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How to Backstitch – embroidery video

How to Backstitch - video tutorial

If you want to do hand embroidery, you really need to know how to backstitch.

The backstitch is probably THE most common outline stitch. It gives a nice, smooth, continuous line. If you’re going to be stitching tight curves make sure to use a shortish stitch length. Otherwise, just use a stitch length you’re comfortable with and try to stay consistent.

Ready to learn it? It’s easy.

Now that you’ve seen how to backstitch, you’ll want to practice!

Here’s a free cat embroidery pattern, stitched entirely with backstitch.

Sly Cat - a free embroidery pattern from Shiny Happy World

And here’s a free butterfly embroidery pattern that uses backstitch and a tiny bit of running stitch for the swoopy flight path..

free butterfly embroidery pattern from Shiny Happy World

It’s so versatile! Use it any time a pattern calls for a simple line.

Once you know the basics of how to backstitch, you can fancy it up by adding a second thread in a contrasting color. Learn how to stitch a threaded backstitch here, and a whipped backstitch here.

Here are my lessons for the four most basic embroidery stitches I recommend for beginners.

Return to the Learn to Embroider main Table of Contents.

Move on to the lessons teaching other options for outline stitches.


  1. Anonymous SAYS...

    Hello. I’m new to cross stitching and am confused on the outline stitch the instructions are showing. It doesn’t match any of your videos. It looks like the backstich but different. You come up at “A”, go down at “B”, and come up at “C” (which is halfway between “A” and “B”). Does that make any sense? I love your videos and have learned a lot from them. Thanks for all your help!! –Tracy C.

  2. Tracy – What you’re describing sounds like split stitch (and I do have a video for that – it’s one of the outline stitches). But back when I did counted cross stitch I always used backstitch for all of my outlining. I would think that split stitch would be a little too textured for counted cross stitch – the backstitch really works with the overall geometric look of cross stitch.

  3. Anonymous SAYS...

    Thanks Wendi….I figured I would go ahead and use a regular backstitch. I just needed a pro to tell me it was okay. Thanks again for your help and for putting easy to use vidoes on your site. I must have watched fifty videos on the french knot on YouTube before you popped up and saved the day!!! –Tracy C.

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  5. Sylvia Pearson SAYS...

    I am just starting cross stitch and asked a customer at Joans about the outline stitch. She told me about your site. It was very easy to learn! I am 83 and just beginning embroidery!! Thank you for having these free lessons! Sincerely, Nana Syl

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much!

  6. Judy Hudgins SAYS...

    How do you hold your needle to ensure that you are stitching straight up and down into felt. I thought I was doing fairly well until I had to use a Holbein Stitch (Double Running Stitch) to stitch two layers of felt together (the stitching needed to look the same on both sides). I discovered that might stitches were actually NOT straight up and down, and they absolutely needed to be. Any and all tips for this would be appreciated!
    Thanks, Judy

    • I’m a stabber. It’s a little bit slower, but I find it’s much more accurate (especially when working with felt) than always working from the top of the fabric. Many embroidery books (especially vintage ones) only have illustrations showing the stitches worked from the top of the fabric, so you may need to do a little adapting.

      • Delores Bruyette SAYS...

        I’m confused what is the head of the bunny made OF. I think its felt but it doesn’t say

        • What bunny? There’s no bunny in this video – you must have meant to comment on a different post.

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