Embroidery Stitches – Loopy Stitches

This post is part of the Double-faced Hexie Hexalong – for more information please see the Overview.

You may know the Buttonhole or Blanket Stitch, the Feather Stitch or Chain Stitch, or perhaps some other variation – there are so many in this loopy family, and quite a few have several names 🙂

On this page:
The principle of Loopy Stitches
Some examples – with metallic threads on Flower Hexies
An additional tip for embroidering hexies

Click on images for larger view

The principle of Loopy Stitches

What makes a Loopy Stitch different from other stitches?

After the needle comes out from the fabric, it stays within the loop made by the thread and the thread crosses itself – something we usually try to avoid, but here it’s what we want.

When we pull the thread tight, the loop becomes smaller.

loopy stitches

Some examples – with metallic threads

By the way: Loose, generous Loopy Stitches are great for working with the often difficult metallic threads! And the stiffness of the metallic thread contributes to nice loops 🙂

Blanket Stitch - outwards.
Blanket Stitch – outwards.
Blanket Stitch - inwards.
Blanket Stitch – inwards.
Feather Stitch - first stitch.
Feather Stitch – first stitch.
Feather Stitch - second stitch.
Feather Stitch – second stitch.

An additional tip for embroidering hexies

The centers of the Trefoil, Pinwheel and especially the Flower Hexie are very delicate. They are well protected by a couched coil or fabric-covered button, but if you want for instance to add some sequins or beads, they fray easily.

The remedy is to create a “safety net” of threads that are well anchored in the fabric just outside the center. When attaching the sequins or beads, you can then latch onto those threads.

For creating the safety net, start with a few stitches for instance with the sewing thread, or with the embroidery thread right after you fastened it (see image below – I’ve started stitching the center with metallic thread. The red sewing thread is waiting to attach sequins and beads once the embroidery is done.).

Reinforce center of hexie.
Reinforce center of hexie.

When you finish a “petal”, don’t move on to the adjacent one, but skip one or go across the center. This way you reinforce the network without additional effort. If it looks messy, you’re on the right track 😉

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.

Have a good weekend 🙂



Embroidery Stitches (4) – Exploring Backstitches

<< Overview       << previous: Day 6

Day 7

Today we’ll see how we can use the Backstitch Family for our hexies – and if you’ve got problems with the Herringbone Stitch, maybe I can help you 🙂

On this page:
Materials and tools today
Moving forwards with Backstitches
How to sew Herringbone Stitch – and how to remember it
“Bead” Stitches
Your task today
Next time

Materials and tools today

  • a Hexie
  • embroidery thread & needle
  • scissors
  • small beads, if you have some

Click on images for larger view

Moving forward with Backstitches

The optical difference between Running Stitches and Backstitches is that the Running Stitch is sort of woven into the fabric, whereas the Backstitch lies on top of it – the thicker the thread, the more obvious that becomes.


Remembering Backstitch: the needle points in the working direction


Remembering Reversed Backstitch: the needle points away from the working direction

How to sew Herringbone Stitch – and how to remember it

The Herringbone Stitch is not just a great stitch for seams and covering raw edges, but also for filling areas. It’s just like the Reversed Backstitch, only that you stitch in two rows.

Remembering Herringbone Stitch:  = Reversed Backstitch, that is the needle points away from the working direction

herringbone stitch

“Bead” Stitches

This is the Backstitch equivalent to the Seed Stitch (in the graphic I left out most of the red lines, it looked confusing).

When you make short stitches with thick thread, they look a bit like beads, especially when you use shiny threads like Pearl Cotton or Silk.

bead stitch

This is also the stitch of choice for attaching beads: Using sewing thread and a thin needle, stitch out, pick up a bead with your needle, backstitch. (More on sewing with beads some other time.)

Your task today

Decorate as many hexies as you like (the new Pinwheel Hexies as well as the Trefoil Hexies) with the Backstitch and its variations.

Next time

Tomorrow = Day 8 we’re going to prepare washable, fabric covered buttons.

You’ll need

  • a button big enough to cover the center of your hexies – one side of the button should lie flat; we’re going to use it as a template
  • a piece of not-too-thick packaging plastic
  • a pen or permanent marker (should not wipe off the plastic)
  • sewing pins
  • something thicker than a pin, to poke holes with (push pin, darning needle, skewer)
  • something to poke holes in (piece of polystyrene, cork board, a double layer of corrugated cardboard)
  • a few scraps of fabric, at least twice as big as the button
  • sewing needle and thread
  • tiny leftovers of batting (if you have got some), else some yarn or thread leftovers – for padding the button
  • glue stick
  • scissors, one for cutting the plastic, one for the fabric

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.


