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Ladder stitch (surface) icon
Ladder stitch (surface)

  • step stitch
Ladder stitch (surface) main image

This stitch consists of long parallel stitches (the rungs of the ladder), with short angled stitches at each end to form the side rails of the ladder.

Ladder stitch dates back to medieval Egypt, as it appears on an embroidered fragment from between the 13th and 16th centuries, held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The museum holds several pieces which feature this stitch: a 17th century coif from England, an 18th century skirt border from Crete and an 18th/19th century suzani (embroidered textile) from Uzbekistan.

N.B. the name ladder stitch is used to refer to various stitches: open chain stitch, ladder hem stitch, slip stitch, step stitch.  There is also a pulled thread version of ladder stitch.

Ladder stitch (surface) is generously sponsored by Northern Ireland Patchwork Guild

Method

1

Bring your needle up at the top left hand side of your design area, and take it down on the right hand side to create a long stitch.
Bring it back up just above this long stitch, slightly in from the right edge, and down again on the right edge below the long stitch.

2

Bring your needle up on the left edge of your design area, just below the start of the long stitch.
Slide your needle diagonally under it to make a loop, making sure your needle is above your working thread. Pull taut.

3

Moving to the right edge, insert your needle from the right side under both the short diagonal stitch and the long stitch. Do not pierce the fabric and pull taught.  This forms the second rung of the ladder.

4

Take your needle down on the right edge below the long stitch, keeping the spacing similar to the previous stitch.

5

Bring your needle up on the left edge below the long stitch.  Slide your needle diagonally through the previous loop.  Pull taut.

6

Moving to the right edge, insert your needle from the right side under both the previous short diagonal stitch and the long stitch and pull taught.  This forms the third rung of the ladder. 
Continue in this way.

Ladder stitch (surface) method stage 7 photograph
7

A finished sample of ladder stitch.

Ladder stitch (surface)

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques

References