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Stepped fishbone stitch icon
Stepped fishbone stitch

​This canvaswork stitch is made up of diagonal bands of elongated cross stitches.  Each alternate band has either horizontal or vertical cross stitches: collectively this gives a fishbone effect.

Stepped fishbone stitch is generously sponsored by Elizabeth Hewitt



Begin with a vertical straight stitch over four threads of the canvas.


Cross this stitch at the bottom with a horizontal stitch across two threads of the canvas.


Start the next long vertical stitch one thread up and across to the right from the first.


Again cross it with a horizontal stitch across two threads of the canvas and repeat.


When enough vertical stitches have been worked, begin a horizontal row. For the horizontal row below the first vertical row, make a horizontal stitch across four threads of the canvas, ending it at the bottom point of the last vertical stitch.


Cross this stitch to the right-hand side of the horizontal stitch.


Working down and across one canvas thread to the left at a time, work a row of horizontal stitches.

Stepped fishbone stitch method stage 8 photograph

Continue alternating between vertical and horizontal rows.

Stepped fishbone stitch

Structure of stitch

Common uses

Stepped fishbone is ideal for filling an area with a clear diagonal line.

Embroidery Techniques

Identifying Stepped fishbone stitch

​This stitch is made up of alternate rows of the same crossed stitch turned horizontally and vertically.

The length of the long stitch can vary from row to row.


  • Various Authors, The Royal School of Needlework Book of Embroidery (2018) , p.107