Working the Chain Stitch in Embroidery

Chain stitch embroidery
Miss Pearl / Getty Images
  • 01 of 04

    How to Work the Chain Stitch

    Working the Chain Stitch
    Mollie Johanson

    The chain stitch is a looped stitch that can be worked along a curved or straight line. Variations of this stitch including the single or detached chain, lazy daisy, heavy chain, square chain, feathered chain, cable chain, zig zag chain and many more.

    To work the basic chain stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric at your starting point. Insert the needle again at the starting point and bring the tip up through the fabric a short distance away. Place the working thread behind the needle...MORE and pull the needle through the loop.

    Repeat the process to make additional stitches, and end the length by making a small, anchoring straight stitch at the end of the final loop to secure it in place.

    If you need to make a length of chain stitch longer than your thread allows, refer to the next step for properly extending a length of chain stitch.

    Chain stitch also makes a nice filling stitch. Instructions for working this stitch as a filling can be found in step 4.

    Updated by Mollie Johanson

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Tips for Chain Stitch

    Chain Stitch Example
    Chain Stitch Example. Mollie Johanson

    Tips and Ideas for Working Chain Stitch

    • As you work this stitch, pay attention to the twist and direction of the thread. You could end up working twisted chain stitch without intending to!
    • When you're working reversed chain stitch, try using two colors of thread in a single line. Thread two needles with floss and alternate colors with each new stitch.
    • Add extra dimension to your chain stitching by layering it with back stitch or running stitch. After you've worked the chain stitch, go back...MORE over it, either filling in the centers of each "link" or taking a stitch over the point where each "link" joins.
    • Another way to add something extra to your chain stitch is to wrap or weave a second color of thread over a line of finished embroidery.

    Changing the Thread

    To change the thread while working this stitch, do not end the thread by making an anchoring stitch in the final loop.

    Instead, hold the final loop on the surface of the fabric, and weave the tail of the first thread through the back side of the stitching, on the wrong side of the fabric. The remaining loop should be similar in size or a bit larger than the existing loops.

    Weave the new thread through the back side of the stitch on the wrong side of the fabric and bring the needle up at the position where the next stitch should begin.

    If needed, tug the tail of the first thread to reduce the size of the loop on the front side, making sure all loops are the same size. Continue working the chain stitch normally.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    How to Work the Reversed Chain Stitch

    Working Reverse Chain Stitch
    Mollie Johanson

    The finished result of reversed chain stitch looks exactly the same as standard chain stitch, but the method is different, and many people find it to be much easier.

    Essentially it's like starting at the opposite end of a line of chain stitch. If you've ever chain stitched the standard way, you may have experienced accidentally pulling out a whole string of stitches. That will never happen with this!

    To work the reversed chain stitch, start with a small straight stitch along the line you...MORE will be stitching. 

    Bring the needle up one stitch length away from the straight stitch (point 1). Slide the needle under the straight stitch and back down where the needle came up. 

    Bring the needle up again, one stitch length away from the end of the previous stitch (new point 1). Slide the needle under the previous stitch and go back down where the needle came up. 

    Repeat this process. When you are finished with the row of stitching, there's no need to do anything special to finish it off. 

    Use this stitch anywhere you would use basic chain stitch. You could also use this method for twisted chain stitch or even detached chain stitch.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Working the Chain Stitch as a Filling

    Working Chain Stitch as a Filling
    Mollie Johanson

    Chain stitch also makes a terrific filling that works up quickly.

    To work the chain stitch as a filling, stitch multiple rows close together, spacing them so that no fabric shows between the rows.

    You can make the rows of stitching all go the same direction, or alternate them so they create a patterned texture.