Mary Corbet

writer and founder


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

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2024 (62) 2023 (125) 2022 (136) 2021 (130) 2020 (132) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (352) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Stitches Built on Foundations: Texture & Dimension in Embroidery


Amazon Books

There’s little I love more than the composite embroidery stitch – that is, the stitch that’s built on other stitches.

Today, I thought I’d offer a list of stitches that are built on foundation stitches. Foundation stitches are the first stitch that goes down in a composite stitch, providing a base on which to build some sort of composite effect by incorporating other stitches and techniques into the foundation.

The final result of these types of composites can range anywhere from simple to complex.

The great thing about composite stitches built on foundation stitches is that they are, more often than not, highly textured and slightly dimensional. This makes them excellent techniques to add into any embroidery project where texture plays a big role.

Embroidery Stitches built on Foundations: Texture & Dimension

Here’s a list of some of my favorite embroidery stitches built on foundation stitches, with links to their tutorials.

Easy Linear Composite Stitches

The easiest linear composite stitches usually involve whipping or lacing a basic embroidery stitch.

So, whipped backstitch, whipped chain stitch, whipped stem stitch – any of these are easy-to-execute composites that add a little more color or texture to a line of stitching.

Here are a few articles about lacking and whipping embroidery stitches, to give you an idea of how you can use either technique (lacing or whipping) to add some interest to a line of basic embroidery stitches:

Lacing and Whipping Embroidery Stitches
Playing with Braids and Chains
Embroidering a Thick Stem or Branch
Laced Mountmellick Stitch

Stitching One Stitch into or onto Another

A more complicated form of composite stitch occurs when you start with one embroidery stitch on your fabric, and then you stitch onto that or into that stitch with a completely different embroidery stitch to create some sort of specific effect.

A good example of this would be scalloped buttonholed chain stitch, which involves working the buttonhole stitch over one side of the loops formed by a chain stitch, in order to create a scalloped effect.

You can do the same thing on a foundation of cable chain stitch, too, and you can further dress up the line with French knots or beads.

You can also buttonhole over the top of adjacent rows of chain stitch, as shown in this tutorial.

Or you can whip adjacent rows of chain stitch in order to create a ridged band or filling.

The interlaced chain stitch band involves a chain stitch foundation, with lots of whipping, lacing, and a little couching.

This double knotted herringbone band involves a herringbone-like stitch worked over a foundation of backstitches.

Building Up Bands on Straight Stitch Foundations

Using straight stitches for foundation bars, you can build up very textured decorative bands with different stitches and techniques.

Raised stem stitch is simple stem stitch worked over straight stitch bars. Instead of passing into the fabric, the stitch is worked over the straight stitch bars.

A much more highly textured version of this – built over a heavy cord or bundle of threads to create a foundation in high relief – is the raised stem stitch technique found in Casalguidi embroidery. It creates a fabulous rope-like structure on the surface of the fabric.

Raised chain stitch over straight stitch foundation bars works up into a very satisfactory braid-like band.

This diagonally striped raised band is worked over straight stitch foundation bars in a two-needle weaving technique. The relatively simple technique produces a result that makes the stitch looks much more complex than it is!

Individual Composite Elements & Fillings on Foundations

You can work individual embroidered elements on foundation stitches, too.

For example, shisha techniques – where embroidery stitches are used to surround and hold down usually a small mirror, piece of mica, button, or something similar – require a sturdy foundation of straight stitches. You can find tutorials for four shisha variations here on Needle ‘n Thread:

Basic Shisha
Shisha Variation 1
Shisha Variation 2
Shisha Variation 3

Another simple element that begins with foundation stitches is the raised cup stitch.

This inside-out buttonhole wheel begins with buttonhole stitch for the foundation. The foundation is then knotted over with another color of thread.

These individual embroidered stars (or snowflakes, if you want!) begin with straight stitch foundations worked in a particular order. You can find more explorations in this technique here.

Both detached buttonhole stitch filling and trellis stitch are worked over foundational stitches, to create textured, detached fillings.

Looking for More?

If you’re looking for more embroidery stitches to play with over the weekend, feel free to browse through my Stitch Fun! tutorials index, as well as my library of embroidery stitch videos here.

Coming up, we’re going to delve into a pet historical topic of mine, during an era that I find fascinating on many levels (not just embroidery). Of course, what we’re talking about will be embroidery-related. Interesting stuff, methinks.

Next week, we’ll also look at more embroidered grapes. And we’ll be talking about lighting as well.

Despite some upcoming oral surgery early in the week (woohoo – or more like boohoo!), kit supplies will be arriving, so the production side of things will move back into full swing again. Yay!

Out here in Kansas, we’re melting under the summer sun, but I hope that, wherever you are, you’re able to chill out with your needle and thread!

Enjoy your weekend!


Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(5) Comments

  1. Ooooh. I’ve been working on some mushrooms, and I’m thinking I might have to try some rows of scalloped buttonholed chain stitches for some ruffle layered mushrooms, maybe growing on a log!

  2. Mary would you consider Tuscan Lace and Chicken Scratch foundation stitches?
    In the burning season of California, I can’t wait for winter. And I hope for rain!



    1. The foundation stitches in Tuscan lace and chicken scratch would be the cross stitches or the diagonal straight stitches. Everything builds on those.

      Can’t wait for autumn out here! It’s my favorite time of year!

  3. Dear Mary

    Thank you for the list of all the composite stitches above, I love these different stitches and have often used some of them in my projects and I really like your stitch fun series which has lots of composite stitches. Thank you for compiling this list of stitches and for sharing them with us and for the links above.

    Regards Anita Simmance

More Comments