How to backstitch

Discover how to sew the full range of hand embroidery stitches with our series of beginners' guides. This month, we’re looking at how to sew backstitch.

How to backtitch

Welcome to our Stitch Library series of free embroidery workshops for the complete beginner! In this how to guide we’ll talk you through how to sew backstitch. Backstitch is a great outlining stitch and it’s widely used both in embroidery art and in cross stitch projects to add definition and depth to designs, or to personalise projects with greetings as it’s well suited to stitching words and letters.

Practise your new skills with this fun bicycle hoop art or use this method to sew backstitch on a current embroidery project that you’re working on.

Watch our video guide by Love Embroidery magazine or read on for the step-by-step walkthrough from Simply Sewing.

How to backstitch step-by-step

Download our free PDF bicycle pattern to try out your new skills and make your own hoop art.

Free backstitch embroidery pattern

Embroidery pattern design by Louise Day. Stitching and  instructions by Zoe Patching.

Vary the number of thread strands you use, to create delicate areas or add more definition.

Step 1

To start, thread your needle with two strands of embroidery thread. Thread the strands onto a sharp embroidery needle (a size 9 is ideal) and knot the opposite end of the thread. Bring the needle up through the fabric to the front, at your starting point, with the knot at the back.

How to backstitch

Step 2

Make your first stitch by inserting the needle into the fabric, about 3 or 4mm away from your starting point. Make sure you follow your design line. Pull your thread through the fabric so the stitch sits on the fabric’s surface, but make sure you don’t pull so tight that you distort it.

How to backstitch step 2

Step 3

To make your next stitch, bring your needle back up through the fabric to the front, again about 3 or 4mm from the end of your first stitch (keep this distance consistent so that each stitch is even in length). Make sure you’re still following your design line. Pull your thread all the way through the fabric.

How to backstitch step 3

Step 4

To finish this stitch, insert your needle into the fabric at the same point as the end of your first stitch (pic A).

How to backstitch step 4a

Repeat steps 3 and 4 to create a line of stitches. To finish off, turn the fabric over and pass needle under the reverse of the stitches until the thread is secure.

Pull the thread through (pic B).

How to backstitch step 2



Stitch a cycling tribute to a sporty person in your life…

We all know someone who is into  cycling: Mamils (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) are everywhere! With this in mind, and knowing that you might want to make a gift for the sporty guys  and gals in your life, we thought we’d offer a classic embroidered bike template for you to handstitch onto soft furnishing or clothing as you see fit. Follow Zoë Patching’s instructions above for backstitch  – it’s a perfect stitch to use
 for outlines and you can download our Free bicycle embroidery pattern here.

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