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5 Chain Stitch Variations For Your Next Embroidery Project



The reverse chain stitch is one of my favorite stitches. I love the double layer of thread that creates a thick raised stitch on the front of the fabric. Plus, when you stitch rows next to each other it starts to look like a cozy sweater. I get warm and fuzzy just thinking about!


Many embroidery stitches have variations and the chain stitch is no exception. How many variations of the chain stitch are there? I have no idea. Let's just say a lot.


Like you, I'm constantly learning new stitches and trying to figure out if I like them or how I can use them in my practice. While exploring stitch videos, Pinterest, and the good old library I've managed to learn quite a few new stitches to add to my repertoire.


Here's 5 of the easiest chain stitches you'll want to use for your next project and how to stitch them.


Chain Stitch

The chain stitch creates a raised looped stitch on the front of the fabric. It's similar to a chain link bracelet. With this stitch, the thread is doubled on the front to create a thick loop. The size of the chain links can be changed based on how long each link is made and how tightly the thread is pulled.


Here's how to make the chain stitch:
  1. Start by bringing your needle up from the back of the fabric to the front at the point you would like the row of chain stitches to start.

  2. Next, hold your thread in direction you would like the chain to go and bring your needle back down through the fabric in the same spot you previously came up. This should make a loop of thread on the front of your fabric.

  3. From the back side of the fabric, space out a stitches length (about 1/4 of an inch). Then bring your needle back up through the fabric. Your needle should be along the line you would like the chain row to be stitched and in between the loop of thread.

  4. Next, gently tug your thread so that the loop is flush with your fabric. This is now the first link in your chain stitch row.

  5. Now add more chains to the row. For the next chain, hold the thread in the direction you would like your row to go and then bring your needle back down through the fabric inside the previous chain link.

  6. Next, from underneath your fabric, space out a stitches length and bring the needle up through the fabric and the loop of thread along the path of the chain stitch row. This will be the second link in your chain stitch row.

  7. Continue adding chains to your row until it is the desired length.

  8. To end the chain stitch row, stitch your last chain stitch. Then bring the needle back through the fabric on the outer edge of the last chain stitch. This will add a short straight stitch to keep your chain links securely in place.


Reverse Chain Stitch

The reverse chain stitch looks almost exactly like the chain stitch. The two are interchangeable, however, they are created differently. I prefer the reverse chain because I find it easier to control the spacing and line of the chain.


Here's how to create the reverse chain stitch:
  1. Start by bringing your needle through your fabric, from the back to the front, and make a small stitch by going back down the fabric and pulling your needle out the back of the fabric.

  2. Next, bring your needle and thread a short distance away from the end of the stitch.

  3. Pass the needle through your stitch so the thread goes under your previous stitch.

  4. Pull the thread all the way through and bring your needle back down where you started your stitch, making a small chain link.

  5. Repeat adding links to the chain for entire length of line.


Cable Chain Stitch

The cable chain stitch has chain stitches interspaced with straight stitches.


Here's how to create the cable chain stitch:
  1. Start the cable chain by making one chain stitch along the line. Do not bring the needle back down into the fabric at the top of the chain loop.

  2. Next, wrap the thread coming out of the top part of the chain stitch around the needle.

  3. Then bring the needle in and out of the fabric along the line to make the straight stitch in between the looped stitch. Before pulling the needle all the way through the fabric, wrap the thread around the top of the needle to create the next looped chain stitch.

  4. Then gently tug the thread so that the straight stitch and next chain stitch are added to the line.

  5. Repeat until the line is created.

  6. To finish a row of cable chain stitches, bring the needle back down into the fabric on the outer edge of the last chain stitch. This will add a short straight stitch to keep your chain links securely in place.


Back Stitched Chain

The back stitched chain combines the chain stitch and the back stitch. It can be stitched with one or two colors.


Here's how to make the back stitched chain:
  1. Start by making a row of chain stitches.

  2. Then add the back stitches. Bring the back stitch thread through the middle link of the second chain stitch.

  3. Then bring the needle back down through the fabric in the middle of the first chain link stitch.

  4. Bring the needle back up through the fabric in the middle of the next chain stitch, then connect the two back stitches by bring the needle back down in the hole of the last back stitch.

  5. Repeat until the chain stitch is completely back stitched.


Heavy Chain Stitch

The heavy chain is a variation on the reverse chain stitch. Like the name suggests, it creates a thicker/heavier chain on the front of the fabric.


Here's how to create the heavy chain stitch:
  1. Start by making a short back stitch along the line of the heavy chain.

  2. Similar to the reverse chain, bring the needle up through the fabric about a ¼ an inch away from the start of the back stitch.

  3. Then slide the needle underneath the back stitch. Gently tug so that the thread is flush with the fabric.

  4. Bring the needle back down through the fabric where it’s coming out of the fabric to close the link.

  5. Now leave another ¼ inch space away from the end of the previous stitch and bring the needle back up through the fabric.

  6. Slide the needle underneath the back stitch again. Gently tug so that the thread is flush with the fabric.

  7. Bring the needle back down through the fabric where it’s coming out of the fabric to close the link. This is the first heavy chain link.

  8. Continue adding heavy chain stitches to the row by sliding the needle underneath the section where the previous heavy chain is doubled. Repeat until the row of heavy chain is complete.

For even more stitches, join Melissa for a workshop or order a copy of her book, How to Embroider Texture and Pattern.


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