Butterfly Chain Stitch

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

Butterfly Chain stitch is a decorative composite stitch that is more versatile than it first appears. It is a stitch that can be easily glanced over when browsing  a stitch glossary but it is a lot of fun to work and vary threads you can create lots of interesting effects.

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

It can also be used to create  decorative borders on many types of fabrics. You are not restricted to even weave fabric as your foundation. Also Butterfly Chain stitch is easily worked on the curve so you can develop a totally different look to the stitch simply by letting it follow a gentle line.  Another way of using the stitch is to take advantage of contrasting threads.Since Butterfly Chain stitch is worked in two journeys it is easy to change colour or type of thread to create an interesting area on your hand embroidery.

butterfly chain step 1Work a foundation row of three vertical straight stitches. With this stitch watch the space between the foundation blocks as the space between the groups of stitches should be about the same width as the area covered by the three stitches.

butterfly chain step 2On the second journey, bring your thread up from the back of the fabric and tie each group of stitches together with a twisted chain stitch.

To tie each block of stitches pass the needle under the three straight stitches (not through the fabric) , and wrap the thread across the needle and then pull the needle through to form a twisted chain.

butterfly chain step 3Before moving on to the next block of straight stitches tension each twisted chain stitch to clutch the group of three foundation straight stitches together. Continue in this manner along the line

On the second journey, do not allow the needle to enter the ground fabric except at the beginning and end of the row.

It is traditional to work a foundation row of three vertical straight stitches but you can vary their scale. For instance, making the middle straight stitch longer that the side two. The thread that you use to clutch the foundation stitches together can be of heavier weight or a different colour. It can also be ribbon of fine cord. There are lots of things you can do with this stitch.

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

You can zig zag it, work it is squares along a curve etc

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

You can stack lines of the stitch to create patterns .

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

If you have enjoyed this stitch you might like to try Beaded Butterfly Chain too!


Have you seen my book?

holding my book in front of quilt

My book The Visual Guide to Crazy Quilting Design: Simple Stitches, Stunning Results  shares detailed practical methods on how to design and make a crazy quilt. 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.

TO ORDER your Stitchers Templates

Crazy Quilt Templates set 1 you will find here 
Crazy Quilt Templates set 2 you will find here 


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57 Responses to Butterfly Chain Stitch

  1. Christine B. says:

    Hello Sharon! I enjoyed learning this new stitch although it was difficult to master! Here is a link to my attempts at it! Christine x


  2. I am way behind, but my Butterfly Chain is finally posted. You can see it here: http://www.linda-hubbard.blogspot.ca/2012/07/tast-week-20-butterfly-chain-stitch.html

  3. Of course I am late by a week. But I enjoyed doing this stitch. I posted the trials in my blog.

  4. libbyQ says:

    a simple stitch with possibilities.
    here is what i did with it:


  5. Ann says:

    Enjoyed this stitch, and tied the colors I used into those seen quite a bit this past weekend:


    As with past weeks, the samplers are included in my journal that includes a personal entry, a list of things for which I’m grateful, and a collage of images that represent what I saw or did during the week.

  6. Rose says:

    Butterfly stitch is up along with some of the other stitches. Blogged at http://www.therosejournal.blogspot.com/2012/05/im-here-im-here.html


  7. Here’s my blog post on Butterfly Chain Stitch. I hope I use this again in the future as it’s quite a cute little stitch. http://kirajones.co.uk/?p=801

  8. Brigitte Otto says:

    My sample for this week is here: http://stitchinfingers.ning.com/photo/butterflychain

  9. as I don’t know this stitch before, I do a little sampler ;It is on my blog: http://dufall.blogspot.fr/
    and on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/severine14/7278269864/in/pool-56846286@N00

  10. Faith says:

    I managed to get a little bit done. This is for last week and this week. http://airynothing.net/Blogs/anblog/2012/05/26/tast-catch-up

  11. I was distressed by the image of chaining butterflys that sprang to mind when I first saw this stitch. Here is the link to my blog post.
    and to my Flikr post

  12. Crazyqstitcher says:

    I have posted 2 new samples and 2 old ones from Tast 1.
    It is such an easy stitch. There are some lovely examples from others this week

  13. Marion says:

    Hi Sharon. I am really enjoying your TAST 2012 Challenge. I have been putting my stitches on my Blog. Unfortunately I just cannot get the link to Pintangle to work. I clicked on the Permalink button but I really haven’t a clue what to try next ? Take care. Marion x

