How to do Split Stitch

Discover the wonderful world of split stitch with our step by step guide to how to work this delightful embroidery stitch.

How to do Split Stitch

Split stitch is a handy embroidery stitch for creating outlines and lettering on your hoop. Read our beginner’s guide to working this stitch below. To give your stitches added interest, try using  different tones of the same thread colour in your needle to add depth and definition to your stitching.

Download, print out and trace the free embroidery template below onto your fabric lightly with pencil and stitch over the lines. In this Split Stitch tutorial we’ve used four strands of stranded cotton for the words and two strands for the leaves and stems to make the lettering stand out more.

Template design by Lisa Jones, stitching & instructions: Rebecca Reid 

Free leaves embroidery pattern (PDF)


Step 1

Work one straight stitch at the beginning of your line. It needs to be about 5mm (¼in) long so the rest of the stitches curve nicely. 

How to do split stitch step 1

Step 2

Now bring your needle up to the right of the first stitch, making sure it is in the centre of your traced pencil line. The needle should be the same distance away from the stitch as the length of the stitch. This will ensure your stitches are all the same length and will give a neater finish.

How to do split stitch step 2

Step 3

Push the point of the needle into the first stitch you made about one quarter of the way from the end. If your thread has just one strand then pierce the centre, but if you have two strands or more then you can push the needle between the strands themselves.

How to do split stitch step 3

Step 4

Continue working the split stitches in the same way, making sure you always make your stitches of equal length and that you split them in the same place. This will give a neat outline and a finished stitched line similar to chain stitch but smaller and closer together.

How to do split stitch step 4

Upcycle a plain tee with Split stitch

Neutral knits are a wardrobe staple, but sometimes we just can’t resist getting the sewing kit out and adding our own design details! This simple project is the perfect way to practise your new split stitch skills fit you’re new to the technique.

Start by reading our split stitch tutorial above, then download our leaf embroidery pattern (at the top of this post) to start stitching. This design would look great sewn onto the neckline of a plain tee, or you could scale it down and stitch it onto the collar of a crisp white shirt. Match the thread colour to your accessories for a pulled-together look!

Free split stitch embroidery pattern
Don’t throw out that old tee, add a flourish of embroidery to it!


Looking to try more embroidery stitches? Click to discover our How to do Stem stitch guide.