Long and short stitch - embroidery how-to, quick video, and step by step guide

What is the long and short stitch and how do I use it?

The long and short stitch is a series of straight stitches that interlock to fill in a larger shape. This embroidery fill stitch allows for a smooth transition of colors, giving the piece a blended effect. Whereas the satin stitch does a good job filling in small areas, the long and short stitch works great to fill in larger areas. In the Stitching Raccoon Sampler (below), the long and short stitch is used for the tulip flower and changes colors near the top. 

Image of long and short stitch used in the Stitching Raccoon Sampler as the tulip

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Long and short stitch diagram

Below is what a typical diagram for the long and short stitch may look like in an embroidery pattern or on other how-to pages. 

Diagram for the long and short stitch

See the long and short stitch in action

Follow along with this quick video to see how each step of the long and short stitch comes together.

Step-by-step instructions

Now, let's walk through each step in the long and short stitch together.

Step 1: Begin by drawing evenly spaced lines with a pencil horizontally across the shape you want to fill in. These lines will help guide the length of each row of stitches.

Image of stitching the long and short stitch

Step 2: For the first row, work along the edge of the shape, making stitches next to each other that alternate between short and long. Use the lines as a guide, stitching from the edge of the shape to the first line and then from the edge to the second line, creating long and short stitches. The short stitches should be about half of the length of the long stitches.

Image of stitching the long and short stitchImage of stitching the long and short stitch
Image of stitching the long and short stitch

Step 3: Now, to complete the second row, use all "long" stitches, making sure you match up with the ends of your first row of stitches. This will fill in the space created by your short stitches as well as keep the alternating long and short effect. If shading colors, be sure to change to a different color with the start of a new row.

Image of stitching the long and short stitch
Step 4: Continue creating rows until you reach the opposite side of your shape. The second to last row should touch the opposite edge of your shape. 
Image of stitching the long and short stitch

Step 5: To finish, fill in the empty spaces with short stitches. 

Image of stitching the long and short stitch
Image of stitching the long and short stitch

Save it for later

Want to remember how to do the long and short stitch? Pin the image below to Pinterest as a quick reference for later!

Long and short stitch diagram for Pinterest

Give it a try, you can do it!

Now it's your turn to grab a needle, some embroidery floss, and give it a go! Practice the long and short stitch, along with other basic embroidery stitches, in the Stitching Raccoon Sampler. Get the embroidery pattern for FREE by signing up below!

Finished Stitching Raccoon Sampler

Watch the LIVE stitch along of the Raccoon Sampler with Alyssa and the Penguin & Fish family here!

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