How to fill in embroidery

You find yourself in a comically confusing situation as you attempt to figure out how to fill in embroidery. With a half-finished embroidered masterpiece in front of you, you feel like a clueless artist facing a blank canvas. You ask your craft-savvy friend for advice, but their instructions are as clear as mud.

In a desperate attempt, you grab a handful of embroidery floss and start randomly stitching, hoping it magically fills in the design. "Maybe it's like coloring with thread," you ponder optimistically. But alas, your artistic intuition fails you, and your embroidery looks like a tangled mess.

In a last-ditch effort, you consult every crafting blog and tutorial on the internet, but the jargon and techniques leave you scratching your head. "Stab stitch? Satin stitch? What's next, a stand-up comedy stitch?" you joke in frustration.

Finally, after hours of trial and error, you stumble upon a beginner-friendly video tutorial. Armed with newfound knowledge and determination, you dive back into your embroidery, focusing on filling in the design with confidence.

As you stitch away, you can't help but laugh at your bumpy embroidery journey. Who knew filling in a design could be so perplexing? But through the mishaps and laughs, you've learned that sometimes, the best way to conquer a crafting challenge is with a healthy dose of humor and a willingness to try, fail, and try again.


Embroidery is a timeless and intricate art form that allows crafters to create beautiful and detailed designs using colorful threads. One essential aspect of embroidery is filling in the design, which adds depth, texture, and visual appeal to the finished piece. However, the process of filling in embroidery can be both exciting and challenging, especially for beginners. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various techniques and valuable tips to help you achieve masterful results when filling in embroidery.

Understanding Embroidery Fill Stitches

Embroidery fill stitches, also known as filling stitches or surface stitches, are used to fill in the shapes and spaces within an embroidery design. These stitches cover the fabric's surface, creating a solid, colored area that enhances the overall aesthetic of the piece. There are several types of fill stitches, each offering its unique characteristics and appearances. Some common fill stitches include:

  1. Satin Stitch: A smooth and glossy stitch that creates a solid, continuous surface with a shimmering effect. The satin stitch is ideal for filling small, narrow areas in a design.
  2. Long and Short Stitch: This stitch is often used for shading and blending colors, creating a realistic and gradient-like effect.
  3. Brick Stitch: A staggered stitch that resembles the pattern of bricks, perfect for covering larger areas efficiently.
  4. Split Stitch: A variation of the backstitch, the split stitch creates a solid, smooth surface that is great for outlining and filling.
  5. Seed Stitch: A random pattern of small, scattered stitches that adds texture and visual interest to the filled area.
  6. Cross Stitch: A popular stitch used for filling in embroidery designs, especially for creating intricate patterns and motifs.
  7. Running Stitch: A simple and quick stitch that can be used for basic filling, especially in less detailed areas of a design.

Selecting the Right Thread

Choosing the right embroidery thread for filling in your design is essential for achieving the desired outcome. Factors to consider when selecting thread include color, thickness, and texture. Here are some tips for selecting the perfect embroidery thread for filling:

  1. Color: Opt for threads that complement the overall color scheme of your design. Consider using variegated threads for added visual interest or blending multiple colors to achieve shading effects.
  2. Thickness: Depending on the size of the area to be filled, choose threads of an appropriate thickness. For small, intricate areas, use finer threads, while thicker threads work well for larger spaces.
  3. Texture: Some threads have unique textures, such as metallic threads that add a sparkling touch or wool threads that provide a soft and fuzzy appearance. Choose threads with textures that enhance the visual appeal of your embroidery.

Preparing the Fabric

Before filling in your embroidery design, it's crucial to prepare the fabric properly to ensure clean and even stitches. Follow these steps to prepare the fabric:

  1. Hoop the Fabric: Stretch the fabric taut and smooth it over the embroidery hoop. Ensure that the fabric is secured tightly to prevent wrinkles and puckering during the embroidery process.
  2. Use Stabilizer: Depending on the fabric type and the complexity of the design, consider using a stabilizer. Stabilizers provide support to the fabric, reducing the risk of distortion during stitching.

