Step by Step – Whipped Backstitch

After a comment made on Facebook about wanting to know how to do whipped backstitch, I have taken the plunge and launched head first into my first step by step instructional post! It could of course be my last, but I’m thinking, if there is interest, and I am comfortable with the stitch, that I will expand the range a little. And you never know, maybe there  will be a video or two in the future. As this is my first attempt at anything remotely like this, I would really appreciate your honest feedback!

So, on with whipped backstitch!

The first step is really up to you, but I drew in a design line. I was hoping for a candy cane like shape – I almost got it I think! If you don’t need a design line, don’t use one!

the design.jpg

To start the backstitch, secure your thread (I used a waste knot, but you can use a knot on the back of the fabric as well – completely up to you!). Come up on your design line, a stitch length away from the end of your line.

starting backstitch

What is a stitch length you ask? Firstly, something you are comfortable with, and will be able to stitch reasonably consistently.

Secondly, something you can fit your needle under! This point is really important when stitching whipped back stitch (trust me, I learned the hard way!). Whilst nice little petit stitches might look fabulous, if you can’t get your needle comfortably under them with the whipping thread, it is not only difficult, but it also distorts the backstitches when you are whipping them.

checking the stitch width

Thirdly, I wouldn’t make them too long, anything much more than half a centimetre will probably be a bit too long, and you will have trouble keeping the tension correct.

Take your thread down at the beginning of your design line, and there you have it – your first backstitch!

To make the second stitch, go up on your design line above the first stitch, as close as possible to the same stitch length as the first, and back into the same hole as you started your first stitch.

starting the second stitch

Continue on your merry way along your design line, keeping the stitches as even as possible. Don’t worry if they aren’t exactly the same length – the whipping does ‘correct’ this somewhat, but as even as possible. And, as your mother, kindergarten teacher and everyone in between probably told you – practise makes perfect! I find my stitching is much better when I find the rhythm of the stitch. This currently seems to mean that my initial stitches are too small, and as I work the slightly longer ones are much more consistent. So, something for me to definitely work on!

If you have curves to deal with (like on my ‘candy cane’), it’s worth trying to remember this at the beginning, so your stitches don’t suddenly get a lot smaller when negotiating the curves.

I know that is probably way too much information on this, most people know how to do backstitch – I got a little carried away sorry!

To whip the backstitch, bring your thread up at the bottom of the design line (or the top if that’s how you prefer to work!). I  find it much easier to use a tapestry needle to whip the backstitches, but if you don’t have one on hand, you can use your regular needle, and just be super careful not to snag anything with the point of the needle, or turn your needle around, and use the eye of the needle to whip the stitch (trying to not hurt yourself with the tip of the needle).

Carefully thread your needle under each backstitch, between the backstitch and the fabric (so you are not going to the reverse of the fabric except to start and finish off your thread), and pull through gently. You don’t want to pull too tight, the whipping stitch should sit nicely around the backstitches.

starting to whip

This next bit is probably the most important bit – it doesn’t matter which way you whip the stitches (inside to outside, outside to inside, up to down, down to up etc), but it must be consistent the whole way through your design line.

whipping detail

If you don’t do this, you will be weaving your backstitch, not whipping it, and this is what it looks like:

whipped the wrong way

And that’s it! Continue to whip along your design line, remembering to always go in the same direction (in this example outside to inside). When you reach the end, take your needle to the back of the fabric in the same hole as the end of the last stitch, and secure. This is the only time your thread and needle sees the back of the fabric – the rest of the time they are whipping between your fabric and your backstitch only.

My finished result sort of looks like a candy cane. By using different coloured thread you could get some really lovely effects. If you wanted it to more closely resemble stem stitch, use the same colour for both the backstitch and the whipping.

completed example.jpg

This is a really nice, easy and effective stitch, and works up in no time!

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6 thoughts on “Step by Step – Whipped Backstitch”

    1. I have never done anything like this before, so it’s good to hear that you found it useful and what you like about it. Thanks for the feedback!

  1. Betty Macpherson-Veitch

    Thank you Catherine. I am a new embroiderer and appreciate seeing in detail how you did this stitch. Now I have a new stitch to use. I really enjoy seeing how you are doing different projects.

    1. I’m glad you found it useful Betty! I’m currently designing and writing up a couple of beginner projects, so I will be adding more stitches in the next month or so. If you need help with any other stitch, do let me know!
      I hope you enjoy your embroidery journey, and do let me know if I can help in any way

  2. Maritza Ruth Burgos

    What a great blog / tutorial! :)?.Thank you for sharing your passion and skills.I am also a newcomer to the stitching sisterhood, it’s a wonderful, beautiful way to unwind and exercise your creativity. I find embroidery and particularly the older traditions, such as Jacobean, the most challenging .
    So I am so happy that I have found your site.
    Many kind regards from a fellow stitcher,in beautiful chilly Melbourne ?

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and your kind comments! I hope you find my site useful in helping you on your new and exciting journey of hand embroidery. You are right, it is s great way to unwind!
      If I can help in any way, just let me know! I’d be than happy to help out if possible.
      I used to live in Melbourne, so I know how chilly it can get. Keep warm!

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