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Stab stitch icon
Stab stitch

  • Applique stab stitch
Stab stitch main image

This tiny stitch has many purposes: it can be used to apply a fabric slip by sewing small discrete stitches around the edges, to anchor two pieces of fabric together or to attach beads.  The common attribute is that the stitches are small and not necessarily in a line or forming pattern. 

When used to attach applied fabric, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Applique stab stitch’.  For using it to start and finish a thread, see the entries for Holding stitch and Finishing stitch.

Stab stitch is generously sponsored by Pauline Hannon

Stitch supporters: Pauline Hannon.


A variety of fabrics can be applied in this way.
For height and variety in a design try using a bugle bead for the base bead, or adding three small beads to act as stopper beads instead of just one.

Stab stitch method stage 1 photograph

This image of stab stitch shows how small straight stitches can be used to apply another fabric. The needle is brought up through the base fabric at the edge of the fabric to be applied. The needle is then taken down through both fabrics just inside the applied shape.
For more information about applying felt, see the entry for felt padding.

Stab stitch method stage 2 photograph

Bring the needle up through the fabric and thread your chosen base bead onto the needle. Now thread on a smaller bead to act as a stopper and take the needle back through the base bead (but not the stopper bead).
Draw the thread through to secure the beads: the stopper bead will nestle in the top of the base bead.
For more information about using this stitch, see the entry for spangles held on with purls

Stab stitch method stage 3 photograph

Small stab stitches are used here to consolidate two different fabrics. The fine silk layer is a background to the embroidery design which has been stabilized with stab stitches to a more durable layer of calico underneath.

Structure of stitch

Common uses

This simple stitch is really useful either for securing a single bead which works well as the centre of a circular motif, or for applying one piece of fabric to another.


  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.385
  • Kay Dennis, Stumpwork embroidery : techniques, projects and pure inspiration (2014) , p.113