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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Chain Stitch Corners & Sharp Points: Embroidery Tip


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Let’s start off the week in a good way, with a little embroidery stitch tip!

Have you ever wondered how to make a really pointed tip or corner when working a line stitch like chain stitch?

We’ve previously covered embroidering stem stitch corners, but chain stitch is different.

If you employ the same method used with stem stitch when chain stitching, pointy tips and corners will end up being just slightly bulkier than they need to be.

So today, we’ll look at how to embroider chain stitch lines into a nice pointy tips and sharp corners.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

This leaf is an element on the embroidery project I’m finishing up today (no, I didn’t finish it this weekend!) called Birthday Bash, which is an embroidered kaleidoscope design featuring some paisleys that twist their way into a large flower shape.

Around the center of the design, there are five leaves that peek out behind the flower shape. The leaves swash to the side and come to sharp points.

I’m working the design on linen (Alba Maxima, a Legacy Linen that’s a full-weave, 40-count, all-purpose hand embroidery linen), and I’m mostly using two strands of cotton floss, though occasionally, for certain accents, I use one strand.

The leaves are outlined with chain stitch stitched with two strands of floss, and then whipped with one strand.

You can see how to work the chain stitch here in my chain stitch video, and you can read about whipping chain stitches (or any other stitch) here.

Coming to a Sharp Point or Working Corners with Chain Stitch

Here’s little trick with the chain stitch, when working a corner or coming to a sharp point, like the point you see in the photo below.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

First, I stitched up one side of the leaf, to the tip where the two design lines merge, using chain stitch.

With the first side stitched, I could have started the other side of the leaf at the base, and worked up the second side, meeting the two lines at the tip, but this would create a bulky area at the tip of the leaf, where the two lines merge.

Or, I could have ended the first line at the tip of the leaf, and started down the second side, with the first chain stitch in the new direction starting inside the last chain stitch at the tip of the leaf.

This latter method works, but it’s also a little bulky, with the whole chain stitch coming out of the last stitch at the tip of the leaf.

I also could have butted the two lines up next to each other (I’ll show you this further below). But this creates a broken look where the two lines merge.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

So, if you look at the photo above, you can see what I do when embroidering chain stitch lines that merge at sharp points.

I end the first line at the tip of the leaf. You can see the tiny anchor stitch that ends a chain stitch line at the tip of the leaf there.

Then, I bring my needle and thread to the front, inside the last chain stitch.

Normally, with chain stitch, you’d head down into the same hole to make the loop of the chain stitch.

Instead, I’m going to split the starting point of the chain stitch, by going down into the fabric just outside that last stitch in the first line.

Essentially, I’m working an open chain stitch with the two “legs” straddling the side of the last chain stitch in the first line.

The narrow arrow in the photo above points to the place I went down into the fabric, just over the loop of the last chain stitch from the first line.

With the loop of working thread on the front of the fabric (because I haven’t pulled all the way through yet), I then proceed with normal chain stitch down the second line.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

This forms a smooth, tight tip where the two directions of chain stitch merge at the point of the leaf, without adding a lot of bulk point where the two lines merge.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

If the point is extremely narrow and extends beyond the merging of the two lines at the tip of the leaf, you can butt the two lines up together where the design lines merge, as shown in the photo above.

The result, though, looks somewhat broken, compared to the method explained above.

If I had employed the same method on the leaf tip in the photo directly above, the connection between the two lines would be much smoother.

The upshot: straddle the last stitch in a chain stitch line when changing directions to create a sharp corner or point.

Embroidery Stitch Tips: Chain Stitch Points & Order of Stitching

I finished everything on this piece this weekend, except a couple areas of accent work with beads and French knots and the shaded seed stitching inside the leaves.

The weekend didn’t really go as planned. It was fraught with a hundred little interruptions. I ended up stitching for about four hours total, and I only have about two hour of stitching left. This piece works up quickly. Six hours would have finished it.

So that’s the plan for today!

Favorite Kaleidoscopes Pattern Collection

If you’d like to stitch up your own version of Birthday Bash, you’ll find the pattern available in my Favorite Kaleidoscopes collection – over 30 kaleidoscope designs for hand embroidery and other crafts.

Favorite Kaleidoscopes Collection of Hand Embroidery Patterns

You’ll also find the patterns for Party in Provence and Tulip Festival) in the same collection!

