How to Work Satin Stitch in Hand Embroidery

Basic Satin Stitch Diagram
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Basic satin stitch is a fill stitch covering small areas with smooth, close stitches that lay flat on the fabric. It's sometimes referred to as a flat satin stitch to differentiate it from other members of the satin stitch family. Other members include the long and short satin stitch, padded satin stitch, outlined satin stitch, and shaded satin stitch.

Traditionally satin stitch fills in an area without an outline around it, the stitching forming smooth shapes and even lines. Evenweave fabric can make this tricky at times, as the spaces designed for stitches create a "stepped" effect with your satin stitch. When working this stitch to create curves, adjust the placement of the stitches incrementally, and know that some shapes require that you take a stitch in a different way than you might expect. For example, when stitching the end of an oval, the ends are flat. But that's what makes the oval look right.

While satin stitch is usually smooth, it is fun to embellish with other stitches. For example, you might add a bit of couching in a contrast color to some longer stitches on a filled shape. Tacking down the satin stitch helps prevent snagging as well as jazzing up the look.

The more you work this stitch, the better you'll get at eyeing how to get the shapes you want. Until then, practice: take a few stitches and see if they look right. If they don't, pull them out and adjust them.

Notes

Practice on a small square of cotton or other fabric of your choice, using needles of type and size appropriate to the fabric. Instructions are give for working the stitch from top to bottom of a circle.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Embroidery hoop sized for practice cloth
  • Embroidery needle, size between 1 and 5
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Pencil or water soluble marker
  • Ruler

Materials

  • Small square of cotton fabric for practicing
  • Six-strand embroidery floss

Instructions

  1. Overview

    Satin stitch stitching covers an area completely. The stitches are worked side by side, but may be of different length depending on the shape being filled. Since the stitches cover both back and front of the fabric, the tension of your stitches is crucial to achieving a nice finish.

  2. Getting Ready

    If you are still learning to stitch, go ahead and mark your fabric with a few small practice lines or shapes to fill. Use a water-soluble pen or a pencil, and a ruler if you are making lines or straight-sided shapes.

    Place the fabric in the hoop. Cut a 12 to ​14-inch length of six-strand embroidery floss and thread it through the embroidery needle. Knot the other end.

  3. Working Satin Stitch

    To begin, bring the needle up through the back of the fabric to the front at the starting point of your shape; in the case of the circle, the top left.

    • Take the needle down straight across from where you brought the needle up, on the opposite side of the shape you are filling.
    • Bring the needle up on the side of the shape where you started, near where the needle came up on the previous stitch.
    • Take the needle down straight across from where you brought it up, near where the needle went down on the previous stitch.

    Continue stitching in the same manner, repeating the steps above and making stitches side by side, covering your shape or area being filled.

    Tip

    Exactly where you bring the needle up and take it down relative to the previous stitch will depend on what type of shape you are filling. A shape like a circle will have stitches of different lengths; if you were filling a square all the stitches would be the same length.

    Take care that you don't pull the stitches too tight or it will pull the fabric in and cause puckering. Stabilizing your fabric first can help.

    Basic Satin Stitch Diagram
    Mollie Johanson

     

    Satin Stitch Example
    Mollie Johanson
  4. Outlining

    If your satin stitch isn't giving you the straight edges you want, you can outline the area with a backstitch or stem stitch. For a subtle outline, use the same color embroidery floss. For a slight shadowed outline, you can use a similar color for the fill. For a bold look that pops, outline with black embroidery floss.

    When combining satin stitch with an outline, it's easier to do the fill stitching first. That way, you aren't trying to avoid catching the outline stitches with your needle. Working the stitches in this order also ensures that the outline will be snug around your satin stitch.

  5. Padded Satin Stitch

    Padded satin stitch, or raised satin stitch, is used to fill smaller areas and give an embossed look. The padding provides added depth and dimension to the design area. Small seed stitches (shown), running stitch, stem stitch, or something else under the satin stitch create the padding.

    • Begin by filling the inside of the design area with your chosen stitch for padding.
    • Work the satin stitch over the padding stitches: bring the needle up through the fabric at your starting point over the padding stitches, then take it down straight across to the opposite side of the shape you are filling, as with basic satin stitch.

    Continue stitching in the same manner, repeating the steps above and making stitches side by side on top of the padding stitches, covering your shape or area.

    Tip

    Instead of stitches, try using fusible interfacing, fusible fleece or felt cut to shape and tacked in place as padding.

    Padded Satin Stitch Diagram
    Mollie Johanson
  6. Long and Short Stitch

    Long & short stitch is another member of the satin stitch family. It is used to fill areas of a design too large for satin stitch. You will find it used in flower petals or other shapes where you want greater detail. Work this stitch in a single color or create subtle shading by using varying shades of a single color. For a bold look or rainbow effect, use multiple colors throughout the stitching, changing colors every few rows.

    • Begin by work a row of stitches along the top of the shape, alternating long and short stitches.
    • Work long stitches in the gaps created when working the short stitches, working in rows until you fill in the entire area.
    Long & Short Satin Stitch Diagram
    Mollie Johanson