Top Ten Medieval Embroidery Stitches- #3 Split, #4 Chain, #5 Stem

Top Ten Medieval Embroidery Stitches- #3 Split, #4 Chain, #5 Stem

Our friend Susan O’Dee (Mistress Briony, as she is known in the Society for Creative Anachronism) is a talented embroidery expert from New York State. Recently, we asked her what the top ten most useful embroidery stitches were, specifically for pre-1600 AD projects. She came out with a great list and graciously offered to film them for us. The accompanying video shows three forms (numbers 3-5 in the series) of back stitch. These stitches are useful for doing outline work. Stitch number three on the list is the split stitch. This stitch is performed by doubling back on the stitch from underneath and then splitting the thread with the needle before proceeding forward. The next stitch, stitch number 4 is the chain stitch. With this stitch, the embroider creates a loop on the piece by returning to the original hole the thread comes out of creating a loop of thread. Before tightening, the next stitch is started such that the formed loop encircles the needle as it exits to make the stitch. The last stitch is the stem stitch. This stitch is similar to the split stitch except rather than splitting the thread, the stitch has a slight overlap instead.

Additional thanks to Pakshalika Kananbala for filming and editing the video.

Click once to view the video.

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Carol Mclamb March 1, 2011 at 5:27 pm

With stem stitch, do you always come up on the same side of the stitch or do you alternate?

Susan O'Dee March 1, 2011 at 11:32 pm


The same side should be used as much as possible, especially if you are doing a straight line. But around curves, it’s best (I think) if the stich comes up on the inside of the curve and I would rather change sides than have some curves look sloppy. But I will admit, stem is not my best stitch and some people can keep theirs on one side and still have nice alternate curves.

THL Elisabeth Thielmann April 28, 2011 at 3:55 am

Thank you! I am attempting my first dress embroidery using chain stitch.

Cedric April 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

Great! You can post pictures to the FB page.

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