Mastering Embroidery Fill Techniques

Once your fabric is prepped and your thread is selected, it's time to dive into the embroidery fill techniques. Here are some step-by-step instructions for mastering common fill stitches:

Satin Stitch:

  • Start by bringing the needle up from the backside of the fabric at the beginning of the shape to be filled.
  • Take the needle down on the opposite side of the shape, creating a straight stitch across the width of the area to be filled.
  • Continue stitching parallel straight stitches close together until the entire shape is filled.
  • For a smoother finish, make sure each stitch lies neatly against the previous one.

Long and Short Stitch:

  • Start by working rows of long stitches in one color across the area to be filled.
  • Then, work short stitches in a different color, overlapping them with the long stitches to create a blended effect.
  • Continue alternating between long and short stitches until the area is filled, adjusting the length and direction of stitches as needed to achieve a gradual transition.

Brick Stitch:

  • Begin with a horizontal row of straight stitches across the bottom of the shape.
  • In the next row, stagger the stitches to create a brick-like pattern, with each stitch falling between the stitches in the previous row.
  • Continue stitching rows, alternating the staggered pattern until the area is filled.

Split Stitch:

  • Bring the needle up from the backside of the fabric at the beginning of the shape to be filled.
  • Make a small straight stitch forward.
  • Bring the needle up from the center of the previous stitch, splitting it in half.
  • Repeat this process, working closely spaced stitches to fill the shape.

Seed Stitch:

  • Bring the needle up from the backside of the fabric and make a small stitch.
  • Take the needle down close to the starting point, creating a seed-like stitch.
  • Repeat this process, spacing the stitches randomly to fill the area.

Cross Stitch:

  • Start by bringing the needle up from the backside of the fabric at the lower left corner of the area to be filled.
  • Take the needle down at the upper right corner, creating a diagonal stitch.
  • Bring the needle up at the upper left corner and down at the lower right corner, forming an "X."
  • Repeat this process, working closely spaced diagonal stitches to fill the area.
  1. Running Stitch:
  • Bring the needle up from the backside of the fabric and make a straight stitch.
  • Take the needle down at the end of the stitch, creating a dashed line.
  • Repeat this process, working closely spaced straight stitches to fill the area.

Tips for Seamless Filling

Achieving seamless and polished embroidery fill requires attention to detail and precision. Here are some additional tips to ensure your filling stitches look immaculate:

  1. Maintain Consistent Tension: Keep the tension of your stitches consistent throughout the embroidery process. Too loose or too tight stitches can lead to uneven filling.
  2. Watch the Direction: Pay attention to the direction of your stitches, especially in complex designs. Ensure that all stitches follow the same angle for a uniform appearance.
  3. Use an Embroidery Hoop: Embroidery hoops help keep the fabric taut and prevent fabric distortion, resulting in even and smooth filling stitches.
  4. Practice on Scrap Fabric: If you're new to embroidery or trying out a new fill technique, practice on scrap fabric before working on your final project. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the stitch and adjust your tension and spacing as needed.
  5. Take Breaks: Embroidery can be a meticulous and time-consuming process. Taking short breaks during the filling process can help you maintain focus and prevent frustration.
  6. Embrace Imperfections: Remember that handmade embroidery is a craft, and a few imperfections can add character and charm to your work. Don't be too hard on yourself; enjoy the creative process and the joy of stitching.


Filling in embroidery designs is a fundamental skill that allows crafters to breathe life and character into their creations. With a diverse range of fill stitches and a selection of quality embroidery threads, you can achieve stunning and masterful results.

Whether you're a novice or a seasoned embroiderer, mastering embroidery fill techniques takes practice, patience, and a willingness to experiment. With the knowledge and tips provided in this guide, you're well-equipped to embark on your embroidery journey with confidence and creativity.

So, thread your needle, secure your fabric, and dive into the art of embroidery filling. Let your imagination soar as you create beautiful, textured designs that captivate and enchant viewers for generations to come. Happy stitching!

Annabel Buser