Stem Stitch and Outline Stitch are NOT the same Stitch!

This is the first part of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America Group Correspondence Course, Shading Stitches by Judy Jeroy. The left side of the ‘flower’ is stitched in outline stitch, the right in stem stitch. The thread is DMC Medici, a lovely wool thread long since discontinued by DMC.

I had never believed that stem and outline stitch were really different stitches since the technique is the same, just reversed, but here is the proof. See how the outline stitch on the left makes distinctly separate ‘cords’? The stem stitching on the right when stitched as a single line makes a rope looking line with each stitch showing but the overall effect is a twisted rope rather than a cord like the outline stitch appears. In my practice stitching, I had noticed the difference but did not realize how different the two effects would work when the stitches were used to fill an area.

I’m somewhat convinced that the difference in the two stitches is the direction of twist in the threads. Most threads sold in the US are “S” twist and seem to untwist slightly as you stitch stem stitch, and twist more as you stitch outline stitch. Maybe I will see if a local spinner would make me some
“Z” twist wool thread so I can test to see if that would stitch the other way with each stitch!
For more information and tips on stem and outline stitch, see Mary Corbett’s Needle & Thread Blog, article “Tips on Stem Stitch & Another Embroidered Towel….”

So all of the stitching above has been removed. Not only was I not happy with the appearance of the two different stitches, I was also not happy with the limited range of shades I used for shading the petals. I found another set of greens with a wider and more subtle range of shades. I’m nearly a third of the way through stitching the ‘flower’ in stem stitch only and I am much happier with the result!

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