Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Bloggin' - Chicken scratch introduction

Summer Bloggin' on &Stitches

In this week's Summer Bloggin' post, Bridgeen will introduce you to the wonderful world of chicken scratch embroidery! It's a lovely, summer-y style, so grab yourself some gingham and let's get started!

Bridgeen Gillespie, aka Cherry and Cinnamon, is an illustrator with a passion for hand embroidery and fabric design. You can visit her at

Blog: Cherry and Cinnamon
Twitter: @Cherry_Cinnamon
Shop: Cherry and Cinnamon

Such an ugly name for such a pretty technique, don’t ya think? Chicken scratch is a kind of cross stitch worked on gingham with roots in the depression era (1930’s) and often used to embellish aprons and home wares. Traditionally the stitches are worked in white, with outlines or details in the colour of the gingham’s darkest check- to create the optical illusion of lacework.

For this post I’ve created a modern take on this old favourite, using a smaller check than usual, and multi-colours. As in traditional Chicken scratch the filling stitches are worked in white, and the outlines worked in colour. The stitches are simple! All you need are:
Straight stitches, (these always occur in the medium shade check),
A double cross stitch – worked in white thread on a coloured check, coloured thread on a white check, and
The circle is created by weaving the needle under the straight stitches (do not pick up any fabric).

Create the outline in colour first, then stitch the inner ‘outline’ in white, next add your running stitches, first vertically, then horizontally, and finally add your circles remembering to return the needle where you started.
Tip: I’m showing the letter ‘o’ in this photo tut, it’s the one letter where I broke the rule on the coloured stitches around the outside. I missed off the stitch at each corner to give the ‘O’ a more rounded shape. All the other stitches followed exactly the same rules as below.

Here is the pattern for the letter ‘H’. I haven’t created a pattern for the entire word, because really its basic counting to work out the shapes, and stitching to the simple rules of which type of stitch fall on which colour check. (You can use the photo of the finished piece as your guide.) All the letters are 17 checks tall, and the stem/limb of each letter is 5 checks wide, and I’m using gingham with a tiny 3mm square. So if you’re using a bigger gingham be prepared for this to get huge. I’ve coloured the straight stitches and circle stitches in black so you can see them easily – you will be stitching them in white of course.

Tip: It’s a good idea to count your squares first and ensure you have enough space for the whole word. I left a one check gap between each letter, and from the first stitch to the last horizontally (including the gaps) ‘Hello’ is 63 squares long.

There’s even did a little freehand embellishment if you want to try it? Sprinkle some little flowers around the word randomly – use a coloured double cross stitch for the centre, (I’ve stitched mine on white), and four lazy daisy stitches on either the light or dark check surrounding it.

I also freestyled on another traditional chicken scratch stitches to make this ‘floral’ motif.

I hope you try it out, and what ever you make, do be sure to share your photos in the &Stitches flickr group.


  1. Very pretty!

    I have a chicken scratch quilt from my Grandma (who made one for each of her grandchildren). It's a little more old-fashioned than this, but really lovely anyway.

  2. this technique is so pretty. thank you for sharing the tutorial with us.. i will try it.. :D


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