At first, I was a little intimidated by the Stem Stitch. How could a series of straight hand embroidery stitches follow a curve so nicely? It had to be hard! But it’s not! As long as you follow your line and take small, consistent stitches, even tight curves appear smooth. And if your line turns sharp corners, the Stem Stitch can handle that, too!
The Stem Stitch, sometimes referred to as the outline stitch or crewel stitch, has a rope-like appearance that makes this stitch so effective on curves, resulting in a smooth, gap-free outline. Some embroiderers work the stitch from the top of the work. Others use a “stab” method that provides more control, especially when you are learning.
This stitch is a really nice outline stitch that can be used for a lot of different projects. It is used to make a line to connect other stand-alone embroidery stitches like a star or lazy daisy embroidery stitch. It can be used as its name states, as a stem stitch, and even to outline seams on a quilt or garment. Use thicker threads for a big statement, or a single strand of embroidery floss to make a minimal impact to your work, like a shadow in the background.
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It can also be used as a filling stitch by working the rows closely side-by-side until the shape is filled. When using the stem stitch as a filling stitch, start from the outside and fill in the space, to keep a nice sharp edge.
Check out all of the embroidery projects on Create Whimsy!
See my favorite 10 Easy Embroidery Stitches to Embellish Your Projects
If you like the Stem Stitch, check out Chain, Chain, Chain Stitch for another fun outline stitch.