Stem Stitch

stem stitch sample 1Stem Stitch is considered a basic stitch used most often for stems or organic shapes and floral patterns. You can use it to outline just about anything. It is quick and easy to do, which is always a plus, but most of all it is incredibly useful because it can hold a curve really well. If ever you have any text that is full or curves or something with a tangle of tendrils and flourishes stem stitch is your best choice of the linear stitches. It also looks good in variety of threads. The sample above I used cotton perle #5 and #8, wool, linen and silk.

stem stitch and cast on stitch hand embroidery sample

How to work stem stitch

stem stitch step by step 1Even though our line will be hidden by your stitching if you need to mark a line use a air dissolvable pen or a quilters pencil.   Work from left to right. Bring the thread up from the back of the fabric on the line.

With your working thread under your needle, point the needle to the left, pick up a small piece of material to make a small stitch as illustrated. Pull the thread through the fabric.

Make the second stitch forward along the line, bringing the needle out a little behind the first stitch. Pull the thread through the fabric.

stem stitch step by step 2Repeat this along the line. Keep stitches the same length and the tension even. Closely spaced stitches make a tight line, and a looser line is created by lengthening the spacing.

If the thread is worked above the needle, the stitch produced is slightly different, and is known as outline stitch.

stem stitch sample 2

These Stem stitch samples worked on a crazy quilt block are both worked in #5 perle cotton thread.


stem stitch hand embroidery sample

Stem stitch is also known as crewel stitch, stalk stitch and South Kensington stitch.

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79 Responses to Stem Stitch

  1. CaLynn says:

    2018 week 8 TAST!

    Sharon, I paid homage to your site here on it as well. Thank you so much for putting TAST together as well as such an amazing stitch dictionary❣️

  2. Laura says:

    Stem stitch for week 8. Had a lot of fun stitching “stems” and adding all types of flowers in the mix.

  3. My stem stitch has been done onto paper. That is my challenge for TAST.
    Sandy in the UK

  4. Christine B. says:

    Hello Sharon… here is my blog post about the stem stitch. I really enjoy using this stitch and I loved seeing your examples of it! Beautiful!!

  5. Sherrie says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I’ve posted my Stem Stitch at my place. Love your examples for this stitch, beautiful.
    Have a great day!

  6. I am still working on catching up. Today I have finnished a couple oc UFOs whith stem stitch as an outline stitch.

  7. Andi says:

    Catching up on posting and stitching, but I posted about my newly 9 year old daughter’s first try at satin stitch and stem stitch and embroidering to a pattern:

  8. Hi Sharon,
    for this week’s challenge,I have used stem stitch on some motifs. they are on my blog-

  9. Donna Russ says:

    Hi Sharon, I have left a small sample of wheatear stitch at thanks for all your effort, love this challenge

  10. vero says:

    bonjor sharon
    voici mon point

  11. Hi Sharon,
    Iam back from a holiday, rejoined the challenge. my experiments with french knots are on my blog-
    thank you,

  12. Julie says:

    Hi Sharon and all. I decided to have a go (my first time) this week…so here is my entry. It was fun to do! Thanks!

  13. Lorraine says:

    I know, this is my second comment! I got a bit carried away and played with another sample today.

  14. Kay Warner says:

    I got left way behind. I’ve started catching up, details on my blog.
    Like the new site Sharon!

  15. maneki says:

    I tried some beaded variations of stem and whipped stem, which you can see in part 1 of my catch-up post here:

    Post also include whipped wheel and barred chain stitch, both also with beaded variations.

  16. Sandhya says:

    i’ve left my comment on the main page with the link to my work for week 15.

  17. Annet says:

    I used stem stitch to draw a tangle with needle and thread. I wrote about it here:

  18. Dianne says:

    Stem stitch is always a stitch I go back to again and again. So, to make my stitchery a bit more interesting I went bright and funky. You can see my ‘funky fungi’ on Stitchin Fingers here:

  19. crazypatch says: voici terminé mon ouvrage de la semaine avec le “stem stitch”

  20. libbyQ says:

    i’m quite late this week but finally have my TAST post up.

    feel free to come and take a look at how the christmas stockings are coming along.


  21. Rose says:

    And now my blog has been updated.


  22. Here is my Stem Stitching for this week. A tree, as spring has finally arrived here and trees are starting to bud…

  23. Lucy Landry says:

    My latest blog post with stem stitch:

  24. Rose says:

    I posted what I thought was the stem stitch on Flickr and Stitchin Fingers. Will be doing a blog post later.

