Stitch Directory

Surface embroidery stitches

Surface embroidery refers to any embroidery style in which the stitches are worked freely, rather than dictated by the weave of the cloth – there is no need to count threads or follow the grain of the material. It is sometimes referred to as free style or freehand embroidery. Crewelwork/Jacobean and creative surface embroidery are probably the most well known surface embroidery styles, along with Mountmellick.

You’ll find a lot of the stitches I use in my designs on this page, as well as all the alternative names I’ve been able to find for each of them. So you’ll know which stitch to use, even if you know it by a different name. I’ll be adding to this directory over time, so if the stitch you’re looking for isn't here yet, try my Stitches board on Pinterest. 

“So many stitches are beautiful and interesting to work that the embroideress who is prepared to abandon the unimaginative use of stem, chain, satin and petit point will soon find how richly she is rewarded.” – Barbara Snook 

Arrowhead stitch 

Back stitch

Back stitch – double 

Back stitch – laced (single laced, threaded) 

Back stitch – interlaced (double laced, threaded) 

Back stitch – whipped (oversewn) 

Blanket stitch (buttonhole stitch) 

Blanket stitch – filling 

Blanket stitch – interlaced 

Blanket stitch – long and short 

Blanket stitch – pinwheel (wheel, open wheel) 

Blanket stitch – slanted 

Blanket stitch – spaced (grouped) 

Blanket stitch – stepped 

Blanket stitch – up and down 

Braid stitch (cable plait stitch, figure of eight stitch) 

Bullion knot (bullion stitch) 

Cable stitch (alternating stem) 

Cable plait stitch – see braid stitch 

Chain stitch 

Chain stitch - back stitched (chain-back stitch combo) 

Chain stitch – detached (link stitch, seed stitch, powder stitch, lazy daisy) 

Chain stitch – heavy (braid stitch)

Chain stitch – knotted cable 

Chain stitch – raised chain band 

Chain Stitch – twisted 

Chain stitch – whipped (oversewn) 

Chain stitch – zigzag 

Chevron stitch (barred end herringbone stitch) 

Chevron stitch – half 

Coral stitch (snail trail, broken chain stitch) 


Couching – trellis (Jacobean couching, trevis couching, trellis work) 

Cretan stitch 

Cretan stitch – open 

Cross stitch 

Crow’s foot stitch 

Detached chain stitch - see chain stitch-detached 

Ermine filling stitch 

Feather stitch 

Feather stitch – closed 

Feather stitch – double 

Feather stitch – long-armed (quill stitch)

Fern stitch 

Fishbone stitch 

Fly stitch (Y-stitch, open loop stitch) 

Four-legged knot 

French knot 

Ghiordes knot (Turkey work, single knot tufting) 

Herringbone stitch (plaited stitch, catch stitch) 

Leaf stitch 

Loop stitch 

Palestrina (double knot stitch, German knot stitch, old English knot stitch, smyrna stitch, tied coral stitch, twilling) 

Portuguese border stitch (see photographic, step-by-step tutorial)

Raised chain band – see Chain stitch–raised chain band 

Running stitch 

Running stitch – battlemented 

Running stitch – whipped 

Satin stitch (damask stitch) 

Satin stitch – surface 

Scroll stitch (single knotted line stitch) 

Seed stitch – single (seeding, speckling stitch, isolated back stitch, matting) 

Seed stitch – double (seeding, speckling stitch, matting, dot stitches) 

Sheaf filling stitch (faggot filling stitch) 

Spider web – whipped (back-stitched, ribbed) 

Spider web – woven 

Sprat’s head stitch 

Star stitch 
Note: Common nowadays to catch star down with one straight stitch

Stem stitch 

Stem stitch – filling (shading) 

Stem stitch – Portuguese (Portuguese knotted) 

Stem stitch - raised 

Stem stitch – whipped (oversewn) 

Straight stitch (single satin stitch, isolated satin stitch, ray stitch, spoke stitch, stroke stitch) 

Straight stitch – wheel 

TĂȘte de Boeuf stitch (Bull’s head stitch) 

Thorn stitch 

Trellis work see couching 

Wheatear stitch 

Wheatear stitch – detached

These stitch diagrams have been collected from vintage, out-of-print needlework books:

  • Pleasures of Crewel by Jo Springer
  • Embroidery Stitches by Barbara Snook
  • Step by Step Guide to Embroidery by Barbara Chandler
  • Embroidery Stitches, Anchor Needlework Series, book no. 3
  • Embroidery Stitches, Anchor Needlework Series, book no. 4
  • Design and Embroidery by Valerie Cliffe and Edward Arnold
  • Embroidery & Needlework by Gladys Windsor Fry
  • The Complete Book of Creative Needlecrafts, Octopus 
  • Simple Embroidery by Marguerite Randell
  • More Simple Embroidery by Marguerite Randell
  • Golden Hands Encyclopedia of Embroidery, Collins
  • 50 Free Style Embroidery Stitches, J&P Coats (Delos)