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 hand-embroidery and sewing stitch. When getting started in embroidery, it should be one of the first stitches you learn.

    Back stitching produces a thin line of stitches, perfect for outlining in almost all embroidery patterns. It's also useful for stitching fabric pieces together and outlining shapes that will be filled with the satin stitch.

    This stitch gets its name from the process, which results in each stitch going backward from the direction of the line you are forming. You can create the backstitch going from both right to left and left to right. 

    The Stabbing Method

    This technique is the preferred back stitch style for many embroiderers since it creates a tidy line, and the stabbing motion can help ensure an accurate stitch. 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).

    1. 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).

    2. Continue stitching in the same manner, spacing the stitches at regular intervals, until you reach your ending point.

    The Sewing Method

    With this technique, you will keep your needle on top of the fabric as you work, apart from dipping it to the back momentarily. This method is faster for some stitchers.

    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.

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    Back Stitch Spacing

    Back stitch example
    Mollie Johanson

    Although the back stitch is a basic stitch to learn, It will take practice to make the embroidery even. 

    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. With 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).

    Another 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.

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    Further Uses for Back Stitch

    Back stitch can be stitched in rows as a fill stitch. For this technique, you can stagger and overlap the stitches as though they are bricks. Or, you can choose to have each line repeat the same pattern. 

    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, which will help to achieve the look of calligraphy. 

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