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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Satin Stitch & Embroidered Monograms


Monograms and satin stitch just seem to go together. True, true, there are other ways of embroidering a monogram, besides using satin stitch. But I’m infatuated with satin stitch – it is the Queen of Stitches, in my book. It’s a gorgeous stitch.

Here’s a little monogramming project I’m working on right now. It’s not “little, little” – the monogram itself is 3″ tall – but it’s not huge, either. It’s just a little monogram being stitched onto a lovely linen towel.

I started out using Londonderry linen thread, which is a high quality linen thread (as linen threads go, it’s really the smoothest one I’ve ever used). Londonderry linen thread comes in 5 different sizes (from 18/3 – 100/3), and for this project, I started out with 80/3 (which is fairly fine, for linen thread) in red.

Hand Embroidered Monogram on Linen Towel

But my first results were a bit on the sorry side. Linen thread and satin stitch can work together quite well, but they don’t work super well together on elements where the stitches should “hug” the shape, like on the dot above, which looks pretty cr—- cruddy. Of course, the problem could definitely be the stitcher and not the thread – true!!! I don’t mind saying that. But I had a hard time getting the smooth results that I wanted with satin stitch, using the linen thread.

I’ll definitely try it again later with the linen thread, on a different design, though. Never give up on a good thread!

Still, this piece needed to be suitable for a demo, so I wanted a thread that I was comfortable working with, and that new stitchers would also be comfortable working with…. so I switched to my Ultimate-Stand-By-Favorite-Ever-Thread-for-Monogramming, cotton floche.

Hand Embroidered Monogram on Linen Towel

Cotton floche is a delightful thread for monogramming. It is softly twisted cotton with a nice sheen (from mercerization), and it screams “Satin Stitch with Me!” whenever you look at it.

I was much happier with the results of the satin stitch, using the floche.

Hand Embroidered Monogram on Linen Towel

On this particular monogram, I’m combining satin stitch, stem stitch, and seed stitch. I don’t normally outline satin stitched sections after satin stitching, because it hides the beautiful smooth edge which is characteristic of a good satin stitch. But on this design, as you can see in the lower right corner of the photo above, I did outline the outside of the main elements forming the monogram with stem stitch, to define the letter a bit more. Next time, I probably would not do this, but I’m not going to pick it out on this monogram, because I don’t want to ruin the satin stitch!

Hand Embroidered Monogram on Linen Towel

Dots, dots, dots. I love satin stitch dots. I could eat them.

Hand Embroidered Monogram on Linen Towel

So far, there’s my letter. It doesn’t look like much of a letter. And it certainly doesn’t look like a “B,” but give it a little more time, and it will!

A few tips that help with satin stitch:

1. Always outline the element you’re stitching, unless it is teeny tiny. But for just about any element, a split stitch outline underneath is essential for a clean edge.

2. Use padding stitches if you want any height on your stitched element.

3. Angle your needle correctly when coming up and going down in the fabric – angle it underneath the split stitch line.

4. Make sure you’re using the right weight of thread for your fabric, and the right size needle for your thread. If your fabric can’t hold up to the close stitching on the edge of the satin stitch (if the fabric doesn’t grip the thread you’re stitching with), then it’s a good idea to back your ground fabric with a tightly woven muslin or something of that nature.

Satin stitch. Do you like it? Do you use it often? Do you have difficulties with it? If you wanted to learn something specific about satin stitch in order to improve your satin stitching, what would it be? I’m all ears – leave a comment below!

See you tomorrow!

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(49) Comments

  1. I hate satin stitch! Not the way it looks, it’s beautiful, though it’s not beautiful when I do it! I have problems with spacing the stitches and always have a wonky outline. You advise using a split stitch outline – before or after doing the satin stitch? Over or below the stitches?

