Long and Short Stitch Tutorial

How to work long and short stitch sample 1Long and Short stitch is used for shaded fillings and often used in ‘thread painting’ as it is wonderful to shade from one tone to another. People often think of Long and short stitch as one of those challenging stitches that mark you out as an advanced embroiderer. Long and short is almost a rite of passage into the world of thread mastery. You often see it worked in silk and adapted to shade the forms of detailed thread paintings.

How to work long and short stitch sample 2There are two “types” of long and short stitch that of the regular straight stitches that block in colours. I have worked this in the first demonstration. The second is Long and Short stitch that radiates or is worked on a curve. When worked on a curve often only the first line is ‘long and short’ establishing a staggered line. From there stitches are added  and adapted to fill the area. The main thing to consider is the direction of the stitches and keep them in line or if you are thread painting follow the form.

As a tip when learning this stitch don’t worry about shading at first. Just focus on mastering the stitch. Use a hand dyed or variegated thread that changes shade if you want to give it a bit of zest but just focus on filling a shape with the stitch. Then once you have that more or less under control change your thread colours to shade a design. Of course it depends on the design but usually you have 3 to 5  shades working a couple of rows of each until you have shaded from light to dark or dark to light which ever the pattern requires. If you are wanting to work something like a leaf or a flower petal in long and short stitch, work from the outside in shading as you go.

How to work Long and Short stitch

These samples are worked on even weave fabric in the thread that is fractionally too thin so that you can see how the stitch is worked. Normally a thicker thread would be used to ‘fill out’ the stitch

To start you work a row of alternating long and short stitches

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 1The second row and all rows after that are stitches of the same length.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 2The last row is worked in half stitches to fill the area evenly.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 3

Here I have a sample where the top block is worked in cotton and the bottom block is worked in wool and you can see how the area is filled out with stitches better because the thread is slightly thicker than the demonstration thread.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 4This is the way most books illustrate long and short stitch. It means readers have the impression that long and short stitches must be on every line and that the stitches must be an even length. It is not the case it is Ok to adapt long and short stitch to the shape you are working.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 5Long and Short stitch radiating inwards, outwards or on a curve.

Many stitchers get themselves in a fluster when the shape they have to work needs to radiate inwards, outwards or the shape requires curved shading. To work long and short on a curve or in a radiating manner first work 3 or 4 radiating long stitches.

Between these long stitches tuck smaller shorter stitches as illustrated.

Continue radiating the stitches outwards tucking the stitches in on each row. To do this place the point of the needle between the stitches, not back in the same hole as the previous row of stitches. This ‘tucking’ between stitches will mean you can you work long and short on a curve or radiating outwards.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 7This tucking in method produces a smooth surface.

How to work long and short stitch tutorial step 8As I have just said this stitch can be used to fill areas very effectively and shaded to produce some painterly effects. In the samples above both the butterfly and the unicorn was stitched in single strand DMC cotton.

How to work long and short stitch sample 4This is a contemporary sample which was shaded using long and short stitch at the top right hand area and chain stitch is mid way. It is interesting to compare the two as both can be used to shade areas and it is wonderful to work with hand space dyed threads.

How to work long and short stitch sample 3Here another contemporary sample that is contrasted with highly textured stitches. I hope you enjoy long and short stitch.
a tangle of pinsFollow Pintangle and have it delivered to your inbox

You can have Pintangle delivered to your inbox by using the follow feature in the sidebar. Just enter your email address, and when you get the confirmation email make sure you say yes and you are all set!
If you are on a mobile or tablet you will need to scroll to the bottom to find the follow feature.

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 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 



  1. Sharon, I’ve been busy playing catch-up so I’ve added weeks 18-25 (minus week 20) on my blog. Looking forward to doing more with these stitches and your new class starting in July. You may find my samples here: http//normasneedles.blogspot.com

  2. Hi Sharon, I am out here stitching your TAST stitches. I am not submitting any pictures, but have all the stitches listed in one of your books and am putting them on round robin crazy quilts. Just so you are aware there are some of us who are silent but just as enthusiastic.

    Another note. Will you have more of your notebooks with different designs??



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *