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 / Gingham Embroidery Index – & some history


Amazon Books

Just a little house keeping here, so that you can easily find information on chicken scratch / embroidery on gingham here on Needle ‘n Thread when you’re looking for it!

This index will include all articles on Chicken Scratch, including patterns, tutorials, and other information on the technique. As more articles are added on the subject in the future, I’ll add them to this list, too, the keep them all neatly in one place.

Chicken Scratch / Gingham Lace Article Index

Chicken Scratch – or embroidery on gingham known by its myriad other names, from Depression Lace to Snowflake Embroidery – is a simple form of embroidery worked on gingham or checkered fabric, that incorporates different types of foundation stitches and lacing stitches to form a lacy design over the gingham.

A Little History of Chicken Scratch

There are extant examples of embroidery on gingham from as early as the 1800’s, but it was made more widely popular during the first half of the 1900’s, especially during the Great Depression, because it was an inexpensive and simple way to decorate gingham fabric.

Gingham embroidery has enjoyed little bursts of popularity in many countries, from Europe & the UK, to the US, to Australia, so it is not a “local” technique that can be claimed by any one country or culture.

The term “Chicken Scratch,” though it was one of the many names attributed to this type of embroidery, was not actually widely popularized until the late early 1980’s, mainly by Pegasus Originals, who produced several books on Chicken Scratch that became popular. Soon, many companies were producing Chicken Scratch charts and books, but after a few years of popularity, interest waned.

Most of the companies producing Chicken Scratch charts during this resurgence of interest in the early ’80’s are now closed, although Pegasus Originals is still going, and you can find three of their books and a chart pack available on Amazon.

Just like the vintage embroidery patterns from the 40’s and 50’s and beyond (and really, just like any style of anything!), the Chicken Scratch of the early ’80’s has a definite look to it – a look that places it in a certain context in time.

Today, Chicken Scratch is becoming popular again, probably due in part to the present popularity of gingham in general. But, as is normal, the style of the embroidery is morphing a bit to suit the times. The Europeans especially have made embroidery on gingham a little more delicate, a little more intricate, a bit fancier – so that, although the roots are still there, the current “flavor” of gingham embroidery is quite different from the Chicken Scratch of early ’80’s America.

But whatever you call it, and whatever style you prefer – whether trendy or vintage, fancy or simple – embroidery on gingham has a definite place in the history of popular embroidery styles. In concept, it’s a fun and simple type of embroidery to learn, it offers a lot of room for dabbling and playing about, and it’s certainly worth developing and passing on to future generations of embroiderers.

Chicken Scratch / Gingham Embroidery Articles List

If you’re planning to do a little Chicken Scratch or embroidery on gingham in the future, feel free to bookmark this page, add it to your Pinterest boards, share it on your Facebook profile, or do whatever you do to make sure you can find a favorite webpage again!

  1. Chicken Scratch: Embroidery on Gingham
  2. Drawn Thread on Gingham: Tutorial
  3. Hand Embroidery on Gingham – Christmas Trees
  4. Guide to Gingham Embroidery
  5. Summer Fun with Gingham Embroidery
  6. The Many Looks of Gingham Lace Stitch
  7. Gingham Embroidery (or Chicken Scratch) for Spring
  8. Chicken Scratch / Gingham Lace Pattern: Floral Corner #1
  9. What’s in a Name? A Chicken Scratch Argument
  10. Chicken Scratch / Gingham Lace Pattern: Floral Corner #2
  11. How to Embroider on Gingham – a Chicken Scratch Tutorial
  12. Embroidering Leafy Clusters in Chicken Scratch
  13. Chicken Scratch Watermelon Border

Whenever I revisit the subject of gingham embroidery down the road, I’ll add the articles to this list, which can be found permanently on the Tips & Techniques page here on Needle ‘n Thread, under “Hand Embroidery Lessons & Step-by-Step Projects.”


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(33) Comments

  1. Dear Mary

    Oh great thanks for the index on Gingham embroidery good idea to have all the articles in one place. Thanks for sharing this information with us and very useful for future use.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  2. Thank you Mary for your “chicken scratch” articles. As spring and summer draw near I will be doing outside work and need a simply pleasurable needlework form that I can pick up without too much worry. I’ve been trying to teach myself needlepainting and I’m running into frustration. “Chicken scratch” might be the easiest way to keep stitching when good gardening weather beckons.I think I can do both.

    The biggest plus is that your patterns are really lovely and not too “cutesy”.

    Always pleased to find a new form.

