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Do You Outline Embroidery First Or Last?

When you’re starting an embroidery project, one of the first questions you may have is whether you should outline your embroidery first or last.

This question is a common one and there are a few factors to take into consideration when determining which stitch you should use first.

The short answer: it really depends on your preference. There are advantages to both ways, and here’s why.

Outline Vs Fill Stitches

First, I wanted to quickly go over what an outline stitch is, and what a fill stitch is.

Outline Stitches

back stitch embroidery

Outline stitches are generally thin embroidery stitches that are stitched end to end or chained together. They are commonly used for outlining shapes or stitching letters.

Some common outline stitches are:

Fill Stitches

long and short fill stitch

Fill stitches fill in an area. These stitches normally lay side by side or overlap one another.

Some common fill stitches are:

Should You Use Outline Or Fill Stitches First?

should you outline embroidery first or last
  • If your outlines are not near other fill stitches such as the satin stitch, either way will work fine. As you can see from the photo above, the black outline and the green sweater could be stitched in any order since they aren’t super close to one another.

When To Use Fill Stitches First

  • If you’re wanting to fill in an entire area with a fill stitch, you may find it easier to fill in the shape first and then do the outline stitch second. This makes it to where your satin stitches won’t snag the outline and it also allows you to hide any uneven edges of the fill stitches by slightly stitching overtop of them. The embroidery above was completed by making satin stitches first and then filling in the “ribs” of the sweater sleeve with a chain stitch.

When To Use Outline Stitches First

  • Some people find it helpful to make an outline stitch (i.e. running stitch or back stitch) before they fill in an areas with an embroidery stitch such as a satin stitch. This line of stitches acts as somewhat of a guide to where the edges of your stitches will end.
  • If you feel like you will have a hard time following the pattern or the stitches will obscure you’re view of the pattern, you may want to outline stitch first.

I hope this helped you in determining whether you should outline or fill first! If you’re unsure, try both ways and see which way is easiest for you.

Still looking to learn more? Check out these 9 embroidery tricks and some helpful beginner tips.