How to Work Thorn Stitch

Thorn stitch sampleThere are a number of stitches that are called Thorn Stitch for instance there is another thorn stitch used in Mountmellick embroidery but this is not it. They both just happen to have the same names. This version of Thorn stitch is a quick easy variety.

If you look at this stitch- it is actually a type of couched stitch which means you can use all sorts of threads for the central stem. It looks particularly effective in flower sprays, underwater seaweed scenes and the like. If you use novelty threads that are hairy or textured and combine it with beads you can have even more fun.

Thorn stitch can be arranged like a tree as in the photograph. Work the crossed bars closer together to create an easy fir tree (for the Christmas or Holiday season)  You can also use the stitch as a couching technique and attach long threads to a piece of work. You can work the crossed stitches either evenly across the couching thread or graduating the size from small to large. Or you can make one side of the stitch larger than the other. This is very effective if you swing the stitch in a circle. Thorn Stitch is simple to work and  extremely versatile. The more you experiment with it the more you will realise what can be done.

How to Work Thorn Stitch

First create a long single straight stitch.
Thorn stitch step 1
Working from top to bottom bring your needle out on the left hand side of the straight stitch a little to one side.

Take the thread diagonally across the straight stitch and insert it to the right of the straight stitch and bring the needle out on the left. Take the thread across and insert it to the right as illustrated in the photograph. The stitch is a bit like half a Herringbone stitch.

Work down the straight stitch making the stitches larger as you go.
Thorn stitch step 2

I hope you enjoy Thorn Stitch


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Topics such as fabric choice, tricky challenges like balancing colour, texture and pattern, and how to create movement to direct your viewers eye around the block are topics covered in detail. I also explain how to stitch and build decorative seam treatments in interesting and creative ways.

My book is profusely illustrated as my aim is to be practical and inspiring.

using my stitchers Templates set 2Stitchers templates

My templates aim to help you take your stitching to the next level. Designed by an embroiderer for embroiderers. With them you can create hundreds of different hand embroidery patterns to embellish with flair. These templates are easy to use, made of clear plastic so you can position them easily and are compact in your sewing box.

These are simple to use. You simply position the template in place and use a quilter’s pencil to trace along the edge of the template. Stitch along this line to decorate the seam. I have a free ebook of patterns to accompany each set which illustrates how they can be used.

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Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here 
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59 Responses to How to Work Thorn Stitch

  1. Penny says:

    Oh dear, i commented and then lost it. enough to say I have done my thorn stitch and it is on my blog
    thanks for all you have done Sharon, I have enjoyed the weekly challenge and all you have done for us, when I finish it will all go into a book of samples.

  2. Norma says:

    Hi Sharon, I’ve posted both the Chain Braid Stitch and the Thorn Stitch on my blog. I really had problems with the braid stitch but thoroughly enjoyed the thorn stitch. You can see them here:

  3. Pat says:

    Thorn stitch added to blog
    Seasons Greetings to all. Can’t believe the year has nearly gone.

  4. Andrea says:

    I saw your challenge idea on another blog and I am very interested. Seeing as global issues are very tpocal at the moment what about using the four earth elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water as a theme either by colour or stitch limitation?

  5. LouAnne says:

    I like the idea of a monthly design challenge. I was unable to keep up with TAST this year due to packing up the house and preparing to move. A month time frame would be great. As far as the details, I would go with the flow, but would probably keep mine to crazyquilting and coordinate them somehow so at the end of the year I might have a small throw for myself & posterity.

  6. Ati says:

    Hi , I have my tast stitch from this week on my blog. It was an easy one, but fun !

  7. vivian says:

    I would like a monthly challenge –
    theme: season, word, emotion, etc.
    or colour: hue, pastel, related, compliments
    or design feature: straight/curved/circles/repeated shapes etc.
    I think a monthly challenge is needed if we are to do anything worthwhile. We have spent a year learning the stitches (tools) and now we need to explore what we can do with them.
    Many of us have played ‘catch up’ this year and I’m sure that will happen next year as well.
    and … thanks Sharon your energy and enthusiam are contageous!

  8. Luci F says:

    Hi Sharon
    TAST has become a part of my life. Sorry I haven’t been posting lately – my camera died, but I am still going, while I decide on a replacement.
    I would love to take part in another challenge. The design one sounds great, so I can keep using my TAST stitches and maybe start to explore more of what they can do. Weekly would be good for momentum – or weekly/fornightly updates on a monthly challenge.

  9. Paula says:

    I really like Christines idea about incorporating TAST in next years challenge. I was a bit miffed I only discovered you in week 44! Her idea may also address the weekly vs monthly issue -four weeks of stitches to incorporate into a month long project!