  25. Here’s my latest on black fabric. The photos look a little linty but it looks better in real life. Come on over to my house everybody and take a look. ha ha

  26. Here’s my latest blog post about this week’s stitch:

  27. Bonjour Sharon ,

    J’aime beaucoup le point de tige et je me suis régalée à broder cette scène parisienne , visible sur mon blog :
    Bon dimanche

  28. SusieW says:

    I have posted photos of my stem stitch examples on my flicker site here This stitch brought back many childhood memories as it was the first stitch I was taught. I smiled as I remembered all the dish towels, pillow cases and blouses I stitched on as a young girl. Nice to know I still find pleasure in stitching.

  29. Julie says:

    Inspired by spring I stitched a little bluebird. You can find the pic and back story here:

  30. This week, i went on an pilgrimage tour. So i dont find time to stitch stem stitch. I am having a design copied and but not done, will be doing soon. I uploaded my earlier work with styem stitch in the flicker group.

  31. Jenny says:

    I posted my stem stitch sample, and a photo of one of the birds that inspired it, on my blog at:

  32. Down to the wire again. I found there was lots I didn’t know about stem stitch.

  33. Lynda J. White says:

    This weeks challenge is posted at Thank you for looking>

  34. I’ve shown some more samples from my archives of stem stitch worked in various styles and in various circumstances.
    Now for week 16…

  35. Anna says:

    My stem stitch for this week:
    The pattern is one of your free patterns!

  36. Urist says:

    I finally finished my piece! Another embroidered diary entry.

    This was the first time I actually figured out how and why my stem stitch always looks so terrible, so it’s been fantastic getting to learn the stitch properly.

  37. Isabelle says:

    here is my contribution to this page about the stem stitch.
    Pauline have not finished her embrodery, but I will add it on the same page as soon as she finished it.

  38. shirley says:

    I have put my stem stitch with some satin stitch on SF

  39. ValerieL says:

    I am done with my stem stitch and my satin stitch. You can find it on my blog at:


  40. Here is my second, completely different sample( the first having been been ruined by not one, but two nose bleeds ! :{

  41. Hi Sharon, here is my sample for week 15 stem stitch………
    Chris richards

  42. Anneliese says:

    My stem stitches on a piece of negative button print – which I made some time ago:

  43. queeniepatch says:

    Lovely stem stitch! It has a nice flow to it and is very relaxing to do.
    I used the same floral design as last week and I enjoyed comparing the same cherry flowers worked in last week’s satin stitch and this week’s stem stitch.

  44. Gayle S. says:

    I have put my Stem Stitch example on my Flickr page. I have used stem stitch for fill for a long time, because I can’t do Satin Stitch at all well.
    Gayle S.

  45. shirley says:

    I have put up my Barred chain stitch and a composite of Tast stitches on SF and in the flickr group

  46. Debbie says:

    Here is my stem stitch sample for this week.

  47. christine says:

    Some stem stitches with satin stitch and detached chain stitches! Nice exercice!

  48. I already knew this stitch but I didn’t have time to do something complicated, so I did a mini-garden 🙂

  49. Christina says: part 2 of this weeks challenge. Love this idea, but don’t know where I found it. Best curved irregular stitch so far for me 😉

  50. Hi Sharon,
    I have posted the pictures of my old works with stem stitch.

  51. Debbie says:

    Here’s my TAST post for this week:
    I’m looking forward to the more complex stitches!

  52. This sample is from a while ago, but mainly stem stitch with bullions(having nosebleeds and ruined my sample!)
    will do one later.

  53. Shami Immanuel says:

    Here come my post for this week’s stitch along with some of my old works.

  54. Mariainez L. Ribeiro dos Santos says:

    Week 15-Here is my new embroidery”,El sombrero del
    Have a nice day.

  55. Ann says:

    I combined the embroidered stem stitch with flowers made from a variety of papers (pattern-wise and texture). The embroidery is included in my TAST embroidery journal that includes a personal reflection, gratitude list, and college of items that represent the past week.

    Here’s the link to my post:

  56. Good evening. Because stem stitch is an outline stitch, I’ve decided to use it as a surface stitch ! Contrariness ? 😉 You can see it here

  57. Brigitte Otto says:

    My stem stitch sampler is here:

  58. Luiz Vaz says:

    Hi Friends,
    Here’s my post for the week 15

  59. Christina says: My weekly sample is finished. I love this stitch, but this sample lacks conviction. Will be continued….

  60. Angela says:

    Sharon your samples are gorgeous! I have posted a piece at It is a piece I did many years ago. I am glad I was able to find it! I don’t have a lot of spare time for stitching this week as my son is getting married on Sat.

  61. Annet says:

    Here’s my weekly post with old samples:
    I hope to find some time to stitch something new too.

  62. Diane says:

    Thanks, Sharon, for highlighting my satin stitch on Sunday. Here’s outline stitch on my sampler:

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