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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16 Stitches to Add Texture & Dimension to Hand Embroidery


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The fun thing about free style surface embroidery is that you can add texture and dimension here and there, just by changing up the stitches a bit.

Flowers, for example, don’t have to be embroidered just in daisy stitch. Lines and borders sometimes need a bit more oomph to them than backstitch or stem stitch can supply.

Leaves in a flat satin stitch or fishbone stitch certainly have their place and are beautiful, but what if you want a leaf that actually sticks up off the surface of your embroidery project?

Here’s a collection of 16 hand embroidery stitch tutorials that can help you easily add texture and dimension to your embroidery projects.

Hand Embroidery Stitches for texture & dimension

Once you know how to work them, you can add these embroidery stitches to your projects wherever texture and dimension will benefit your work.

Stitch Tutorials for adding Dimension & Texture

The list of tutorials below is arranged to follow the photo above, starting in the top left and reading across the photos in each line. If you’d like, you can click on the photo above for a much larger version.

Knotted Pearl Stitch:
Also called reversed Palestrina stitch, this knotty stitch can sport long, barbed arms – or not!
Velvet Tufting:
A great stitch for adding a little puff and fluff to your embroidery!
Raised Buttonhole Band
An easy way to create a textured, raised, thick line or band of embroidery.
Small Knot Stitches:
There are several small knot stitches that work great for adding texture, including the French knot, the colonial knot, and the Chinese knot.
Cast-On Stitch:
Commonly seen in Brazilian dimensional embroidery, this dimensional stitch is used for flower petals, leaves, or just loopy fun!
Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch:
This stitch is a textured, chunky chain variation.
Palestrina Stitch:
The ultimate knotted line stitch, it can be used for lines, fillings, and even for decorative edgings.
Woven Wheel:
You can use this stitch for flowers, flower centers, silk ribbon roses, and geometric elements.
Bullion Stem Stitch:
For those times when a simple stem stitch just isn’t heavy enough!
Interlaced Chain Stitch Band:
Another option for a heavy, textured line, this composite stitch takes curves well, too.
Woven Filling:
Are you looking for a filling that looks like a basket, is easy to work, and adds a good amount of texture? Here it is! You can also work this stitch over felt, to lift it more.
The ultimate in raised, completely covered, thick, textured lines!
Beaded Drizzle Stitch:
A little wacky, but really fun! You might want to learn the drizzle stitch first, and then add the beads.
Ribbed Spider Web:
A classic stitch for ribbed, round elements. Think flowers, flower centers, geometric elements, and sea creatures.
Scalloped Buttonholed Chain Stitch:
Terrific for ruffly, simple edges, lines and curves.
Woven Picot:
If you’re interested in dimensional embroidery or stumpwork, you don’t really have a choice about this one! You must learn this stitch! It’s so versatile and just downright pretty.

The list above is certainly not exhaustive – there are plenty of other stitches that provide texture and dimension, but these will help get you going! You can find plenty of other embroidery stitch tutorials here on Needle ‘n Thread, too, from all the basic stitches to more complex composite stitches. Feel free to check out the how-to stitch videos and the Stitch Fun series for more tutorials!

We’re expecting snow here in Kansas over the weekend, so I’m thinking it’s The Perfect Weather to be inside exploring some textured & dimensional stitches on a new project. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. I’ll keep you updated!

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(24) Comments

  1. Expecting snow in Kansas?!
    We just got our snow – yesterday in fact. As far as I’m concerned it shouldn’t snow until after Thanksgiving. Any before that is Way Too Early. But it’s here anyway, and I think it’s here to stay, too :b
    On the bright side of things: This is a great article, Mrs. Corbet! I’ve been thinking about trying out some of those stitches when I find time.


