Welcome to our total guide to satin stitch for beginners! You may be here if you’ve bought one of our kits, or maybe you’ve just happened upon the guide. Either way, I’m here to help you master this versatile and unique embroidery stitch.

If you’re stitching one of our kits, please read through this whole guide and watch the video before starting.

Important Note – Satin stitch, though on the surface a simple stitch, can actually become quite complicated when you get into it. Here we are focussing on satin stitch for beginners, and not any of the more advanced aspects. And we’re not worrying too much about the ‘right’ way to do something vs. the best way to give it a go and enjoy it! If you’re an experienced stitcher, there are some amazing guides out there to really get to grips with this stitch and I recommend this article as a starting point.

What is Satin Stitch?

Satin stitch is a full coverage embroidery stitch where you add rows and rows of parallel stitches to fully ‘colour in’ the area. It can be done in a variety of ways, and using a few techniques we explore below, you can achieve lots of different textures and effects with this one stitch.

What are the basics?

To work a basic satin stitch, bring the needle up at 1 then down at 2. Take the needle across the back to come back up right next to 1 at 3, and then down at 4, right next to 2. Aim to keep each stitch as close as possible to the previous, whilst taking it slightly further along the line. Repeat this working across the section you are filling in, using the pattern lines to guide you.

Satin stitch illustration

To finish a thread, weave it in amongst some of the stitching on the back and cut off any excess.

Alternative Method (Surface Satin Stitch)

Instead of taking the thread all the way across the back of the fabric, you can come back up just next to where you took the needle down, creating a tiny stitch on the back of the piece. This saves a lot of thread, but can be a little trickier to get neat lines of stitches that lie well next to each other. It is handy when creating a particularly long section of stitches eg. where each stitch is over 4cm or so.

Video Tutorial

We've put all the information included in this guide into this handy video tutorial and refer to it in the instructions below, so grab a cup of tea and take 10 minutes to get to grips with satin stitch!

Where to Start?

It’s generally best to start in the middle of a section and work out to each side. This helps a lot with keeping the angle or slant of the stitches how you want it. If you make that first central stitch in the slant or angle you want, the rest will follow.

Angles and Slants

Choose different angles of stitches for different sections to give texture to your piece, or aim for everything at the same angle to give a more uniform look.

Depending on the shape you are filling in, the angle of the stitches may shift as you work. This is particularly the case for ‘wobbly’ shapes! Don’t get worried about this, just go with the flow and you’ll find the stitches form a lovely natural pattern. 

Stepping Stitches

If you're filling an irregular shape, or one with steep sides for instance a circle, you might need to 'step' your stitches. Instead of bringing the needle up right next to the previous stitch, you need to step up the line a little as shown here.

Filling in Irregular Shapes

If the shape you're filling in has bits that go out from the centre of the shape you simply need to keep stitching in the direction you were already going, but only working inside the lines of the shape. So you may end up doing one small section, then the next, then the next etc. In our kits, this is more noticeable for shapes like the clouds - see above.

Working up to a Previously Stitched Section

Once you have one section stitched, you can work the next block up to that section. This creates the lovely dip you get between each section. Bring the needle UP through a new bit of fabric, and then DOWN against a previous line of stitches, going into the same hole if possible (but as close as possible is fine!) This is much easier than the other way round. The only place you won’t be able to do this is where you might have one final shape that is surrounded by other blocks of stitching.

Things to note!

  • Aim to work from one side of your fabric to the other, or top to bottom/bottom to top - adding the adjoining section next to the one you’ve just stitched. Try not to jump around doing one section here, one there etc.
  • You will need to create longer and shorter stitches depending on the shape you’re filling in and the direction you’re stitching in. Think of it as colouring in, staying within the lines and adjusting slightly if needed.
  • This is not an exact science! Don’t worry if one stitch is slightly over a line, or the angle of your stitches has shifted. The end overall effect will disguise almost all little issues like this.

Tips and Tricks

  • When starting a satin stitched section, after knotting the end of your thread, cut off the little wispy ends as close as possible to the knot. This will stop them getting caught up in your stitches as you work. 
  • Always stitch to the outside of the pattern line. This will mean you will always cover up the printed line.
  • Remember to let your threads untwist regularly. This will help you keep a nice flat stitch on the top of your fabric.
  • Keep the fabric really taut to avoid puckering or the fabric going loose under the stitches.
  • Aim to keep an even tension with your stitches. A good even reasonably firm tension with a nice taut fabric should help avoid lots of common issues.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment! Take the threads in a different direction to give texture, or stitch over a previous section to add height and depth.

I hope you've found this guide useful - be sure to share your own satin stitched pieces with #hawthornhandmade and happy stitching!