/ / How To Split Stitch By Hand

How To Split Stitch By Hand

Free Resources | Stitch Library

The split stitch is a very handy and versatile stitch. You can use it as an outline stitch or fill shapes by stitching rows of split stitch next to each other. Split stitch almost looks like chain stitch but is finer. Ideal to stitch finer detailed designs.

how to split stitch by hand

Good For

  • fine detailed designs such as lettering and stems for leaves and flowers
  • outlining satin stitched shapes and long and short stitched designs to ensure a smooth outline and help raise satin stitched shapes.

Split stitching can be a little tricky at first. You split the thread on the fabric surface with the needle from underneath. So you are unable to see where you come up. But with a little practice you can master this soon.

Split Stitch Length

how to split stitch by hand

Try and keep the stitch length the same to achieve an even result. Look at your design and plan ahead. If you have a curved design make the stitches smaller to avoid stitches gaping.

Take a look at image to the left. The stitches on the right are too long for the curve, as a result the stitch line looks jagged.

If your design has straight lines the stitch length can be slightly larger. My stitch length tends to be around 2-4 mm depending on designs. This is my personal preference and in time you will find what works best for you. Give it a go and have fun!

What Embroidery Threads And Needle To Use

In principle you can use all embroidery threads. Twisted embroidery thread such pearl cotton or crewel wool works well. The thread keeps its shape and does not separate such as stranded embroidery thread. This helps for a neater stitch.

TIP: If you use stranded cotton make sure to use at least two strands of thread. Otherwise it can be difficult to split the embroidery thread as it is so thin.

I would either use a crewel or chenille needle, as you will need a sharp tip to pierce the thread.

Split Stitch Sequence

I tend to work either from top to bottom or vise versa. If it helps you can turn your work if required while stitching. But, there is nothing to stop you to stitch from left to right or right to left. Do what is most comfortable for you.

Before you get started mark you design and secure your thread with a holding stitch. I have some handy tutorials to show you how to transfer and mark your design as well as how to secure your thread. Click on the highlighted links to click to the tutorials.

How to split stitch by hand

Stitch 1 – After you have secured your thread bring the needle up through the fabric and your marked line. Pull the thread through.

how to split stitch by hand

Stitch 2 – Then take the needle down a little further along the marked line. Aim to keep the same stitch length for the rest of your embroidery piece. But please don’t beat yourself up if there is some variation, your piece is handmade.

how to split stitch by hand

Stitch 3 – Then take your needle up through the fabric, halfway along your first stitch. You split the embroidered thread in the process.

Tip: If you are using a seat hoop or a floorstanding frame you can use your finger at the back of your work to guide your needle. This makes it easier to pierce the thread in the right place.

how to split stitch by hand

Stitch 4 – Then take the needle down into the fabric further along the stitch line. Use the same stitch length as you did for the first stitch.

how to split stitch by hand

Stitch 5 – Then take the needle up again through the fabric, halfway along the second stitch and at the beginning of the first stitch. Continue with stitches 1-3 until you have completed your design.

how to split stitch by hand

Just a quick tip before I let you go how to finish your split stitch when you stitch other shapes and stitches meet at an angle

When taking the final stitch I simply angle the needle ever so slightly under the existing stitch. This will ensure that thread lies very tightly against the other stitch and ensures there is no gap.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful.

If you have a question or comment leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Stitching!

For other tutorials on easy hand embroidery stitches click on the links below:

How Close A Split Stitched Circle 

How To Stem Stitch By Hand

Similar Posts


  1. You do such a neat, precise craft. It would be impressive to see your gallery of art. I enjoy your instructions and as a retired teacher I know how much work you go through to display the different steps of each stitch. I am sort of a beginner and am embroidering a non-traditional jean jacket with my own designs. It is like a story of my life in that it includes many of my favorite things as well as a sampler of stitches. I combined it with machine applique and feel comfortable except with the back. The back top third is a flower garden and I hope to make it dimensional where possible. ( For ex. a hydrangeas’ flowers are controlled loose loops) My question is what stitches would you recommend for the appearance I’m going for? I want to include a variety of flowers for the colors, textures and impact. If you have time I would love to hear from you – a designer AND mother is always busy. Thanks anyway for your contributions to society Cheers! LaVada

    1. Hi LaVada,

      First of all, so sorry I missed your comment, you may already have found your stitches. Love your idea, sounds wonderful. I love using machine applique, it makes things a bit quicker and it has its own style. As it is a wearable item it is important that stitches are not too long, as otherwise, it is easy to snag a thread if it is caught. I probably would not exceed 0.5 cm if possible. While great for flowers I probably would stay away from knot stitches such as french or colonial knots. If you use them, make sure they are stitched tight not loose. Good stitches to use would be stem stitch, chain stitch, heavy chain stitch, blanket stitch, seeding stitch, satin or laid stitch, woven wheals, turkey rug stitch for raised appearance, and silk or tapestry shading. I have listed stitches from easy to more difficult. I always suggest to do a practice run of stitches so you know how each stitch works and your thread/needle/fabric behaves. Any questions, just ask.

      Happy Stitching!
      Heidi xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *