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Long & Short Stitch Tutorial

Long and Short Stitch is the go-to stitch for filling in LARGE areas, when the area is too big to cover with Satin Stitch. It is also used to create shaded effects using threads of different tones.


I'm demonstrating this stitch with one of my embroidery kits (available here) where the flowers are designed to be filled with Long and Short Stitch, using 3 different tones of pink thread for the flower petals. You can see one flower filled using the stitch below.

If you wish to fill an area using a single colour, simply ignore the changes in thread colour and stitch as directed.  If you have a design you want to fill with shaded colours then mark the different areas on your fabric with a fabric pen to use as a guide. Example shown below >>>

To begin, you sew straight stitches lying side by side (the same as Satin stitch). These straight stitches are to alternate between a longer and a shorter stitch. (Photo 1 - 3). The lengths you decide to make this long and short stitch will really depend on the area you wish to fill, and doesn't need to be strictly measured....the important part is that your long and short stitch have a noticable difference in size. If you have drawn a guide line you can take the short stitch to the line and the long stitch a couple of mms past the guide line.

Stitch alternating long and short stitches side by side until your first row is complete.(Photo 4)

L_and_S_1 long_and_short_stitch_collage_1 long_and_short_stitch_3_small long_and_short_stitch_collage_2 long_and_short_stitch_demo

Unlike what the name suggests, the first row is the only row that uses short stitches, and the alternation between different lengths. From this point on you are using the longer size of stitch only.

To create the second row, sew a row of long stitches by taking your needle to the end of each previous stitch sewn in row 1 (photo 5 - 7). Effectively these long stitches are slotting into the spaces made from the first row, and create a staggered 'brick like' effect.

You will notice in Photo 7 that there are some spaces between the 'bricks' (stitches), this is easily solved by returning along the row and adding long stitches into the gaps. (7i) You want these added stitches to be staggered slightly again from the other stitches, to continue with the 'bricklike' effect. The next row you stitch will continue as described before, where each long stitch begins at the endpoint of the previously sewn stitch, slotting into the spaces (8 & 9)

An illustration is shown below that demonstrates clearly the 'bricklike' effect created by the alternating size of stitches in the first row, and the staggered effect using the long stitches in the continuing rows.

You will notice the direction of stitches must also be considered, so they fit into the space being filled, much like Satin stitch.

Continue in this way until you have filled in the area. You can make the shading more refined by dividing up the area into more sections, and using threads which have a more subtle change of colour tone between each section. You could also use fewer strands of thread when stitching (the demo photos were done using 3 strands of thread).


It is worth remembering that this stitch works best when the stitches are staggered and not perfectly equal in length. Slight variations in length (even when they are all supposed to be 'long') helps create the merged/ smooth effect we are after.



The bear wings are an example of a large area being filled with long and short stitch------->