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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Embroidery Video: Ladder Stitch


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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:

Ladder stitch used in hand embroidery

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:

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(20) Comments

  1. Hi,

    The ladder stich video is really good, I have tried all the stiches in the video library, i would like you to have a video on the stich that you had mention about in from the blog Qualquer Motivo

  2. The tip to lay the needle parallel to the two rungs to find the little ‘cross stitch’ to go under at the edge is a great tip. That little ‘stitch’ can be hard to find sometimes!

  3. Thank you so much for making this! I was really struggling with learning this stitch from diagrams, but your video made it easy to understand and I've got it down now.

    (Any chance you might make a video for ceylon stitch at some point?)

  4. Hi, Teresa – Yes, it can – you have to compensate as you go around the curve, making the stitches closer on one side and farther apart on the other.

    Melissa – I have a video for ceylon stitch, but I haven't formatted and edited it. One day… hopefully soon….


  5. Once again, thank you, Mary. Sometimes I just can’t get the TAST stitch from Sharon’s blog, but I always find your tutorials clear and easy to follow.

  6. Thank you so much for the tutorials. I have recently started an embroidery (beginners) course and seem to be the only student who has no previous knowledge of embroidery stitches. I feel so clumsy and out of my depth. But, having found your site, I have spent the entire afternoon making a mini sampler of stitches, following your videos which are brilliant. I feel more confident already. Thanks again.

  7. I have problems .Thank you so much for the tutorials.Have a website or programs to teach left-handed . I am left-handed .

  8. Hurray! I have finished the Ladder Stitch on my sampler. Thank you so much for the help.
    I couldn’t do it or the Braid Stitch before I found your tutorials.
    I am using metallic thread. Looks real pretty. Got two more to do, the cable and the open chain stitch. I will be back, I’m sure.

  9. I have a embroidery project that I am working on that uses stitches used on 16th century coif. One of the stitches looks like a ladder stitch but it has an additional row of chain stitches in the middle of the ladder. The website listed shows a close up of the stitch.

    1. Hi, Royce – not quite the same, but very close. The ladder stitch is bound by the edges. With ceylon stitch, which is used as a wider filling with multiple “runs” down it, you’re working into the stitch above (like ladder stitch) and creating several “runs” down the filling. But yes, they are very similar in looks. There’s a little more movement in the braided edge on ladder stitch.

    2. Thank you so much for this explanation. I will work both the stitches in order to understand better.
      Another set of stitches are the brick stitch and long and short stitch.
      Are these 2 same?

    3. Hi, Royce – no, they’re not at all the same stitch. Long and short stitch is a filling stitch worked as a series of split stitches in rows, while bring stitch is a filling stitch that involves off-set running stitches.

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