The idea here is how to join up with a line of stem stitch “from the rear” – that is, when you’re stitching towards another bit of already-stitched stem stitch, whether it’s a circle or any other shape, and you want to make a seamless join in the stitching.
I admit, it isn’t the most beautiful circle in the world, but it serves to demonstrate the point!
So let’s stitch a circle in stem stitch and see how to join the ends seamlessly. First, you’ll want to start your thread the same way we did when discussing the chain stitch circle, using tiny anchor stitches on the line (your stitches will cover them up).
Remember! Stem stitch, for right-handed stitchers, is worked from left to right, with the working thread kept below the needle. For left-handed stitchers, stem stitch is worked from right to left, with the working thread kept above the needle. If you reverse the location of the working thread, you’ll end up with outline stitch, which is a slightly different-looking stitch. (This whole scenario changes if you’re working with z-twisted threads, but since most common embroidery flosses – especially cotton – are s-twisted, we won’t go into that right now!)
Because I’m right-handed, I’m working my way from left to right around the circle, turning my hoop as I go. The working thread is looped down on my fabric, so that it stays below the needle.
While working around a small circle, keep your stitches relatively small. If you’re working in the correct direction, then each stitch will help hold the previous stitch in the curve, but you still don’t want the stitches to be too long, otherwise they will flatten across the curve and look sloppy. I’d say stick with about 1/4″ length – half of that 1/4″ will the the overlap on the previous stitch, so really you’re only moving forward about an 1/8″ of an inch with each stitch.
I’m coming up to the end of the circle here, and it looks like I should only have to take a stitch forward to meet the beginning of the circle.
So I’ll take that stitch, and go down in my fabric in the same hole where the first stitch in the circle started.
Well, the circle is “joined” – the line is stitched over – but is that the kind of join we want? Not really. You can see pretty clearly where the join is.
At this point, you need to take one more stitch. Bring your needle up above your last stitch, in the center, like you normally would for stem stitch.
And then, for your final stitch, take the needle to the back, underneath the first stitch in the circle.
Now the join looks better, doesn’t it?
Remember, this isn’t just for circles – it’s for any shape where you need to meet up with a previously stitched line of stem stitch.
I hope this little tip is helpful! You can find more tips and tricks for hand embroidery under Tips and Techniques, where this one will be listed, too.
Be on the lookout for some new needle & thread-related stuff this week, and a return to some old Needle ‘n Thread related stuff! (I had a busy weekend!) Have a terrific Monday!