I could never master the splits in gymnastics, but the Split Stitch? Piece of cake! It results in a great textured line. But take it slow and steady – needle placement is critical for getting this stitch right. It’s not hard – just a little fussy – so take your time. Keep centered (like on a balance beam) and you’ll ace this stitch!
The Split Stitch is a perfect hand embroidery stitch for outlining, but it provides a braid-like texture when you split the thread in the stitch. The stitch is also used for fine outlines and delicate fillings. The Split Stitch was used in medieval embroidery for subtle shadings by working silk floss in rows of different shades to create embroidery and tapestry masterpieces.
What sets this stitch apart? You actually split your thread with the point of the needle in the middle of each stitch. That allows your thread to overlap with each stitch, adding texture to your line. Mollie Makes shows you how with photographs of the steps.
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If you find diagrams to be more helpful than photographs, the tutorials at Common Thread DMC are very clear. They have instructions for lots and lots of stitches!
See how effective Split Stitch can be? Mary Corbet of Needle N Thread has fabulous instructions (including a video tutorial) and shows you how beautifully artistic this stitch can be. These Split Stitch branches look so real!
To see the Split Stitch in action, check out this how-to video from Crafty Gemini. She demonstrates the stitch and directs you to additional instruction.
What is the best thread to use for split stitch embroidery?
The best thread to use for the split stitch embroidery is an untwisted thread, like six strand embroidery floss.
How to embroider the split stitch
So – I was really hesitant about this stitch and once I got sewing I love the split stitch! I had more trial and error (lots of unsewing), until I got the hang of it.
I started with a wiggly line with 6 strand embroidery thread in green. Start by making a stitch.
Then, you bring your needle back into the stitch literally ‘splitting’ it.
It’s easier to see here, where I’ve ‘split’ the stitch, and then make another stitch, and come back up to ‘split’ the stitch.
Here are two completed stitches, and starting the 3rd split stitch.
So, I’ve worked it a bit and am not happy. I’m learning the 6 strand embroidery floss isn’t good for everything. You can see the strands get ‘loose’ and they don’t make a good stitch.
So, I ripped all of that out. I’m good at unsewing! Ha! Decided to try a twisted pearl cotton embroidery thread, and might as well try a flower – they are always happy! Here are my first several stitches using the twisted thread — so much nicer! Now I know, use twisted threads for split stitch for better results.
And, my final flower, the split stitch in a variegated pearl cotton twisted thread.
Below is a sampler I made with different types and weights of threads for the split stitch so you can see how different types of embroidery threads work with this hand embroidery stitch.
- Row 1: 6 strand embroidery floss
- Row 2: Pearl cotton size 5
- Row 3: Pearl cotton variegated size 3
- Row 4: Merino wool yarn
- Row 5: Straw silk thread
- Row 6: Pearl cotton size 8
Check out all of the embroidery projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy!