together for an artistic painted effect.
- Let the slant of the stitch follow the design.
- Let the needle pierce into the stitches of the previous row to make a firm overlap stitch.
- Add more variety with different lengths of the stitch.
- Fill a leaf in from the bottom to the top, or use the stitch to outline and then fill in.
Short and Long Stitch - Flowers and Leaves
Now you have the basic idea, you can start stitching flower petals and leaves. Unlike the precision of the rectangle above, you can use a more free-flowing and less precise method.
BACKSTITCHING - Irregular shapes can be backstitched around first to get a more precise look. For the flower petal, I stitched a backstitch before I started the long and short stitch. Because the stitches were mainly horizontal, it gave a sharper edge. The green leaf did not have any backstitching.
DIRECTION - When stitching a leaf or flower with multiple colors you can choose whether to stitch downwards or around the edge moving in towards the center. You can see there is a distinct difference to the final look using these methods.
THREAD THICKNESS - For the leaf and flower I used 3 strands of embroidery floss. It gave a finer and neater look than the 6 strands I used for the rectangle.
Flower Petals Using Long and Short Stitch
- For the petal, start by stitching long and short stitches around the outline.
- For the next row (pink) sew stitches joining the shorter stitches of the first row. There is no need to be exact since you want to blend the colors together.
- For the center color, I blended into the pink and created a line down the center.
Leaves Using Long and Short Stitch
- For the leaf, I stitched vertically.
- As the leaf becomes wider and then narrower, you will need to add in extra stitches to fill the space.
- Blend the colors well and taper at the end.
Long and Short Stitch - In Conclusion
The artistic potential of this stitch lends itself to flower pictures and the use of variegated thread. There are many beautiful designs to sew using long and short stitch and create an original artistic masterpiece.
Long Short Stitch Embroidery
- Embroidery Hoop
- Embroidery Needle
- Embroidery Floss
- Stitch a row of alternating long and short stitches.
- Stitch in between the short stitches. Continue the next row in the gaps.
- For the final row, stitch alternating short and long like the beginning.
- For irregular shapes, you may wish to outline with a backstitch.
MORE EMBROIDERY ARTICLES
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- 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
- Embroidery Leaves
- Embroidery Flowers
- How to Transfer Embroidery
- Embroidery Letters
- Embroidery Tools
- Long and Short Stitch