  10. Christine says:

    I think that a challenge monthly based on the previous year TASTs would complete and expand on work previously done. How about taking all the TAST from January, a theme and then creating a design for that theme using any or all of the stitches as the primary stitchwork for that month-Same with February, March, etc.
    I think participants would probably need to fix on a particular project form whether that be a journal, quilt, ATC, but all could use the same groups of stitches and themes.
    I had intended to follow and do all of TAST this year, but I suffer from ‘lack of follow through’ disorder!

  11. crazyqstitcher says:

    Hi Sharon, you said on Week 46

    Does this go with the song “you always hurt the one you love”? don’t curse me too much, I really love you all

    I have added weeks 46 and 47 and need a rest now.

  12. Hi Sharon,
    What an interesting topic, thanks for bringing it up. Comments are the lifeblood of a blogging community. For instance, I belong in the stitching/blogging community like the one you have mentioned here. Some people are so involved that they get a multitude of comments, others are more to themselves and get a few comments. This aspect can motivate involvement. No matter which group one is in, they prefer more comments than less. I am fortunate because it is rare that anyone ever leaves any kind of negative comments, the idea is like the old saying: “if you can’t say something nice…” I have a numerous amount of blogs in my google reader that I follow and when they have something in a post that inspires me to comment, this is when I comment. I don’t feel like I should be required to comment on issues that I am not feeling something about but it is a balancing act. This is because whenever people leave a comment on my blog, I truly want to return the kindness and I almost always do. If it is a new to me blog, I immediately add them to my reader and check out their blog. I have left many comments on other’s blogs and some have never returned the favor, I frown on this because it just seems inconsiderate. As for replying to comments left, I try not to leave them in the same post comments because the person who left it may not return to read the follow up. I will usually go to their blog and within the comment I am leaving for their post, I will add my thoughts on their comment that was left for me. If possible and I have a lengthy reply I will e-mail them, especially if it is something heartfelt. Whenever I have left a lengthy heartfelt comment for someone else they usually reply in kind (I have my e-mail available for anyone wanting to get in depth as well)but not always, those cases are somewhat disappointing. I have made some good blogging friends this way as we can e-mail back and forth after the initial ‘meet and greet’ and get to know one another on a more personal level. I hope this response helps in the research you are doing on this subject and again thanks for the interesting and well thought out topic.

  13. Doreen says:

    Hi Sharon
    My week 47 sample is up on my blog and it is my version of Corin Forest before the bushfires.
    Thanks for giving us an easy one this week.

  14. Domi says:

    My choice would be for a design challenge each week. I love your blog and all the ideas I can find from what you share with us. Thank you for the time you spend with us.

    Domi from Paris, France

  15. Domi says:

    My choice would be for a design challenge each week.
    Domi from Paris, France

  16. Carol says:

    I like the design idea it will give us a chance to use all the wonderfull stitches we have learned this year. Whatever you decide I will be enjoying . Thank you so much for sharing . I read your blog daily and can hardly wait for the next.

  17. Jess says:

    I’d love a design challenge based around embellishment/stitching. I need some incentive to get out of my own box and try things I haven’t thought of myself. 😉

  18. Liz says:

    I really like the design idea with you giving us a theme and/or color scheme to work with each month. As I envision it, each of us could choose the specific project – fiber book, quilt, samplers, etc. – and end up the year with a set of 12 whatevers. I don’t have a lot of UFO’s, but I have been trying to use up some of my stash for the past two years. So that one would work as well. In fact, I will probably try to reduce stash anyway – so there’s room for new stuff, don’t you know?

  19. Glaucia says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I love the monthly design challenge idea and my vote is for that. And I´d go with CA about posting the progress weekly, including the design project, maybe we could use a visual journal along that.
    Thank you for the TAST, I´m a bit slowly because of the deadlines for christmas orders, but I intend to have all done!

  20. goatgoddess says:

    I too love the idea of a monthly design challenge – Thanks so much for all you do 🙂

  21. Diane says:

    I could see myself working on WISP’s regularly and blogging about my progress. I have a sidebar on my blog devoted to that very subject which doesn’t seem to need updating very often. I have so much wanted to do the TAST and 100 details but realize the futility of beginning yet another new project….
    So if your readers vote this way, I would be happy to be participating.

  22. Jeanne says:

    Hi Sharon,
    First I will thank you for the TAST , although I am a bit silent, I am trying to stitch every week , it goes slowly, but it is still going ! I think You are very kind and generous to continue next year . I would prefer a design challenge , with a theme based on stitches, better then on colours.
    Happy stitching¨

  23. Jocelyn says:

    I would love a design element challenge – and even started looking at setting up a blog to record my challenge progress. I have not had any interest in having a blog until now! But now I want to join in the challenge fun too.

