Split stitch is exactly what its name describes. A stitch that has been split by the creation of the next stitch. It is a perfect stitch for outlining or creating a line within a design. It is very easy to do and can have varying lengths according to your design. It is a simple, straight stitch.
THE METHOD – To create split stitch the needle is inserted from the back of the work to the front, through the middle of the existing stitch.
THREADS – Multiple strands of thread are required in order to split the stitch. Choose an embroidery thread with six strands. This is the most popular thread because an even split of three threads at each side is possible. The split stitch has a corded effect and is perfect for many embroidery designs.
FRAMES – Like most embroidery designs, this stitch is most easily done with your fabric on a small frame either in wood or plastic. This holds the fabric tight making it easier to split the threads.
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FABRICS – Suitable fabrics include calico, cotton, linen and Aida. These open weave fabrics make it easy to insert thicker threads. An embroidery needle will be needed to thread thicker threads through the eye. This can be made easier using a needle threader.
Split Stitch vs Backstitch vs Chain Stitch
Split stitch is an outlining stitch like backstitch and chain stitch. Compared to backstitch, the split stitch looks more raised and rope-like. It is not as wide and open as a chain stitch.
How to Do Split Stitch
Step 1 – Enter
From underneath, bring the needle up at (1)
Step 2 – Exit Down
Put the needle down at (2) a short distance away. The length of the stitch is determined by the length of the thread of the upper stitch.
Step 3 – Split the Thread
Bring the needle up from underneath at (3). The needle is brought through the middle of the existing stitch. The split stitch is formed by coming up through the back of the fabric and into the stitch previously made. If you have 6 strands, 3 strands should be on either side of the needle. You don’t need to count the threads each time as that would be way too hard, but just be aware that the needle should be in the middle.
Step 4 – Next Stitch
Repeat for the next split stitch. Put the needle back down at (4)
Step 5 – Split
Come up in the middle of the stitch at (5) which is in the middle of the previous stitch.
The principle behind the split stitch is that each stitch is split by the needle whilst creating the next stitch. Split stitch is worked in a similar motion to a backstitch.
Split Stitch Uses
Try split stitch on these outlines and designs:
- Monograms, embroidery letters and outlining names.
- Simple messages and samplers.
- Outlining embroidery flowers especially the rose.
- Outlining embroidery leaves and adding detail to designs. Split stitch can be used to fill in, as well as outline the design.
- A lovely way to create a border around a small medallion or framed image.
- Add little details to a picture after the embroidery is complete. Use the outline where you feel the design could be highlighted and uplifted.
Here is my little bird embroidery done in a split stitch. See how thick and ropey the outlines look. It is a lot more 3 dimensional than if I’d done the bird in a backstitch.
The beauty of split stitch is the many areas it can be used on in different projects.
The thread is variable too. Split stitch always needs multiple strands to work the split, but you can try threading the needle with two different colors and the results will be very interesting. It could give a shaded effect using two slightly different shades or a striped effect with two contrasting colors.
Here are some variations. In the image below –
- First Row (light blue) – 12 strands
- Second Row (navy) – 6 strands with short stitch length
- Third Row (pink) – 6 strands with long stitch length
Split Stitch – In Conclusion
Don’t let the simplicity of the split stitch prevent you from being innovative and creative with this easy to work outlining or filling in stitch. Look at the shapes and lines of your design and plan some creative moves. The plain stitch of the embroidery palette may just surprise you with its versatility and creative genius.
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
- Split Stitch