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, this stitch can handle that, too!
This stitch is sometimes referred to as the outline stitch, crewel stitch, point de cable or stalk stitch. It 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.
What is this stitch used for?
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 on a flower, 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.
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.
It can also be used as a filling stitch by working the rows closely side-by-side until the shape is filled. When using as a filling stitch, start from the outside and fill in the space, to keep a nice sharp edge.
Is the stem stitch the same as the back stitch?
No. The back stitch forms a straight line and the stem stitch forms a nice scrolled line or rope texture on your work.
What type of stitch is the stem stitch?
This stitch is the basis of the stem stitch family of embroidery stitches. Other stitches in the family include the split stitch and the Portuguese stitch.
Check out all of the embroidery projects on Create Whimsy!
See my favorite 10 Easy Embroidery Stitches to Embellish Your Projects
Check out Chain Stitch for another fun outline stitch.