    Doreen from Maine

  3. Thanks, Mary, for this information I enjoy both embroidery and gingham. I remember favorite summer dresses I wore as a child made of gingham. I remember seeing embroidered gingham blouses.Perfect for spring and summer.

  4. Update: “The Guide to Gingham Embroidery” and “Gingham Inspirations” Book One and Two are no longer at the links listed in the articles in the Index. MANY thanks for the handy Index, Mary!!

    The ebooks are carried exclusively by Marmee Dear & Co. at
    http://tinyurl.com/GinghamLearn and http://tinyurl.com/GinghamInspire

    I will try to post a few photos this week in the Ask & Share Gallery; there are great gift ideas for Mother’s Day in the Guide to Gingham Embroidery that are easy to make: A gingham embroidered tissue box cover, or gingham embroidered bookmark make lovely gifts.


  5. Thank you for the Chicken Scratch interest. I remember my mother doing this on the bottom of half aprons. When I visit my grandsons (usually a two weeks adventure), my older grandson who will be eight this week thinks he and grandma need to do a craft each day – usually while little guy naps. I’m going to take the supplies and introduce him to chicken scratch. I think it’s important for males to have introduction to non-traditionally male crafts. After all, some of our best designers in some areas are males. Thank you.

  6. I had forgotten all about chicken scratch, when I was much younger I remember my grandmother doing this on aprons. She also did huck towels, do yuo have any information on the tecnique? I had totally forgotten about these and it has been so long since I have seen any thing done like them I still have my grandmother’s one dish towel and she has been gone for 49 years and did not do any stitching in at leat the last five years or so of her life. The towel is falling apart but I will not part with it. My grandmother was a very special lady and lived with us for many years before she took ill.

  7. i would like to get some pattern for gingham
    chicken scratch. do you have a book i can
    get for for it.

    thank you,
    becky beeman

    1. Gingham Embroidery patterns; what type are you looking for, Becky? Do you want projects to sew and embroider, or patterns to embroider onto gingham aprons, tablecloths, etc?

      My ebook, The Guide to Gingham Embroidery, has a tissue box cover, bookmarks, ornaments and cards to make. You can see it at:


  8. Mary,

    What kind of gingham is this piece stitched on? I would love to do this for kitchen curtains.

    Thanks, Brenda

    1. Joyce, it is fun and not hard to embroider on gingham! I posted some photos in the Photo Gallery section. Click on Ask and Share at the top of the page and take a look, enjoy!

  9. So happy to find this. I did a project from a kit a while ago and forgot what the technique was called. LOVE YOUR BLOG!

  10. I’ve never come across this before. It’s so pretty! This will definitely be going on my list of things to try one day. Thank you for sharing 😀

  11. I love Gingham Embroidery. It was the first handwork I ever did. Thank you for posting this. It is truly an inspiration to get back to the basics.

  12. Love to learn chicken scratch, you advertise a book “Free Instructions for chicken Scratch on Gingham” can I purchase it. I think it would be easier to learn if I had the book in front of me.

    Thank you


  13. Thank you ever so much for this wonderful article. There are enough articles here to keep me busy for a good while. I hope other people find it as beautiful an art as I do and give it a try.

  14. I just wanted to comment that is was fun to see the embroidery on Gingham. It took me back to the 80’s when I belonged to New York State Home Bureau. Each group picked projects for year at a showing of all the crafts for that year. One of the projects was embroidery on Gingham, mainly cross stitch.. It was called Tenerife. Just thought I would pass that along.

  15. Can you buy books with these embroidery stitches
    Years ago I had 4 books and in time misplaced them. So sorry I can’t locate them

    1. I don’t think there are any current books out on chicken scratch, but I could be wrong. I haven’t seen any lately. You might look up “Swiss Embroidery” or “Broderie Suisse” – that might bring up some books or publications on gingham embroidery.

  16. I remember my Grandmother working with Gingham she would gather the squares corner to corner or crosswise I am not sure but the finished was like smocking, can you help me find out what it was that she did, I would so love to know that now, and what it was called, I am 80 so it was long ago, I am thanking God that I just found Needles and Threads, so many helpfiles, Thank you Meriel Henson

    1. Hi, Meriel, Perhaps what she was doing when smocking on gingham was off-setting the gathers, from row to row, so that you end up with opposite exposed color and white. You can see what I’m talking about in this article here, that features some vintage instructions on making a smocked pillow.

  17. I think one of my first embroidery projects was chicken scratch on a gingham apron I made in fifth grade. I wish I still had that apron. That was in 1961. Now you have my interest peaking again.

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