Embroidery Stitches (1) – Running Stitch and Variations

<< Overview       << previous: Day 1, Part 2

Day 2

Today we’ll start exploring embroidery stitches.

There are zillions of embroidery stitches and stitch combinations out there – for this Hexalong though, I want to focus on a few basic stitches (and their variations) which are effective, but quick and simple to do.

On this page:
Materials and tools today
Where to embroider a Trefoil Hexie
From the center and back
A running start … the Running Stitch and some variations
Your task today
Next time
How to calculate the length of a ribbon for a Trefoil Hexie

Materials and tools today

  • two Trefoil Hexies
  • embroidery needle and embroidery thread – if you’ve made small hexies and the embroidery thread is too thick, use sewing thread
  • scissors

Where to embroider a Trefoil Hexie

The main areas of a Trefoil Hexie are the “background” and the “top”, that is the folded “flaps”.


Under these flaps, a ribbon or strip of fabric can be pulled through as embellishment. Depending on the width of that ribbon, the background area might be more or less covered up – and any embroidery with it…

However, with some stitches which we use as “fillings”, we can modify the look of the fabric, for instance change the colour, or tone down a stark pattern, or add some extra texture.

For modifying the (large) hexie below, I used 3 threads of 6-ply stranded cotton. Although the colour of the embroidery has little contrast to the fabric, you can tell the difference: not only does it add a pattern/texture, the rose colour makes the yellow a bit warmer.


trefoil ladderstitch trefoilreverseNote: You can tell that the act of embroidering caused a lot of creases and wrinkles in the starched cotton fabric. They’ll disappear when rinsing it – no ironing needed. And – unless you only need one hexie – I suggest you wait with washing until after you’ve joined the hexies and your project is finished 😉

It’s easiest to embroider just the top layer of the fabric, but if for some reason you want the stitches to show on the reverse, you can of course go through all layers.

“Some reason” for stitching (at least in some parts of the hexie) through to the reverse:

  • You like the look of stitches on the reverse, because the item you are making will be seen from both sides
  • You’ve inserted a piece of batting and want to quilt it a bit more
  • Instead of using the templates from the template set, you need really big hexies for your project, for instance for a quick-n-easy bedspread, and the one little cross in the center of a hexie is not sufficient to keep the layers securely together

If you have problems getting the needle through, try

  • using a thinner needle
  • slightly passing the needle over a piece of candle to “grease” it
  • wearing a thimble. Leather thimbles also help you to get a better grip on the needle when pulling it through.

From the center and back

The untidy centers of the Double-faced Hexies will be covered by embellishments. They are therefore the ideal place to secure the thread ends at the beginning and when you’re done with the embroidery.

Often I also return to the middle when I finished one area and go on to the next.

A running start … the Running Stitch and some variations

If you’re left-handed, please mirror the direction of the needle and the working direction – the latter will probably be automatic, though 🙂

Depending on their character, you can use the stitches

  • for outlining an area
  • for filling an area
  • or in combination outline plus filling

Their appearance can be further varied by changing the length of the stitches or the distance between them, the angle, and by grouping them in different ways. And of course you can combine threads in different colours or thickness 🙂

running stitch

ladder stitch

ladder stitch var

mltpl running stitch

rice stitch

Your task today

On one hexie, embroider the background area, on the other one the top area.

You can outline, fill or combine – whatever you like.

Have fun 🙂

Next time

Tomorrow = Day 3 I’ll show you how to make a “ribbon” (for embellishing) from a strip of fabric. We are going to use yet another variation of the Running Stitch to do that.

You’ll need again embroidery thread, an embroidery needle with a sharp point and scissors – and a strip of fabric (can be contrasting in colour, or with a pattern, if you like) 30 to 35 cm // 12 to 14 inches long and at least 2.5 cm // 1 inch wide. For starters,  cotton is easier to handle than silk or synthetics.

How to calculate the length of a ribbon for a Trefoil Hexie

Width: The ribbon can be narrow or wide, but it should be easy to pull through.

For making a ribbon from a strip of fabric, start measuring just outside the center of the hexie towards the edge, as wide as you want it, then add a seam allowance (for the outer edge) of about 6mm // 1/4 inch. The inner edge remains raw; it will be gathered later.

I suggest you cut the strip altogether at least 2.5 cm // 1 inch wide.

hexie side lengthLength: Measure the side length of a hexie and multiply by 7 or 8 (for more ruffles). Then add at least 12 mm – 1/2 inch for a narrow seam. If your ribbon or strip of fabric frays easily, add more seam allowance and cut it diagonally. A thin line of glue also helps.

Example: side length = about 4 cm – 1-1/2 inch

x 8 =       32 cm           12 inch

+              1.2 cm        1/2 inch

total about =      33 cm          12-1/2 inch

No need to be too precise here – “about” is good enough 🙂



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