Back stitch

Updated: Jan 18

Back stitch is possibly the most important (and easiest!) stitch for total beginners to learn. This simple, versatile stitch forms the foundation for so many other stitches and techniques, and can be used on its own to stitch pretty much anything you can dream up or draw!


Photo of a pink and green flower stitched onto a bright green fabric.
A simple hand embroidered flower, using only back stitch!

In this post, I've provided instruction for how to do back stitch in written, photo, and video format, as well as a few notes on how you might modify this stitch to better fit your own personal needs and aesthetic preferences.


Step 1: Bring your needle up through your fabric, and then back down any distance.


In general, I recommend keeping the length of each stitch fairly short for tighter curves. Because the pattern I'm stitching in the photos below includes tight curves, and because I want my stitches to be fairly consistent in length as I work my way through the rest of the design, I've started with a fairly short stitch.



Step 2: Following your line of stitching, bring your needle back up the same distance as your first stitch.



Step 3: Bring your needle back down through the hole created by your last stitch.


This is where "back stitch" gets its name!



Step 4: Continue until you've finished your line of stitching.


In the photo below, you can see that I've finished my first line of stitching. I've done my best to keep my stitches relatively consistent, but remember that hand embroidery isn't supposed to be perfect! If your stitches are a bit "off," that makes your piece more unique to you!



Video demonstration for back stitch


In this slightly sped up video, you can watch me complete my project from the photos above using just back stitch. I've provided a longer, real-time tutorial for back stitch at the end of this post.



How to modify the back stitch to better fit your project needs and aesthetic preferences


To modify the back stitch to better fit your own needs and preferences, you can modify how many strands of floss you use for each stitch, and/or change the length of your stitches.


For example, in the photo below you can see that for larger yellow circle on the left, I used all six strands and a medium stitch length; for the smaller green circle at the bottom right, I used just two strands and kept my stitch length very short.


Back stitch modifications.

In general, I recommend using fewer strands of floss and shorter stitches for tighter curves. That said, there are no rules in hand embroidery; do what feels right for you!


Video tutorial for back stitch


The video tutorial below is a demonstration of back stitch in real time, should that be easier for you to follow than written and photo instructions.



I hope this was useful, and I can't wait to see what you make! If you'd like to share your work with me, you can always tag me on your social media accounts (@hopebroidery on Instagram and Twitter, @hope.broidery on TikTok). If you don't have public social accounts, but still want to share, consider emailing me a few pictures (hope@hopebroidery.com), I would love the chance to tell you how much I love your work!


Happy stitching!