Gingham embroidery (also known in the US as “chicken scratch”) is an easy, inexpensive, and fun way to dress up table linens, aprons, picnic gear, and even clothing. A few simple stitches worked in widely-available DMC threads is all it takes to create a light, lace-like illusion on gingham fabric.
You can apply the pattern included at the end of this article to any item you want to adorn with a little gingham embroidery, on any color of gingham you want to use. You’ll find that the pattern can be easily repeated and can be used on larger gingham checks, too.
Let’s get started!
If you choose a larger gingham check, you’ll need to adjust the weight of the threads that you use for your stitching, by adding more strands of floss or using a heavier thread. For larger checked gingham, you can substitute DMC pearl cotton balls (Art. 116) in sizes 8 or 12, depending on the size of the gingham checks.
For this tutorial and the accompanying samples, I’ve used 1/8” check gingham cotton, which can be found at your favorite fabric store. For the finished table runner below pictured here, I chose a watermelon-pink gingham.
The amount of fabric you need depends on what you want to make. For this small table runner, you’ll need half a yard of gingham and half a yard of high quality white quilting cotton for the back of the runner.
DMC Six Strand Embroidery Floss (Art. 117), one skein each, in the following colors:
- 891 watermelon pink (or, if using red gingham, try 321)
- 703 light green
- 910 dark green
- 310 black
- B5200 white
Optional: DMC pearl cotton balls or skeins, if using a larger check
- Assorted sizes of DMC Embroidery Needles (sizes 5-10)
- Assorted sizes of DMC Tapestry Needles (size 24 or 26)
- DMC Embroidery Scissors
- Fabric scissors
- DMC Transfer Pen (optional)
- Large white rickrack for finishing the short edge of the runner
Make sure to read through the instructions thoroughly before you begin stitching.
Decide where you want to place the decorative gingham embroidery on your project. If your project has a definite center, you’ll want to repeat an odd number of watermelon slices so that the center of the middle watermelon slice marks the center of your design placement.
For the table runner, I placed a mark on the fabric using a DMC Transfer Pen on the gingham square where I wanted the center of one watermelon motif to begin. This square is in the center of the short end of my fabric, about five inches into the fabric from the edge.
This is where I began to stitch, starting at the top center of the center watermelon in my design.
To maintain the integrity of this design on the gingham, it’s important to place the top center stitch of any watermelon slice on the lighter colored gingham square located between two white squares in the fabric, as shown in the photo above.
Use a hoop!
Placing your fabric taut in an embroidery hoop will help you avoid puckers. Use a hoop that is small enough to hold comfortably, yet large enough for at least one watermelon motif. With the 1/8” gingham, a 4’ or 5” embroidery hoop is perfect.
As you embroider across the design area, move your hoop to the next spot. The previous embroidery will be between the rings of the hoop.
ORDER OF WORK
Stitch all the watermelon slices out from the center motif to each side. The 16” wide runner required a repeat of 7 watermelon motifs to adequately adorn the short edge of the runner.
If your background fabric is red or watermelon pink and your thread for the flesh of the melon matches your background fabric, leave the dark gingham checks inside the watermelon shape blank, as shown in the photo above (and as indicated on the charted pattern included below).
If your background fabric is a different color from the flesh of the watermelon, fill the watermelon flesh shape completely with double cross stitches to provide a solid color for the watermelon flesh.
Stitch the flesh of the watermelon first.
Next, work the light green inside strip for the rind, followed by the darker green outer strip.
Work the watermelon seeds next. These are worked on top of the stitches already worked.
Next, work all the white background foundation stitches, which are double cross stitches and cross stitches.
When all the foundation cross stitches and double cross stitches in white are complete, work the green accent stitches around the edge of the design.
Finally, work the white lacing stitches through the foundation stitches to finish the lace-like effect of the background.
All embroidery for this sample is worked with two strands of DMC Six Strand Embroidery Floss with the exception of the watermelon seeds, which are worked with three strands.
Use a size 8 embroidery needle for the following stitches.
In gingham embroidery, unlike counted cross stitch, each cross stitch and double cross stitch is worked individually, one at a time. On most gingham embroidery projects, the back of the embroidery is exposed. By stitching each cross stitch or double cross stitch completely before moving on to the next, the connecting threads from stitch to stitch on the back of the fabric are kept to a minimum.
