How to Work Split Stitch in Embroidery

  • 01 of 04

    How to Embroider With Split Stitch

    Split Stitch Diagram
    Mollie Johanson / The Spruce

    Split stitch is a basic embroidery stitch that is easy to learn and versatile to use. It's perfect for any pattern that involves outlining, but you can also embroider dense lines of it for fill stitching.

    To do the split stitch, you will need a needle, fabric, and embroidery floss. You can use different numbers of strands of standard embroidery floss, although it helps to have more than one strand. Other types of embroidery threads work well, too. However, some twisted threads, such as Perle cotton, are harder to work with for split stitch. 

    There are several ways you can work split stitch and each method looks slightly different. Try them all and see which you like best for what you are working on.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Split Stitch Finished Sample

    Split Stitch Example
    Mollie Johanson / The Spruce

    To work the most common method of split stitch, follow these steps:

    1. Bring your needle up from the back and take a single stitch along the line you are working.
    2. Come up again, bringing the needle through the first stitch (point 1), splitting the fibers. Having the needle pass right through at least one strand of thread or embroidery floss instead of between the threads produces a smooth split stitch.
    3. Go down again, completing the stitch (point 2). Repeat.

    With this traditional method, you can see where the stitches form, but the overall look is a solid line.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Different Methods for Working Split Stitch

    Single Chain Stitch Sample
    Mollie Johanson / The Spruce

    The second method for working split stitch is almost exactly like the first, but instead of splitting the fibers with the needle, bring the needle through between the threads. The result looks almost like chain stitch. This version works best with an even number of strands so the stitches split directly in the middle.

    The last method is worked more like a back stitch, but instead of bringing the needle down at the end of the previous stitch, you should bring the needle down through the previous stitch. Some people find this to be easier and more accurate for even stitches. With this method, the point where the needle goes through the previous stitch is indented a little.

    When learning a new stitch, take a few extra minutes and try it out with different types of embroidery threads you have on hand. It's also good to try it with a few different strand thicknesses. In this case, test all of the methods side-by-side so you can see how they compare. The differences are subtle but worth noticing.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Using Split Stitch for Fill

    Even though this stitch is primarily seen as a way to work lines, it also works for fill stitching. To do this, outline an area with a split stitch or another outlining stitch. Next, working from the outline of the area and moving inward, stitch rows of the split stitch so they nearly touch.

    If you want a more open fill, make the rows a little farther apart. You can also try alternating the colors for a striped fill or the number of strands for texture contrast.