Stem Stitch vs Outline Stitch
Table of Contents
- Outline Stitch Method 1
- Outline Stitch Method 2
- Stem Stitch Method 1
- Stem Stitch Method 2
If you’d like a nice outline stitch with a rope-like twist then these basic embroidery stitches are the ones. The stem stitch and outline stitch are perfect for creating outlines and things like flower stems. They're a great alternative to the chain stitch which is also a nice outline stitch (and fill stitch) when you don't want that chain look. While mainly used for outlines you can still use them as fills to get an interesting texture.
These two stitches both twist and the difference is that they twist in opposite directions. The outline stitch twists to the left and the stem stitch twists to the right. The methods to creating them are also very similar, and there's actually more than one way to make them. I started off with method 1 but now I mainly use method 2. Both are good to learn and I'll show you two methods so you can try them both and decide which you like better.
For both stitches I’ll work them in a vertical direction in this tutorial.
The Outline Stitch: Method One
- Draw a guideline running vertical if you’d like. This will be your stitch line.
- Start with a loose stitch and set it to the left of your stitch line.
- Come up between the loose stitch along the stitch line and pull the needle through.
- You can tighten up your loose stitch first before pulling the needle all the way through if you’d like, but it’s an optional step.
- Next, return to the back a stitch length away (A) to create another loose stitch.
- Set your loose stitch over to the left.
- Then come up at the end of your previous stitch (B) and pull needle through.
Repeat steps and end your stitch by pushing your needle through the very end of your stitch. Notice how the outline stitch twists to the left.
The Outline Stitch: Method Two
Method 2 reminds me a lot of the back stitch but when you go back you do so a little differently.
- Start with a small stitch
- Come up a stitch length away.
- Nudge the previous stitch over to the left and return to the back along the stitch line.
Repeat steps then finish off the stitch by coming up at the very end of the stitch and returning to the back between the last stitch.
Stem Stitch: Method One
- Again, I'll make the stitch line run up and down.
- Make a loose stitch along the vertical stitch line and push it aside to the right.
- Bring the needle up in the middle of the stitch along the stitch line, then pull through.
- Repeat and finish by returning to the back at the end of the stitch, just as it was done with the outline stitch.
Stem Stitch: Method Two
- Make a small stitch.
- Leave a small gap and come up.
- Return to the middle of the previous stitch, nudge it over to the right and return to the back.
- Repeat steps then finish off the stitch by coming up at the end of your stitch and return to the back between the last stitch, just like it was done in the outline stitch.
The outline and stem stitch are very similar so it’s easy to confuse the two so here’s a simple breakdown to help you keep it straight:
If your OUTLINE STITCH:
- Runs vertical, your needle will always be to the right of the thread.
- Runs horizontal, your needle will always be below the thread.
- This is true in both methods. Just remember, the needle will be either to the right or below the thread.
If your STEM STITCH:
- Runs vertical, your needle will always be to the left of your thread.
- Runs horizontal, your needle will always be above your thread.
- This is true in both methods, and in this case remember, the needle will be either to the left or above the thread.
When it comes to creating a curve or curved shape, you'll end up with a much smoother result if your stitches are smaller. If your stitches are too large for your curve it can give your stitch a sloppy appearance.
As always, I've included a video tutorial: