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Sinhalese chain stitch icon
Sinhalese chain stitch

  • Singhalese chain stitch
  • Singalese chain stitch
Sinhalese chain stitch main image

Sinhalese chain stitch resembles a whipped open chain stitch, although the working method is different.  Two parallel long threads are laid the length of the design line (like the side rails of a ladder) and the open chain stitch is worked around them.

Mrs Christie says that the stitch is found on the traditional embroideries of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) - hence the name of the stitch (the Sinhalese people are one of the ethno-linguistic groups of Sri Lanka).


Generously sponsored by Robin Bolton for his wife Rosemary on their Golden Wedding Anniversary.


This stitch can be worked in a single colour, or two colours, one for the side rails of the ladder and the second forming the rungs and also weaving around the side rails.  You will need a separate thread for the side rails even if you are using a single colour; cut this thread to twice the length of the line which you want to work, plus about 15cm for finishing off.  If the side rails work loose as you stitch, they can be tightened by pulling slightly on their tails. 

The stitch can be worked as a couching stitch over ribbon or braid as well as a stitch in its own right.


You will need two parallel guidelines.  Do not fasten on your thread.  Take your side rails thread down into the fabric just beyond the end of one guideline and bring it back up at the end of the guideline.  Leave a long enough tail so it can be fastened off later.


Take your thread down at the start of the same guideline and bring it back up at the start of the other guideline.


Take your thread down at the end of the second guideline and back up just beyond it.  Make sure you have enough thread so it can be fastened off later.


Bring your main thread up just inside the top end of one side rail.


Take your thread over the side rail and then slide your needle under both side rails to form a rung of the ladder.


Bring your thread over the second side rail and take it through the fabric at the top end (level with where the first thread emerged).  Keep your thread quite loose.
This is your first chain stitch.


Bring your needle up inside both the chain stitch and the side rail.  Tighten your thread against the needle, allowing enough thread for the second side of the chain stitch.


Take your thread under both side rails.


Bring your thread over the second side rail and take it through the fabric, just inside the previous chain stitch.  Keep your chain quite loose.


Bring your needle up inside the chain stitch you have just finished and continue in the same way.


To finish the stitch, anchor the last chain with two small stitches.


Take the ends of the side rail threads to the back of the fabric and finish off.

Sinhalese chain stitch

Structure of stitch

Embroidery Techniques

Variant Stitches

Identifying Sinhalese chain stitch

To distinguish Sinhalese chain stitch from a whipped open chain stitch, look at how the two threads along the length twist together. The laid threads in Sinhalese chain lie flat and straight and the chain stitch threads are angled over them.  When open chain stitch is whipped along both edges, the whipping threads intertwine evenly: if they are the same colour, it can’t be easily determined which is the chain stitch thread and which is the whipping thread.


  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.43