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 Responses to How to hand embroider Sailors stitch

  1. Raye says:

    Please enroll me

  2. Good evening, again.

    I was on vacation and I was able to get this stitch finished. Here is my sample.

  3. Susie Wolfe says:

    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 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.

  4. Carol Harper says:

    Here is my rather small attempt at stitches 56 and 57. I found them easy to do once I figured out the technique but I ran out of time…

  5. Thanks for this stitch Sharon – I enjoyed working it. Very neat and tidy and lends itself to lots of different shapes – even though I basically did straight lines I can see that it would take a curve really well.

  6. Annet says:

    My ATC with the herringbone squares travelled very quickly, so I could already share it on my blog:

  7. Hi Sharon,
    After completing the sailor stitch sampler,I started sailor edging stitch-
    I Enjoyed learning these two new stitches.Thank you,

  8. Anneliese says:
    I made the stitches again on the small green-blue-purse.
    Sailors edge is so good to stitch.

  9. Lucy Landry says:

    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:

    • sharonb says:

      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.

  10. Annet says:

    I experimented with herringbone square and laced square herringbone. There are some step by step photo’s to explain how I stitched one of my experiments. I wrote about it here:

  11. Hi Sharon,
    I am hooked on to this stitch, my samples are here-
    Thank you,

  12. gailllc says:

    Well, I might have to include this week’s stitches with my Week 7 and 8 Chain stitch samples I’m working on! They are intriguing.
    Here are sttiches 5 and 6 — getting caught up after vacation.

  13. I’ve just posted my small samples of TAST 55 and 56 on my blog. I like both stitches even though I have only done small samples.

  14. Pamela says:

    These are both new stitches for me. I’ve tried them out and posted here –

  15. Annet says:

    I’m slowly catching up. Today I wrote about the herringbone square:

  16. Hi Sharon,
    This is a new stitch to me.seems simple and interesting too. will start the working in a day or two.

  17. latha says:
    Here is my sample that includes all the new stitches of TAST 2013, from week 49 to 57.

  18. promdraws says:

    Oh, what a wonder, I am a fan of this art, really fantastic

  19. Claudia says:

    I.m sorry I’m lagging behind. But I have finished my exercises for Triangular Feather Stitch, Herringbone Square and Buttonholed Herringbone Stitch :
    Still working on Laced Square Herringbone and looking forward to stitch 56 and 57; both are completely new for me. Thank you, Sharon, for this possibility to learn and all for sharing their works.

  20. Annet says:

    The sailor stitch is new to me, but the sailors edge looks like the single knotted buttonhole. I’m glad there will be a catch up week soon, I’m still working on stitch 53 and 54!

    • sharonb says:

      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.

      • Annet says:

        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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