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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26 Tutorials for Chain Stitch Variations


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If you’re launching into any embroidery projects this weekend, you might consider incorporating the chain stitch – or some variation thereof – into your current project.

Why? Lots of reasons! The basic chain stitch is easy, it’s versatile, it’s attractive, it works up quickly – and it has oh-so-many variations to it that you could never get bored with it!

26 Chain Stitch Variations - Tutorials

The amazing thing about this list of 26 chain stitch variations is this: they just scratch the surface. There are heaps more ways to incorporate chain stitch into your embroidery projects, but this list is a good place to start.

26 Tutorials for Chain Stitch, Variations of Chain Stitch, and Chain Stitch Composites

  • Chain stitch: the basic stitch that started it all! It serves well on its own, as a line stitch or a filling stitch, and it also forms the foundation for many composite stitches that involve chain stitch.
  • Alternating or checkered chain stitch: when you want a little alternating color in your chain stitch line, just use this version, which requires stitching with two threads in the needle at once.
  • Basque stitch: another combination of chain stitch (twisted, in this case) and buttonhole stitch.
  • Braid stitch: think of it as a series of sideways-worked twisted chain stitches. Makes a beautiful braided line!
  • Cable chain stitch: the chain stitch that really looks like a chain. It can also form the base of composite stitches, like the buttonholed cable chain stitch.
  • Chain stitch lines with opposing lines of buttonhole stitch: another composite, this requires four chain stitched lines, over which the buttonhole stitch is worked. Great for wide filled lines with a little texture to them.
  • Chain stitch spider daisy: this combines detached chain stitch and ribbed spider web, to create an interesting, textured, raised, flower or geometric element.
  • Crested chain stitch: a variation of chain stitch that incorporates a coral knot on top. It can be worked open, closed, small, large, for different looks.
  • Detached chain stitch: the ubiquitous daisy stitch – the easiest petal-shaped stitch, it consists of one chain all by itself.
  • Detached chain stitch in two colors, take one: a nice way to dress up your daisies!
  • Detached chain stitch in two colors, take two: and another nice way (and easier) to dress up your daisies!
  • Double chain stitch: creates an open double line with a zig-zag pattern inside.
  • Heavy chain stitch: an easy way to create a tight, smooth, braid-like line.
  • Hungarian braided chain stitch: a favorite! This is a wonderful stitch for a textured braided line that works up quickly.
  • Interlaced chain stitch band: another composite chain stitch that creates a chunky, textured line.
  • Knotted chain stitch: a chain stitch with a knot involved.
  • Open chain stitch: This one is interesting – it can create a boxy line, or, when worked close together, it almost looks like two opposing lines of buttonhole stitch.
  • Oyster stitch: a combination of a twisted chain stitch inside a larger chain stitch, these stand on their own and make nice, plump ovals, great for leaves, flower petals, and oyster stitch rose buds.
  • Raised chain stitch band: a great way to create a nice, chunky composite stitch. It makes great edgings when finishing ornaments and the like, too!
  • Rope stitch: this is more of a “hidden” chain stitch. It’s chain stitch that ends up looking almost like padded satin stitch. (The video is old, but it still works – it’s on my “replacement” list…!)
  • Rosette chain stitch: a great stitch for flowers and for decorative lines, this is a combination twisted chain, chain, and upside-down buttonhole. (Another one of the old videos – still works, but needs replacing!)
  • Scalloped buttonholed chain stitch: the star here is more the buttonhole than the chain stitch, but you couldn’t have one without the other in this composite. You can also buttonhole the cable chain stitch, for a round eyelet look.
  • Spanish knotted feather stitch: this one is a combination of twisted chain stitch and feather stitch. It can be worked open or closed.
  • Twisted chain stitch: Another stitch that’s used as a foundation for composite stitches, too – it can be worked in a line or individually.
  • Wheatear stitch: yes, it looks like wheat.
  • Whipped chain stitch: whether whipping a whole chain stitch line, or just one side of the other of the chain stitch, or whipping two rows of chain stitch together, chain stitch works well whipped.