    1. Hi, All – Thanks for your comments! I’ll see if I can answer a few questions here:

      Yes, Susan – it is a Sajou monogram, and 346 sounds right. I scanned the letters and not the cover, so I’d have to go dig for it to see if that’s the number, but it probably is. I was planning on “vectorizing” the whole alphabet one of these days. I love this monogram!

      Wendy – the split stitch outline is the outline of the shape, before satin stitching. Then you satin stitch over the split stitch line. The satin stitch video under the How-to videos will show you how it’s done.

      Concerning angle, threads, and so forth – I’ll answer those questions with a tutorial later on! (It would take me forever!) But in the meantime, if you check under “tips and techniques” in the top menu of the website, you’ll find lots of posts listed in there on satin stitch. I think I’ll have to go tag all my satin stitch posts, too, with a “satin stitch” tag, so that the subject is searchable that way, too!

      Hannah – I think you’re looking for this post: http://www.needlenthread.com/2008/06/hand-embroidered-monogram-taking-curves.html It’s on satin stitching around a tight curve on a monogram.

      Thanks ever so much for all your comments and questions! You’ve given me a lot to think about and write about in the upcoming days (or weeks, rather. Maybe even months. Years, even?)


  2. HI Mary this is a beautiful stitch but Inever seem to be able to raise mine to where it looks nicely padded. any tips…thank you

  3. The monogram looks gorgeous I love satin stitch but I wish my satin stitches would be as straight and edged as yours. I do try to angle the stitches when coming up and down but I still don’t always get a straight edge and sometimes I over lap the stitches which is very annoying because I then have to undo the stitch. I’m probably using the wrong thread/material/needle.

    Just to let you know I’ve decided to work on your long and short stitch samplar, I’ve just received the thread and waiting for the needles and fabric so wish me luck here I go on my way as the song says Ha! ha!


  4. Thank you for the tips. You are never too old to learn something new. So glad I found you. I am working on a project based on the old grave stones of women on my island and will put your tips to good use.

  5. I adore satin stitch…but it doesn’t like me much! 🙂

    Maybe you have some suggestions for me. When I try to angle under the edge stitching, I keep either catching tiny bits of the edge or going too far under, making my satinized area downright tucked under or even raised up a little on the edge–sometimes both at the same time. *humph*!

    I know, I know…practice makes perfect and all that but when you want to use your hoop, with project, for a frisbee….!

    And yours always looks so very nice, even when you show us where you messed up. *sigh*

  6. Hola otra vez,
    la verdad es que la puntada de satén es preciosa, los bordados con esta puntada quedan muy elegantes, pero a mi no me sale muy bien, aunque seguiré practicando, tus vídeos son de gran ayuda.
    Un abrazo.

  7. Beautiful, just beautiful!

    I’ve just finished a linen towel with monogram for my grand daughter (next Saturday is her 8th birthday)now I’m a little envy of your satin stitch 🙂 – the only excuse I have is saying that we haven’t that cotton floch here…
    I never could understand exactly what is that DMC thread. Here in Portugal we use DMC threads a lot we have Cotton Perlé 3, 5, 8 and 12, Stranded Cotton 6 strands (Mouliné) and Broder Special (Cotton à Broder) 16, 20, 25, 30 and 35.
    Sometimes I think Cotton Floche is the same as Broder Spécial but we have several numbers (thickness) and the cotton floche you talk about (and I saw at Hedgehog Handworks) looks like having a unique thickness.
    What do you think about?

  8. I love satin, but I’ve been working in wools lately with the Crewel Work kits. No outlining necessary. So far it’s making beautiful acorns with the french knots underneath. The french knots are by far my favorite stitch.

  9. Hi Mary, I like sating stitch but it never ends up looking perfectly smooth on the edges, I’m not sure if I just haven’t practiced enough or if I’m doing something incorrectly. Are you padding behind this? It looks so cushion-y! And I love your imagination, I don’t think I would have thought to do some with seed stitch, brilliant! It is such a beautiful contrast.

