Concerns About Satin Stitch

Hello Everyone

I will be releasing the first two black and white, Whitework kits next week, they are being packed as we speak and wanted to address some of the concerns you may have about satin stitch.  I dislike that word “concerns” because it conjurs up images of something to be “concerned” about!  In fact satin stitch does not deserve its reputation for being challenging, it is no more challenging than many other stitches, for instance I find buttonhole stitch and stem stitch challenging, you may laugh at this but I really do!   Once you have grasped the basics and have practiced it a bit it will become your new best friend.  Actually satin stitch is a great way to perfect your long & short stitch – I find that when I have been working with a lot of satin stitch my long and short appears more even and smooth.  So it really is worth the effort.

There are many ways to approach satin stitch, diagonal, straight etc,  this is the French technique or Plumetis and I am sure you will find it works well for most forms of embroidery.  Here are ten hints that will help you to improve your satin stitch:

1.  Use a Magnifying lamp.  The bright daylight and magnification enable you to see each little stitch and where to place it.  This can avoid hours of frustration and misplaced stitches resulting in lumpy/uneven satin stitch.

2.  Use the correct fabric.  If you want fine, smooth satin stitch you should use a fine, close weave fabric.  If the weave in the fabric is too loose there will not be enough placement for the needle and your satin stitches wont be able to slot in nicely next to each other.  Use either a high count (200 count)  cotton muslin /batiste or a min of 1400 HC linen.

3.  Outline the shape.  An outline will provide a nice firm edge for you to work your satin stitches over and define the edge.  The outline can be worked with split stitch but I prefer running stitch as the majority of thread is on the front and very little on the back as shown below.  Running stitch is like tacking stitch except you take very little of the fabric between stitches (about 2 threads) so that all the stitching is on the front and very little on the back. Bring the thread up at A and down at B. Continue working like this to the end of the line.

Running stitch
Running stitch

Double Running Stitch. This provides an even firmer, solid outline similar to split stitch. Work a line of running stitch with a second line of running stitch worked on top of this. (shown in contrasting colour for clarity).The second line of stitches is worked between the previous stitches as shown. Work a line of running stitch. Bring the thread up in the centre of the first stitch (A) and down into the centre of the second stitch (B). Continue working likethis till complete.

Double running stitch
Double running stitch

4.  Work a layer of running stitches underneath your satin stitch.  This provides a nice foundation for your satin stitch and prevents the fabric from showing through if there are slight gaps between stitches.  You can start by adding one layer of running stitches (or if the shape is small you can work straight stitches next to each other).   The running stitches should always run along the length of a shape.  Once you are confident with one layer you can add more layers to achieve a 3 Dimensional effect but we will talk more about this in a future post.

stitch 3

5.   Stitch with the nap of your thread. All thread has a nap which is the direction the fibres are running in. There is some discrepency in the embroidery world as to how important this is but I have researched it over the years and although it is not important for you to decide which way the nap goes it does help if you use your thread in the same direction each time. So how can you know which is the same direction – it is simple here are some ideas:
a) work with a skein of thread and pull out a single ply, then cut it off and thread this end. Keep pulling out a length of thread from the skein each time and thread the same end into the needle.
b) mark one end with a blue fabric marker and thread this end each time into the needle. Cut off the end of the length with the mark on so it does not spoil your work.
c) Cut off a length of thread approx 50cm and tie a knot in one end. Pull out a single strand and thread the un-knotted end each time.

6.  Work your satin stitch in the same direction each time, and dont change direction in the middle. I cant tell you what the scientific reason is behind this but it works. I like to work from left to right across a shape. This way if I have to put my stitching down and come back to it I know which direction to continue in. If you are left handed it might help to stitch from right to left – it is not important which way you work as long as it is in the same direction.

7.   Establish the direction of your satin stitch before you start stitching.   Start slightly away from the edge and place a directional stitch. (you can go back and add a stitch or two on the left of this afterwards). This will helps to establish the direction of your stitches.

stitch 4

8.   Keep your stitches parallel and close together.  The stitches should be very close together but not on top of each other. If you work does not look smooth it is because the threads do not lie flat because they are scrunched up together too tight/too loose with gaps in between.

stitch 5

9.  Push your needle up and down over the outline.  Bring the needle up against your outline edge and down over the other edge, pushing closely against the outline so that each stitch is firm and secure.   Do not worry if your edges are not smooth I have a solution which is used in all the Whitework projects – stitch a fine split stitch outline around each shape and this defines it.

stitch 7

10.  Work the satin stitches at right angles to the shape.   The satin stitches should always be worked at right angles to the padding stitches and the shape.  Here are some examples:

Examples of satin stitch
Examples of satin stitch

In the next post I will list some hints on working satin stitch on a curve. In the meantime get yourself a piece of finely woven cotton such as a good quality quilting muslin and some DMC/Anchor stranded cotton and try out some satin stitch. You can use two strands for the outline and layer of padding and one strand for the satin stitch. If you have some floche or cotton a broder this is even better, use one strand. Here is a summary of how to do it.

1.  Outline the shape with runing stitches to provide a nice firm outline.

2.  Add a layer of padding inside of this shape with running/straight stitches.

3.  Work the satin stitches on top of this across the shape at right angles to the padding stitches.

Till next time, wherever you are be it winter, spring, summer or autumn have a wonderful week and many happy stitching hours.  Trish

3 thoughts on “Concerns About Satin Stitch”

  1. Thanks so much for your tips. Your 7 advice beginning slightly away from the edge is new for me and clever. I’m happy you don’t begin in the middle of the shape as we can read in many recommendations. I do everything as you do. Only I use to recommend when you go with the needle down pushing the needle against edge you must came up with the needle doing a slightly diagonal direction on the back.
    When I began embroidering satin stitch I saw my back side was better than front side this always had a little diagonal direction and the back was straight, so I learnt.
    Can you understand what I mean in my bad and confused English ? 🙂

  2. Trish, I thank you for re-stating these tips. I have several books that give some of these tips…but not all. Very helpful.
    I love your work, books and kits, this is why. You are so detailed and that’s why you stitching is so good.

  3. Dear Trish

    I have just received your blog, please may I incorporate this blog into the HEG Newsletter – I am sure others would like to read about the “concerns” relating to the Satin stitch.

    I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

    Regards and best wishes


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