Split Stitch – Easy Embroidery Tutorial

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Split stitch is exactly what its name describes.  A stitch that has been split by the creation of the next stitch.  It is a perfect stitch for outlining or creating a line within a design. It is very easy to do and can have varying lengths according to your design.  It is a simple, straight stitch.

Split StitchPinSplit Stitch


Split Stitch TutorialSplit Stitch SuppliesSplit Stitch vs Backstitch vs Chain StitchHow to Do Split Stitch Step by Step InstructionsStep 1 – EnterStep 2 – Exit DownStep 3 – Split the ThreadStep 4 – Next StitchStep 5 – SplitSplit Stitch UsesSplit Stitch – In ConclusionMORE EMBROIDERY ARTICLESSplit Stitch EmbroideryToolsMaterialsInstructions

Split Stitch Tutorial

To create split stitch, the needle is inserted from the back of the work to the front, through the middle of the existing stitch.

Split Stitch Supplies

THREADS – Multiple strands of thread are required in order to split the stitch. Choose an embroidery thread with six strands. This is the most popular thread because an even split of three threads at each side is possible.  The split stitch has a corded effect and is perfect for many embroidery designs.  FRAMES – Like most embroidery designs, this stitch is most easily done with your fabric on a small frame either in wood or plastic. This holds the fabric tight making it easier to split the threads. FABRICS – Suitable fabrics include calico, cotton, linen and Aida. These open weave fabrics make it easy to insert thicker threads. An embroidery needle will be needed to thread thicker threads through the eye. This can be made easier using a needle threader.

Further Reading:

Embroidery ToolsHow to EmbroiderHow to Use a Needle Threader

Split Stitch vs Backstitch vs Chain Stitch

Split stitch is an outlining stitch like backstitch and chain stitch embroidery. Compared to backstitch, the split stitch looks more raised and rope-like. It is not as wide and open as a chain stitch.

 Split Stitch vs Backstitch vs Chainstitch Split Stitch vs Backstitch vs ChainstitchPinSplit Stitch vs Backstitch vs Chain stitch

How to Do Split Stitch Step by Step Instructions

Here is a quick guide to doing split stitch and below is the step by step instructions in more detail.

Split Stitch InstructionsSplit Stitch InstructionsPinSplit Stitch Instructions

Step 1 – Enter

From underneath, bring the needle up at (1)

Step 2 – Exit Down

Put the needle down at (2) a short distance away. The length of the stitch is determined by the length of the thread of the upper stitch. 

Step 1 and 2 of Split StitchStep 1 and 2 of Split StitchPinStep 1 and 2 of Split Stitch

Step 3 – Split the Thread

Bring the needle up from underneath at (3). The needle is brought through the middle of the existing stitch. 

Step 3 of Split StitchStep 3 of Split StitchPinStep 3 of Split Stitch

The split stitch is formed by coming up through the back of the fabric and into the stitch previously made.  If you have 6 strands, 3 strands should be on either side of the needle. You don`t need to count the threads each time as that would be way too hard, but just be aware that the needle should be in the middle.

Step 3 of Split StitchStep 3 of Split StitchPinStep 3 of Split Stitch

Step 4 – Next Stitch

Repeat for the next split stitch. Put the needle back down at (4)

Step 4 of Split StitchStep 4 of Split StitchPinStep 4 of Split Stitch

Step 5 – Split

Come up in the middle of the stitch at (5) which is in the middle of the previous stitch.

Step 5 of Split StitchStep 5 of Split StitchPinStep 5 of Split Stitch

The principle behind the split stitch is that each stitch is split by the needle whilst creating the next stitch. Split stitch is worked in a similar motion to a backstitch. 

How to Do Split StitchHow to Do Split StitchPinHow to Do Split Stitch

Split Stitch Uses

Try split stitch on these outlines and designs:

Monograms, embroidery letters and outlining names.Simple messages and samplers.Outlining embroidery flowers especially the rose.Outlining embroidery leaves and adding detail to designs. Split stitch can be used to fill in, as well as outline the design.A lovely way to create a border around a small medallion or framed image.Add little details to a picture after the embroidery is complete.  Use the outline where you feel the design could be highlighted and uplifted.

Here is my little bird embroidery done in a split stitch. See how thick and ropey the outlines look. It is a lot more 3 dimensional than if I`d done the bird in a backstitch.

Split Embroidery Stitch DesignSplit Embroidery Stitch DesignPinSplit Embroidery Stitch Design

The beauty of split stitch is the many areas it can be used on in different projects. 

The thread is variable too.  Split stitch always needs multiple strands to work the split, but you can try threading the needle with two different colors and the results will be very interesting.  It could give a shaded effect using two slightly different shades or a striped effect with two contrasting colors.

Here are some variations. In the image below –

First Row (light blue) – 12 strandsSecond Row (navy) – 6 strands with short stitch lengthThird Row (pink) – 6 strands with long stitch lengthSplit Embroidery StitchSplit Embroidery StitchPinSplit Embroidery Stitch

Split Stitch – In Conclusion

Don’t let the simplicity of the split stitch prevent you from being innovative and creative with this easy-to-work outlining or filling in stitch.  Look at the shapes and lines of your design and plan some creative moves.  The plain stitch of the embroidery palette may just surprise you with its versatility and creative genius.


BackstitchBlanket StitchButtonhole StitchChain StitchChevron StitchCouching StitchCross StitchDouble Herringbone StitchHow to EmbroiderFaggoting EmbroideryFeather StitchFern StitchFishbone StitchFly StitchFrench KnotsHand Embroidery StitchesHerringbone StitchLazy DaisyRunning StitchSashiko EmbroiderySatin StitchSeed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)Stem StitchStraight StitchWeb Stitch | Embroidery TutorialWhip StitchEmbroidery LeavesEmbroidery FlowersHow to Transfer EmbroideryEmbroidery LettersEmbroidery ToolsLong and Short StitchSplit Stitch

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Split Stitch Embroidery

How to do split stitch with an easy step by step tutorial for beginners.

4.8/5 – (33 votes)

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Difficulty: Easy Beginner

Keyword: Embroidery and Hand Sewing

Total Time: 5minutes


ScissorsEmbroidery NeedleEmbroidery Hoop


Embroidery Floss


Bring the needle up from underneath at (1) and go back down a short distance away at (2). Split StitchSplit StitchPinBring the needle up again in the middle of (1) and (2) at (3). This should be in the middle of the threads so you have an equal number on each side.Split StitchSplit StitchPinPut the needle back down at (4).Split StitchSplit StitchPinFrom underneath, bring the needle up through the middle of the stitch at (5). Once again the needle should be through the center of the threads. Split StitchSplit StitchPinRepeat in a line. Split StitchSplit StitchPin

4.8/5 – (33 votes)