  10. Gorgeous work! I love it!
    Satin Stitch is the first of my favorites! I always back to it again. I look forward to see the complete monogram.

  11. Mary, I have been reading your blog for over a year now! Thanks so much for all your inspitation and encouragement. I have always liked monogramming, but have never really gotten the hang of it. I think after reading your blog today, I will try again! Thanks again!

  12. Mary,

    I love the satin stitch!

    I am currently playing with your tulip and carnation pattern and ended up going with a lot of satin stitches. Many of the satin stitches came out before the angle looked right.

    Had not thought of how the fabric holds the thread. I have a lot to learn…..

    I will be practicing some more before I get shinier/silkier/smoother thread.

    Thanks for all your tips!

  13. How are monograms supposed to be set up? Should it be first initial, last initial, middle initial, or first, middle, last…. which is appropriate and when?

  14. Pretty monogram! I love the look of satin stitch, but I’ve had some really touble with making it look nice. But that was before I learned about outlining and padding before you do the actual satin stitching. And I haven’t been back to trying anything with satin stitch for quite a while now.

  15. I totally agree with you about the satin stitch! And you do it beautifully! And floche IS “magic” when it comes to monograms….

  16. Your satin stitch is so smoothe! I love the looks of satin stitch, the key is to practice, practice, practice! I have not done enough of that! Therefore my satin stitch doesn’t look very nice! Back to the practice piece!

  17. I love the satin stitch but am always frustrated with mine. After looking at yours, and I consider you the Pro, mine are passable. I will try outlining them first as I have been doing an outline stitch around the finished satin stitch and I feel like I’m cheating. I am going to look up the padded satin stitch as the current piece I’m working on screams for it…..ear muffs on a snowlady….cute. Hopefully, this will make my work better and faster….which will make the designer I work for happy. Thanks for this blog today.

  18. I satin stitched a Japanese Peony with leaves. It turned out perfect. Love the beauty of the satin stitch, and try to use it often.

  19. Could you tell us what pattern you are using for you “B” monogram? Is it Flowered Monograms from La Broderie Blanche from your pattern section? It is very pretty!! I also am curious what order to put the initials in….
    Thanks for sharing all your techniques.

  20. I would love some tips on the direction of the stitching. It’s pretty easy to keep the stitches lying nicely next to each other on straight sections of a design. It’s when I get to the curves that I have trouble.

  21. Mary–you didn’t mention–is this Sajou 346? Looks similar. Very nice interpretation of the “leaf stem”. My satin stitch is sorely lacking but I haven’t tried floche. What a great idea & yet another use for the thread! I’ve used it for crazy quilting & I think Marion Scoular (graduate of RSN & treasured teacher at EGA events!) uses it for blackwork. Hmmm. Thanks for posting. I couldn’t believe how many colors are available at Hedgehog Handworks so I’ve put them on speed-dial!

  22. I’ve always loved the look of Satin Stitch. My mother did exquisite work with this stitch and the only way I can come close to it is to work on even weave fabrics and needlepoint canvas!
    I would gaze and gaze at a sampler she stitched just before I was born and that stitch was my favorite of all.

  23. I love the satin stitch, and your website are so helpful! I know you did one about satin stitch on cursive letters, but despite all my searching through previous posts, I couldn’t find it. Can you point me in the right direction?


  24. Your satin stitch is wonderful. My satin stitch is ….. Well I avoid it at all costs. Maybe I will try it now using your tips.

    Thanks a bunch!

  25. Ooooo! This is so pretty! Where did you find the pattern for the monogram? The leaves and the dots are very nice.
    Thank you,

  26. I love how it looks but my success rate is probably only about 50%. If you have a circle, let’s say, do you start at the edge or in the middle and work out?

  27. I just went back to watch your video and photo tutorials on satin stitching. It’s so helpful to see it! Now my question is when would you use an outline stitch vs. a split stitch for the “framing”?