  14. Nalini Vasudevan says:

    Here i have posted my attempt on butterfly chain stitch.http://nalinihandwork.blogspot.in/2012/05/tast-2012-week-21-butterfly-chain.html

  15. Annet says:

    I stitched 2 half rows with butterfly chain stitch variations on my brown sampler. I wrote about it here:
    and here:

  16. julie says:

    I’m working two pieces this week. May not finish the second one before the weekend is done, so here is the first:

  17. ValerieL says:

    My week 21 is done–as well as week 20 (which was late). You can see them both on my blog:

    I liked doing both stitches.

  18. HGK says:

    I got behind on my stitches, but trying to get back into it now. Really liked this stitch 🙂
    Blog: http://hetkabinet.blogspot.com/2012/05/tast-2012-errrrrr-21.html
    Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hetkabinet/sets/72157628775088487/

  19. It is a new stitch for me too, I didn’t like it to start with but it grew on me

  20. Hi Sharon,
    I am working on samples of this week’s stitch in combination with other stitches. the details are here-
    thank you,

  21. The earlier work of Annet of Fat Quarter was the inspiration of my piece; http://borduurblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/vliegertje.html

  22. Hobby sewer says:

    I have tried this butterfly chain stitch in a circle. This can be found here.

  23. raji saj says:

    Excited to view the variations all my friends have made.
    Here iam sharing a simple application of that stitch on my daily wear, http://threadwithme.blogspot.in/2012/05/tast2012-butterfly-chain-stitch.html

  24. Lucy Landry says:

    this is a new stitch for me, too.
    I think I like some of the others much better!

  25. New stitch for me to, easy and pleasant to stitch, but not really inspirational. http://j-en-revais.blogspot.com/2012/05/tast-21.html

  26. Hi Sharon, loved this stitch !
    Here is my sample……………………………………….
    chris richards

  27. Anneliese says:

    I tried and tried and found it nice to do.

  28. Ann says:

    Hello! This is my first TAST and I like it 🙂 I’m beginer in embroideling. Thank you for this project. http://anuta-tuta.blogspot.com/2012/05/blog-post_24.html

  29. Claudia says:

    Butterfly chain stitch was new to me now I like this stitch. Here is my attempt: http://fabricfusion.blogspot.com/2012/05/tast-21-butterfly-chain-stitch.html
    Cheers Claudia

  30. Mariainez L. Ribeiro dos Santos says:

    Here is my Week Butterfly chain stitch´s Work

  31. Diane says:


    My cloth is not inspiring me lately. I had a tough time finding the perfect spot for this stitch. Worked it in three different places but I may rip one out.

  32. Sandy Jandik says:

    It was a new stitch for me, but I enjoyed it. http://focus-on-fiber.blogspot.com

  33. Mary Ruth says:

    I am still working on my gingerbread house. Check out my (very slow) progress:


  34. leela govind says:

    thank you sharon for inspiring me to play with stitches..here is my sheaf stitch in the form of flowers,grasses and butterflies..


  35. Angela says:

    Oh dear! Having just looked at your samples again I realize that I have not done this stitch correctly. However I am happy with the way it looks on my block so I won’t be picking it out to redo it. I hate redoing things anyway. I have let go of perfectionist tendencies and have learned that done is better than perfect! I will go ahead and try this stitch again and hopefully do a better job though. Thanks for looking

  36. Annet says:

    I wrote about the making of my TAST 2007 sampler for this stitch here:
    I also added a like to a video for this stitch, I found it in my old notes.

  37. Christina says:

    http://christinaroland.blogspot.com/2012/05/tast-week-21.html Loved this stitch, I imagine using it often 🙂

  38. Hi Sharon,
    I had done a few variations aof this stitch, when it was rerun on stitchinfingers, the details are here-
    thank you, Chitra

  39. konnykards says:

    Everyone is stitching such lovely creative pieces recently and I am full of intention to explore, but cannot catch up !
    Luckily I have most of the stitches from previous challenges and they are small enough samples to add to my new narrow band sampler – so it will grow one day when I feel well enough!
    Here’s my previous Butterfly Chain,
    Connie, konnykards.

  40. shirley says:

    What a pretty stitch I am sure this will generate a lot of creativity.

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