Stabbing vs Sewing in Embroidery

Are you a stabber? You can admit it, I will not tell anyone. Stabbing your stitches I mean – of course – what were you thinking? I’m not talking about what you do when you hold your needle and someone runs over your embroidery floss storage spilling all your precious threads over the floor and in the delighted paws of your cat. No. I’m talking about the way you use said needle to form your embroidery stitches.

Stabbing vs Sewing in Embroidery

In embroidery like with every other thing on earth, there are multiple ways of achieving something.

The two major ways to embroider look like this:

The red one on the left is stabbing, the blue on the right is sewing. Can you see the difference?

Stabbing embroidery method

When you are a stabber, you pull the needle through the fabric every single time.

  • very slow compared to sewing as you pass the working hand over and under your fabric
  • neat stitches are achieved more effortlessly
  • the thread goes through less abrasion because it passes through the fabric at the best angle
  • you can use it for stiff surfaces and drum-tight tension fabrics (means: you stretched the fabric in the hoop as tight as a drum)
  • to make stabbing a faster process, you need 2 hands, one works from the top, the other picks up the needle and sends it back up (a stand comes in handy to hold the frame/hoop for you)
  • stabbing is easier on the finger tips
  • you can go as close as you want to the frame/hoop

Sewing embroidery method

On the other hand, there is the sewing method. This is the way I photograph my tutorials. For one, because I sew most stitches, second, because as you can see in the picture above, you need 2 pictures of stabbing to show 1 step in sewing.

  • faster than stabbing
  • stitches can become more slanted or sloppy if you are not careful
  • pulling the thread through in sewing comes at a much steeper angle than with stabbing. Also, it’s pulled through multiple holes at ones, which causes slightly more friction on the thread than with stabbing
  • the tension of your fabric has to be slightly looser. You need enough wiggle room to catch a stitch’s worth of fabric in one scoop
  • you can do most stitches with one hand easily (dominant hand does the stitching, other hand holds the frame/hoop)
  • pushing the needle through with your fingertip can cause irritation or hurt over time
  • sewing needs some space towards the frame, you can’t sew very close to it or the needle would stick into the frame

Which one is best?

This is totally up to you! There is no best way to embroider, but I must say that the stabbing method has a lot of pro’s while the sewing method’s great advantage is almost exclusively: speed. I do sew stitches most of the time (especially for looped stitches like chain stitch or feather stitch – it is so much faster!) but am thinking lately to switch over to stabbing more.

I personally have troubles with getting my stitches neat sometimes and stabbing really does make it much easier to create neat stitches more effortless.

So, are you a stabber?

I bet you already have a style of stitching and never thought about there could be more than one way to stitch things. So are you stabbing or sewing? Would you like to give the other method a try or are you set in your opinion? What pros or cons convinced you to do the method you are using right now – or maybe made you look into the other method? Leave a comment and let me know!


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Exploring the realms of hand embroidery brings me so much joy and on Pumora I love to share my knowledge and insights with you. I'm Anne and I live in rural Germany with my family and our 3 crazy cats.

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