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Step stitch icon
Step stitch

  • Ladder stitch
Step stitch main image

This band stitch is heavier than most band stitches, and consists of the side rails and rungs of a ladder, with a line of chain stitch worked through the centre of the rungs.  It is formed by two parallel lines of chain stitch which are joined by horizontal stitches to form the rungs of a ladder.  The first half of each rung is overcast then a chain stitch is worked across the current and previous rung before the rest of the rung is overcast.


This stitch first appears in publications in the early 20th century.

This stitch is awaiting a sponsor.


Draw two parallel guidelines the length of your area and mark the start and end of each step before you start.
A heavy thread works well for this stitch; if desired the chain stitch edges can be worked in a different thread from the rest of the stitch. 
With the exception of the first rung, the thread only pierces the fabric at the start and end of each rung.
To work an even stitch, count how many wraps of thread are required to cover the first half rung and replicate this number throughout.


Starting at the bottom of each guideline, work a line of chain stitch to cover each guideline.  Keep your chain stitches as even as possible.


Starting towards the bottom, bring your needle up on one guideline inside the chain stitch where the first rung has been marked and take it down straight across on the other guideline.


Bring your needle up on the same guideline and make another horizontal stitch to form the next rung of the ladder.  Continue working parallel stitches back and forth to fill the design area.


Bring your needle up at the left hand end of the top rung of the ladder (inside a chain stitch) and take your thread over the rung of the ladder. Without piercing the fabric, wrap your thread under the ladder and pull taut.


Continue wrapping your thread in this way until you reach the centre.


Take your thread over the rung of the ladder and through the fabric a short distance up.


Bring your thread up through the fabric just below the centre of the rung of the ladder and continue wrapping - this time wrap in the opposite direction by taking your thread under the rung first and then back over the top.


Continue wrapping until you reach the end and then take your needle down through the centre of the chain stitch on the right hand side


Move down to the next rung and, bringing your needle up on the left hand end, wrap the rung until the centre.


This time, take your thread over the rung of the ladder, under the straight stitch from the previous rung and then back over the current to rung to recommence wrapping.  Do not pierce the fabric and remember to reverse the direction of the wrapping.


Continue working the rungs of the ladder in this way.


A finished line of step stitch.

Step stitch

Common uses

Embroidery Techniques


  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.77
  • Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.64
  • Muriel L Baker, Stumpwork: the art of raised embroidery (1978) , p.99