The Continental Stitch

Continental stitch diagram

The Continental Stitch

This is a very basic short diagonal stitch which many of you might think of as a half-cross stitch. However, it differs from a half-cross stitch in how it’s worked.

In these illustrations I’m using plastic canvas, yarn and a large needle. It’s much easier to see for demonstration purposes - but I will reference ‘gauze’ and ‘floss’ throughout.

Refer to the other tutorials for silk gauze as needed before starting. At the bottom of the page, you can click on a photo gallery for larger images.


The continental stitch produces a diagonal stitch on the back side (instead of the short vertical stitches made by the half-cross) and therefore gives you better coverage. In this photo, notice that the two stitches look very similar from the front.

continental stitch


But from the back, you can see the denser coverage of the continental stitch in the lower block of stitches versus the short vertical stitches on the back of the tent stitch.

continental stitch - reverse side


We’ll start by working horizontally, moving across the ground mesh/fabric from right to left. Come up in the lower left corner

continental stitch


Stitch up to the right over one intersection of the silk gauze mesh and insert your needle back into the gauze.

continental stitch


Your next stitch up through the gauze will come up one thread to the LEFT of where you began the first stitch.

continental stitch


Again, move up to the right over one mesh intersection and go back down into the gauze.

continental stitch


This crossing 'over' on the back creates a longer diagonal thread on the reverse side and contributes to greater stability and better coverage.

continental stitch


You can rotate your work to back the other direction when filling a small area or working in rows. In fact, if you are left handed, you might prefer it turned another way - just be sure your stitches are all going in the same direction.
Repeat by bringing your needle up in the lower left of the stitch.

continental stitch


Your needle, once again, goes back down at the upper right of the stitch. Try to avoid coming up in already filled holes where you can, but it won't always be possible.

continental stitch


To work a vertical row from top to bottom, begin again by bringing your needle up in the lower left corner.

continental stitch


Stitch up to the right over one mesh intersection.

continental stitch


The next stitch will come up one thread below where you started the previous stitch.

continental stitch


You move up and to the right again to complete the second stitch in the vertical row.

continental stitch


Rotate your piece as needed and don't over-think it too much. Focus on keeping the direction of your stitches consistent.

continental stitch


In addition to the design elements, you may also want to outline the perimeter of your design with the continental stitch. This is particularly helpful if there is a contoured border or shape such as the top of Oh My Soul or any of the silk berries. By stitching your design elements outer edges now, you simply fill in the background with basketweave stitches and you are no longer counting!

The Continental Stitch Copyright 2020. Original counted thread designs by Linda Stolz for Erica Michaels Designs.

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