  28. I love how your embroidery always looks perfect, so clean and perfect!
    By the looks of the other comments I’m not the only one with bad satin stitch skills!
    Thanks for all the tips you give!

  29. Dear Marymentor:
    Question please….maybe this has crossed other “stitchers’ ” minds. This seems like such a natural for flour sack towels to give as gifts. But what about washing ? I LOVE LOVE LOVE the bright cherry red. Common sense tells me to pre-wash the towels before embellishing them. (?) But using cotton thread ? What happens when you throw the beautiful newly decorated towel into the wash? I fear “crimping” around the beautiful satin stitching ? Cold water wash I guess is the safest? Any helpful hints will be appreciated. Don’t laugh but it has crossed my mind to throw the cotton embroidery thread into a wash cycle before using it !

    1. Hi, Judy – I always pre-wash anything I stitch on. I know some people don’t agree with that, with linen (especially, I think, with Schwalm work, I’ve heard that the linen shouldn’t be pre-washed, but I do it anyway). Linen is so much nicer to stitch on, when all the sizing has been washed out and the linen has been damp ironed. I don’t generally throw embroidery linen in the laundry, though – I rinse it in a series of hot and cold water rinses, in the sink, until the water runs clear, and then I roll it in a towel and let it get partially dry, then damp iron it, until it’s smooth and beautiful. The threads plump up and are lovely to stitch on.

      With cotton towels, I always pre-wash them. Always. And when I stitch on a cotton towel (like a flour sack towel, which I generally give as a gift, as a basket-liner), I keep in mind that it will likely be thrown in the laundry. And they still look fine, even when they are thrown in the laundry. The point is: years and years ago, household items like the linen towel above were embellished and made to be used. This is being made to be used. So yes, I’ll wash it. Now, whether or not I just toss it in with a load of wash is another question – more than likely, it would go with gentle cycled delicates, or perhaps (if not subjected to “hard” use) washed by hand. The satin stitching should hold up fine to laundering. If it’s not the case, though, I’ll definitely let you know!


  30. Wow, that really is lovely – I like the red and white, that’s a gorgeous shade of red!
    I don’t use satin stitch often myself, although I’m looking to remedy that. My technique needs work, especially with tension and evenness. I think if I monogram something – and I may well – it might be with punctuation or a random calculus symbol instead of a letter. You know, just to keep things fresh…

  31. Hi Mary- this monogram-project comes quite right for me- I have to do a monogram-stitching in a bridal bag- and your wonderful B is just inspiring me to take a pattern like that. It must be very fine, because the bag will be silk and so I think, silk thread will fit the best. But before starting, I have to practise satin stitch and split stitch,the many posts on your site will be very helpful, thank you so much for your inspiring work and advices given here¨
    cheers martina

  32. I am trying a padded Satin stitch right now on a Crazy Quilt block that will be used for a Quilt going to Sendai. Your tips will help me. I do need some tips on direction.

  33. Hi Mary, this piece is absolutely gorgeous. I adore satin stitch and have just finished a practice piece whose whole object was to improve my satin stitch. Certainly the last shapes were better than the first but I still can’t say that I approach it with confidence. I was using a single strand of stranded cotton, not floche, which I haven’t seen in Australia.(Is it broder by another name?)But the thing that really puzzles me is that I get one edge of the shape looking crisp and smooth and the other not. Is that because I’m not getting the angle of the needle right as I come up, would you think?
    Your posts and tutorials are inspiring and encouraging. Many thanks and warm regards, Suzy

  34. It’s my opinion if you can do a beautiful satin stitch, you can do anything. I simply cannot do a decent satin stitch and it is my favorite. Like the other poster said, my lines are wonky, my stitches tend to overlap and my circles are never round. *Sigh* Oh well, I will just enjoy seeing your beautiful satin stitched circles, Mary.

