Butterfly Chain Stitch

Butterfly Chain Stitch

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

Butterfly Chain stitch is a decorative composite stitch that is more versatile than it appears at first. You can easily overlook this stitch when browsing a stitch dictionary, but it is a lot of fun to work. And if you vary the threads, you can create lots of interesting effects.

hand embroidered sample of butterfly chain stitch

You can also use it to create decorative borders on many types of fabrics. Your foundation is not restricted to an even-weave fabric. Also, you can easily work Butterfly Chain stitch 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, you can easily change the colour or type of thread to create an interesting area on your hand embroidery.

butterfly chain step 1

How to Work Butterfly Chain Stitch

Work 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 2

On 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 3

Before 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 example, making the middle straight stitch longer than 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 a ribbon or 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 in 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 Stitchers Templates?


Create your own designs with Sharon’s easy-to-use stitchers templates. Combine shapes to create hundreds of patterns and designs to embroider. It is the ultimate mix-and-match fun for stitchers of all skill levels. I created them to be as versatile as possible. I include four multi-patterned templates in each set. You will find them easy to use, totally clear to help you position them on your work, and they are nice and compact to fit in your sewing box. Each set comes with an e-book filled with patterns and designs that you can create and use as a jumping-off spot for your own designs. They are available now in our shop here!

Happy stitching!


  1. 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

  2. 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

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