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!
This is a perfect hand embroidery stitch for any design that requires outlining, it provides a braid-like texture when you split the thread in the stitch. The stitch is also used for fine outlines and delicate filling and can be used as a fill stitch when stitched lines are close together. The 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.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners. Your purchases via these links may benefit Create Whimsy. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.
What is the best thread to use for split stitch embroidery?
The best thread to use for this stitch is an untwisted thread, like six strand embroidery floss or a thick Perle cotton, size 5 or 3. (With Perle cotton, the thickness of the thread is larger when the number is smaller.)
How to embroider the split stitch
So – I was really hesitant about this stitch and, once I got sewing, I love it! I had some trial and error (lots of unsewing), until I got the hang of it. The goal of the stitches are to split the stitch in half lengthwise, as well as split the thread in half, forming a nice smooth and even texture.
Here is a close up of stitching the split stitch. See how the thread is split when you take the back stitch?
How is the split stitch used in embroidery?
This stitch is generally used as an outline stitch. It is great for when you want a heftier stitch with a lot of texture. Use it for monograms, stems for flowers and plants and more! Stitch the lines close together as a filling stitch. If you use it as a filling stitch, always start on the outside and then stitch the inside of your shape to give a nice even outside edge to your hand embroidery design.
How is the split stitch different than the chain stitch?
With the split stitch, you literally split the threads when stitching back, before making the next stitch forward in your design. With a chain stitch, you wrap your thread around your needle before taking the next stitch, forming a chain-like texture.
Below is a sampler I made with different types and weights of threads 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 tutorials on Create Whimsy!