Two ways to chain stitch

Updated: Apr 11

Chain stitch is a simple hand embroidery technique typically used to follow lines and curves (though it can also be used to fill in a space, much like split back stitch). There are two ways to do chain stitch; the "right" version is whichever version works best for you.


Photo of an embroidery hoop with pink tulips stitched onto mustard fabric and surrounded by embroidery supplies.
I stitched the pink portion of these tulips using chain stitch.

In this post, I've provided instructions in written, photo, and video format for both "regular" chain stitch and "reverse" chain stitch. Feel free to jump ahead to the video tutorial at the end of this post, should that be easier for you to follow!


"Regular" Chain Stitch


Step 1: Bring your needle through your fabric.



Step 2: Bring your needle back down through the hole you just created, leaving a loop.



Step 3: Bring your needle back up through your fabric, inside of the loop from the previous step.



Step 4: Pull your floss, closing your loop.



Step 5: Bring your needle back down through the hole you just made, inside of the tightened loop from the previous step, leaving a loop as you pull.



Step 6: Bring your needle back up through your fabric, inside the loop from the previous step.



Step 7: Pull your floss, closing your second loop.



Repeat these steps until you're finished with your line of stitching.


Step 8: To secure your last chain stitch, bring your needle down through the fabric by going over your last loop and creating a small straight stitch.



Here's what your line of "regular" chain stitch will look like once you've finished:



"Reverse" Chain Stitch


In "regular" chain stitch, we end our line of stitching with a short straight stitch. In "reverse" chain stitch, however, we'll start our line of stitching with a short straight stitch.


Step 1: Start by making a single, short straight stitch.



Step 2: Bring your needle up through your fabric, pull, and weave it underneath your initial straight stitch.


Be sure not to pierce the floss or fabric as you pull your needle underneath the straight stitch.



Step 3: Bring your needle back down through the hole you just created, and pull. This is your first chain stitch.



Step 4: Bring your needle back up through your fabric, pull, and weave it underneath your first chain stitch.


Again, make sure you aren't piercing the floss or fabric as you weave your needle underneath your previous stitch.



Step 5: Bring your needle back down through the hole you just created, and pull.


Once you've completed this step, you'll have two chain stitches.



Repeat the previous steps until you've reached the end of your line of stitching.


Step 6: To end your line of stitching, simply secure your floss to the back of your hoop once you've completed your last chain stitch.



Unsure which method might work best for you? My best advice is to give both a try and see which works best for you. You may find that you prefer one over the other in all situations, that you prefer one method to follow lines but another to fill in spaces, or that you don't quite have a preference one way or the other.


Video tutorial demonstrating two ways to do chain stitch in hand embroidery


In the video tutorial below, I take you through two ways to do chain stitch in hand embroidery by working on a simple tulip pattern. I cover "reverse" chain stitch first, followed by "regular" chain stitch; I hope it's helpful!



I hope this was useful, and I can't wait to see what you make - whether you create something from one of my kits or patterns, or from a design of your very own! 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!