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Is the running stitch outdated?

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Secrets of the running stitch, how to make it and its history


Running stitch in embroidery
Running stitch

Running stitch, some people use the term darning stitch (although, the darning stitch is method of repairing fabric), is a method of decorating fabric. The book Embroidery Stitches by M. E. Wilkinson (published 1912) states that running stitch is used in quilting, as well as in making frills or rouching.


In last years, sashiko is gaining in popularity in the west, therefore is it important to note, that running stitch is the basis for this form of Japanese embroidery.

“The Japanese word sashiko means ‘little stabs’, or running stitch. Originally this simple stitch was used as a practical technique to quilt together several layers of loosely woven fabric for strength and warmth.”

writes Hiromitsu Takano in the book Japanese quilting, Sashiko. Furthermore, this prizewinning embroiderer describes the development of sashiko in the 18th century. He also mentions that the firemen that had their coats decorated with sashiko.

“The decorated side was designed to be worn on the inside, except on special occasions, and the patterns often included dragons or warlike human figures.”

You can find a wonderful farmer's coat in sashiko embroidery in the V&A museum webpage.

If you are interested in sashiko, I recommend checking out Wattssashiko page


Deana Hall West from Piece Work Magazine writes, that there were examples of running stitch found among Nazca people and in Egypt. After researching the stitch, I absolutely agree with her that running stitch is a stitch used in sewing and embroidery in many cultures across the world.


The makers of the Bayoux tapestry are said to have used various stitches, running stitch, satin stitch, buttonhole stitch and cross-stitch among others . This stitch was used on Coptic textiles beginning in 1st century CE, as well as in Mamluk textiles approximately 300 years from middle 13th century onwards. Double running stitch or Holbein stitch was also very prevalent.


In Slovenia running stitch was used in stitching embroideries in clothing decoration and on headdresses. It can be clearly seen in a photo found in the Slovene ethnological museum (SEM) where it was used to contour tulip flowers and other smaller blooms.


As well as in a stitch on the shoulder in the photo of a coat from the permanent exhibition in SEM (second photo). The stitch is made with a long visible part of the stitch and a smaller, invisible part of the stitch on the other side of the garment.


Another interesting example comes from the National Museum of Slovenia, where there is only a hint of running stitch on one of the chasubles to show Christ’s chest and stomach (the last photo).


And now my experiments with running stitch.


It was interesting to sew it from the side, as I had to leave the room for the camera directly above the hoop. So, sorry, sorry, sorry because the stitches look a bit (a lot) uneven.



Image shows various thicknesses of cotton and silk embroidery threads.

From left to right:

6 threads - 1 strand cotton (Anchor thread, colour no. 133)

3 threads cotton

2 threads cotton

1 thread cotton

6 thread cotton

1 thread tightly twisted silk (De Vere Yarns, colour Droplet 36/59)

1 thread floss silk thread (Piper’s Silks, colour Royal Blue)


Next time, we will see how to transform the running stitch to something fabulous :)


Is this stitch useful? Share in the comments.


The post is edited and republished from the old website.

The links are only informative and I do not receive any financial or other gains if you decide to buy at the link mentioned.

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