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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Rope Stitch Hand Embroidery Video Tutorial


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I’m always happy when I manage to finish up a new video tutorial for my little Video Library of Hand Embroidery Stitches. I wanted to see it get to 50 stitches long before this – but I’m almost there! I’m going to have a celebration when it hits 50 stitches. Some sort of big … something. You can all join me!

The rope stitch is a nice hand embroidery stitch, perfect for a thick, corded look, and a member (believe it or not) of the chain stitch family. It looks like overcast stitch on a slant, or trailing on a slant. It’s a great stitch for curves, so I worked it over the beginning of a curve in the video. It takes gradual curves really well, and it will take tighter curves well if you shorten your stitches and work carefully around the curve.

The Rope Stitch used in Hand Embroidery

So there’s an up-close photo of the stitch for you. You can see at the base how the chain stitch is evident.

To begin the rope stitch, you start with a variation of twisted chain stitch. When you begin the stitch, the needle is going down into the fabric to the right of where you emerged, with your thread behind your needle, then you cross over your needle with the working thread (that’s the twisted chain part), then take the thread under your needle, and then pull through. Now, here’s the thing – from that point out, the stitch is really just a regular chain stitch! So it’s easy.

It’s a pretty strong stitch, too, as long as you aren’t taking the thread too long across the top, so that it loosens up too much. In older embroidery books (from the 1800’s), you’ll see that the stitch is often recommended in the place of cording, if the area being stitched is going to get a lot of use.

Enjoy the video! The sound’s still a bit crackly. I need new equipment!

For more hand embroidery videos, please visit my collection of how-to videos for hand embroidery, where you will find over 75 stitch videos to help you learn hand embroidery!

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(17) Comments

  1. I finally managed to try this stitch. Rope stitch is the TAST-stitch this week and I combined it with this variation. I like it! Your video was very helpful. Thanks.

  2. is the rope stitch the same as the cord stitch? I have a Sunset Embroidery kit and one of the stitches is the Cord stitch and the directions (which I’m not comfortable with) seem different than your rope stitch.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Barbara – No, the cord stitch is a bit different. There are two cord stitches, actually. The knotted cord stitch is kind of a combination of coral stitch and buttonhole stitch, and the regular cord stitch involves a longer stitch with the working thread, and then going back into that stitch with the needle, and wrapping the needle so that the stitch winds around it, and then pulling the thread through the stitch, then sinking the needle. I’ve never used the latter for anything, as I think you can achieve the same look, pretty much, with a whipped backstitch. The former (the knotted cord stitch) is kind of interesting, but I think it ends up more or less looking like a pearl stitch. Anyway, the rope stitch is a cross between a satin stitch (or overcast stitch) and a twisted chain stitch. The “satin stitch” look of the rope stitch comes from the angle of the chain stitch. Hope that helps!


  3. I love you web site and have used it as my embroidery bible. Problem is I am left handed. I do have 1 book that shows left hand stitches. Rope stitch is not included. Do you have any recomdations for doing it left handed? I have trided to adapt it but I don’t think I have managed! Thank you for all the time you have taken to share your expertise.

    1. Hi, Lynda –

      Are you familiar with the twisted chain stitch? Check out the video on the twisted chain stitch, and then I bet you’ll get the rope stitch down. It’s basically a twisted chain stitch that overlaps itself, to form the satin stitched rope. Just a suggestion. If you can’t figure it out, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do! Thanks! ~MC

  4. Hi Mary! First I just wanted to say that I love your website and you and your works are positively the best inspiration for embroidery. Now then about the rope stitch is it possible to use this as a filler or would the curving be a problem it’s just so pretty I wonder if it would make a good filler.

    1. Hi, Mattie! Thanks! The rope stitch is good for making “full lines” (for example, scrolls, letters, etc. that have some width to them) or for any full, fat, narrow space you want to fill up (especially if the space tapers) but it wouldn’t make a good filling itself, for any wide area, dot, etc. It’s too tubular. Hope that helps! ~MC

  5. What a wonderful looking stitch and just what I need to finish a small needlepoint canvas. Will the rope stitch work on a gradual curve on a needlepoint canvas? Thank you.

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