Pekinese Stem Stitch



When I add hand stitching to my painted fabric, I want the stitching to stand out. Today, I want to show you my latest stitch combination experiment. I call it Pekinese Stem Stitch.

[Tweet “Bored with Stem Stitch? Dress it up with a Pekinese-style wrap!”]



Start with stem stitch

In traditional embroidery, Pekinese Stitch begins with a Back Stitch. I prefer to start with Stem Stitch. I’m using size 8 perle cotton for this example, but you can practice this with just about any thread you have on hand.



Bring thread up from the back

To begin the Pekinese wrap, bring the accent thread up from the back of the fabric in the middle of one of the long stitches. At this point I switch to a tapestry needle with a blunt tip.



Pass needle under stitches where two stitches overlap from top to bottom

Skip the stitch next to the working thread. Pass the needle under the stem stitch where two stitches overlap. Pull the needle through, leaving a small loop in the working thread.



Pass needle under stitches and under the working thread

Moving back to the left, pass the needle under the stem stitch and the working thread. Again, you want to go under the stem stitch where two stitches overlap.



Pull thread snugly and move on to the next place where two stitches overlap

Pull the working thread snug (but not too tight!) and move to the right to the next place where two stitches overlap. Pass the needle under the line of stitching and leave a small loop.



Again, pass the needle under stitches and under the working thread

Move back to the left, pass the needle under the line of stitching and under the working thread. Then keep going!



The Pekinese wrap adds dimension to the stem stitch

As you can see, the Pekinese Stem Stitch has more dimension than a plain Stem Stitch. The wrap adds depth and allows you to add accent colors to a plain line of stitching.

Why bother? Well… consider the case where you want to play with a Light Source in your composition. You can wrap the illuminated side of a shape with a bright color and the shadow side of the shape with a dark color. It’s all in the details!



Pay attention to the “over-under” pattern of the wrap if you change colors

Now… back to stitching… If you want to change the color of your wrap stitches, pay special attention to the over-under pattern of the wrap. It’s easy to create a little “oops” when you change colors like the one in the lower right corner of this photo.


Testing 1… 2… 3…



Test new stitch combinations on a practice piece of fabric

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s oh-so-tempting to jump right into a Real Project. But… I’ve learned that it really is worth the time to test new ideas like this Pekinese Stem Stitch on a separate piece of fabric.



In this case, I painted an extra copy of my design on a piece of test fabric. (You can see my paint process here.) It takes a bit of extra time and thread, but it makes the Real Project a whole lot easier!



For a wonderful video on the traditional Pekinese Stitch, click over to Mary Corbet’s Needle-n-Thread. Her site is my go-to resource for all things embroidery.

[Tweet “For stitch exploration, it pays to work on test fabric first.”]

Your Turn

So, what do you think? Is it worth the extra time and thread to create a Pekinese Stem Stitch? Do you have other ideas on dressing up a plain stem stitch? Chime in with a comment below. I love to hear what’s on your mind.


  1. Bev Swanson on April 27, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I love it! Thank you for sharing.

    • ShellyStokes on April 28, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      You’re welcome, Bev. I’m always happy to share my experiments.

  2. Terre Klipsch on April 28, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Great article and the pictures were wonderful. I’m always looking for new ways to spice up my fabric art. Thank you Shelly! I’ve been following you for years now.

    • ShellyStokes on April 28, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      Thanks, Terre! Stitching is a marvelous way to add some zip to painted images. The more I stitch, the more I love it!

  3. Kathy Maras on April 30, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I get a huge smile when I look at your painted talavera flourish. It will be a pleasure watching your project take shape. And I LOVE your rainbow of spools.

    • ShellyStokes on May 8, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Thanks, Kathy. I get a huge smile when I sit down to stitch. My rainbow of thread is less than a third of the whole collection of Wonderfil perle cotton. It will be nice to have the entire range to play with when we return to MN. 🙂