Raised stem stitch is a great way to create thick, textured ribbons, bands, ropes, tree trunks, caterpillars… lots of possibilities with this technique!
There are different ways to go about raised stem stitch – you can really raise it by working it over a cord or rope padding (as is done in Casalguidi embroidery), or you can raise it moderately by working long lines of horizontal stitches, over which you can then work the vertical stitches you’ll see in the tutorial below, and then the stem stitch over those. Or, you can just barely raise it a bit, by working the vertical stitches right on the fabric, as we’ll do here.
In today’s Stitch Play, this is what we are going to create:
Now, if raised stem stitch seems ho-hum to you, I’d suggest watching this develop, because other stitchy ideas may pop into your head as you see this come together. I’ll also show you how to thicken one part of the band while leaving other parts narrower, which could come in handy for tree trunks and branches, or irregular bands that are thick and thin in spots. If you like textured embroidery, this is a nice element to add to your textured work, varying the thickness of the band will make it more adaptable to different stitching circumstances.
Beautiful and meaningful photo, isn’t it?
We’ll start with this step – draw a double line on your fabric, where you want your raised stem stitch to be. I drew a wavy line, so that you can see that this technique works well on wavy lines.
Between the two lines, work evenly spaced straight stitches perpendicular to the lines. You’ll have to compensate a bit on curves. What you want to accomplish are relatively vertical bars that you’ll be working the stem stitch over.
Don’t pull these stitches too tight – you’ll need room underneath them for your stem stitch.
Beginning on the left end of the squiggle, we’ll start the stem stitch. I’m working with a second color of thread, so that the stitches are clearer for this tutorial. If you work with the same color of thread, it’ll be easier to keep those underlying bars discreet.
Cross over the first two vertical stitches, then back underneath the second one and out, as shown in the photo above. Keep the working thread below the needle, just as you would for stem stitch.
Work the stem stitch all the way down the line this way – going over two bars, and back under one, with the working thread below the needle.
When you get to the end of your line, after you’ve passed under the last bar and out, take your needle down into the fabric right at the end of your line of stem stitches. Turn the work over, and run the needle under the backs of your stitches, to take you to the starting point over on the left again. With raised stem stitch, always working from the same direction keeps the look of the stitched band nice and consistent.
Now, right here, you can see an interesting combination that you could actually incorporate into your stitching as is. It looks like a two-colored buttonhole stitch, almost, doesn’t it?
Or a skinny blue centipede in profile, with long pink legs.
But let’s keep going! Work the next row in the same manner as the first, from left to right.
Pack the rows together as you go. I like doing this from the back of the pink bars, taking my needle behind them and pushing on the back of the stem stitches, to push the rows together. But you can do it from the front, too.
And as you get to the end of the row, take the needle to the back, run it under the backs of the stitches, and get back to your starting point on the left.
And then go through all of the above, again, until you’ve filled up the area well and good!
Hmmmm. A bird’s eye view of the same centipede?
Now, if you want one area of your band thicker than another – say, the left part, before the center wiggle in this band – then you can actually start at the beginning, fill with the stem stitch, and end part-way along your band, by taking the needle to the back right before the next bar that you would cross. Angle the needle a little in and under the stem stitched area, to hide the end of the stitch a bit.
And you can continue to fatten that area on the left, by working yet another half-line…
… and ending a little shorter this time, if you want.
If you want to fatten out the other end of the squiggle, you can bring your needle up past the center wiggle in the line, and fill the right section of the squiggle, leaving the middle skinny and the two ends a little fatter.
So that’s how you work a raised stem stitch. I had to hold myself back from adding little green fly stitch legs to this thing, and a big googley eye one end.
This is a technique that offers lots of possibilities for sculptured or textured stitching. Later on, we’ll go beyond this a bit and play with it further!
Hope you find some use for it!
Stitch Play is a new stitch series here on Needle ‘n Thread that explores, in pictures, various things you can do with different embroidery stitches. If you have any stitch, technique, or combination of stitches you’d like to see featured, feel free to let me know! I’ll see if I can work it out for you.
Stitch Glitch is a new series here on Needle ‘n Thread that works out, in pictures, different difficulties that may arise in stitching situations. If you have any requests for Stitch Glitch, I’m all ears! I’ll be happy to help you out if I can!