Twisted Chain Stitch or Rope Stitch

Twisted Chain Stitch or Rope Stitch

Rope stitch sampleTwisted Chain stitch and Rope stitch are two very similar stitches. In fact Rope stitch (as seen in the stems of the floral motif above) is simply twisted chain stitch worked closely together in a compact manner along the line.

Twisted Chain sample 1

This is an example of Twisted Chain that I worked in an open manner. I used pale yellow rayon ribbon floss and the stitches were open enough to tuck bugle beads into the spaces between them.

Crazy quilt seam detail

Above is a second sample where Twisted chain is worked in an open manner using cotton perle #5. This crazy quilt seam embellishment is a from Block 75 on I dropped the Button Box Quilt.

Twisted Chain rope stitch freeform sample

In this sample, I used lines of rope stitch stacked next to each other in free-form manner using different threads. As you can see, all samples look as if they are different stitches but they are actually the same stitch, spaced differently.

Twisted chain stitch is one of those handy stitches which, after you master, you wonder how you lived without it! When you work it close together it forms a good solid textured line. You will find it ideal for outlining shapes or to illustrate stems in floral motifs. And you can use it in most situations where you need a clear raised line.

How to work Twisted Chain Stitch and Rope Stitch

Once your hands understand the twist – or the wrap over the needle, Twisted Chain stitch becomes simple, quick and falls into a rhythm with ease. You can work this stitch horizontally or vertically.

Twisted Chain step by step 1To work rope stitch bring the working thread up through the fabric and insert the needle so that the point emerges a short space along the line to be stitched. Cross the thread over the needle and wrap the thread under the needle point as illustrated.

Twisted Chain step by step 2Next, pull the needle through the fabric. As you pull the thread through notice how you have a loop that is crossed. This is the twisted chain stitch.

Twisted Chain step by step 3

Insert your needle on the side of the stitch you just made. Bring the point of the needle out a short space along the line to be stitched. Then cross the thread over the needle as illustrated. Wrap the thread under the needle’s point and pull the needle through the fabric.

Twisted Chain step by step 4Continue in this manner down the line.

Twisted Chain step by step 5Twisted chain stitch follows curves with ease and if you work it close together as rope stitch it is ideal for strong linear elements.

Using Variety in the Stitching

You can use a large variety of threads from the finest thread to silk ribbon. The width of the stitch will depend on the weight of the thread used. The thicker the thread the thicker the line created.

Rope stitch can also be stacked line upon line similar to what you can do with stem stitch. This means you can graduate colour, tone, light to dark or graduate from thin to thick threads.
Twisted chain stitch Rope stitch sample
As I have said, Rope stitch is a twisted chain that you work closely together. So keep the next stitches close together. Rope stitch is also called Knotted Satin stitch. I mostly use rope stitch as a linear stitch in stems in floral motifs. In the above crazy-quilting sample, I have used perle 5 thread.

There is another version of the stitch in which you stack the stitches horizontally, producing a thick band. This version is documented in Marion Nichols Encyclopedia of Embroidery Stitches

The vertical version of the stitch is documented in The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden  and the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches and the A-Z of Embroidery Stitches: v. 2 I took rope stitch to be the version that appears in most publications.


My book for creative stitchers

Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery book coverIf you enjoy my site you will gain real value from my book:  Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery: Visual Guide to 120 Essential Stitches for Stunning Designs

Feeling stale? Wondering how to add sparkle to your embroidery? I have aimed Creative Stitches for Contemporary Embroidery to be suitable for both beginners and seasoned embroiderers. It introduces techniques to encourage your creative interpretations of stitches. I guide you towards discovering play-points in your embroidery by varying the height and width; by stacking stitches; or by filling multiple rows with the same stitch. With creative variations and demonstrations of tiny tweaks, you will be ready to head off down your own creative path. And, of course, illustrated with plenty of eye candy!


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