Embroidery and Appliqué

Embroidery and appliqué go hand in hand, as they are both needlework techniques. Whether outlining a shape or adding some finer details, embroidery stitches are sure to enhance the beauty of your appliqué. I actually learned to embroider before I learned to appliqué, so it should come as no surprise to see decorative stitching in my work. Here are my top five embroidery stitches and how to make them.

Stem (or Outline) Stitch

This is a very versatile stitch, often used – as the name would suggest – for stems and outlines.

Bring the threaded needle up to the front. I often use two strands (out of six) of size 25 cotton embroidery floss. Insert the needle and bring it back up about halfway between where the thread came up and the needle went in. Keep the loop of thread on the outside of a curve to form a curved line. This stitch was used to outline the instruments in Instruments of Praise

… and form tendrils around the morning glories in For Such a Time as This.

French Knots

This stitch creates the appearance of small circles or dots.

Bring the threaded needle up to the front. Wrap the embroidery floss around the needle one or more times. The more times you wrap the needle, the larger the knot will be. Insert the wrapped needle back into the fabric close to where the thread came out and pull through to the back to form the knot. A french knot at the end of a straight stitch can look like a flower stamen…

… or can be clustered together to create texture.

Satin Stitch

The satin stitch can be used to embroider a shape that might be difficult to appliqué.

Bring the threaded needle up to the front. Insert the needle on the opposite side of the shape. Continue placing straight stitches side by side until the shape is formed.

Blanket Stitch

The blanket stitch is often used as a decorative outline around fused (raw edge) appliqué.

Bring the threaded needle up to the front. Insert the needle and bring it back up to form a perpendicular line, keeping the loop of thread behind the needle. The blanket stitch can be done by hand…

… or by machine. Matching the thread to the appliqué fabric will make the stitch much more subtle.


Couching is an embroidery technique where yarn or cord is laid across the surface of fabric and stitched in place by hand or machine.

It is a great way to add a thick line…

… or create a stronger edge than a stem stitch for outlining appliqué.


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