How to stitch: Chain stitch

Looking back over some of my first embroideries as a young child, it looks like chain stitch was one of the first stitches I ever learnt. Perhaps that’s why it’s still one of my favourites to stitch!

I think chain stitch creates a lovely line of stitching. So it’s obviously a good one to learn as an outline stitch. It’s also pretty easy to stitch, so let’s jump into how.

How to stitch

Bring your needle up at the start of your line. Then take it back down into the same hole leaving a loop on the front of your work.

The needle goes back down the same hole your thread came out of.

Bring your needle back up a little further along your line, in the middle of your loop. Pull your thread through to complete the first stitch.

Needle comes back up along your line and through the loop on the front.

Keep stitching in this way, always taking your needle back down through the same hole that you came out from. Your stitching will look nicest if you can keep the length of your chains the same.

First chain stitch complete, starting the second stitch.

To finish your line of stitching, take your needle over the top of and down the other side of your last chain loop to create a small securing stitch.

Working a small holding stitch to secure the last chain stitch.

Stitching tips

To minimise wear on my thread while stitching, I pull my loop taut in two stages. First I finish pulling my thread through to the back, so the chain looks complete on the front. Then I pull all of my thread through to the front.

When I want to create the sharpest point at the start of my chain stitching, I stitch my first stitch a little differently. Rather than taking my needle down into the same hole, I’ll go slightly further along my stitching line. So that one end of my first loop slightly overlaps the other end.

Staggering the start and end points of the first loop to create a sharp point.
A couple of chain stitches worked, the first one using my method for creating a sharp point.

I think chain stitch often complements stem stitch very nicely in a design since chain stitch creates a thicker line and a different texture. I used these two together to outline the petals in this flower, as I wanted to emphasis the shape created by the top parts of the petals.

Flower detail with chain stitch and stem stitch for the petal outlines.

This flower is a part of my hummingbird design, the pattern is available here.

Chain stitch as a filling stitch

Chain stitch can also be used as a filling stitch by working rows of it to fill in your shape. Of if you’re working a round shape, you could fill it with rounds of chain stitch.

I really like the look of this and find it very calming to work, so I’m quite happy losing myself in a bit of this stitching!

Rows of chain stitch worked in different shades of blue to create a filling.

Check out my other stitching tutorials here. Plus don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list to get notified when new ones are published.

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