Chain stitch is a sewing and embroidery technique in which a series of looped stitches form a chain-like pattern. Chain stitch is an ancient craft - examples of surviving Chinese chain stitch embroidery worked in silk thread have been dated to the Warring States period (5th-3rd century BC). Handmade chain stitch embroidery does not require that the needle pass through more than one layer of fabric. For this reason the stitch is an effective surface embellishment near seams on finished fabric. Because chain stitches can form flowing, curved lines, they are used in many surface embroidery styles that mimic "drawing" in thread.
Chain stitches are also used in making tambour lace, needlelace, macramé and crochet.
Chain stitch is also a technique used to shorten rope or cable for storage or while in use; see Chain sinnet.
Chain stitch and its variations are fundamental to embroidery traditions of many cultures, including Kashmiri numdahs
, Iranian Resht
work, Central Asian suzani
Kalotaszeg "written embroidery",, Jacobean embroidery
, and crewelwork
Machine sewing and embroidery
Chain stitch was the default stitch used by early sewing machines
; however, as it is easily unraveled from fabric, this was soon replaced with the more secure lockstitch
Machine embroidery in chain stitch, often in traditional hand-worked crewel designs, is found on curtains, bed linens, and upholstery fabrics.
Variations of the basic chain stitch include:
- Back-stitched chain stitch
- Braid stitch
- Cable chain stitch
- Knotted chain stitch
- Open chain stitch
- Petal chain stitch
- Rosette chain stitch
- Singalese chain stitch
- Twisted chain stitch
- Wheat-ear stitch
- Zig-zag chain stitch
Kalotaszeg embroidery at MagyarMuseum.org
- Virginia Churchill Bath, Needlework in America, Viking Press, 1979 ISBN 0-670-50575-7
- S.F.A. Caulfield and B.C. Saward, The Dictionary of Needlework, 1885.
- Mrs. Archibald Christie. Samplers and Stitches, a handbook of the embroiderer's art, London 1920, 1989 facsimile: Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-4796-6, or online at Project Gutenberg
- John Gillow and Bryan Sentance: World Textiles, Bulfinch Press/Little, Brown, 1999, ISBN 0-8212-2621-5
- Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., March 1992, ISBN 0-89577-059-8