Five basic stitch types

Some time ago I read somewhere that all embroidery stitches are essentially variations on or combinations of five basic stitch types. This idea appealed to me; I am definitely a cataloguing/listing sort of person. It could also be quite useful in making sense of the bewildering array of stitches out there: classifying stitches into five types would mean that you could more easily look for stitches that are like the ones you already know, increasing your stitch repertoire with only a little effort.

Annoyingly, however, I can’t remember what the five basic types were, and I can’t remember where I read it! So I’ve been trying to reconstruct the list from memory with a bit of common sense and stitching logic. The first category was “straight”. This included things like running stitch and satin stitch – anything, in fact, where you bring the needle up and take it down without any changes of direction in between. I suppose that includes cross stitch, which is after all made up of two diagonal straight stitches on top of each other.

Then there was “knotted”; French, colonial, Palestrina, bullion, Danish, coral and so on. Again, fairly easy to identify. The third category I remember covered all stitches where you leave a loop of working thread at the front of the fabric, which you then catch as you come up. The name escapes me, but “looped” would work. This would include obviously looped things like chain stitch and lazy daisy, but also feather stitch, fly stitch and blanket stitch – in each of these you use the second half of the stitch to alter the shape of the first half, or in other words, the first half needs the second half in order to work. Without the second half, the first half would simply be a straight stitch or (in the case of chain stitch and lazy daisy) disappear altogether.

Straight, knotted and looped stitches

But what were the other two categories? Something twisted perhaps? Corded? Laced? Woven? I’ve been trying to think of stitches I know which aren’t covered by the first three categories, and from that to deduce what the other two are, but so far I have not been very successful. Any suggestions would be very welcome!

4 comments on “Five basic stitch types

  1. I have been reading through all Mary Corbets site Needle ‘n’ Thread since I found the link here, inspired by your flower garden, thank you.There are how to videos on stitches listed by groups: Line and Band: Chain, Fly and Buttonhole: Detached and Knots: Filling Stitches: perhaps this would jog your memory. My grandmother, who handstitched all her own clothes, had a ‘sample roll’ of embroidery stitches she had collected since serving as a ladys’ maid in the early 1900s and would tell me stories of dresses decorated with them – happy memories.

  2. Well, this had me reaching for my The Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden. She indeed divides Canvas stitches into five categories, but fabric stitches rejoice in… 14! You ready? Line, chain, blanket, crossed, feather, satin, couched, laid filling (like bokhara), detached (including seeding, french knots, e.g.), raised, woven, insertion (used for holding two fabrics together, some very fancy!), smocking and drawn thread stitches.

    Consider that your (belated, sorry!) St Nicholas Day treat!

  3. Unfortunately not Mabel, one of my aunts had it for years and the last time I enquired it had been ‘lost’. Perhaps I should start one of my own.

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