Hand Embroidery: Make a Herringbone Stitch

Updated on April 16, 2018
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The herringbone stitch has many names including the Mossoul stitch, Persian stitch, Russian stitch, Russian cross stitch, catch stitch, 'witch stitch', and even plaited stitch. That's a lot of names for such a simple stitch! This stitch is actually a type of back stitch that looks more like a cross stitch than most other back stitches.

This stitch is often used in borders and in accents. I've used this stitch as a sort of picket fence way off in the distance in some of my pictorial embroidery work as well as in some of my doodle stitching. The herringbone stitch can also be used as a very thick outline and especially looks nice on larger projects.

Getting Started

If you've got space to make large herringbone stitches, you can go ahead and use all six strands of floss. If you want to make smaller ones, you'll most likely want to use fewer strands. Technically, you can use all six strands for small, tight stitches, but the lines won't have a really defined look to them.

In order to be able to do this stitch, you will need to know how to make a straight stitch. Don't worry, this prerequisite is quick and easy to get out of the way!

Figure 1: A diagonal straight stitch (going left to right)
Figure 1: A diagonal straight stitch (going left to right) | Source
Figure 2: Bringing your needle back out just to the left of where I closed my first straight stitch.
Figure 2: Bringing your needle back out just to the left of where I closed my first straight stitch. | Source
Figure 3: Close your straight stitch at the bottom right to form a sort of cross stitched teepee.
Figure 3: Close your straight stitch at the bottom right to form a sort of cross stitched teepee. | Source

Your First Herringbone Stitch

Step 1: Start by making a diagonal straight stitch going from bottom left to top right (figure 1.)

Step 2: Push your needle back through just to the left of where you closed your first straight stitch (figure 2.) Then complete this stitch by making another diagonal straight stitch going from top left to bottom right (figure 3), making a sort of teepee shape.

Technically, at this point, you've already formed your first herringbone stitch, but it wouldn't really look like a herringbone stitch until you've got a nice row of them made.

While the first official herringbone stitch was completed with the "teepee" look, this stitch doesn't form its signature look until several are made.
While the first official herringbone stitch was completed with the "teepee" look, this stitch doesn't form its signature look until several are made. | Source
A fabric marker can help prevent against different sized stitches.
A fabric marker can help prevent against different sized stitches. | Source

More Herring, Please

To continue with your row of stitches, come up just to the left of where you closed your last stitch. Repeat steps one and two above until you've completed your row. Tie off your final stitch as you would a running stitch and voilà you're done!

Practicing this stitch is important because you can easily end up with some different sized stitches. Since herringbone stitches look awesome when they are perfectly sized, it's a good idea to use a fabric marker (washable with water) to draw an outline for your stitches ahead of time. Usually, I use a ruler to draw out a top and bottom line and then slants within those borders to use as a guideline to follow with my floss.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Melanie Palen

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      • melbel profile imageAUTHOR

        Melanie Palen 

        6 years ago from Midwest USA

        @Millionaire Tips - It is a pretty stitch. Too bad somebody has been using my fabric marker thinking it was a regular marker... I'd be able to use pictures that would do this stitch justice! Down the road I may redo the examples for these hubs (using a new marker) so the stitches look neater.

        @Simone - Thank you! That means so much! I was worried people would be like "Embroidery!?!? How old ARE you?!" But it's really enjoyable. I'm glad you like the hubs. :)

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Oh my gosh, your embroidery Hubs rock!!!

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 

        6 years ago from USA

        Great hub - the herringbone stitchis such a pretty stitch to use.

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