Embroidery: Running Stitch

Running Stitch sample

Embroidery: Running Stitch

The Running Stitch is the simplest and quickest of all embroidery stitches and is used for simple lines and outlines. So many stitches use the running stitch as the basis, like the Whipped Running Stitch and Laced Running Stitch. As it name implies, the needle runs in and out of the material at regular intervals.

This stitch is used as an outline or as a filling with rows of parallel or staggered stitches to create texture for almost any kind of embroidery stitching — crazy quilting, art quilts, sewing garments, crafts, or as a reinforcement for cutwork. It is worked from right to left, making small even stitches, while working the needle above and below the fabric. It is considered a stitch in the flat stitch family.

You can’t beat this stitch for fast and easy embroidery outlines! It’s a great way to define your spaces so that you can fill in with other stitches. Or – stitch a line design completely in running stitch! Vary the appearance of your stitched lines by changing thread and stitch spacing. The running stitch is probably the first one to learn, and the one you’ll use the most!

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illustration of running stitch

This one is so easy! Needle in, needle out, repeat. Hemma Design has more illustrations and instructions.


This cute floral design takes smaller “bites” between stitches to make the lines appear a little more solid. Kate & Rose show you how.

Variation on the running stitch with smaller 'bites'

There are two methods to embroider this stitch – you can do a “stab stitch” or you can load a few stitches onto your needle. Each method has its proponents – I use both, depending on my choice of line, fabric and thread. You’ll see both methods in this video – straight lines, I like to load several stitches on my needle at a time, going around curves, one at at time using the “stab stitch”.

How to embroider the running stitch

Pull your thread up where you want to start and try to take even stitches, which means the same length of your thread on top and under the fabric.

Running stitch step one

To load a few stitches on your needle at once, rock your needle up and down through the fabric. I like to have my left hand under my hoop to help guide the needle. This is where a hoop makes it much easier than stitching on loose fabric.

Loading a few stitches on the needle at a time
Several stitches now on the needle
Another set of stitches loaded on the needle
Finished sample of the running stitch

This is random stitching across a 4″ sampler area using Sulky 12 wt thread doubled. I like the background fill that is made with the variegated threads.

Finished 4-inch sampler with the running stitch in variegated thread

More samples of the running stitch

Below is another sampler using different threads.

  • Row 1: Pearl cotton size 12
  • Row 2: Pearl cotton size 8
  • Row 3: Pearl cotton size 5
  • Row 4: Pearl cotton variegated color size 3
  • Row 5: Silk ribbon
  • Row 6: Rayon cord
running stitch sampler with different thicknesses of thread

Another small sampler of the running stitch.

Running Stitch

Check out all of the embroidery projects on Create Whimsy!

See my favorite 10 Easy Embroidery Stitches to Embellish Your Projects.


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