  2. Dear Mary

    I’ve just had a look at all the great fun free style stitches covered above. I love watching you develop a stitch and turn it into part of the Stitch Fun Series which I love. Thanks for all your hard work creating these fun stitches for us to enjoy and explore with you. I hope it’s not to snowy in Kansas over the weekend and I can’t wait to see the delights of your new project. I hope you have a great weekend stitching.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Dear Mary

      Yes especially if you are embroidering something unusual or some sort of crazy needlework.

      Anita x

  3. I enjoyed today’s post as I do all your posts. I really want to try today’s 16 and the other day’s 10 basic stitches but I would really like to do them in a context other than a test list. I keep looking at your books wondering if one of them might not give me an application. I’d like to have a use for what I make. Tree ornament, gift, pin cushion etc. Can you send along a recommendation? I am quite happy looking up your stitch tutorials online, I just need picture of flower etc.

  4. Wondering what other stitches I might be able to use to embroider some crosses from your Church Patterns eBook, upon coming to your site I find your latest post offers 16 various stitches for consideration! Wonderful timing. I do like the look of the Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch and your video tutorial demonstrates it clearly – this may be something I could do. Thank you Mary, this is a great post as I can quickly read your description of each stitch and decide its suitability or not. Stay warm and happy stitching!

  5. Splendid article, Mary. and thank you for making your videos so “eye-friendly.”
    I found some nice variations of Chinese knots in

    There’s also a stich called point d’armes noue (Dillmont, Encyclopedie etc, p. 45, fig. 86) which I like very much, but never manage to get right. Are you familiar with it?
    And may I ask, what do you think is the most difficult stitch ever?
    Snow in Kansas? Time to embroider some chestnuts!
    Happy w/end.

  6. I love these stitches. I had never seen then done on surface embroidery, but have used a couple them for plastic canvas. Instead of lamenting that I don’t know how to crochet or knit, but I think I can figure out how to make woven picots to create some snow flakes and dimensional Christmas ornaments. I can play with some stitching, now to find the time!

  7. Dear mary,
    What would the embroidery world do without you, your friendship, your commitment and your enthousiasm ?
    Thank you so much for existing and doing all what do for us
    Have a fantastic day in the snow !

  8. Thanks so much for these very informative videos. Learned so much and can’t wait to try on sampler and then put to use.
    Do you have any ideas for stitching palm fronds, please?

  9. These are the most amazing, and the clearest instructions for stitches I have ever found! Thank you so much, especially for your videos they are so easy to understand. I have a libray full of embroidery books and I learned more from you in 5 minutes then all the time I have spent trying to decipher the instructions and pictures in my books. I think I have finally found a way to teach my 9 year old some new stitches, or more accuratly let you teach her some new stitches. I can’t wait to share your videos with her and to get started with some stitches that I had been afraid to try, can’t thank you enough keep up the good work!

  10. Mary, I’ve been wondering about how to adapt some of these to the surface of my Temari. I’ve been thinking of using more free embroidery but haven’t proceeded much. The picot stitch has worked well for a design I did but your technique of stabbing straight through for the braided chain as an example has me wondering just how to achieve the same since straight in and out doesn’t work. Any ideas would be welcome.
    The broad depth of your offering on site is a wonder source. Thank you. jT

  11. Thank you very much. I am 79 and started working with wool. I have not embroidered since I was a child. I am a visual person and appreciate your help so much

  12. Hi Mary Corbet I have enjoyed your easy-to-follow tutoring on Embroidery stitches and looking forward to all upcoming updates on different easy created embroidery stitch .Can you please inform me , also would like to go onto your mailing list.
    looking forward to receiving your new creations of Embroidery patterns and tutoring
    I am a new learning to embroidery.
    Angela Yearwood

  13. Hi Mary x These are beautiful. What’s the name of the yellow woven wheel variant in the picture?

    It’s on the far right, second from the top. It looks like a spiral!



    1. It’s pretty much just the opposite of the ribbed wheel – it’s like a stem stitch worked over the spokes that you’d lay down for a ribbed wheel, only your spokes must be odd in number. Start in the center and work over and under, rather than under than over – like you’re working a stem stitch over the spokes.

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