Using the Straight Stitch in Embroidery

Straight Stitch Examples

Mollie Johanson

Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The straight stitch is probably the first embroidery stitch you should learn. Use it to create a straight, long stitch individually or in groups to form patterns. This popular surface embroidery stitch can be stitched on any embroidery fabric, including plain weave.

Using straight stitches arranged in groups, you can make simple leaves and flowers or geometric designs. It also works well for creating a textured look in a design. You can mark the fabric ahead of time, or work the stitch freestyle, creating an infinite number of unique patterns. 

For some projects, embroidered clothing and household linens, you will want to be careful that the stitches aren't too long, as they may get snagged. A snagged stitch will result in puckering since the previous and next stitch are pulled towards it. For long straight lines, try couching stitch instead.

Notes

Practice on a small square of cotton or other fabric of your choice, using needles of type and size appropriate to the fabric.

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

Straight stitch is made with one up and one down motion of the needle, regardless of your preferred stitching method. Each stitch is always separated from the next, whether scattered in a design or grouped in a pattern.

  1. Getting Ready

    If you are still learning to stitch, go ahead and mark your fabric with a few practice lines. Draw short lines of the desired stitch length in series or arranged as shown in the examples below. Use a ruler and a water-soluble pen or a pencil.

    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.

  2. Working Straight Stitch

    To begin, bring the needle up from the back of the fabric to the front at the end point of one of your short lines.

    • Take the needle down at the opposite end of the stitch line.
    • Bring the needle up at the closest next stitch.
    • Take the needle down at the opposite end of the stitch line.

    Continue stitching in the same manner, bringing the needle up and taking it down at the end of the stitch line.

    Tip

    Working several straight stitches parallel to each other can cause the fabric to pull. Avoid this by stabilizing your material before stitching.

    Diagram of working a straight stitch
    Cheryl C. Fall
  3. Combinations

    Straight stitch is so simple to do, it almost seems unnecessary to give directions. But this stitch is a building block for your embroidery as you work patterns in a variety of styles.

    Straight stitches worked in different lengths can become so many different things, from a star or flower to a grouping that spreads from a horizontal plane, sometimes called point russe stitch.

Examples and Ideas for Use

Straight stitch is useful for stitching fur on animal motifs and can be scattered to create a fill. This member of the straight stitch family is called seed stitch. Keep the stitches all going in the general direction that the hairs of the fur would be growing on an animal, altering the angle of the stitches slightly for visual interest.

Megan of Studio MME uses straight stitch extensively in her patterns, which results in embroideries that have a sketched, artistic look to them. Megan is also a master at using straight stitch to create negative space. This humble stitch truly comes alive in landscapes, animal portraits, and other whimsical designs. Try it yourself by working it all around a pattern that outlined with backstitch. 

With ribbon embroidery, a single straight stitch can be quite bold, depending on the ribbon you are using. It makes excellent flower buds, lavender, and bits of foliage. Try using straight stitch in new ways as you work your favorite embroidery patterns. You may find that it adds the texture and dimension that you need.