Combining Stitches to Create Borders and More

Stitch Combinations

The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

Borders make an excellent frame for a stitched phrase or as a way to finish off a smaller motif. And beautifully embroidered borders don't always require complicated patterns.

All you need to do is look to some of your favorite stitches (or perhaps a few new ones you want to learn) and put them together. It only takes two or three different stitches and a whole new border design appears.

Use your new border stitch combinations as a frame on all sides of a geometric shape or as a line above and below a design. A line of stitches looks great running along the hem of table linens, dish towels, and many other items. You can also work most of the designs on a curve.

Start with this collection of five stitch combinations as you explore layering your stitches. 

  • 01 of 05

    Cross Stitches and Sheaves

    Cross and Sheaf Stitches
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    This thin border is made using cross stitches and sheaf stitches. 

    It's helpful to start with guidelines drawn on your fabric for the top and bottom of the sheaf stitches. After some practice, you should be able to stitch them consistently and probably won't need the lines.

    Stitch the sheaf stitches with about 1/4" between each stitch. Stitch a cross stitch between each. 

    Alter the size and spacing of your stitches to create a different look. You can also add another color to this by making the horizontal line on the sheaf stitches another shade.

  • 02 of 05

    Fly Stitch Brackets

    Fly Stitch and French Knots
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    Use fly stitches and french knots to embroider this more angular border. 

    Alternate stitching the fly stitches in different directions. You can space them so they are touching or so there is some room left between them. 

    Add a french knot in the "brackets" made with the fly stitches.

  • 03 of 05

    Argyle-Style Herringbone Lines

    Herringbone and Running Stitches
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    This wider border looks a bit like argyle sweaters. Create your own argyle border with herringbone and running stitch.

    Stitch a line of herringbone stitch, then add lines of running stitch in the gaps. Two stitches should fit nicely between each section of the herringbone. 

    Try working this with tied herringbone or adding other stitches for a more detailed design.

  • 04 of 05

    Chain Dotted With Knots and Crosses

    French Knots, Chain and Cross Stitches
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    This simple border combines chain stitch, french knots, and cross stitches. 

    Start with a line of chain stitching. Alternating on each side of the chain, embroider a french knot centered above or below each "link" of the chain. 

    Add a cross stitch between each french knot. 

    You can also create this with the french knots and cross stitches only on one side of the chain stitching. This is especially good for embroidering the border on a curve.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Filled Cretan Stitch

    Open Cretan and Ermine Stitches
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

    For a fuller border, combine open cretan stitch and ermine stitch.

    Embroider a line of open cretan stitch. In each space, add an ermine stitch, with the top of the stitch extending past the edges of the open cretan stitch.

    Try making the stitches different sizes and proportions. Leaving more space around the ermine stitches will give it an airier look while keeping things tight will look more solid.