Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Conquering the Stem Stitch -- My Way!

Have issues creating a pretty stem stitch? Well, I used to. Here is what I do now, and love this stitch!
First to remember...the thread has to be large enough for you to really see it.
So, use perle size 8 if you have some...my favorite. Or, if you prefer to use stranded floss, three stands is my recommendation for stem stitch so you'll get nice and plump "S" shapes.

Stem stitch is ALWAYS stitched from left to right, and the thread should be below the needle.

Now, having said that...and you do need to keep that "chant" in your head as you stitch..."left to right, thread below the needle".

But, if you stitch towards you or away from you...then your thread will "appear" to be either right or left...however, IF you get confused...turn your work so that it is positioned where you will be stitching left to right...and the thread is below the needle. Now, rotate your hoop as you need to stitch away or towards you...as you are comfortable with...NOTE which direction the thread is pointing...it will change from BELOW because you rotated your hoop. BUT, it really is still "below" in terms of creating the shape. Just note this and keep going. (If this is confusing...just don't ever rotate your hoop! Hugs!)

Okay, let's begin stitching. Thread your needle and knot the end (or start somewhere outside your stitching area with an anchor stitch, and rework that end under your thread later on).

I'm stitching on my trellis gate design...

Needle up at the beginning of your drawn line...far left point.
Needle down to the right of where you started...I like to have about 1/16th of an inch of space between my Needle Up and Needle Down positions to start. Pull the thread to the back for this first little half-stitch.
 Needle up back at the beginning again for this next stitch. The little first stitch just marks the "middle" of all the remaining stitches and helps to fill out the first stitch. Needle Down about 1/16th of an inch away from the end of the first stitch....which will also be about 1/8th of an inch from the start point.
 Needle up at the same spot as the end of the first little stitch...note the photo below, and you'll see that your needle will be in the middle between the prior Needle Up and this Needle Down...and the thread is below the needle.
 Pull the thread, and Needle Down about 1/16th from the end of the stitches now showing.
 Needle Up in the same hole as the end of the last stitch ended with. Always keep the thread below the needle.
 Keep repeating the stitch. Needle down about 1/16th of an inch from the last stitch, and keeping the thread below the needle, Needle up in the same hole as the last stitch ended in.
As you stitch, you'll start to see a lovely row of perfectly (almost anyway) uniform little stitches with a very pretty little sideways "S" curve to them.
Here's my Trellis Gate all finished. Each line is done in stem stitch. It took a couple of days to get done, but was not difficult...just a bit tedious. So, if you are having trouble ...just keep at it...and before long, you might just be loving this stitch too!

Another note: If you have trouble making uniform sized stitches...take a piece of scrap fabric, fold it once to make it double...use your sewing machine to stitch a straight line. Now, use those same holes to practice your stem stitch in...just sew over the machine thread.
This "trains" your eye to recognize when the stitches are uniform in length...and before long, you'll be doing just fine with pretty little stitches all the same (or almost the same) length.
Edited to add: IF you are a leftie...stitch from left to right, thread always above the needle...save the photos (or print) and turn them up-side-down to get the technique then. Hugs!!

1 comment:

JeanInMaine said...

Kathy, thank you so very much for all the detailed tutorials that you do. I've just spent a very pleasant hour going through them. I know they'll come in very handy in the future when I get a little more experience with the crazy quilting under my belt.