How to Work the Back Stitch in Embroidery

Back Stitch Example
Back Stitch Example. Mollie Johanson
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    How to Work the Back Stitch

    How to work back stitch
    Mollie Johanson

    The back stitch is a basic outlining embroidery and sewing stitch. When you are first getting started in embroidery, it should be one of the first stitches you learn.

    Back stitch produces a thin line of stitching, perfect for outlining in almost all embroidery patterns. It is also useful for outlining shapes that will be filled with satin stitch or to stitch fabric pieces together.

    This stitch gets its name from the process, which results in each stitch going backward from the direction of the line you are forming.

    1. To work the back stitch, bring the needle up through the back of the fabric slightly in front of where the stitching will begin (point 1).
    2. Take a single stitch backward to the point where the stitching should begin (point 2). Next bring the needle up again a short distance from the first stitch on the line you are working. This will be the start of the second stitch (new point 1).
    3. Continue stitching in the same manner, spacing the stitches at regular intervals, until you reach your ending point.

    Using this method produces more even stitches for some.

    The method above describes the stabbing method. You can also work this stitch with the sewing method, keeping your needle on top of the fabric as you work, apart from dipping it to the back momentarily. 

    1. To work the back stitch with the sewing method, come up through the fabric at point 1.
    2. Insert the needle at the point where the stitching should begin (point 2), and without pulling the needle and thread all the way through the fabric, bring the tip of the needle up again a short distance from its original entry hole, which will be the start of the second stitch (new point 1).
    3. Repeat as you work the entire line of stitching.

    Using this method is faster for some for some stitchers.

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
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    Tips and Tricks for Back Stitch

    Back stitch example
    Mollie Johanson

    Tips for Even Spacing

    Although this is a very easy stitch to learn, it takes practice to achieve even stitches. One way to get evenly spaced stitches is to mark out where the stitches should begin and end using a ruler and a water-soluble pen.

    The goal should be to train your eye to see how to space the stitches. For short lines, this might mean visually dividing the line into a certain number of stitches, or on longer ​lines, you might need to compare your stitches as you go, and then divide the space at the end of the line so you don't end up with a very tiny or very long last stitch.

    Further Uses for Back Stitch

    This stitch is ideal for outlining embroidery patterns, but you can use it in other ways too. 

    As mentioned, it works well as a sewing stitch. Sewing machines can backstitch to lock the ends of the sewing, but that's a little different than using this hand stitch. For small sewing projects that you do alongside or using your embroidery, you can sew a strong seam with this stitch.

    Back stitch can be stitched in rows as a fill stitch. For this, try to overlap the stitches as though they are bricks.

    Similarly, you can embroider a thicker outline by stitching two rows of back stitch next to each other. For example, use two lines of stitches to make thicker downstrokes on embroidered monograms, giving them the look of calligraphy. 

    You can also make your back stitch a little more decorative by wrapping or weaving the stitches

    This is a stitch you'll use frequently, so take the time to learn it well!