It’s okay to use knots with gingham embroidery, since the items are usually made to be laundered and you want the threads to be secure. Begin each new thread with a knot, and when ending a thread, knot it off on the back around previous stitches.
Bring your needle and thread up at A, in one corner of a gingham check, and take it to the back at B, to create a diagonal straight stitch across the check.
Bring the needle and thread to the front at C and to the back at D, to create another diagonal straight stitch on top of A-B.
To maintain a neat, uniform look, make sure that the top diagonal stitch always crosses in the same direction.
Try to move from stitch to stitch in a logical order, so that as little thread as possible is traveling across the back of the fabric.
If you find that you have to move across a significant space to get to your next starting point, turn your work over and run the working thread under the backs of previous stitches.
Double Cross Stitch
Work a cross stitch, as explained above.
Bring the needle and thread to the front at A, in the center edge of the gingham check and return to the back at B, directly opposite, vertically.
Bring the needle and thread to the front at C, on the side edge of a gingham check and return to the back at D, on the opposite edge.
Note: It doesn’t matter if you work these stitches from top to bottom and bottom to top, left to right or right to left, as long as you are consistent in the finished direction of the stitches.
Filled Daisy Stitch
Use three strands floss in the needle for the watermelon seeds.
Bring the needle and thread to the front of the fabric at A, and take it to the back of the fabric at A.
Pull the thread through until a small loop remains on top of the fabric.
Bring the needle and thread to the front at inside the loop as shown.
Take the needle and thread to the back, just over the loop, to anchor it in place. This is the completed daisy stitch.
Work a straight stitch inside the daisy stitch.
Repeat for the other seeds.
There are many different types of lacing stitches that can be used in gingham embroidery. For this project, we use only two: the decorative green loops around the edge of the design, and the white squares that complete the background lacy look.
For all the lacing stitches, switch to a tapestry needle, size 26. The blunt tip of the tapestry needle makes it much easier to lace underneath the completed foundation stitches without snagging the stitches.
Following the direction of the loops in the pattern, bring the needle up at A, just under the corner arm of a cross stitch.
Take the needle under the arm of the opposite double cross stitch (marked B) without picking up any fabric.
Return to A and pass the needle under the arm.
Pass the needle and thread under the arm marked C.
Return to A and pass the needle under all the threads, including the cross stitch arm.
Pass the needle and thread under the arm of the cross stitch marked D.
Return to A, and take the needle and thread to the back of the fabric underneath the previous laced stitches.
Completed decorative laced loops.
The laced squares surround all the white gingham squares inside the design area.
Bring the needle up under the corner arm of a cross stitch or double cross stitch, depending on where you are working in the pattern.
Pass the needle and thread behind each corner arm around the white square of the gingham pattern, until you return to A.
Take the needle and thread to the back, under the arm at A.
Move to the closest corner of another white square, to lace the next white square. Continue until all the white squares in the background within the design area are encircled.
When lacing a square next to a double cross stitch, take the lacing thread underneath all the legs of the double cross stitch.
Constructing the Small Table Runner
To construct the runner once the embroidery is complete, follow these steps:
- Iron the finished embroidery (and the whole piece of gingham) face down to ensure the fabric is not puckered and that it is ready for sewing.
- Trim the gingham on the grain, leaving a half inch seam allowance, following the lines of the gingham pattern, so that the embroidery is centered correctly on the short ends of the runner.
- For the back of the runner, cut a piece of high-quality white quilting cotton on the grain, to the same size as the unfinished gingham. Make sure to include the 1/2” seam allowance!
- Place the gingham embroidery-side up on a table or ironing board, so that the whole runner is laid out straight and smooth. Situate the large rickrack along the short edges of the runner where you want the seam to be. Half the rickrack should extend beyond the seam of the runner.
- Place the white cotton backing fabric face down on top of the gingham, so that the rickrack is sandwiched in place between the two fabrics and pin carefully along the seam line.
- Sew the two pieces of fabric together, leaving a 3” opening on one long side of the runner for turning. Turn the runner inside out, pushing the corners out carefully and making sure the rickrack is satisfactorily placed. Iron the runner gingham-side down to press the seams, and then sew the turning hole closed by hand. If you wish, you can run some top stitching just along the edge all around the runner, for additional support.
Gingham Embroidery Watermelons - Pattern
Here’s the pattern and key for the Gingham Embroidery Watermelons:
I hope you use it and enjoy it!