  35. How do you make your satin stitch “pop-up” off the fabric that way? Your example picture showed that it was raised off the fabric but yet still flat and not bumpy. Very beautiful.

    Thank you in advance for your answer.

    1. Hi, All! Thanks so much for your comments – I’m glad you like the monogram. It was fun, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I want to start it TODAY! But I suppose I better bake some Easter treats instead, or my family may disown me….

      Hi, Donna – the satin stitch is padded. First, I outline with split stitch, then fill in the padding stitches, then satin stitch over all of it. There are a few links up there that will explain it, especially the padding link, and the satin stitch dot link. By flat and not bumpy, I suppose you mean the smoothness of the stitches on top? This has to do with the spacing of the stitches and the fact that they don’t overlap or twist together at all. The best tip for ensuring that: use a single strand of whatever thread you’re working with. So if you’re working with regular DMC cotton floss, don’t use two or three strands – just use one. It takes longer, but the results are generally better. If you do use more than one strand, a laying tool helps to get the strands to lie perfectly parallel to each other.

      Hi, Vivian – Never, ever use it?! Oh, I would use it! Well – I wouldn’t clean up a grease spill with it! But I’d use it for some things. Happy Easter to you, too!

      Deb – thanks, glad you like it! Yes, I think you’re right! People do like monogrammed gifts. I’ve never had anyone be less than thrilled silly when receiving this kind of gift at a bridal shower, or as a housewarming, or an anniversary gift. It’s fun to see the reaction!

      Elza – thanks very much for the backup! That’s the thing – longevity. Projects worked on good stuff last longer! Happy Easter to you, too!

      Hi, Cynthia…. Yep, we think alike on this one. Funnily enough, I thought of you when I was writing this blog post! I’m not sure why – but you came to mind!!

      Hi, Jane! Well, the pattern is no longer for sale – it’s pretty much an antique..! But there are some places where you can find it online. Here’s a link: http://patternmakercharts.blogspot.com/2010/03/sajou-no-346.html I’ve been planning on vectorizing this pamphlet for a while… but actually, I haven’t gotten anywhere on it, beyond the B! But you can probably print the ones on patternmaker and trace them. I’d move next door, but …. well…. I don’t know if I’d survive outside the cornfields of Kansas! LOL!

      Erin! Thanks for that tip!! I will definitely try it out – I’d not heard that one before. I’ve scorched linen before, too, and it’s always produces a real sinking feeling, even if I haven’t stitched on it yet. That tip will be fun to test! Thanks!

      Sharon – Thanks, glad you like it!

      Happy Easter tomorrow, everyone! I’ll be posting a picture of a special piece of embroidery tomorrow – stitched by a reader, and very beautiful!


  36. Bonjour
    J’apprends beaucoup avec vous et grâce au traducteur de GOOGLE
    Dommage que je ne maitrise pas bien la langue.

  37. Mary, thank you so much for the tip re outlining on the reverse side for satin stitch areas. I am mostly self taught except for the 10 yr old me and my paternal grandma. Reading your columns help me considerably.. thanks again.

  38. How do u do a satin stich? It says on my directions up at a down on b up on c down on d. Picture not provided.

    1. Hi, Elizabeth – I have a video tutorial on the satin stitch under “Videos” in the top menu, if you’d like to check it out – that might help! ~MC

  39. Hello,

    I really appreciate the and love your work.
    I have question regarding satin stitch , what should be the amount of thread strands for smooth satin stitch.
    And what is best quality of thread needed for satin stitch.
    I always have problem with satin stitch.


    1. Hello, Rakhee – one strand of embroidery floss, no matter what type, is the best choice for a smooth satin stitch. If you are using cotton embroidery floss that is separable into 6 different plies, just use one of the six. -MC

  40. Your blog has become invaluable to me! I’m just starting the planning of my daughter’s wedding quilt with the names and dates to be embroidered on the center medallion. I will definitely be using a satin stitch.

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