Ladder stitch in hand embroidery can be one of two stitches. There’s the surface embroidery technique that creates a decorative band that looks a lot like a ladder, with edges that look like a chain stitch. There’s also a drawn thread technique called ladder stitch that produces a ladder-like strip of remaining threads in the design area. The ladder stitch in this video tutorial is the former – the decorative band used in surface embroidery.
Although the ladder stitch involves several steps to get it going, it’s not a hard stitch at all. The most important thing to remember if you want your embroidery to look really good is to be careful with your tension! I’ll tell you up front, in the video here, the tension is not exactly what it should be – you’ll see that for yourself at the end of the video. The right side of the ladder seems to pull a bit inwards. But the technique is there, and, in watching the video, you’ll learn to do the stitch with ease.
The ladder stitch works ok on gentle curves, but it’s not a stitch that’s well suited for circles or tight curves.
You can vary the distance between the sides of your ladder to get a dimensional effect – to set a perspective, for example. You can start small at the top of your ladder and go wide at the bottom (or visa-versa). You can even vary the distance (gradually) between the two sides of the ladder, all the way down (like an hour glass). The changes have to be gradual, though, over several stitches. If you try to change the distance between the sides of the ladder too quickly, you’ll lose the look of the chain stitched edge and pull it out of whack.
Here’s a photo of the finished sample that’s worked in the video:
The left hand side looks fine, but the right hand side is pulling inward and it looks a little whacky! This is just a slight tension problem and is easily remedied by be careful with your tension as you go.
Here’s the video:
For more video tutorials for hand embroidery stitches please visit my collection of how-to videos for hand embroidery.