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  • Writer's pictureBecca Norman

Chain Stitch Embroidery Technique

Is it too plain?

If you want/need to add extra details onto something that you've knitted, you can embroider them on! Now, if you don't have any experience with embroidery, don't be scared; I'm going to teach you a really easy chain stitch embroidery technique. I've gotten a few requests for a tutorial on this, since I mention it in my football pattern, which, [wink wink] is free when you sign up for my newsletter.

The chain stitch creates a continuous chain of stitches and can be used to make a bold straight line, or an outline of any shape you want to make, or even a meandering vine.


I’m using a plain old worsted weight white yarn - nothing fancy. Embroidery floss or a lighter weight would also work just fine. Think of all the small scraps of yarn you have. This is the perfect time to use them up! You know I love me some stashbusting!

Step 1

Thread it onto a tapestry needle and begin by inserting it through your item so that the working end of the yarn is coming out on the right side where you want your design to begin. In this case, since the football is completely enclosed and stuffed, I have a tail dangling, but we’ll fix that at the end. If you have access to the wrong side, go ahead and tie a small knot, or save the end for weaving in later.

Remember, we’ll deal with the loose end after we’re done.
Step 2

Take a small stitch in the direction you want your line to go, making sure that you get the long tail of the yarn underneath the needle so that you’re catching that loop. (see image below) When you pull the yarn/thread tight, it will form a loop around your working yarn. Pull it just tight enough to close the loop, but not so tight that the fabric puckers.

As I'm working, I like to hold the yarn around the football to mark the line I’m following. That keeps me from getting off-course. Then as you're working each stitch, try to stay on the same side of the yarn. I'm right-handed so I stitch usually to the right of where the yarn is. This keeps your little chain loops from getting twisted on themselves.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Then I'll just keep stitching, taking fairly small stitches but not too teeny tiny. You can be as free-form as you want if you're doing a vine or something that's a little bit less precise. Always stitch back in where the yarn previously came out. That's how we get that really continuous chain of stitches.

For the football, I wanted a thicker line, so once I had it the length I wanted, I turned around and did a second line right next to the first.

Frankie Say Relax

Remember your stitch tension! Depending on your personality or the level of stress that you're feeling at the moment, you may find yourself pulling the yarn really super tight, and that is not going to give you the same effect. So take a deep breath, and focus on relaxing a little, if only in your arms.

You may find that concentrating on physically relaxing one part of your body will help you feel calmer in general. And that’s the magic of making things with your hands.


To finish the ends, pull the yarn to the wrong side if you can, if not, just make a small knot as close to the end of the chain as you can. Then hide the end by threading in into the inside of the toy/whatever it is, and trim it while pulling tight. Of course if you can get to the wrong side, make the knot there and weave the end in a little nicer. Do the exact same thing for the tail you left dangling at the beginning!

Have you ever dabbled in embroidery, or are you a knitting purist? I actually used to cross stitch before I got into knitting. For a different embroidery-on-knitting technique, check out how I make the faces on stuffed animals in this blog post.



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