Changing direction of stem stitch: important things to consider

Hand embroidery tips

In my previous post about stem stitch, I already touched the subject of different looks this stitch may have depending on the side, where the needle comes up. Yeah, it's already a bit complicated. But there's actually more.

One thing to remember while stem stitching is to always have needle coming from the same side – either above the thread or below. Being consistent is essential if you want your stem stitch to look the same way throughout the whole project.

But there's an exception.


Sometimes, when we stitch parallel lines, we want to change direction to save the thread. So, the finishing point of one line is next to the starting point of another one. In this case, to get the same look of stem stitch, you actually have to change the side where the needle comes from.

Okay, I know, it sounds complicated, so let me show this on pictures:



So here is my example. You can see parallel lines inside the flower petals, which are worked in stem stitch. This is the look of stem stitch, as it is worked from the right to the left. You can see, that the needle comes out in the middle of the previous stitch below the thread, so it has that “rope” looking appearance.

But as I started the new line in the opposite direction, I also had to switch the side where the needle is coming  up: this time, I brought it above the thread, which helped me to keep the same "rope" look of my stitching.


The rule

In short, the rule sounds as following: with changing the direction of stem stitch the side of where the needle comes up is also changing.

It may seem a bit complicated at first, but in fact, just a bit of practice will make it crystal clear. And, for this purpose, in one of the future posts I'm going to suggest a free design for practicing these tricks!

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