The kaleidoscope designs range from small 4″ designs to large 8″ designs, from simple to complex. You can read about the collection in detail here, or jump straight over to my shop to grab your own copy!


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(20) Comments

  1. Of course, your fans would like you to print a booklet with this pattern and stitches used…..is this in the works for Birthday Bash?

    1. Yessss…. it is, but not exactly in the same format as Octoberfest. I’m testing a couple different approaches. I’ll have something for you by the end of the month!

  2. Dear Mary

    Your stitching on the Birthday Bash is lovely and the colours really stand out and look great. It’s always difficult stitching at the tip down another line, this is a great tip as it shows how to continue going down a line without creating a bulk at the tip making a smooth continuation of the line. Thanks for sharing your tips and techniques on chain stitch corners and sharp points, this is really helpful for future reference and for the photos. I hope you manage to finish the Birthday Bash.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Mary that is looking scrumptious! Can’t wait to see it finished. I would frame that in full view all during the winter months…. Because it reminds me of a spring day!

  4. Mary,
    Your projects are always so fun and colourful. They make me happy. And thank you for the amazingly detailed instructions. Hugely helpful.
    Have a wonderful day.

  5. It’s a gorgeous piece, and I’m hoping that you will be putting the pattern in your shop soon. I’d love to make it. 🙂 Hugs, H

  6. Hello Mary.
    Please stick with me here through this preamble, it confirms your philosophy on continuing the art of embroidery, and I promise, will get to the topic at hand.

    When our daughter was 7 a beloved Aunt put a needle and thread in her hand and that of her 7 yr old cousin. My Aunt made inexpensive little sewing baskets with a calico lining, a matching pincushion stitched to the bottom of the basket and filled it with iron on embroidery patterns, tea towels, 5 flosses, a few needles and a pair of safety embroidery scissors. Of course my Aunt wouldn’t give the girls anything that could harm them, but I questioned the safety of the needles and scissors. Her response was “Linda, don’t you think it’s about time she learned to stitch?”
    Our daughter is now 27, and embroiders her own beautiful projects. Her cousin still dabbles in it. The heritage of embroidery continues.

    My question is, told you I’d finally get to it, how much linen will she need to embroider a 7.5″ project, kaleidoscope? I’ve looked through your posts and I think that 2″ all around will be enough to frame the project. I have some treasured Alba Maxima and would prefer to cut precisely what she’ll need.

    These Kaleidoscopes are beautiful and right up her alley. Thanks for sharing your amazing gift.

    1. Hi, Linda – Normally, you’d allow 3″ all around for framing or finishing, but you can get away with 2.5″ all around (that means adding 5″ to the width and 5″ to the height). I’d probably go with a 13″ square for a 7.5″ round design. Glad you like the kaleidoscopes, and I hope your daughter enjoyed it too! Thanks for sharing your story!

  7. I work my chain stitch ‘backwards’, that is, starting with the first chain stitch, then, working just below the base of the stitch, bringing the thread through the look of the one above, and then finishing the chain stitch. So, your method wouldn’t work for when I want to make a good corner. Can you help me out with how to make this ‘open chain stitch’ backwards?

    Your videos are SO HELPFUL. I was in awe of your video on how to make a corner with stem stitch, and I use it all the time.

    1. Hi, Mike – the same principle applies with the chain stitch as with the stem. You pretty much end the line at the corner, then start the new line in the last chain stitch. With the backwards chain stitch like you’re working, you’d have to work your lines backwards, too. So start away from the corner and work towards it. Hope that helps!

  8. “Normally, which chain stitch, you’d head down into the same hole to make the loop of the chain stitch.”

    I think you mean, “Normally, WITH chain stitch…”?

  9. Sorry Mary I think I have just worked it out. I tried emerging to the front in between the last stitches, did a small stitch back over one of the stitches,as if it was the 1st little stitch when starting a heavy chain, came out again and proceeded with a heavy stitch as normal.that seems to have worked well. As a Leftie may I say how invaluable I find all your tips and techniques,your descriptions and pics are so clear to follow! Many thanks! Susan from Western Australia.

  10. The only thing I don’t see is how to end neatly into the sharp corner. The invisible circle join doesn’t seem to apply here.


    1. To end in a sharp corner, you just end the line like you normally would a line of chain stitch, with the small stitch that goes over the last loop. Hope that helps!

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