Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Year of Stitch at Elefantz - BACK STITCH

As I shared in the previous post, this year I would like to share some very basic tutorials for my favourite embroidery stitches.
Over a number of early issues of my magazine last year I took my readers through a few of those stitches with small practice designs to hone their skills.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I'm going to reproduce those 'lessons' here on my blog through 2014, but with some additional stitches and practice designs added in.
Firstly, let's look at fabric, thread and needle...


Mostly I will use skeins of DMC, Anchor, or Cosmo 6-strand embroidery threads - it makes no difference what brand because all of these are good value and won't break the bank. Occasionally, for something special, I will use Cottage Garden or another hand-dyed brand.


My standard needle is the Birch No 9 Embroidery Needle. I really, really, love Birch. They are cheap, and they are good. 


You can use just about any fabric as background for a design, as long as the weave is not too loose.
A good Moda (or similar) solid; a fine linen or a cotton/linen blend (recycled linen from clothing is wonderful!); homespun or quilter's muslin; a soft coloured tonal - as long as the fabric feels good in your hand and the thread colours you've chosen show up to reveal the design you're stitching. Old doilies are another lovely background to work with.

Stitch One for 2014 - the BACKSTITCH

Now let's get sewing and start with the stitch I use more than any other - the back stitch! I began embroidering late in 2005 and back stitch was the first stitch I mastered. When embroidered neatly it flows across fabric almost like a pen across paper.

Begin by downloading the free 'stitch' design HERE in my shop. 

I’m using a scrap piece of pink linen cut from an op-shop skirt purchased purely for the look and feel of the fabric.  Fuse some fabric stabiliser behind the block. The most common is Weaveline or Whisperweft and either will do.
There are three reasons for using stabiliser behind your traced block.
   1. Depending on the weave of your fabric, it can stretch when stitched. Stabiliser holds the fabric firm.
2. It helps to hide the thread ends behind the stitchery, 
especially when using dark colours on light fabrics.
3. I don’t use a hoop when I am embroidering so the stabiliser gives me something 
weightier to hold in my hands, allowing me greater control over the fabric and the needle.

Choose two thread colours. I’ve chosen a variegated pink and a variegated green. Lining your needle up from under the first letter of ‘stitch’, bring the needle through the back of the fabric to the front, pulling the thread through until you have just a little tail, about ½”, left behind the stitchery. Don’t make a knot. This is the view at the back of the block...

You’re first stitch  - bring your needle from the back through to the front of the fabric, a little way in front of the start of your ‘s’.
Take the needle back to the start of the ‘s’ - this is why it is called BACK stitch - and push it through to the back of the block pulling the thread through. Bring the needle and thread back through to the front again, a little way ahead of where you began – see the photo below...

NOTE: Gently pull on the thread at this stage as this will secure the 'tail' at the back. I never make knots in my threads at the start of my back stitch as I don't feel they are needed. Keeping your stitches entering and leaving the same hole when you begin ensures they secure the loose end. This is how your 'knot' will look at the back...

 Take the needle and thread 'back' again along the line of the S for your next stitch. The biggest mistake people make with back stitch is not being diligent to keep your thread moving through the same entry and exit holes of the stitch before.
There should be no space or evident fabric weave between each stitch…

Each line of embroidery should be constant flow of colour...

 At the end of each letter, I make one quick slip knot at the back. I don’t usually carry threads between each component of a stitchery. I also trim the tail from the first stitch of each  letter to about 1/8th inch...

I made a pincushion with a scissor wrap from my 'stitch' block...

What will you make?
Send me a photo or a link to your blog post and we can all see what's being made through the year with these simple stitchery designs, ok?

Remember, I'm much better at showing people how to stitch in photos than I am at explaining it in words, so hopefully if my words have confused you my photos will add clarity.

Feel free to add the button below to your blog, linking it back to me, if you think your readers may benefit from the basic stitchery tutorials I'm sharing this year. :-)



  1. Looking forward to learning a few helpful hints this year with you. I am always impressed with how even and consistent your stitching looks. A skill I am sure has come from many many hours and years of practice.

  2. Thank you for the tutorial. It always helps to get back to the basics! Looking forward to more!

  3. thanks so much for the super visuals of this stitch. I do the running stitch on top but have been wanting to use this stitch..

  4. Viajando pela net, cheguei até aqui.
    Tudo muito lindo e perfeito, amei vir aqui.
    Feliz 2014 e sucessos em suas criações.


  5. Thank you for the freebie and the tutorial. What is the finished size of the stitched word?

    Patricia C

    1. The same size as on the pattern sheet you download, Patricia. It's only small. :-)

  6. Thanks I have not done embroidery since I was a teen.... I don't think I have ever seen that type of knot. Gramma taught me the basic slip knot. Also My backstich has a lot of overlap. I think I'll have to look at it some more.

  7. Thanks for sharing the pattern plus how to make a knot. Nola

  8. This was helpful. I am going to put it to good use. Thanks.

  9. I think your words do an excellent job of explaining. Good tutorial on this stitch. I will try the start your way and see what I think. =)

  10. Thank you very much for sharing this tutorial, Jenny! Clear and well done! I will find the time to stitch it.

  11. Thank you very much for sharing this tutorial, Jenny. Clear and well done! I will find the time to stitch it!

  12. Thanks Jenny, I will be making the little scissor keep, it caught my eye when you previewed last week, look forward to more tutorials.

    1. p.s. meant to ask "does your Birch needle have a large eye", I am needing one as I'm finding it difficult to thread 2 strands.!!!

    2. Yes it does, Annette. All embroidery needles should have a large eye.

  13. Thank you for your tutorial. Your information is so clear and the accompanying photos are great. Your stitches are so even. I am still working on that skill. Have a lovely weekend!

  14. Jenny, your work is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this so that we, your fans, can perhaps (with lots of practice) make nice looking examples.

  15. Thank you for the tutorial. I have never used two strands of floss with embroidery, I was taught with one. Will have to give it a try.

  16. I loved this little stitchery Jenny - thank you so much! I immediately got to work making my own sweet little pin cushion and scissor wrap - a very handy addition to my needlework box!

    Blessings in Christ

  17. That is such a pretty little stitchery. Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Jenny
    You have inspired me to improve my backstitch. Your explanation and pics make it so clear. I think the backing instead of a hoop will help me. I'd not heard or seen that suggestion.

  19. Hi Jenny, thanks for the great tutorial and the beautiful pattern. I have made my own pincushion and have blogged about it, with a link to you of course!

    Much appreciated! Marlene

  20. Hi Jenny, have just made my own pincushion and posted about it on my blog, with a link back to you of course!
    Thankyou, love this!


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