Also known as: crewel stitch, stalk stitch, point de cable

Through my research, I found out that stem stitch is crewel stitch. It is one of the easiest to be done and perhaps even one of the first stitches to be taught to any beginner. But, many times, people often refer to embroidery work itself as crewel work, though the actual crewel stitch (stem stitch) is never as commonly employed in it! This creates a bit of a confusion on if crewel work consists of only crewel stitch (stem stitch).

Let us now get to the procedure. To make the logic clearer for stem stitch, I have drawn a temporary stitch line with a pencil. A stitch line is through which all stitches will be running. Now, note that all the stitch points in stem stitch will fall ON the stitch line. I will be working this stitch from left to right. This instruction is for right handed learners.

stem_stitch_1     stem_stitch_2
Fig 1: Bring out the thread through A and take it in through B. Take the needle backwards and bring the thread out through C. Make sure the point C lies over the stitch A-B.    Fig 2: You need to note that the point C lies about half way through A and B. Also note that C lies on top of the stitch A-B. So, all the subsequent stitch points will lie on top their previous stitch.
stem_stitch_3   stem_stitch_4
Fig 3: Take the needle in through D. Try to mark D in such a way that the point B will lie half way through C-D. Bring the needle out through B.   Fig 4: So, the pattern of two stitches of the stem stitch will be as shown above.
Fig 5: Continue this pattern of stitching with the needle coming out through the top of the previous stitch always.
Fig 6: The reverse of the fabric will give you a back stitch pattern.

So, the unique feature of stem stitch is that, when you work from left to right, the needle will be brought out from the TOP of each previous stitch. In case you work from top to bottom, the needle and thread will come out through the RIGHT side of each previous stitch. This feature is what makes stem stitch unique from the others in its family. 🙂