November 15, 2015

Tutorial: Otomi Embroidery stitch

Recently we featured some beautiful Otomi Embroidery (check out this post) which got us really inspired. So today, I’m following up with a tutorial for this stitch, so that you can create your own Otomi Embroidery!


What is Otomi Embroidery?
It looks like satin stitch but it’s actually a super-narrow herringbone type stitch. For me, there are two main benefits of this stitch vs satin stitch. 

Unlike satin stitch you always work with your thread on the top side of your fabric, whereas with satin stitch, your stitches on the underside are as long as the top side. While this gives a nice rich, finish, it also uses twice as much yarn as this Otomi stitch. So, Otomi stitch is comparatively very economical.

Likewise, because you’re always working just on the top side of your fabric, it makes stitching super fast – and lets be honest, it’s more rewarding to see your work materialise in front of you quickly and it keeps you motivated! 

Okay, let’s get started…

What you need:
Just the basics really….

  • an embroidery hoop
  • an embroidery needle
  • embroidery thread
  • a chalk pencil or soluble marker
  • woven fabric suitable for stitching – I’m using linen for this because it has a lovely open weave for easy stitching…

Full 6 ply embroidery thread doesn’t given a good finish, so split your thread in 2, so that you’re working with just 3 strands at a time.

This stitch is used to fill shapes, so in this tutorial, we’re going to work on 2 different types of designs – a small single leaf and a larger flower shape.

How to stitch Small Designs
To start with, you need to draw a basic shape onto your fabric – in my case a leaf. Then secure your fabric inside your embroidery hoop.

To get started (and to keep the underside of your work extra tidy), secure your thread on the top side of your fabric, rather than using a knot. 
To do this, you insert your needle through a couple of threads, pull through to nearly the very end so you just have a very short tail left (see the image below right) and then stitch back underneath to secure this in place. 

We’re going to work from left to right (for us right handed folk)… So, take your thread over to the upper most left hand point of your design, in this case, it’s the left hand point of my leaf.
You just need to pick up a couple of threads – I recommend 2 to 3. Then, still inserting your needle right to left, stitch on the adjacent bottom edge of your design… 

In my case these first 2 stitches are going to be very close together, because I’m working a pointed leaf shape. But if we were stitching a larger shape, for example a rectangle, you still follow the same process, your stitch will just be longer.

Then, all you need to do is repeat this process, going from the top edge to the bottom edge of your design, with your needle entering right to left… essentially you’re creating really narrow figure “8’s” with your thread…

 You can see in the above that I usually pick up two threads of fabric. I’ve found that this gives the neatest finish. If you pick up just one, the thread folds directly back on itself, creating a point, rather than the “top loop” of an 8. If you pick up 4 or 5 threads, you’ll have quite an open stitch design, i.e. the “top loop” of your 8 will be quite wide, rather than a close satin stitch type finish.

Before you know it, you’ll have finished your shape… You can just weave your thread back under your stitching to secure it and then trim the end – again it keeps your work nice and tidy compared to knotting the end on the underside.

Quick and easy, right? 

How to stitch Large Designs
Using larger stitches can cause a couple of problems – your tension is harder to keep consistent so you could start creating some looser threads, making them easy to catch and wear – particularly if you use your final embroidery work for something like a cushion which will have a lot of wear. 

So, instead larger Otomi embroidery designs are traditionally broken up into rows of stitching. Personally I find that the maximum length I want to work with is about 20mm, but on the whole, I keep them under 15mm.
By breaking up large areas like this, you also add some interest and texture to your design. You can also change your stitch direction for different areas if you want them to catch the light differently and of course, you can use one colour or a variety of colours for the different panels. 

You can see what I mean in these stunning cushions above, left (available from Casa Otomi) and right (available from Furbish).
The pink arrows on the blue cushion shows the different stitch directions that have been used to help define the forms.

So, on to giving this a go ourselves…

I’m starting with a simple flower shape, inspired by a similar flower I found on an existing Otomi embroidery design.
To begin with, think about which way you want your stitches to run. 
I’ve looked at across the petals, or from base to tip… to me the later makes more sense, so this is what I’m going to go with…

But, this is still going to mean using quite long stitches, so I’m breaking this down further into smaller sections, shown by the dotted lines. This is going to give my shape more interest and definition – as well as keeping my stitching under control.

From there, we start off just as we did above… anchoring the first stitch in place in area of your design that you will later stitch over and hide. 
From there we start at the top left hand side edge of the shape and start working from left to right, top to bottom, just as we did above… now you can just follow the photos….



How easy was that? No excuses not to give this one a go and just think of the possibilities…

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial – feel free to share it and make sure you let me know how your stitching went on the form below!

Sarita x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

14 thoughts on “Tutorial: Otomi Embroidery stitch

  1. Sarita

    Hola, un gusto conocerte!
    Espero que puedes seguir el tutorial bastante bien, dime si necesitas la traducion de algo.
    Mi gustaría conocer Mexico!

    Hi, nice to meet you!
    I hope you followed the tutorial okay, if there's anything you'd like me to translate let me know.


    1. Post author

      Thanks Diana!! You are welcome!
      Feel free to let me know what you make (, I would love to see your design ?

  2. Pingback: 7 puntos para llevar tu bordado un paso más allá | La Vida en Craft

  3. Tara

    I am struggling figuring this out. Is there any way you would make a quick video and post it on youtube? I have searched and there are literally NO videos showing how to do this stitch.

    1. Post author

      Hi Tara, thanks for the suggestion!!
      I don’t have a video available right now but I’ll be in touch once I’ve added one.
      In the meantime, just remember that you’re always keeping you always insert the needle in the opposite direction to the direction you are stitching in (as counter-intuitive as that sounds!). So if you’re filling in a shape working left to right, your small pick up stitches will be made by inserting the needle from right to left. It’s almost like you’re working backwards.
      Thanks, good luck and I’ll be in touch!

      1. Tara

        Hi Sarita! Thank you so much for responding and for making this tutorial. I think I finally have it. My stitches still don’t seem to be figure 8s but I am able to keep the bulk of my thread on top of the work. I have wanted to learn this for so long. Thanks!!!!

  4. Cindy

    Thanks for this great tutorial! I just got back from Mexico and picked up several Otomi panels for pillows and framing. I want to give this a go myself though! I’m going to try a Paloma (my daughters name)
    I will link back to you when I share it on my blog! Thanks again!

  5. Chris

    Do you always keep your thread above each stitch you make? Not sure how the 8 comes about without moving the thread…?

    1. cafacollective

      Hi Chris,
      Sorry for the delay in reply!! If you refer to the 3rd stitch diagram/image, you’ll see how you always want to insert your needle right to left (assuming you’re right handed), whether you’re stitching at the top edge or your shape, or at the bottom edge. In the right hand photo in the image (leaf), you’ll see how this ends up forming a crossed loop as you stitch, which looks like a figure 8. Hope this helps, but let me know if I can clarify this further for you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *