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Wave stitch icon
Wave stitch

  • Looped shading stitch
  • Closed wave stitch
Wave stitch main image

This stitch consists of rows of looped stitches where the thread is passed through the preceding row.  The alternative name ‘looped shading stitch’ presumably refers to the fact the stitch is often shown worked in rows which get progressively lighter or darker.

The example shown here is stitched openly in order to show the process clearly, but in reality the loops are worked closely side by side.

N.B. Some modern authors call this Wave filling, but we have retained the original name of Wave stitch to avoid confusion with Wave stitch filling (pulled thread). The stitch is first documented in the 1920s and 1930s by Mrs Christie and Mary Thomas.

Wave stitch is generously sponsored by Mid Atlantic EGA


The stitch was been worked more widely spaced than it would be normally, in order to clearly see the method.


Start by filling the top row with straight stitches.


Bring the needle up at the base of the second row, and pass the thread under the straight stitch above without piercing the fabric.


Take the needle down at the base of the second row to form an open version of detached chain stitch. Bring your needle back up right next to where it went down.
Continue to the end of the row.


Start the third row from the right hand side again. The first loop is worked in the same way, but for the second loop pass the thread under the adjacent legs of two stitches on the previous row.


Continue in the same way, but for the last loop, pass the thread under the single thread above.


Work the next row in the same manner. You can change the colour of each row for shading purposes.


Continue working wave stitch until the required area is filled.

Wave stitch

Structure of stitch

Related Stitches


  • Mrs Archibald Christie, Samplers and Stitches (1921) , p.29
  • Mary Thomas’s Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches (1934) , p.206
  • Jennifer Campbell, Ann-Marie Bakewell, Guide to Embroidery Stitches (2004) , p.135
  • Betty Barnden, The Embroidery Stitch Bible (2003) , p.117