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What Is a Straight Stitch?

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  • Written By: Britt Archer
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2016
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A number of methods exist to embellish fabric and one of the oldest is embroidery, with art and embellishments created by using a needle and thread. Each design is comprised of many stitches. At their simplest, stitches involve pulling the thread through the fabric. Straight stitch, or flat stitch embroidery, utilizes stitches that are not crossed, looped or otherwise manipulated.

Straight stitch embroidery is a method or style of embroidery in which a threaded needle is pulled through fabric in a linear fashion. Stitches in this manner lay side by side and may touch. Straight stitches never cross the path of another stitch. The running stitch is the most basic type of straight stitch. A threaded needle is pushed through the fabric at one point and inserted back down through the fabric at another point a short distance away.

The holbein stitch or double-running stitch is another stitch type used in this type of embroidery. A line of running stitches is worked before turning the fabric. The embroiderer then works another line of running stitches over the first, filling in the gaps left by the first line of stitching. Straight stitch embroidery, particularly the holbein stitch, are abundant in a high-contrast style of the art known as blackwork embroidery, where the embroidery stitches are created using a single dark color thread, usually black, on a light or white background.

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Straight stitch techniques can be executed by both hand and machine, making them both versatile and a viable starting point for beginning needleworkers. Even basic sewing machines not equipped to handle embroidery can execute this stitch type. The versatility afforded by straight stitches does not compromise their impact on a finished design. When used in a well-planned design, straight stitches can have a phenomenal visual impact.

Most straight stitches are used to outline designs. Once the outline is worked, the design is filled in using more elaborate stitches. An exception to this is the satin stitch. Multiple straight stitches of varying lengths are worked side by side to create a thick, dense filler for a design.

Straight stitch techniques have a purpose outside of embroidery. Straight stitches are used to darn socks and other knits. Darning a hole keeps the knit fabric from unraveling further, as well as filling in the hole. Straight stitches used in darning are functional, but may also be used to embellish or decorate the item. Also, straight stitches worked by hand or machine are used in general sewing to hold two pieces of fabric together to create garments, accessories and other crafted items. The backstitch, for example, is a sturdy stitch that mimics the form and technique of machine sewing.

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