Stem 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.
How to work stem stitch
Even 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.
Repeat 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.
These Stem stitch samples worked on a crazy quilt block are both worked in #5 perle cotton thread.
Stem stitch is also known as crewel stitch, stalk stitch and South Kensington stitch.