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How to embroider with backstitch?

Posted on2023-10-03 2008
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How to love backstitch embroidery?





Where does backstitch come from?

Backstitch probably has its roots in Moroccan motifs used to decorate clothes. Single-color embroidery created with lines came to Spain, from where it was brought to England by Catherine of Aragon when she married Henry VIII. For about 50 years, this embroidery was known as "Spanish work". These were delicate, fancy, linear embroideries on the robes of mainly upper classes, e.g. sleeves and collars.


After Catherine and Henry divorced, the name was changed to "blackwork" and embroidery began to be created mainly in black. It also became very popular in the Elizabethan era.


Currently, some designs only use a black outline or create embroidery entirely in black, which is a bit like "blackwork".


When is a backstitch useful?

Line stitch - backstitch and its variations: backstitch sewing stitch and string stitch are types of sewing and embroidery stitches. As a hand sewing stitch, it helps to securely join two pieces of fabric. In embroidery, backstitch is used to mark lines and mark the outlines of shapes. The use of this type of stitch, especially on small patterns, gives expressiveness, highlights details and colors, and makes the image look more refined and detailed.

It also allows you to obtain smooth and simple or complex and broken contours. It is also used to create lettering in embroidery.ć gładkie i proste lub skomplikowane i łamane kontury. Używa się go także do tworzenia liternictwa w hafcie.



What kind of embroidery is backstitch used for?

Backstitch can be used as a complement to cross stitch and cross stitch combined with bead embroidery. It is best to do it after completing the cross stitch, but before sewing on the beads. You can also use it to cover the entire image, thus obtaining a delicate effect of thin lines.


Which fabric to choose?

Backstitching is easiest on fabric with an easily countable weave, so you can keep straight lines where you need it. Canvas or Aida are perfect for this - the regular grid makes it easy to transfer the contours from the pattern to the material. Single stitches are sewn in the opposite direction to the sewing direction, creating a line.


How to guide the thread?

Although this is a very easy stitch, it takes some practice to get even lines. It's mainly about the appropriate tension of the thread, which should neither be too loose nor too tight.


What should the length of the thread be?

Thread the needle with a thread that is not too long so that it does not get tangled while sewing. The longer the thread, the more contour we can sew without having to thread another piece of thread. However, at the beginning it is worth practicing with a shorter thread.


How many threads should I use to backstitch?

The selection of the number of threads depends on the density of the canvas. If we use Aida 14ct, a thick backstitch should be sewn with two threads, and a thin backstitch with one thread.


How to do a backstitch?

Solid line

We start by bringing the needle out at a specific place on the right side of the work. We do not make a knot at the end of the thread - we leave a piece from the left side and after sewing, we pull it under the pattern.

We insert into the next stitch of the contour, bring the needle to the left side and bring it out again in the next stitch to the right side of the work.

Then we insert the needle into the previous stitch (go back) to continue the contour and pull the needle from the left side of the work, bringing the needle out in the next free stitch. 

We repeat the operation until the contour is obtained.


Dotted line

The stitch is created in a similar way to sewing with a running stitch. There is no need to go back to the previous stitch.


How long should the backstitch be?

A single line should be no longer than approximately 3 cm. If the straight line is very long, it can be divided and sewn in several sections. The exception are elements that must be perfectly straight, e.g. cat whiskers or stems. Then we sew them with one line in their entirety.


When to use couching stitch?

Couching stitch is also known as applied embroidery. The name comes from the French word coucher, meaning to lie down. This method is useful for creating entire backstitch or just very long backstitch. It involves placing a section of thread on the fabric and gripping it at several points. One thread can be used, but two separate threads are usually used - one for the line and the other to hold it.

Is it worth backstitching as designed?

If the line ends in the middle of the cross, nothing will really happen if we stick the needle into the hole between the crosses. With dense canvas, inserting the needle in the center of the cross may be very difficult, and moving it a millimeter will not be visible at all. The exception are small, important elements, e.g. eyes or lips, where the exact positioning of backstitches may be necessary to obtain the right shape.


Does the color of the backstitch matter?

If we backstitch with one thread, there is no need to worry that we do not have a perfectly matching color. Typically, the shade of such a line is almost indistinguishable because the human eye is unable to notice the difference between two tones of the same color. If we do not have a specific color of thread, we can successfully use a similar shade.


Where can I buy patterns with backstitch?

In Coricamo store you will find many kits and patterns using the backsitch stitch.

Look at cross stitch kits

Look at cross stitch patterns PDF

You can also buy cross stitch patterns for your phone in our store. Thanks to them, you can turn backstitches on and off in the application Coricamo Cross Stitch, which makes embroidering them much easier.

See cross stitch patterns for your phone

Learn more about the Coricamo Cross Stitch app




Backstitch embroidery is a big challenge, but it certainly gives a lot of satisfaction.



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