Working Feather Stitches and Variations

Feather Stitch Example
Mollie Johanson
Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The feather stitch and its variations are used in surface embroidery to create airy lines of stitching along curves or straight lines. It's one of the most basic and popular embroidery stitches and can be used to create an edge finish or a surface embroidery stitch. It's also handy for stitching elements in place on an embroidery project and for attaching appliques. A feather stitch can be marked on the fabric or worked as a counted stitch. It is worked using open half-loops of stitching in single or multiple rows. There are several popular variations on the basic feather stitch. 

Notes

Practice on a small square of cotton or other fabric of your choice, using needles of type and size appropriate to the fabric. The stitch can be worked using either the stabbing or sewing method; the illustrations show the sewing method while the words describe stabbing.

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 pen
  • Ruler

Materials

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

Instructions

  1. Overview

    Feather stitch is worked from the top down, and alternates slanting stitches on each side of the line being worked.

  2. Getting Ready

    If you are still learning to stitch, go ahead and mark your fabric with four parallel vertical lines to stitch between. 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.

  3. Feather Stitch

    Make sure the thread is always below where the thread comes out of the fabric and where the needle will go in as you stitch. In step 2 you make a stitch from right to left; in step 3 you make a stitch from left to right.

    Use the four vertical practice lines to keep your stitches lined up: point 1 on the leftmost line, point 4 on the rightmost line, point 3 on the second line, and point 4 on the third line.

    To begin, bring the needle up a little to the left of line being stitched (1).

    1. Stitch 1-2-3 Take the needle down to the right (2), level with the place the thread emerges from the fabric, leaving thread loose on the surface. Bring the needle up below and between the two end points of the stitch, above the length of thread on the surface (3); pull taut.
    2. Stitch 3-4-5 Take the needle down to the right and in line with where the thread comes out (3), leaving length on the surface (4). Bring the needle up below and between the two end points of the stitch, above the length of thread on the surface (5); pull taut.
    3. Stitch 4-5-6 Take the needle down to the left and in line with where the thread comes out (5), leaving length on the surface (6). Bring the needle up below and between the two end points of the stitch, and above the length of thread on the surface (7); pull taut.

    Tip

    Use your thumb to hold the length of thread in position on the surface before bringing the needle back up above it.

    Continue stitching, repeating steps 2 and 3 for basic feather stitch. End the length by making a small anchoring stitch over the last loose length on the surface of the fabric.

    Working the Feather Stitch
    © Cheryl C. Fall, Licensed to About.com

     

  4. Straight Feather Stitch

    The steps to make straight feather stitch are the same as those of basic feather stitch, except the loops are all in line, the stitches all slanting in the same direction instead of alternating. When working the straight feather stitch, the loops are spaced one under the other along one side. In appearnce they are like slanted blanket stitches.

    This stitch looks pretty when used as an edging for a redwork embroidery design. You can also work it in two rows, with the stitch facing opposite directions and the rows spaced 1 to 2 inches apart. The space between rows can be filled with additional stitches of various types to create a custom band of stitches. Another application of straight feather stitch is to secure the sides of a ribbon or decorative fabric.

    Working the Straight Feather Stitch. © Cheryl C. Fall
  5. Closed Feather Stitch

    The movements of ​closed feather stitch are the same as basic feather stitch except the loops line up along the side edges, forming a closed edge. When working closed feather stitch, the entry point of the successive loops is in the same spot on the fabric as the exit point of the preceding loop. The close feather stitch is used for borders and wide lines and can be used as a couching stitch for tacking down lengths of ribbon.

    Working the Closed Feather Stitch
    © Cheryl C. Fall
  6. Straight Feather Variations

    The​ straight feather stitch also can be worked with a straight edge along the both sides or along the center of a stitched band.

    Variations of the Straight Feather Stitch
    © Cheryl C. Fall
  7. Double Feather Stitch

    In the double feather stitch, instead of making singles stitches alternately to left and right, two or three stitches are made consecutively on one side. Then a similar number of stitches are made on the opposite side.

    This decorative variation is useful for wide borders and bands. It looks particularly beautiful when used as a banded strip of embroidery on clothing, table linens, and bed skirts. For maximum decorative impact, apply the double feature stitch a few inches from the hemmed edge.

    Working the Triple Feather Stitch
    © Cheryl C. Fall