    I have no interest in a UFO type challenge, because I rarely have much in the of UFOs. The way my mind works is to not start something new until the old one is finished; and I am not keen on having a couple of things on the go at once (except for one ongoing knitting project which I pick up and put down as I end one embroidery project and start another).

    I would love a challenge around colours, and colour combinations, and shapes. If it is monthly, I think we need some call and repsonsoe mechanism to encourage postings throughout the month. I have seen so many monthly challenges around the internet lose focus and challengees because 4 weeks between being “seen” is a long time and it becomes too easy to put the challenge on the backburner.

  24. Jane Compeau says:

    Thank you so much, Sharon, for hosting the TAST this past year. I haven’t participated, but I have been collecting the instructions, and hope to some day make a band sampler. I’m not a designer, mostly a stitcher, so a design project would not be motivating to me, but finishing past projects certainly would be.
    I don’t usually comment, because I don’t feel like I have a contribution to offer, but I do stop by every day to see what is going on. Thank you for your generosity in providing this connection to other stitchers around the world.
    Jane from Illinois

  25. Gay Antrim says:

    Sharon, I like the design idea, but I also need the ufo challange. So, either one sounds good to me.


  26. ReneOrgeron says:

    Sharon, I guess I like parts of both. Pam’s idea sounds like something I feel, I love the direction of maybe color or theme for the month, but a weekly check in, without that folks will slide off the task, ahh, I’m sliding, help! LOL I vote for a combination. Once a month project, but with weekly check ups. All I know is what ever you eventually come up with will be created with wonderful outcome. I’m waiting for January !

  27. A. C. M. says:

    Hello Everybody,

    I really share Jo’s (in NZ) and Meg’s Stashbuster Design Challenge ideas. Just keep in mind BEGINNERS! I am thinking of a challenge that beginners could manage and not feel too daunted about, and experienced embroiderers could enjoy too (by making it more elaborate). Furthermore, to move from TAST to design would be a a good way of applying the stitches in a creative way.


  28. Barbara says:

    Forgot this point – a weekly thing is ok if it is simple, otherwise monthly gives more opportunity to get something done.

  29. Barbara says:

    I have really enjoyed the 100 days and the TAST projects and have got a lot out of them, learning and developing the various stitches, and having something to show for it at the end. Sharon, your series have really enriched my stitching life!
    I’ve found I can cope with something where you can do a lot or a little, depending on inspiration and time available. I don’t really want to have to think too hard about it because I have other things going on involving as much hard thinking as I can manage. My stash is what I use anyway these days, and I am already trying to do something with ufo’s.
    So probably the design option appeals more than the other, but with ideas that can be worked in depth by those who want to put a lot of thought in and more instantly by those who don’t. I don’t ask much!!!

  30. Pam Kellogg says:

    Hi Sharon, I love the idea of a monthly design challenge. Wow! A block per month, based on a theme to be created into a quilt when completed! That would be so great!

    I’ll admit, I became a little bored with TAST. My personal focus is not on having a variety of stitches to choose from (and many stitches didn’t work on my projects) but rather on composition and balancing a design using color. I love working with themes and having a focal point to play off of. And since I see my projects through to the end (no ufo’s for me) this would stir up some serious creativity and it’s something I personally wouldn’t become bored with.

    The idea of an actual project is the perfect opportunity for stitchers to share techniques as well!

    I like it Sharon and if this is what you choose to go with, I’m there!


  31. Susan D says:

    I’ve not got very many UFO’s so my vote is for the design challenge in some way but as a few others have suggested perhaps use some of your stash (if you have any)in the design to use it up. I’d like to use some of the TAST stitches in more adventurous ways than I’ve been doing lately. I also think monthly would be just right.

  32. Doreen says:

    Me again Sharon
    I have posted a message on my blog about next years challenge

  33. coral-seas says:

    I like the idea of a design challenge and would prefer monthly, but if we go with monthly, I think we should post progress including initial thoughts and planning so that responses keep coming throughout the month.

    I don’t have a huge stash, so stash busting could be a bit restrictive for me, nor do I want to buy a load of new stuff every month, so I’d prefer to avoid colour or specific threads/techniques.

    However, I do like the idea of a loose theme for interpretation, several good ones have been suggested; shape, stitch combinations, months of the year. How about a couple of lines from a poem?

