1. Crafts & DIY

Embroidery Fundamentals: How to Do Backstitch

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Read Time: 3 min

Backstitch is a great embroidery stitch for beginners because many patterns can be done entirely in backstitch, but it is also a good stitch for many other small hand-sewn projects. This tutorial will get you on your way to stitching up lots of projects in no time.


Embroidery SuppliesEmbroidery SuppliesEmbroidery Supplies
  • Small piece of muslin fabric (about 15cm square)
  • Embroidery hoop (10–12cm in diameter)
  • 6 strand embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery scissors
  • Embroidery transfer pen

1. Prepare Your Fabric for Stitching

Step 1

Trace a line onto your fabric using your embroidery transfer pen.

Trace a LineTrace a LineTrace a Line

For tracing the line, any flat edge will do. I used an old box lid, but if you have a ruler handy that would be perfect. If necessary, iron your fabric flat before tracing your line.

Step 2

Secure your fabric into your embroidery hoop. If possible, secure it so your entire line is contained within the hoop.

Secure FabricSecure FabricSecure Fabric

2. Stitch Your Line

Step 1

Thread your needle.

For embroidery, you generally thread the needle leaving a small 'tail' of floss and a longer 'tail' of floss. The longer tail is what you will use for your stitching. The shorter tail, however, becomes the end of your floss, which you will use to tie a knot at the end of your work, or to weave through your final stitches.

Thread NeedleThread NeedleThread Needle

Step 2

Begin your stitch.

Backstitch is so named because you start a stitch length into your line and then stitch back to the beginning. Decide on the length you plan on making your stitches, and start your first stitch that distance from the starting point of your line.

Stitch Step 1Stitch Step 1Stitch Step 1

If you are just starting out, you can tie a small knot in the end of your floss to keep it from pulling your stitch out. I just leave about 4cm of floss hanging loosely when I make my first stitch, as shown above.

You could also use a small piece of tape to hold this tail of floss in place. Once you make a couple stitches, the floss will hold in place on its own.

Leave tailLeave tailLeave tail

Step 3

Complete your first stitch by passing your floss back through your fabric at the starting point of your traced line.

Stitch Step 2Stitch Step 2Stitch Step 2

Step 4

Move on to the second stitch in your line.

Pass your floss through the fabric from back to front, with an equal distance in front of your first stitch. You want to try to make each stitch about the same size to give your line a uniform look. If you are stitching around curves, smaller stitches will help the line look smoother. For straight lines, you can use longer stitches without it altering your line's final appearance.

Stitch Step 3Stitch Step 3Stitch Step 3

Step 5

Complete the second stitch by passing your floss back through your original starting point.

This keeps your stitches in a continuous line and prevents gaps. Each stitch will end by passing through the beginning point of the previous stitch.

Stitch Step 4Stitch Step 4Stitch Step 4

Step 6

Continue stitching in this way until you reach the end of your traced line.

Continue StitchingContinue StitchingContinue Stitching
Completed backstitchCompleted backstitchCompleted backstitch

 3. Finish the Back of Your Work

Step 1

Weave the end of your floss into your final stitches to secure it.

I usually make all of my stitches from right to left under my last two to three stitches.

Weave in endsWeave in endsWeave in ends

Step 2

Tie a small knot to secure your floss.

After my last 'weave in' stitch, I make a small loop and tie a knot to secure my floss in place. Cut off any excess floss after tying your knot and pulling it tight.

Tie knotTie knotTie knot

Admire Your Work

You have just completed your first backstitch! Pat yourself on the back, practice a little, and start picking out patterns to try out with your new skills.

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