How to make an embroidery stitch called chicken scratch

Written by alyssa ideboen
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How to make an embroidery stitch called chicken scratch
The chicken-scratch embroidery stitch works best on thin gingham fabric. (ricamo punto maglie image by Dario URSO from

The chicken-scratch embroidery stitch is called by many names. Also known as depression embroidery, gingham lace, Amish embroidery or snowflake lace, this stitch works best on thin gingham fabric between with 1/8- and 1/4-inch sized checks. Embroidery floss or thread helps create the chicken-scratch stitch and it works as a decorative stitch around appliques. This stitch functions as a type of double cross stitch, which gives the effect of snowflakes on fabric.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Embroidery needle
  • Thread or embroidery floss
  • Scissors
  • Checked gingham fabric
  • Embroidery hoop

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  1. 1

    Choose fabric and floss. For a snowflake-like pattern, choose light floss and a dark fabric. A lacy effect occurs with a dark-coloured floss on contrasting light fabric. The chicken-scratch stitch can be done in one colour of floss or multiple colours. Embroidery floss with two to four strands shows up best on gingham fabric. Cut the floss between 20 and 25 inches long.

  2. 2

    Cut the fabric to the appropriate size for your project. Place the fabric within the embroidery hoop and fasten the hoop. The fabric should remain taut. Reposition the hoop as needed, and loosen the hoop when you are not working. A tight hoop can cause a permanent crease in the fabric that is hard to remove.

  3. 3

    Knot the floss at one end. Thread the needle, leaving a long-enough tail to keep thread from falling out. Beginning with an eight-check square, embroider four double cross stitches at each corner check of the square. Sew an "x" across one of the checks. Sew another "x" shape, this time crossing the previous "x." There should be eight points in the completed double cross stitch. Complete this process four times, with a double cross stitch in each corner check of the square. An empty check should be in the space between each finished stitch.

  4. 4

    Sew a simple running stitch in the empty squares next to the completed cross stitch squares. There should be two vertical stitches and two horizontal stitches to complete a cross shape with an open check in the centre of the pattern.

  5. 5

    Insert the needle in the uppermost hole of the lowest vertical running stitch. Weave the needle and floss under the running stitches to form a circle around the centre square. Finish by pulling the thread through into the same hole that you started with. Knot the floss closely to the fabric and snip the thread. This completes the basic chicken-scratch embroidery design.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep thread tension taut and smooth. Avoid pulling too hard on stitches to avoid puckering in the fabric.
  • Use caution when working with sharp implements such as scissors and needles.

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