    Perhaps we could start the year declaring our chosen format; quilt block, post card, journal page, etc

    Thanks for giving you time to organising us again.


  34. Ati says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I like Penny’s and Jo’s idea. For a long time I am playing with thought to make a fiber book. This would be a real challenge to me and as Jo said; at the end of the year one could have 12 nice pages.
    We could show the progress of the pages on our blogs or Flickr. It is always nice to get feedback 🙂
    Thank you so much for all the time you put in it. A happy stitcher this week, with an easy one ;))

  35. Mara says:

    Hi Sharon, I am enjoying your PLOS class and I would like to participate in the challenge next year. For me, the key drawcard is to try something new and to be challenged by all the wonderful talent that you attract. Therefore, a design challenge would be perfect for me. I am not fussed whether it is based on stash busting or not (my stash is limited and would be busted quickly!)! A totally selfdirected challenge would not be as good for me because I am not at the stage of being able to think up a really challenging project from scratch. My suggestion is that for the less experienced, we would likely get better results if given some guidance from you. Cheers, Mara
    PS. this is my first post to your blog – in reference to your previous “why don’t people respond to the blog” question, my problem is that I cannot in the place I live (you know the story) because the blog does not work properly. Today I am outside that particular country so I can respond! I would have loved to respond earlier…………

  36. threadspider says:

    I was also thinking along the lines that Jo in NZ suggested- a project with a theme of the month, inspired by the month itself. The challenge in interpreting the month becomes both a design challenge and/or a stash buster, depending on your stash levels. It would be interesting to see how northern and southern hemispheres might differ in colour interpretation.
    Thanks for co-coordinating this for us all.

  37. Pat says:

    I like Meg’s idea of combining the two but if I have to chose I like the design challenge,particularly colour or as Kay Susan suggested a word and once a month would be fine.

  38. neki rivera says:

    Hi ya’ll

    A design challenge on a monthly basis sounds right up my alley.what i like about these challenges is the discipline and structure they provide.The learning and good company go without saying:)

    neki desu

  39. Nic says:

    I like both ideas, and would be happy to do either.

    I think the first one should be monthly, and limited to a theme or colour – asking to include certain stitches or fibres may put off people who are not familiar with them.

    I’m already trying to use up as much of my stash as I can, so if I have to decide one way or the other, I’ll plump for the design challenge.

  40. Vero says:

    Hi Sharon,
    A monthly design challenge sounds good! A weekly one scares me, I’m not sure I would have enough time in one week. Someone pointed out that a month may be too long. So why not consider two weeks?
    And the thorn stitch comes at a right time, I’m going to do some postcard today, it may be quite useful.
    I’ve finished my samples of last week, just have to make the picture and post it. Later in the morning.

  41. Susan says:

    I prefer the design challenge. I don’t have a lot of projects to clear out, or stash to use up.

  42. crazyqstitcher says:

    Hi Sharon, I like Kate’s idea of having colour, shape and theme.
    Kay Susan’s for the word a week with self interpretation.
    Sequana’s idea for doing more with TAST stitches.
    Actually everyone has great ideas so I’d go along with what the majority want, though I would prefer a monthly input.

    It is very good of you to extend yourself once again on our behalf.


  43. Jo in NZ says:

    When you first mentioned this Sharon, my first thought was a project a month, the theme being the month. Each month has any number of themes attached to it ie: colour, flower, element, star signs, seasons, personal events, traditional holidays….you get the idea. These would leave it open for any kind of media, and alot of different options for people to choose from, with the main aim being that the stitcher has a series of 12 “somethings” at the end of the year, be they quilt blocks, a fibre book, postcards etc.
    My preference would be a theme with a few key elements to be incorporated in the months project.

  44. nina says:

    I like both challenges and want to suggest a twist…Why not take a picture at the beginning of the month and declare what you are planning to do…then at the end of the month you can show what you did.
    For those who want a little help, you could suggest the “design” suggestion for the month and if you did not have a specific
    project to work on, you could use the design aspect to challenge yourself.

    Thanks as always for the inspiration.

  45. A design challenge sounds intruiging to me, and open ended enough that it can include many interpretations. The challenges each month could be varied: one might be use of certain colors, another of certain themes, and another might be using some specific threads. With that changing dynamic, we can get a whole variety of work and ideas with some people participating in some, but maybe not others. I will blog about the challenge suggestion …

  46. sharonb says:

    Great to see people responding

    I meant to ask bloggers to blog this challenge suggestion with a link here so that over the next few days people who might not normally swing by daily can so so and leave their thoughts too.Perhaps spreading the word on discussion lists might be good too. What ever the method spread the word please.
    The URl to point people to is

    I am leaving the voting open for a week or so and am hoping to catch a fair cross section of readers regular and not so regular

  47. Sequana says:

    Now that I see them laid out so succinctly, the Design Challenge appeals to me very much. I want to do more with the TAST stitches and work into more mixed media areas along with that.
    I’d vote for weekly; monthly leaves too long a gap, and we tend to think we have lots and lots of time. We could be working on the same project, but from different directions or with different techniques that appear weekly.
    Does that make any sense?