Embroidery Stitches (2) – Making a Ribbon

<< Overview       << previous: Day 2

Day 3

Of course you can use ready-made ribbons for embellishing your Trefoil Hexies, but what if you want to coordinate fabrics?

There are several ways for doing so, resulting in different edges, but as we’re into the family of Running Stitches at the moment, let’s have a look what we can do with them.

We only need to secure the top edge as the bottom edge will be gathered around the center.

On this page:
Materials and tools today
Two more variations of the Running Stitch
Securing a folded edge
Your task today
Next time

Materials and tools today

  • a strip of cotton fabric 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)
  • embroidery needle and embroidery thread – but you can use matching sewing thread if you want the stitches to be less visible
  • scissors

Two more variations of the Running Stitch

You’ll know them perhaps as Basting Stitch (yes, that’s the one we used for making the sandwich when we cut multiple hexies) and Whip Stitch or Overcast Stitch.

Basically, they’re the same stitch, only that the Whip Stitch goes across a fold – or a raw edge for a more ragged look.




Today I’m showing you 2 alternative edges which work for plain and patterned fabrics:

  • simple fold: folding a small seam allowance to the back and securing it
  • raw edge: simply stitch over the cut edge

There’s nothing to prepare for the raw edge 🙂

For the folded edge, you can either fold a small seam allowance (6mm //1/4 inch – for synthetics or fraying fabrics more) as you stitch along, or you can pre-crease it. I prefer pre-creasing as it speeds up the sewing process.

On a strip of cardboard (or folded photocopy paper) I mark the seam allowance with ruler and pen. I use this line as a guide for folding and finger pressing the crease or for ironing (especially when using synthetic fabrics that don’t hold the creases well).


Securing a folded edge

I hold the strip of fabric so the seam allowance is on the reverse and I face the right side of the fabric, but you can just as well turn it around so you can better see the seam allowance.

Fasten your thread at the beginning and end with a small buttonhole stitch. We’ll cut off the thread ends once we’ve inserted the ribbon in the hexie.

Securing with Running Stitch

This is the simplest way: Just stitch a line of Running Stitches along the edge. Make sure you catch the seam allowance on the back – 3mm // 1/8 inch distance to the fold is perfect.

Securing with Whip Stitch

Start at the left or right end of the strip, whatever works best for you.

Depending on how far from the fold you insert the needle, you’ll get a different result. You can even enclose the whole seam allowance in the stitch.


For all samples I used Pearl Cotton Nr. 5.

Different threads will give different results, as will different stitch length, distance to the edge or tension.

Just play around to see what you get 🙂

Click on images for larger size


  1. Folded edge. I pulled the stitches very tight – can you see how the fabric rolls up into a sort of scalloped edge? The first few stitches are normal length and about 3mm // 1/8 inch away from the edge, the later stitches are about three times as long and at 6 mm // 1/4 inch distance to the edge.
  2. Folded edge. Normal stitch length, normal tension, 3mm // 1/8 inch from the edge.
  3. Folded edge. Very dense stitches, normal tension. The first stitches catch only a few threads of the edge, with the later ones the distance varies. I like these irregular stitches for a “flowery” look.
  4. Raw edge with normal stitch length, normal tension, about 3mm // 1/8 inch from the edge. It’ll fray a bit more with washing.
  5. Folded edge with Running Stitch.

Your task today

Turn at least one strip of fabric into a ribbon for use with a Trefoil Hexie.

Next time

Tomorrow = Day 4 I’ll show you how to embellish a Trefoil Hexie with a ribbon or the strip you made today.

Apart from that, you’ll need one Trefoil Hexie, sewing thread, a sewing needle and scissors.


Saturdays and Sundays are for catching up – “Day 5” will therefore be on Monday. I’ll show you then the first alternative for the center of your hexies.

In the meantime, your “homework” will be to embroider – as much as you want – all 3 or 4 hexies you cut on the first day and to embellish them with ribbons (or not, whatever you prefer).

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.

{Note: This Sunday I won’t be near any internet access, which means I’ll reply to comments on Monday.}

Have a good weekend 🙂


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 🙂