And there’s your list! 26 ways you can use chain stitch – and actually a few more, with some additional links in the descriptions.

Finally, don’t forget chain stitch as a filling, especially in tambour embroidery! Great way to fill a space, by hand, relatively quickly!

Like I said, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a beginning.

What’s your favorite way to use chain stitch? Any inspiring ideas you want to share? Any variations or composites that are chain-stitch based that you’d like to add to the list? Feel free to add to the conversation below!

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(24) Comments

  1. Thanks, Mary. The chain stitch has always been a favorite of mine – now I can have variety. You are an awesome teacher and giver!! Blessings to you!!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting these together. I look forward to your email every day.
    Barbara Sodini

  3. I use chain stitch to add dimension to any embroidery project.I add it to clothing to add embellishment that will stand out. I enjoy your blog because I started stitching many years ago and even designed a project when I was in college (70s) for an art class. When I look at that there was certainly plenty of chain stitch.

  4. Dear Mary,

    As a mostly self taught stitcher I have really looked forward to each of your posts and have improved upon (what my mother started in me as a little girl) due to your tutelage. Thank you so much.

    I wonder if the split stitch is considered a chain stitch? I am not even sure if the name “split stitch” is a proper name for what I mean but it is a back stitch that to make the next stitch you enter the center of the last stitch.

    I am almost finished with your holly “JOY” pattern for my in-laws and am currently designing and embroidering a backgammon “board” on cotton for my daughter’s Christmas present. Thanks so much for your help!

    Seek peace,
    Wendy in Haïti

    1. Hi, Wendy – that’s split backstitch that you’re talking about. Split stitch and split backstitch can look chain like, but they aren’t chain stitch – the whole thread doesn’t form the loop. -MC

  5. Dear Mary

    Wow Mary so many variations of the Chain stitch wonderful. I think my favourite is Tambour chain stitch it was an easy way to Chain stitch. But I really like all the above variations they look so different from each other I think my favourites are the Chain and Buttonhole variations as I really like the buttonhole stitch and blended with the Chain stitch it is very pretty. Thanks for sharing with us your 26 different ways to use the Chain Stitch I love it. I hope you have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  6. Thank you Mary for all your tutorials emails everything. Most grateful . I look forward to receiving your emails. And learning new stitches

  7. How timely, I am just starting a large celtic knot for a cushion and think I will use all variations on the chain stitch. Thanks.

  8. Dear Mary,
    Very informative. I was looking for some information for different variations of chain stitch. Thanks for your great work.
    Bharti Tripathi

  9. Dear Mary,
    Thanks for the information. All variations of chain stitch in in one package i was looking for it. Thanks for your great work.
    Bharti Tripathi

  10. Hi Mary –
    I have a picture that I would like to send you to get an idea of what stitches I need to learn to do it. It is primitive letters and pine branches. Please e-mail me and I will send you the picture. I appreciate any help you can give me. I am new to embroidery.
    Thank you Alene

  11. LOVE this page and very helpful directions. Just an idea here? Anyway you could put this into a PDF and maybe SELL it on your website? I know I’d buy it – ever thought of a stitch guide? Wow! Sounds like a big undertaking to me. . . . maybe not such a good idea after all. Just rambling Miss Mary.
    Thanks for all you do for us stitchers. I already receive your daily postings, but found this link provided by Miss Stacy at Buttermilk Basin.
    Thanks again –
    Barbara in TN

  12. Loved this article. My hands don’t let me do what I would like when it comes to embroidery, but I sure like learning about it and using the knowledge when I can! I love your site but have to be careful when I come here as there is so much info, an hour will disappear in no time at all.

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

  13. I love embroidery, self taught – still using the DMC type thread. Mostly embroidery tea towels and pillow cases. Would like to venture out to something a little different. What type thread are you using in the chain’s above. It is a good past time for me at the age of 82. Thank you for your info. Sincerely, Nelta Jo Hicks

    1. I’m using different types of threads in those examples. The chunky ones, though, are mostly perle cotton, which I use for demonstrations because it’s so much easier to see.

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