Satin Stitch - Learn How to Do This Modern Embroidery Technique
Hello, modern embroidery newbies! Embroidery is such a wonderful craft and Satin Stitch is just one of those stitches that is used on a wide array of embroidery projects. It creates such a gorgeous effect.
Since starting the Maker’s Academy, I have taught thousands of women how to embroider, so you’ve come to the right place to learn satin stitch!
But first- what is Satin Stitch?
Satin Stitch is a beautiful series of straight stitches, that are used to completely cover an area of the background fabric. It’s called ‘satin’ stitch because it has a lovely smooth look – like satin. You might also hear of this stitch being referred to as flat stitch or damask stitch.
It’s quite a simple stitch really, as you just go back and forth over the fabric, laying each strand right next to the one that’s beside it. But it definitely takes a certain skill to lay those stitches flush with each other. Practice certainly helps!
Enough talking, let’s learn how to Satin Stitch!
First up, you need to decide on the angle you’d like your threads to sit on. You might also find it helpful to draw directional lines inside your pattern, to help keep you on track.
For this, I draw a series of lines that sit on the angle where I want my stitches to lay.
Now bring the needle up through the back of the fabric on one edge of your shape.
Stitch down through the fabric on the other side of your shape, so that the stitch lies in the direction you want.
Repeat this process again, and always come up on the same side of the shape and go back down on the opposite side.
Eventually, this area will be filled in, with the threads lying parallel to each other. Just be careful not to pull these threads too tight as you go along, or your fabric might pucker.
TIP: The trick is to be consistent with where you land your needle in terms of the outline of your shape. For example, you may always aim to go just past the line. Or you might choose to always go right on the line. Either way, if you’re consistent, you’ll end up with a tidier edge.
In terms of the order you fill the shape in, there is no rule. You might want to stitch some directional stitches first, then fill in the gaps one at a time.
Or you can simply start at one side of the shape and continue to the other side.
But when you do satin stitch on the diagonal, I’d suggest starting in the middle (the angle just seems to work better that way).
Here are some more tips on Satin Stitch:
This may look like a lot, but trust me, it will all become clear as you start practising this stitch.
Satin Stitch can be scooped or stabbed, just do whichever feels best!
How many strands of floss to use?
To create a really smooth and tidy look, I would use fewer strands of floss (e.g. 2 or 3 strands). However, using fewer strands does take a bit longer than if you were using thicker thread.
On the other hand, using 4, 5, or 6 strands of floss can be a quicker way to whip over a shape. This does create a more chunky and rustic look as the threads can get a bit crowded, but in my opinion, this can look really great too!
See the image below for an example of how this petal looks, worked with different amounts of floss.
Satin Stitch is traditionally used to fill in smaller shapes, for example, no more than 3cm long. This is because the threads can get a bit wobbly over longer areas. But this is modern embroidery, and we often use Satin Stitch on longer areas, and it still looks great!
When you do a stitch that looks like it’s out of whack (and don’t worry, this happens to us all!), then pull it out and redo it if you are going for a tidier finish. I have tried to ‘fix’ or cover wonky stitches with more stitches, and it definitely gets a bit messy.
The traditional way to do Satin Stitch is to always come up and go down on the same sides (which essentially means you’re satin stitching the back of your design too). This does waste quite a lot of thread, so to avoid this, you can stab the needle back down beside where it came up. It might take a bit longer, but feel free to do it this way if you like the result.
You can pre-stitch your shape with an outline in back stitch (or Split Stitch, Stem Stitch, etc). This is a great option if you want to create a clean, smooth edge on your shape, but it definitely adds a bit of time to your overall project.
Once you’ve done the outline in Back Stitch, the trick is to do your Satin Stitch over the top of the outline – not inside it as you might initially think! This means you are essentially covering up the back stitch with your satin stitch, but it adds dimension and a crisper edge.
Remember it’s totally up to you if you want to add this step to your designs.
Satin Stitch is often used on petals and leaves, which have a shape that tapers in on at least one side.
I know that you might find this tricky as a beginner because where do your stitches go if they are bunching up in one area? Don't worry; I'll explain below.
When you stitch a shape that tapers (either to a point or just to a smaller area), then you need to angle your stitches in towards that point. As you do this, there are a couple of tricks that you can try:
You can poke your needle down into the same hole as a previous stitch. Don't worry; just be gentle as your pull each stitch tight.
You can do some of your stitches a bit shorter than the rest. By this, I mean that you can poke your needle down a bit before the spot where you're heading. As the stitches all come together at the tapered end of the shape, you'll find the longer ones cover up the shorter ones.
Examples of Satin Stitch in my patterns
Let's look at some examples of how you can use this awesome foundation stitch in your work! First up, here's my Blooming Lovely pattern. See how the petals are worked with Satin Stitch?
In this case, the petal shape is tapered, so the angle of the stitches all come together towards the point.
Another example is my Daisy Blooms pattern. The cream colour on the daisies is all Satin Stitch, so you can imagine this pattern is a fantastic way to practice this technique!
The last example I want to show you is my pattern The Florist. All of her face and part of her hair is worked in Satin Stitch - doesn't it look so lovely? For the profile of her face, I stitched an outline with Split Stitch, just like I mention as a tip above in the tutorial. It definitely helped to keep my stitching on track for the shape of her face.
Yay, I am so happy that you now know how to do one of my favourite (and most used) stitches - Satin Stitch.
I know it can be hard to get your satin stitch looking even and smooth to begin with but keep cracking at it. I know you will get better and better at this stitch, and before you know it, you will be able to cover whole areas in soft, smooth Satin Stitch!
So there you have it, my top tips and knowledge you need to understand how to do Satin Stitch. Woo-hoo, go you! If you enjoyed learning how to do Satin Stitch, then you may also enjoy my Modern Embroidery Foundations Course.
This course takes you through all the beginner techniques and knowledge you need to make your first beginner pattern, Little Wildflower Meadow! Plus, it includes a beautiful second pattern, Blooming Lovely, which is a fantastic place to practice your newfound skills (and makes use of your newfound satin stitch knowledge).
I would totally recommend this course, as it covers more stitch techniques than just Satin Stitch, and you can also do it at your own place. Plus, this is a great way to hold yourself accountable for your own me-time and continue on your path to becoming a modern embroidery superstar.