How to hand embroider Sailors stitch

sailors stitch sampleI first discovered Sailor stitch listed as a border stitch in Jan Eaton’s The Complete Stitch Encyclopedia listed as a border stitch but have discovered it is extremely versatile. Sailor stitch can be used as an edging stitch that can be worked along the hem or edge of an item. Since it s a buttonhole stitch with a chained base it forms a hard wearing ridge which makes it far more useful as a way to finnish and edge of something like a fabric postcard for instance, than regular buttonhole. It can also be used as an edge for appliqué work producing a ridged line around the shape.

Sailor stitch can to be working multiple rows to fill a shape or can be worked back-to-back. Most of the varieties of buttonhole will lend themselves to Sailors stitch too. A variation in threads will change the look of a stitch. Also this stitch can be used on plain or evenweave fabric. So although it is not very well known it is very versatile.

How to work Sailors Stitch

Sailor stitch is buttonhole with a chained base. To work this stitch you need to know buttonhole stitch and chain stitch

Work is stitch vertically from top to bottom

sailors stitch how to illustrationHave your needle emerge at the top-of-the-line and move it down the line and take a small bite of the fabric as illustrated.

sailors stitch how to illustrationWith your needle pointing left keep the thread under the needle tip pull the needle through so you have a small buttonhole stitch.

sailors stitch how to illustrationInsert your needle at the base of the buttonholes stitch with the needle tip emerging  further down the line. Wrap your thread under the needle as you would a chain stitch and pull the needle through

sailors stitch how to illustrationTo secure the the chain stitch tie it off with small buttonhole stitch by taking a small bite of the fabric as illustrated.

sailors stitch how to illustrationContinue down the line. I think of the rhythm as being buttonhole, chain button hole chain and so on.

sailors stitch how to illustrationAs you can see it is quite easy to work and as a result it is a quick edging stitch.

sailors stitch how to illustrationSailors stitch is similar to Sailors edge stitch. The two stitches illustrate, how if you change a little thing while working a stitch it can totally change the look and usage of a stitch.

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29 Comments

  1. I have been keeping up with the stitching, but have certainly gotten behind in posting my photos. Just too busy! Today was “catch-up” day and I posted #51 – #57 on my Flickr site. You can view them here http://www.flickr.com/photos/susie_w/ I do truly enjoy this process and continue to learn from it. I am still working on my large project of a pink Christmas tree skirt, so my stitches are all within the pink/green color range …. I remain very hopeful it will be a glorious finished treasure.

    Susie Wolfe
  2. Love these stitches. I’m going to have to try more samples to play with them more. Mary Thomas’s dictionary of Embroidery Stitches has a very similar stitch to sailor stitch. It is called spine chain stitch. The difference is that the spine stitches are at an angle instead of at 90 degrees to the chain. That simple change makes a totally different look too.

    my sample:
    http://playfulstitching.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/sailor-stitch-and-sailers-edge/

    1. Yes I looked it up – rather excitedly – but if you look it is not a buttonhole stitch it is simply an extra stitch added – it sits flat to the fabric rather than acting as a edging stitch.

      sharonb
    1. Annet yes the sailors edge looks like knotted buttonhole but it is not. I thought this at first too, until I realised that with knotted buttonhole the knot is made on the loop of the buttonhole and does not go through the fabric where as with sailors edge it is not a loop but a little chain stitch that goes through the fabric. It means the stitch sits very firmly on the foundation fabric.

      sharonb
      1. Thanks for explaining, Sharon. I flipped through some of my embroidery books this morning to see if I could find these stitches. I found the sailor edging in Stitch Sampler by Lucinda Ganderton. There it’s showed at the edge of the fabric with wide loops, it looks very nice. So both stitches are new to me, which means no weekly post with old stitches.

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