How to Work the Back Stitch

  • 01 of 02

    How to Work the Back Stitch

    Working the Back Stitch. © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to

    The back stitch is a basic outlining embroidery and sewing stitch. When you are first getting started in embroidery, it should be one of the first stitches you learn.

    Back stitch produces a thin line of stitching, perfect for outlining in almost all embroidery patterns. It is also useful for outlines shapes that will be filled with satin stitch or to stitch fabric pieces together.

    This stitch gets its name from the process, which results in each stitch going backwards from the direction of the...MORE line you are forming.

    To work the back stitch, bring the needle up through the back of the fabric slightly in front of where the stitching will begin (point 1).

    Take a single stitch backwards to point where the stitching should begin (point 2), then bring the tip of the needle up again a short distance from its original entry hole, which will be the start of the second stitch (point 3).

    Continue stitching in the same manner, spacing the stitches at regular intervals, until you reach your ending point.

    The method above describes the sewing method, in which you would keep your needle on top of the fabric as you work, apart from dipping it to the back momentarily. You can also work this stitch with the stabbing method

    To work the back stitch with the stabbing method, come up through the fabric at point 1. Bring the needle down through the fabric at point 2. 

    Come up again at point 3, then go down at point 1. Repeat this process to continue the stitching.

    Using this method can help produce more even stitches for some.

    Updated by Mollie Johanson

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    Tips and Tricks for Back Stitch

    Back Stitch Example
    Back Stitch Example. © Mollie Johanson

    Tips for Even Spacing

    Although this is a very easy stitch to learn, it takes practice to achieve even stitches. One way to get evenly spaced stitches is to mark out where the stitches should begin and end using a ruler and a water-soluble pen.

    The goal should be to train your eye to see how to space the stitches. For short lines, this might mean visually dividing the line into a certain number of stitches, or on longer lines you might need to compare your stitches as you go, and then divide the...MORE space at the end of the line so you don't end up with a very tiny or very long last stitch.

    Further Uses for Back Stitch

    This stitch is ideal for outlining embroidery patterns, but you can use it in other ways too. 

    As mentioned, it works well as a sewing stitch. Sewing machines can backstitch to lock the ends of the sewing, but that's a little different than using this hand stitch. For small sewing projects that you do alongside or using your embroidery, you can sew a strong seam with this stitch.

    Back stitch can be stitched in rows as a fill stitch. For this, try to overlap the stitches as though they are bricks. Similarly, you can embroider a thicker outline by stitching two rows of back stitch next to each other.

    You can also make your back stitch a little more decorative by wrapping or weaving the stitches

    This is a stitch you'll use frequently, so take the time to learn it well!