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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Chicken Scratch – Embroidery on Gingham


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Right off the bat, I’ll admit I’ve never been a major fan of gingham except on baby goods and picnic tables, but I was chatting with a lady the other day about embroidery, and she started talking about “chicken scratch” embroidery. Our conversation prompted me to look at this embroidery technique worked on gingham in a new light…

Chicken Scratch Embroidery

What is Chicken Scratch Embroidery?

“Chicken scratch” embroidery is a lacy-like embroidery technique worked on gingham. It’s called a number of other things besides “chicken scratch” – depression embroidery (as in “Depression era”), snowflake embroidery or lace, gingham lace, or Amish embroidery. It involves only about three or four types of stitches – the running stitch, the cross stitch, the double cross stitch, and (if you want to consider it a separate stitch), the threaded running stitch.

Chicken Scratch Embroidery

Sometimes, stitchers incorporate other stitches into chicken scratch, adding a whole different look to it, as you can see in the apron above, where ribbed spider web circles have been incorporated. You can see this entire apron in this article on chicken scratch embroidery here on Needle ‘n Thread.

Online Resources for Chicken Scratch Embroidery

I found a couple websites that have quite a bit of information on it and instructions. You might try this chicken scratch tutorial at Pink Paper Peppermints. There’s a printable PDF pattern there, too.

University of West Virginia’s Extension Service offers this article on Chicken Scratch Embroidery in PDF for free download: Traditions Continue… What is Chicken Scratch Embroidery? The article includes the history of the technique plus a project.

You can find free chickent scratch embroidery patterns around the web, too, if you’re interested in trying the technique. Here’s a chicken scratch embroidered heart, and here’s a chicken scratch “angel” (I think?).

Chicken Scratch Embroidery

There’s a really nice collection of chicken scratch photos on Flickr, too, which can provide a goodly amount of inspiration if you want to try your hand at embroidery on gingham.

Make sure you check out the magnificent photo of the peach-colored chicken scratch apron – it’s quite nice!

You might like this free guide for a chicken scratch project on this site, and there’s an excellent e-book available there for purchase as well.

Drawn Thread on Gingham

Incidentally, you can work drawn thread techniques on gingham and incorporate them into your chicken scratch embroidery projects. Here’s my tutorial for drawn thread on gingham.

This embroidery technique would be an excellent way to get kids into needlework, too. The grid in gingham makes spacing simple – and spacing is often the hardest thing for kids to get the hang of.

If you have any resources for chicken scratch embroidery that you can recommend, feel free to leave a comment below!


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(13) Comments

  1. Mary, I read your blog often but I missed reading this post before. Thanks for the Flickr link! Those chicken scratch photos are great.

  2. Well that’s pretty neat that there is an actual use for gingam now! I haven’t been able to find one except for baby items.. this will be good all the way across the board! kudos for the great ideas.
    Antique Jewelry

  3. hola me encanta todo lo que nos muestra en su pagina felicidades gracias por compartir . algunas coS
    as la he hecho me gusta mucho el bordado saludos desde ,MEXICO

    1. Hi, Doreen – you might look online for Broderie Suisse – it’s a French term for Swiss Embroidery, which is embroidery on gingham. You might even search on Amazon – I think you’ll find some used books there.

  4. Hi,
    I was interested to know what kind of fabric do I use for chicken scratch?
    Also, where could I purchase it?
    Thank you,
    Nancy Ernst

    1. Traditionally, many chicken scratch aficionados use “homespun” gingham, which is a little rougher than regular gingham cotton fabric and the squares are not perfectly square – they’re a little elongated. But on “gingham embroidery” or “broderie suisse” just regular gingham is normally used. I prefer the latter. I usually get my gingham at Farmhouse Fabrics – just search “gingham” on their website. They have different sizes. I like to use the 1/8″ gingham. You can find more information on chicken scratch here: https://www.needlenthread.com/2014/04/chicken-scratch-gingham-embroidery-index.html

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