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A satin stitch, also called a damask stitch, is an embroidery technique of side-by-side stitching used to fill in shapes such as flower petals. Long-and-short satin or damask stitching is done on large or uneven shapes to create an overall shaded, satiny look when stitched with several shades of the same color of embroidery thread. Satin techniques are often combined with other embroidery stitches such as the stem, running and chain stitch and the French knot. Satin stitches may be made by hand or machine. They can be presented in projects as raised or flat.
Flat satin stitches are placed directly on the fabric, while raised varieties have a layer of stitching underneath. The base layer may be created by making a damask or satin stitch pattern in the opposite direction as the top one, or other stitches may be used such as chain stitching. Chain stitching consists of bringing the needle up to split apart the end of the last stitch to form a link-link shape. By continuing this stitch to fill in embroidery project areas such as the base of a tree, an interesting overall texture is created.
When the raised satin stitch is applied over the chain or other base stitching, the bottom layer doesn't show, but rather a padded look is created for the flower petal or other motif. When padded satin flowers are combined with flat stem stitching and leaves done in a running or other stitch, the bloom can stand out in an interesting way. Quite often, French knots are used to make the pistils, which are the dot-like shapes at the end of flower stamens. Like satin stitches, French knots are raised, but unlike them, they are made by looping embroidery thread around the needle before securing it on the fabric.
Beginning embroiderers should first practice satin stitches on smaller, even shapes such as on little circles inside a butterfly motif project. Each satin stitch should be placed right across the entire circle to stop at each edge. There should be no gaps in the side-by-side satin stitches, as the end result should be completely smooth. These types of satin stitches of the same length are also fairly simple to do on a sewing machine with embroidery settings.
Long-and-short satin stitching is a bit more difficult as well as time consuming to master, as it involves stitches of different lengths and shades of the same basic color scattered over a large or uneven shape. For example, to make a large blue balloon look more realistic in an embroidery design, the long-and-short satin stitch technique may be used with navy along the left edge turning into medium and light blues. More whitish-blues may be used in long-and-short satin stitches near the top and center where the light would naturally hit the object.
Projects with a lot of satin stitches are not for the faint of heart. I've looked at more than one such kit and left it in the store because satin stitches are so time-consuming. They require absolute attention to detail that no other embroidery stitch requires.
Make no mistake -- they are useful and look great when well executed. The satin stitch is used for hand embroidery and even monograms. Some sewing machines will do a satin stitch, but I don't think they look as good as the stitches done by hand, the old fashioned way.