Sewing VS. stabbing. What is better?

sewing method of stitching stabbing method of stitching

You probably already have the answer! :)

If you don't know what sewing and stabbing methods of hand embroidery are... I think you're mistaken! :D To be honest, as long as you have some experience in embroidery, I'm almost certain that you've already come across both of them, and probably even have already used both of them. It's just that you might not be aware of these names.

So what is sewing and what is stabbing?

First of all, trick question. How are the two stitches below different from each other?

sewing method of stitching stabbing method of stitching

sewing method of stitching stabbing method of stitching

Don't cheat, think carefully!

If your answer was “there is no difference” then you're right!

And it is very important to understand. Sewing and stabbing are essentially just two ways of stitching, but they don't change the stitch and as long as you're careful, they won't affect the quality of stitching.

sewing method of stitching stabbing method of stitching

You can see here that stem stitch worked by sewing method and stabbing method looks the same.

But then, why do these two methods even exist??

Well, because embroidery has many faces and embroidery artists have different preferences.

One person will work a whole table cloth in hands, without a hoop and, in this case, they most certainly will use sewing method.

Another person prefers to have their fabric perfectly drum taut at all times and work in a frame or wooden hoop. They might find stabbing more convenient.

Characteristics of sewing method

  • Sewing means that while you're embroidering, the needle basically doesn't leave the surface of the fabric. It's almost always lying on top of it while scooping a bit of fabric to make a stitch.
  • More suitable for embroidering in hands (like sashiko), or be prepared that your fabric will get a bit loose in the hoop or frame.
  • If you stick to this method and get used to it, your stitching is likely to be neat. But if it is not something you do habitually, you will find this method easier to mess up.
  • If you practice it for some time, you will discover that this method is quite speedy.
  • Because there is more friction when pulling the thread, it is likely to wear down sooner.

Characteristics of stabbing method

  • Stabbing means that the needle is inserted into the fabric at a right angle and emerges from behind also at a right angle. The needle is traveling between the front side and backside.
  • More suitable for working with fabric that is drum-taut in a hoop or a frame.
  • When stabbing it is easier to keep your stitches neat. There are also opinions about how stabbing makes the stitches look more dimensional, which I have not noticed myself.
  • Stabbing takes a bit more time, because essentially it is at least a 4-steps movement (insert – pull through – bring up – pull through), while sewing is a 2-steps movement (scooping fabric – pulling through).
  • Because the needle travels through the fabric always through one hole and at a right angle, the thread you're using will wear down slower.

As for me...

I would like to underline that none of the methods is worse or better than the other. It's only a matter of taste and preference.

Personally, I'm a stabber. I even tend to work such stitches as a lazy daisy, chain stitch and bullion knot in a stabbing way which is not very common :D

Speaking of that, there are certain stitches that are simply more convenient to work with one method or another. So even if you like stabbing, when it comes to rosette chain stitch, for example, you will have no choice but to use the sewing method. And when it comes to French knots, you can't work them in any other way except for stabbing.

But if there are two options, I will go for stabbing.

First of all, it is a habit. It is not something that I chose, rather it came naturally. And I'm perfectly happy with it!

The “speed” factor doesn't play any role for me because my sewing definitely takes more time since I either mess it up and have to redo, or I just take my time eye measuring my stitches to make them neater.

Usually, I use sewing in two scenarios. The first one is for stitches that are more convenient to work that way. The second one is when I feel too lazy to use a hoop for some small stitching.

In all other cases, I would go for stabbing.

What about you? Do you prefer sewing or stabbing? :)


  1. I am not a regular embroiderer, so for a long time I didn't even realise you could use two different techniques.
    As I am not especially practised, I am definitely a 'stabber'. I apply myself to each stitch, hoping for a professional-looking finish (but never quite getting there), so the idea of someone completing an entire embroidery with the sewing method fills me with awe.
    Thank you for your blog, Amina, your stitch alongs look great !

    1. Hi, Kat!

      I'm also a "stabber for life!" :D I think majority are nowadays simply because it is the most convenient way of stitching in a hoop :)

      Don't be so harsh on yourself, I'm sure your stitches are great! It takes practice for your hands and eyes to get used to such a detailed work as embroidery :)

      Thank you for reading my posts! ❤


  2. Well truthfully speaking I didn't know about stabbing and sewing methods. I guess I do both sometimes. I'm learning. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Thta's normal, I use both as well, depending on situation :)

  3. I always used sewing method until my wrists started hurting 😥 so now I'm doing stabbing, it's bit slow but that's fine


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