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Embroidery Fundamentals: How to Do Satin Stitch

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When filling in embroidered areas, people usually think of satin stitch. This stitch creates blocks of solid color in your pattern, and the closely grouped stitches give your final product a shiny, satin-y finish.


Supplies

Satin Stitch Supplies
    • Aida 18 cross stitch fabric, about 15cm square
    • Embroidery floss in color of your choice
    • Scissors
    • Needle
    • Embroidery hoop
    • Heart pattern
Heart Pattern

1. Prepare Your Fabric for Stitching

Step 1

Secure your fabric into your embroidery hoop.

Make sure your fabric is stretched taut inside the hoop and that the natural grid made by the fibres is as straight as possible. If your fabric grid is pulled out of alignment, it will affect how your final project looks and warp the design. Tighten the hoop around your fabric before you begin stitching. When you tap the surface of the fabric, it should feel like the surface of a drum.

Any fabric may be used for satin stitch, but Aida (cross-stitch fabric) can be helpful for beginners and allows you to stitch gridded patterns like the one we are using here with ease.

The key to satin stitch on regular fabric is keeping your stitches spaced evenly and keeping them close together to create the smooth satin appearance on your final project.

Secure fabric

2. Begin Stitching Your Pattern

Step 1

Thread your needle with embroidery floss.

The needle should have the majority of the thread (what you are stitching with) on one side, and a smaller amount (for finishing and tying a final knot once you are finished) on the other side.

thread needle

Step 2

Begin your stitch.

Step 1

Pass your threaded needle through the fabric from back to front. I like to start in the center of my fabric with the center of my design and work outwards. This makes it easier to follow a drawn pattern without transferring it to the fabric, and helps avoid warping the pattern while you stitch.

Back of step1

Step 3

Complete your first stitch.

For this pattern, I am using Aida fabric (cross stitching fabric) that has a defined grid pattern. To complete my first stitch I count how many squares in my pattern my first stitch extends, then I can count that number of “squares” on my fabric and make my stitch that length. I start at the bottom point of the heart and stitch straight up to the top of its center.

Complete first stitch

When I work on a project where people could potentially see the back, I will often use satin stitch for all of my stitches, starting at the bottom of my pattern and ending at the top (or vice versa).

This makes your satin stitch look about the same on both sides, but it uses much more thread. If you like, you can stitch your heart to minimize thread use by completing your first stitch by stitching bottom to top and then the second stitch from top to bottom of the pattern.

Step 2

Step 4

Continue stitching the first half of the heart pattern.

Fist half done

Continue to follow the pattern and stitch your heart from the center out until you reach the end. Once you have completed one half, weave your thread through the back of your stitches toward the starting point.

Weave back to start

Step 5

Stitch the second side of your pattern.

Stitch side 2

Complete your satin stitched heart by stitching from the center of your pattern and working your way out.

One complete heart

2. Turn Your Hearts Into a Clover

Step 1

Begin your second heart.

Begin second heart

To turn this heart pattern into a cute shamrock (four leaf clover) for St. Patrick’s Day, begin back at your original starting point, and turn your fabric 90 degrees so your original heart is now on your left side when you look at it.

Step 2

Stitch a complete second heart by following the original pattern.

Beginning in the center again, in the same hole as your original first stitch, begin stitching a second heart by following the same pattern. You will notice that the bottoms of your hearts meet using the same holes for stitching. Continue until the second heart has been completed, as shown below.

Two hearts

Step 3

Stitch a third and fourth heart to complete the shamrock shape.

Three leaves

All of your hearts will begin in the center of your final shamrock shape, and be worked from the center out. If you use a long piece of floss you can actually complete this entire pattern with one piece and tie a single knot in the center once you are done.

Four leaves

Admire Your Handiwork

Even though all four hearts are stitched in one color of green floss, the leaves look tonal because of the way the light hits the thread that's stitched in a different direction. If you think your shamrock needs a stem, you could add one using backstitch.

You could bring a little St Patrick's Day charm to your table decor by embroidering plain linen napkins with a tiny shamrock in each corner.

Four Leaf Clover

If you're new to embroidery, you might like to check out our other tutorials on embroidery fundamental skills.

Do you have any satin stitch tips or questions? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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