How to Work Blanket Stitch in Surface Embroidery

Using Blanket Stitch on Fused Applique

Mollie Johanson

Overview
  • Total Time: 60 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

The blanket stitch is one of the most versatile embroidery stitches beginners learn. It can be added to the edge of a hem, worked as surface embroidery, used as a decorative frame or border, or to attach other elements in place on an embroidery project. It can even be used as a finish along fabric edges. 

Its open half-loops of stitching, like a reverse-L in shape, are similar to a hand-worked buttonhole stitch, just farther apart. Work them straight or in curved lines on the surface of the fabric, make them turn corners, or place them back to back. This stitch is adaptable for all kinds of uses!

Notes

Practice on a small square of cotton or other fabric of your choice, using needles of type and size appropriate to the fabric. Instructions are give for working the stitch from left to right.

Blanket stitch looks like a line of reversed Ls, the bottom end of one coming out of its predecessor. As when making chain stitches, making the stitches properly depends on having the thread in the right place as you pull the needle through 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 pen
  • Ruler

Materials

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

Instructions

  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 perpendicular to the main line to indicate where to make your stitches, or work between two lines. 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 the Stitch as a Line

    To begin, bring the needle up through the back of the fabric to the front at the beginning of the main line.

    • Take the needle down through the fabric at the top of the location of the first stitch (at the top of the first short stitch line if you marked your fabric).
    • Bring the tip of the needle up in a direct vertical line down from where you inserted it, and a short distance along the main line; don't pull it through yet.
    • Place the working thread behind the needle as shown; pull the needle through, creating a reverse L.

    Continue stitching in the same manner, spacing the stitches at regular intervals and keeping the stitches uniform in size, until you reach the end of your line. End the length by taking the needle down to the right of the last stitch to anchor it.

    Tip

    If you are making blanket stitches along an edge, when the needle tip comes up through the fabric make sure it extends beyond the edge of the fabric.

    Working the Blanket Stitch
    The Spruce / Cheryl C. Fall
  3. Going Around Shapes

    Blanket stitch is often used around the edge of shapes, so often needs to turn corners.

    • When coming to a corner, work the last stitch on a side one stitch length from the corner.
    • Work the next stitch right at the corner, with the vertical line at a 45-degree angle.

    Rotate your piece 90 degrees, and work the first stitch on the new side one stitch length from the corner. This should create a square with a diagonal line in the middle.

  4. Varying Stitch and Space Length

    To change the look of this stitch, you don't even have to consider true variations. Instead, play around with altering the spacing of the stitches or changing up the height. 

    For example, create a solitary or repeating pattern of taller and shorter stitches, or group several stitches close together, followed by a space, and then repeat.

    One variation that is useful for stitching flowers is referred to as buttonhole wheel stitch. This version is essentially blanket stitch worked in a circle, with all of the vertical stitches now meeting in the center.

    Blanket Stitch Example
    The Spruce / Mollie Johanson

More Examples and Ideas for Use

Not all patterns are conducive to working with blanket stitch, but some types of designs practically call out for this stitch. A cactus looks great because you are able to stitch the outline and needles at the same time. With a little imagination, you can use this stitch to work some interesting textures into your embroidery patterns!

A simultaneously practical and decorative use for blanket stitch is appliqué. Instead of filling a shape with fill stitches, cut out a fabric shape (perhaps even use the fusible web technique to tack it in place) and blanket stitch around the edges. Regardless of how you are using the blanket stitch, the technique is essentially the same.

Blanket stitch combines well with itself or other stitches. Try stitching two rows of blanket stitches so that the vertical lines are facing each other and nest within the spaces of the opposite row. This is referred to as double blanket stitch.