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The (Not So) Exhaustive Guide to Underlay Stitches

When it comes to embroidery underlay stitches, do you really need to know every detail? Nope. There are only a few things you need to know about this tactic for producing excellent embroidery design. Here are the basics of underlay for anyone looking to gain insight on this valuable embroidery skill.

What is Underlay?

Embroidery underlay is an extra layer of stitching under your main design. There are six different types of underlay:

  1. Contour/Edge Walk: a running stitch near the outer edge of top stitching layer. It helps to create a smooth edge for satin stitches by acting as an anchor for define the edge.
  1. contour-edge-walkPerpendicular/Center Walk: a narrow line of stitching through the center of a column (think lettering) to provide lift in the center.
  2. Parallel or Zigzag: a zigzag or run stitch that only travels once down the center of a column. Great for fleece or terry cloth.
  1. parallel-zigzagDouble Zigzag: Similar to parallel or zigzag, but with as second layer offset to the first. Used for more structure or plush fabrics.
  1. double-zig-zagLattice/Tatami: acts as a filler stitch under an area of fill stitches, usually applied at a 45 or 90 degree angle to your top layer of stitches.
  1. latticeFull Lattice: a lattice design that is applied in two directions (rather than just one, like the lattice/tatami), creating a thicker base of underlay. This is especially effective for hiding the color of the fabric under the design, especially if you are using a thread color that contrasts with your fabric contrasting thread color.

Why Underlay?

Underlay performs a similar function to stabilizer backings : the base layer of stitching beneath your final design thickens the fabric and prepares your fabric for the intricacies of your design. Underlay will also secure your stabilizer to the back of the fabric, so you don’t have to worry about bunching.

In addition, underlay creates texture and depth in your design, even lifting your design off the fabric. The underlay stitching can also keep the color of the fabric from showing through your final design.

How to Underlay?

Most home and commercial embroidery software has an underlay function. Decide on the underlay needs of your design, and choose one of the six underlay options or a combination.

Then get embroidering!

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