How to stitch: Raised stem band

I think raised stem band is a lovely stitch. It really satisfies my sense of order and neatness! I also like the way it can help me to create some subtle dimension in my stitching.

As the name might suggest, it creates a stitch that looks similar to stem stitch. However the stitching is quite different.

Ladder stitch

Raised stem band starts with a ladder stitch that acts as a foundation for your main stitching.

This ladder stitch won’t be directly visible on your finished stitching. However it’s still a good idea to get it neat as it will effect your final result.

A long rectangle filled with ladder stitch in blue crewel wool.

Stitch your ladder stitch across the full width of the shape that you are filling. The start and end points of your stitches should sit to the outside of your design lines to ensure that these lines will be completely covered with your stitching.

With crewel wools, I’ll typically space my stitches about 3-4mm apart. Take care to keep your stitches aligned at right angles to the flow of your shape.

Stitching your raised stem band

With a new length of thread, start your raised stem band by bringing your needle up in one corner of your shape.

After doing that, I like to switch to using a tapestry needle as it’s a blunt needle. If you use a sharp needle, like a chenille needle, then it’s more likely that you’ll accidentally pierce the thread of your ladder stitches.

Weave your thread around your first ladder stitch. You want your needle to come out to the side that isn’t being stitched yet.

Needle being passed under the first ladder stitch. The first row of stitching is being worked down the left and the needle is angled towards the right.

Use your working thread to gently pull your stitch over to the side of your shape to help it sit in position.

First row of raised stem band being worked. The working thread is being pulled to the left to guide the stitches into position.

Keep weaving your thread around each ladder stitch in turn and pulling your stitches over to the side. When weaving, your needle should always be coming out to the side that isn’t being stitched yet.

At the end of your row, take your needle down into the corner of your shape.

Needle going down into the bottom left corner of the shape at the end of the first row of raised stem band.

To keep the slant of all your stitches consistent, start all of your rows from the same end of your shape. So go back to the end where you started your first row to start your second row.

Keep working rows until your shape is completely filled. You can usually fit in more rows than you might think! By always pulling your stitches to the side as you work, you’ll make it easier to get in more rows which leads to a nicer finish.

A few rows of raised stem band have been worked. The working thread is being pulled to the left to guide the new stitches into position.

You’re aiming for your shape to be fully filled so that there aren’t any gaps where the fabric is visible. Also so that your stitches won’t move if you try pushing them.

Completed long rectangle of raised stem band worked in blue crewel wool.

Raised stem band tips

Keep your ladder stitches evenly spaced to ensure your stem band looks nice and neat.

If your shape curves, gradually sweep your ladder stitches with your curve. Ideally you want them to always be at right angles to the flow of your curve.

When working a curved shape, I find it a little easier to start working my rows around the inner, shorter part of the curve.

Make sure that you start and finish each row snug to the previous row. Since you’ll be able to weave quite a few rows into your shape and you don’t want to run out of space at the ends.

If your shape is not the same width all along, then you’ll need to work some partial rows into your stem band to completely fill it. When doing this, it helps to bring your needle up (or down) from just under your previous row.

The start of a partial row of stem band. The needle is angled so that it is coming up from under the previous row.

With partial rows, it’s also a good idea to stagger the start (or end) points of your partial rows. So that they smoothly blend into your stitching without creating a noticeable step.

Aligning neatly with stem stitch

If the shape you’re filling with raised stem band tapers to just a line, you can continue with stem stitch.

To get this looking best, you’ll want to make sure that the slant of your stem band stitches matches the slant of your stem stitch.

To do that, I use my “follow the compass” guide that I showed you in my stem stitch tutorial.

To recap, for stem stitch, if North is the direction I’m stitching in, then I always hold my loop of thread to the East.

The infinity symbol being stitched in stem stitch. Superimposed, are the North and East compass points to show how I use my "follow the compass" guide.

Then, for raised stem band, if North is the direction I’m stitching in, then I always start working my stem band on the East side of my shape.

A tall rectangle with the first row of stem band being worked from the bottom upwards on the right hand side. Superimposed are the North and East compass points to demonstrate the "follow the compass" guide.

By doing this, then I know that the alignment of all my stitches across my embroidery will be consistent.

Stem band examples

One of my first uses of raised stem band was in my RSN certificate Jacobean crewelwork piece. I hadn’t realised what a mega stem band it was when I started!! I’ll think twice before creating a band this long again! 🙂

I enjoyed using it for one of the twisting sections of the tree in my wolf design. The changing colours help you see where I’ve worked some partial rows to fill the tapering shape.

Twists in a tree worked in crewel embroidery. The left blue twist is worked in raised stem band.

It’s also used for the main stem in my hummingbird design which is available as both a kit and a PDF pattern. The pattern gives you a chance to practice working partial rows. As well as walking you through how to create shading in your stem band.

Embroidery of a green and purple hummingbird among pink flowers.

So, do you like the look of raised stem band? Have you used it before? Are you keen to give it a go?

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4 thoughts on “How to stitch: Raised stem band

  1. I love your North/East diagram. It is so helpful when stitching plus all of you other tutorials. Thank you so much. Have a wonderful day.

      1. As always, so very clear- though people do look at you oddly if you mutter, as I do, North then East while you are walking and planning embroidery!

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