Inside: Chain stitch embroidery examples and basic how-to’s

Classic embroidery stitching is wonderful for creating all kinds of images and pictures with a standard style of stitching. There’s so much that can be done with one stitch! However, adding some different styles and techniques add a new level of dimension to your work and can create a totally different feel.

The stitch I want to show you today is the chain stitch embroidery technique! If you haven’t seen these already, it’s so simple and adds a different kind of texture to your work that you don’t necessarily get from a regular stitch!

Ready to branch out? I really think you’ll like these chain stitch examples.

Three different simple embroidery patterns

I’ll walk you through the technique as well, but I want to show you how much something so simple can change the whole feel of your project.

Let’s dive into some of the facts and questions about the chain stitch, and then check out these artwork examples.

How To Do Chain Stitch Embroidery

This technique is so easy, you’re going to love it! I kind of got addicted to doing it, the repetition and the precision had a lock on my brain.

It takes some time and practice to make the loops for the chain even sizes, but that might be the most difficult part about this particular stitch.

For practicing and learning purposes, go ahead and draw a short, straight line on your fabric.

At the start of your line, come up from the bottom with your needle, pull your thread through, and then go back down the same hole the needle came through.

Without pulling the fabric all the way through, pull so that there is still a loop of thread remaining, about the size you could fit your finger through.

A normal stitch length apart, come back up again but make sure the needle goes through the loop, and pull the thread all the way through so that the loop closes around the thread coming up, but not too tight! This tension is where you’re going to have to get the hang of it, it’s a fine balance of tight enough that it’s a solid stitch but not so tight that you can’t see the chain visual of the technique.

Once the loop has closed around the thread, you’re going to repeat this over and over! You’ll put the needle back through the same hole in the middle of the previous loop, and make sure you leave enough thread behind for a new loop for the next stitch.

Practice always makes perfect, and as you continue to do this stitch you’ll find the tension you like the best.

Get stitching!

Where Do We Commonly See This Stitch?

Chain stitching is pretty common these days, but it has a unique style that is identified through history and in certain styles of embroidery today.

Since it’s said to have a kind of “drawing” type of look, it’s used in a lot of “cutesy” crafts, like wall hangings for children’s rooms or on kids clothing.

It also has a kind of vintage look to it, and is often used on ringer tees and vintage varsity style clothing! Chain stitching can be found on modern remakes of vintage clothing to give it that vintage aesthetic, as well as on actual vintage pieces. It’s an iconic stitch!

Trendy use of the technique aside, it has been traced back to ancient Chinese silk embroidery. It still appears in many traditional Chinese garments, on clothing that is beautifully embellished with embroidery.

You can find this just about anywhere, and you’ll notice it right away with its distinct look.

Chain Stitching Intended Use

Clearly there have been many uses and styles of the chain stitch throughout history, but is there a technical use for it? What is it mainly used for?

Functionally, it has been used to hem jeans! Interlocking thread the way that it does makes it a sturdy stitch to hold denim together. Aesthetically, it works too because of the rope-like look to it. It’s all around perfect for denim use.

Since the loops give it a wider and more full look, it’s often used to fill in images or to make a cursive/script font.

It is most commonly used decoratively.

A sweatshirt with a script embroidery font

Script Embroidery Fonts

Since it’s so common to see this embroidery stitch used as a cursive font, here are some examples.

It’s a cute way to add a logo, school name, personal name, tagline, anything onto a tee shirt or sweatshirt.
Denim jackets are also common garments to find random chain stitch embroidery script fonts since it’s common to find the stitch on denim anyway.

If you want to create a wall hanging for a bohemian space or a child’s room, these are some perfect examples of the vibe you’ll get from using this stitch.

1. Script G
2. Embroidered Sweatshirt
3. Simple Lettering
4. Collar Trend
5. Tote Personalization

Chain Stitch Embroidery Patterns

For the most part, a chain stitch can be interchangeable with the regular embroidery straight stitch! So you don’t need specific patterns that call for a chain, but there are some that do if it’s a part of the creator’s vision. It’s all about the aesthetics.

Try these patterns with the chain stitch and see how it compares to your usual stitching.

A mermaid and a sun chain stitch embroidery patterns

Giving new techniques a try and deciding what you like the most is how you find your personal style with crafting. It’s all experimenting.

6. Full Sun
7. Mermaid Hair
8. Twisted Chain
9. Swirls
10. Letters

Chain Stitch Motifs

Chain stitching tends to give that vintage look to clothing, but it applies the same to imagery too. Stitching a flower with this style makes it feel older and it’s definitely its own aesthetic.

11. Bird
12. Guide To Motifs
13. Hoops
14. A Heart
15. Petals

Simple poppy embroidery design

Simple Designs

Simple designs like your favorite flower or a bird without all of the details filled in can still be made into a really interesting and beautiful design by using the chain stitch.

Using the thicker stitch makes the overall image more intricate and look more complex than it is. If you’ve got the straight line down with the chain stitch embroidery technique, try one of these simple designs to test it further.

16. Florals
17. Branches
18. Boho Rainbow
19. Poppies
20. Watering Can
21. Tulip

The chain stitch is so interesting because it is incredibly versatile! From ancient Chinese culture embellishments to the hemming of the pants of a cowboy, there are so many ways to use this stitch, practically and aesthetically.

There’s no wrong use for this, even using it on a bird pattern will make for beautiful stitch work even if it doesn’t technically line up with the varied common uses of the stitch.

Go ahead and put this stitch away in your arsenal and bring it out when you feel creatively inclined to do so. It’s a stunning stitch you’re going to love utilizing, and you’ll enjoy the use of it when it adds to your art. Enjoy broadening your horizon and growing your craft! That’s all a part of the fun of learning a new skill and hobby is expanding on the basics once you’ve got it down.

If you want to learn more stitching techniques, start with the outline stitch.