Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Basic Embroidery Tip: Stem Stitch Corners


Continuing with some basic embroidery tips here, today we’re going to look at taking a sharp corner with stem stitch. While the technique applies to stem stitch specifically, you can look beyond stem stitch and apply the idea to many stitches.

In the photos, I’m stitching scallops, but this tip applies to any sharp change in line direction where an angle is involved (so, squared corners, tips of stars, and so forth).

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

In the photo above, you can see that the scallops join with a whole new stem stitch line. The difficulty is that you obviously don’t want to change threads, and you can’t go up in the same hole you just took your needle down in, because the stitch will come undone. The solution is simple, and if you’ve worked a bit with stem stitch, chances are, you’ve already figured this one out a while ago! Still, for beginners, it helps to see how the join is done. So here we go…

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

This is the end of one scallop, and we’re ready to stitch the next one.

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

Normally, if you were continuing along a line or curve, you’d take your needle back to the end of the previous stitch, above the working thread, and keep stitch. But we want a sharp corner where the scallops join, and if we just continued with regular stem stitch around the corner, we’d end up with a more or less wavy line. Instead, bring your needle up a stitch length away from the corner, on the line of the next scallop.

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

Then take your needle down into the same hole where the last scallop ended.

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

Keeping your working thread looped below the needle, just as you would when regularly stem stitching, bring your needle up on the line, in the middle of the stitch (which hasn’t been pulled all the way through yet).

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

Pull the working thread through, tightening up the stitch. You can see that the working thread is above the first stitch, which is pretty much where you’d be if you were starting a regular stem stitch.

Now you’re ready to go forward as usual with the stem stitch.

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

At this point, you can use a “stab” or a “sewing” method to continue with your stem stitch as usual.

Stem Stitch on Sharp Corners

The scallops meet up in a nice sharp corner, which keeps them distinctly scalloped-looking.

So there’s another stem stitch tip, which you will find indexed under Tips & Techniques and all listed on the stem stitch video page.


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(16) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,
    I’ll be using this tip right away on a current project. Can you tell us how to continue a line of stem stitching when you must change threads in the middle of the line (this one has really given me a problem!) Thank you.

    1. G’morning, Everyone! Thanks for your comments. Glad these tips are handy! I’ll answer a couple questions:

      Sharon: Take your last stitch as you normally would, as if you were continuing to stem stitch. Finish off your thread on the back as you normally would (I just whip around some of the stitches on the back) and cut it. Then start your new thread how you normally would (whipping around some stitches on the back, or using small anchoring stitches on the line). To begin stitching, bring your needle up where your second-to-the-last stem stitch ended, manipulating the needle so that the last stitch you took is below the needle – don’t split the stitch, just nudge it aside. Then continue on stem stitching. Basically, you’re starting in the same spot you would, if you hadn’t run out of thread, but you need to nudge that last stitch aside so that you don’t end up splitting it.

      Katy – ah. Shisha! It depends on the style of stitching you’re doing around the piece. Maybe that’s something I can demonstrate with a photo tutorial – I’ll give it a try!

  2. Now why didn’t I think of that?

    I love your tips and – while I know some of them already, a reminder is always good, and yours are so well illustrated.

    And others – while so simple – are things that have stumped me for years. Sometimes we just can’t see the obvious until a kindly soul illuminates it for us.

    Thanks for doing this!

  3. I’m still working on the pall, almost finished. After the instructions on stem stitch points, I feel like picking out all the points. It is wonderful to learn these fine points that make such a difference in the finished product. Thank you so much.

  4. Thank you so much for explaining this … the pictures are great and
    for sharing and taking the time to give us much needed hand embroidery advise and tips !!! I wonder why books on the subject leave out these valuable knowledge… :-/… ;-).

  5. I just found your site about a month or so ago and I love it!! I have started embroidering tea towels again and never knew how to turn the corners neatly with the stem stitch. Who would have known it would be so easy?!?! Thanks for the great informative site!

  6. I really appreciate your tutorials that focus on the finer points of a particular stitch. These things are not covered in stitch books and they make all the difference.

    Any thoughts on a Pall design suitable for Easter?
    Happy New Year

  7. I really enjoy your website. The tips are great,and the videos are so helpful. I thought I did a pretty good job until I saw the work of a couple of friends who did more embroidery work than I. So now I can consult my “embroidery fairy” for help for making beautiful stitches.
    Thank you, Mary, for sharing your expertise.

  8. Thank you for your help! I’m working on a project that uses 3 rows of stem stitch togeter and have seen much improvement in my work after reading your articles. Being left handed I had reversed direction, etc but failed to have the thread on top. Such a big difference doing it correctly. Thank you for all you do!

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