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S is for Satin Stitch

My Take a Stitch Tuesday embroidery sampler for this week is satin stitch.

This week I used a purchased embroidery design from Urban Threads and worked mostly in Appleton wool, with the letter S worked in two different hand dyed mercerised cottons.

Embroidered satin stitch sampler with padding and different satin stitch techniques

(Click the photo for a larger view)

For this sampler I wanted to improve my satin stitch, which was a bit sketchy around the edges, and try some different techniques I hadn’t used before.

Techniques I tried:

  • Bottom right flower – Single strand wool with no padding or outline
  • Top right – Single strand wool with split stitch border and straight stitch worked as padding under the leaf border, light purple border and light yellow centre
  • Top left – Leaf border and light purple flower border have split stitch borders and chain stitch padding. The centre pale yellow dot has three layers of satin stitched worked one on top of the other and the tiny yellow petals have two layers of satin stitch
  • Bottom left flower is worked in long and short stitch shading with two strands of appleton wool. The leaf is worked in a single strand of wool and has a split stitch border with chain stitch padding underneath the satin stitch. The body of the leaf is worked in long satin stitches couched down along the veins with back stitch
  • The swirly vines (centre top and centre right) are worked completely in double appleton wool. The outlines and centre lines are back stitch and the leaves are satin stitch
  • For the centre purply green motif (directly behind the “S”), I wanted to try using strands of two different colours together. The centre leaf sections are satin stitch couched down with back stitch, with the rest being worked in plain satin stitch with no padding.
  • The light green checked filler (you might not be able to see that it’s checked but it is), is again, satin stitch couched down with back stitch. To create the check (a bit unsuccessfully), the satin stitch is 3 stitches grey/green, one stitch bright green all the way across. The colours are a little too similar to see it clearly though.
  • Finally for the letter S, I wanted to try mercerised cotton. Outlined with sze 3 and stitched with size (I think), 5? I dyed it many, many years ago and I’ve forgotten unfortunately. I made a little check pattern made up of tiny satin stitch squares. Boy, did that take forever  😛

Things I learnt:

  • If you want a neat outline, thread matters. Fine threads or threads that “bloom” (like Appleton wool), work the best. However, if you’re filling in a shape that is surrounded by more embroidery like my letter S, anything goes. It all depends on the effect you want.
  • Something I already knew but only recently tried – if you’re using classic stranded embroidery floss, take the plies apart and then put them back together again, running them lightly through your fingers. It makes a HUGE difference.
  • Scooping the fabric (working the stitch in a single movement) might be fast but it’s rarely tidy. Two motions are best. Needle down through the fabric and pull the thread through, needle up through the fabric and pull the thread through.
  • When couching down satin stitch, don’t pull the couching thread tight. Let it sit on top of the satin stitch. If you pull it tight you’ll get gaps and the background fabric will show through. Of course, if you want that effect then pull the couching threads tight.
  • Your stitches often need to be closer together than you think to cover the background properly.
  • Pay very close attention to where your needle goes at the edges of your design. If you’re losing concentration, stop!
  • When curving your satin stitch around a bend don’t just fan out the stitches at the top. Snug them a tiny bit closer together at the bottom as well. You get better coverage that way.

Now on to stem stitch! I need to learn how to stitch around bends and corners properly…

Some useful links:
TAST on Facebook
Sharron’s TAST FAQ on her website, Pintangle.
Free vintage stitch book downloads.
My TAST Pinterest Boards.


Posted in Embroidery