Working the Feathered Chain Stitch

Feathered Chain Stitch Diagram
Feathered Chain Stitch Diagram. Mollie Johanson

The Feathered Chain Stitch is a decorative hand embroidery stitch that utilizes detached chain stitches arranged in a zigzag pattern as if working the feather stitch, forming a hybridized stitch.

This highly textured surface embroidery stitch makes a fairly wide path of stitching, making it perfect for use in bands and rows of embroidery. It looks beautiful framing an embroidered band on a towel or when used around the sides of a tablecloth, spacing it about 5 inches from the edges.

Working Feathered Chain Stitch 

Pre-mark parallel lines as stitch guides using a water-soluble fabric marking pen. You may be able to work with only an upper and lower line, though you can add two lines near the center as well. The lines will be removed after the embroidery has been completed.

Bring the needle up through the fabric on one of the marked lines (point 1). Insert the needle back in the same hole (point 1) and bring the needle up through the fabric at a short diagonal away (point 2). The needle should go down and come back up without pulling the thread through yet. 

Make sure that the working thread is under the needle, and then pull the needle through the fabric. This will form a teardrop shape.

Go back down through the fabric a short diagonal away (point 3). You have formed a single, detached chain stitch with an elongated anchor stitch, which should take up about two-thirds of the vertical space in the marked area.

Next, bring the needle up through the fabric on the other marked line (point 4). Though not necessary, as you finish the first stitch, you may want to go down at point 3 and come back up at point 4 all in one motion.

Go down at point 4 and come back up at point 5, which should be very close to point 3 on the previous stitch.

Finish the stitch by going down at point 6. 

Repeat these steps across the entire row to work a band of stitches.

Ideas and Tips for Working Feathered Chain Stitch

Working this stitch on a straight line or on evenweave fabric is the easiest, however, it's also possible to work feathered chain stitch on a gentle curve. Simply adjust the spacing so the chains on the inside of the curve are a little closer together.

Because each stitch in a band of feathered chain is essentially a separate detached chain stitch, it's possible to work it in multiple colors. Thread several needles, each with a different color of thread, then work each stitch, changing the colors as you go.

For some variety, try altering the length of each stitch. For example, keep the stitches within the marked lines, but make some of the teardrops smaller with longer anchor stitches or the other way around. Or try breaking out of the lines with some stitches to give your stitching a more organic look.

You might also combine this with other stitches, such as french knot "berries" amongst the leaves or even a simple straight stitch to fill in the teardrop shapes. 

As with any stitch, you can customize feathered chain stitch by playing around with stitch length and placement.

Feel free to stitch creatively!

Originally written by Chery Fall and updated by Mollie Johanson.