  48. Meg says:

    Why not combine the two ideas? With specific stitches or shapes for each theme, you can put in the addendum that it must be from stash … voila – the Stashbuster Design Challenge.

    I meant to participate in the Take a Stitch, but I’ve been swamped by RL all year. It’d be interesting to do some of this, as I’ve finally gotten to the point where I feel confident enough to design my own stitch stuff.

  49. Doreen says:

    Hi Sharon
    I would like to do a crazy quilt block a month and not purchase anything to finish it–everything I use must come from my stash–so will this fit into one of the categories that you have mentioned.
    I would post my progress weekly.
    I had been thinking of doing a block a month so this would make me accountable to someone namely you.
    Anyway whatever you choose I will be in it.

  50. Lainie says:

    I love the idea of a color or color palette challenge that could be explored in any textile medium. Maybe some of the colour palettes at could be inspiration.

    Thanks for all you do, all year round – your blog is such a fantastic gift to all who love fiber art and creativity.

    In addition to my organic foods blog, I will have a new blog coming soon called Red Thread Studio, on global textile traditions, “new” cloth (organic, sustainable) and textile art.

  51. Paula says:

    I like the design idea – colour/theme/stitch etc the best, probably once a month, rather than weekly – but do I recall you saying that you are not a ‘theme’ person?

    I also like the declutter/stash buster idea – at the moment I am trying to use up some of my stash so I will probably be doing both! I think people who are trying to use up their stash could probably combine it with a design challenge (dont know how this would work with UFOs – I dont find my UFO’s challenging in an inspirational way – I usually finish them eventually – but I would rather a more inspiring challenge then finishing stuff I started and then didnt like anymore!)

    If you went with the design idea – could it be a CQ block/ postcard/’journal’ quilt/embroidery/ sampler/ whatever people are into- at the end of the year everyone would have 12 completed items which relate in some way and can be displayed whichever way is most appropriate. For example I am planning to make a quilted (crazy, embroidered, embellished) book of our family tree – each month I could make one page, and incorporate the stitches/colours/design elements in it.

    whatever you decide I am up for the challenge!

  52. Mary Anne says:

    Oh boy. I like both ideas, but truthfully I really *need* to complete some projects and would love to have some sort of accountability in order to do so. Being required to post a picture weekly of progress would be really good to motivate me.
    However, having said that, I’ll more than willing to go with the flow. You always challenge me, no matter what.
    Thanks SHaron!
    Mary Anne

  53. Kay Susan says:

    I like the idea of a design challenge too. Maybe something along the lines of Illustration Friday,

    where someone suggests a word for the week and everyone comes up with their own interpretation. I think once a month would be about right, because design can sometimes be quite a long process.

    Sharon, I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately on the TAST challenge. It’s because I have a deadline to produce some dolls for a local craft market. Hopefully, I will have a catch-up session before the end of the year.

  54. Penny says:

    Sharon I too like the idea of a monthly design challenge as I could work that around my fabric books, it would give me time to work properly on it and hopefully at the end of the year I would have 12 individual pages with a bit of input from you to get me going. I am not a quilter but I do quite a lot of alternate stuff so the design one would certainly be better for me.

  55. celeste says:

    I like the idea of a design challenge each month. I like Kate’s ideas of colors, shapes, themes, etc because it is broad enough to include many forms of embroidery.

  56. MargB says:

    I would really enjoy a design challenge (including theme and maybe stitches and colour suggestions) and probably once a month rather than weekly. This I might manage to achieve as it would allow for all the things that life throws in the way.

    The declared project would be too easy for me to put off the declaration – I would probably still be deciding what it might be by the time the month was over.

    Thanks for your generosity in organising something like this

  57. quiltpixie says:

    Of the two challenges proposed my preference is the second. The first (with suggested design elements and or stitches) just doesn’t feel as open to a large variety of fiber artists to me…

    I’ve been toying with my own challenge for the coming year, and am heavily leaning towards the idea of a challenge of an amount of time each day/week I’ll spend on “old” fiber arts projects. I want to ensure that I’m not just starting new things, and I find committing to the process the most motivating thing for me…

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