Chain Stitch: Directions and Variations to Try

Do you know how to chain stitch?

If you hand embroider, theres an excellent chance youve tried this popular stitch. Constructed to look like loops, chain stitch can embroider everything from bold lines to delicate curlicues. Not only is the shape itself easy to manipulate, once youve got the technique down, its easy to modify this stitch to create a plethora of hand embroidery embellishments.

Lets explore this embroidery stitch with a brief chain stitch tutorial along with a couple variations to try from Leslie Levison.

Chain Stitch

1. Bring the needle up at A, down at B, and up again at C. Make sure the needle comes out at C over the thread.

2. Repeat step 1 for each stitch.

For left-handers: Follow the same instructions except reverse the positions of A and B so you begin on the right and move to the left.

Try ladder stitch, a variation of the chain stitch.

Open or Ladder Chain Stitch

1. The open, or ladder, chain requires patience to master. First, bring your needle up at A, down at B, and up at C.

2. Leave enough slack in the thread for the next stitch. Bring your needle down at D, inside the loop, then come up below E, leaving a slack loop for the next stitch.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

This variation of chain stitch called magic or trick chain highlight two colors of thread

Magic or Trick Chain

1. Thread a needle with two threads, each a different color but of equal weight.

2. Bring your needle up to begin a chain stitch, move one color out of the way and make the stitch with color A. When you pull it through, color B will now be in position to make a chain stitch.


Leslie Levison uses twisted chain with sequins, zigzag with lazy daisy, and woven chain to create this motif.

Woven Chain

This is a great way to use novelty threads that are too heavy or fragile to pull through fabric over and over again. Don’t forget to experiment with lots of different fibers.

1. Stitch a series of single chain stitches (lazy daisies).

2. Using a different color thread, weave it in and out of the chain stitches.

3. When you reach the bottom go back up the opposite side.

Whether you pick up a needle and thread once in a blue moon or every day, chain stitch is a wonderful embroidery technique to explore. Dive in deeper with more chain stitch variations in addition to embroidery stitch tutorials from Leslie when you order your copy of Quilting Arts 2002-2003 Collection on CD.

You are sure to be inspired by the art quilts, tutorials, projects, and more featured in the 8 issues of Quilting Arts Magazine featured in this collection. Want to skip the shipping? Get the Quilting Arts 2002-2003 Collection Download for instant inspiration.

Happy stitching!

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