How to Embroider Chicken Scratch

By Emily Weller
Chicken scratch is embroidered on gingham fabric.

Chicken scratch is a type of embroidery commonly stitched onto gingham fabric. You can quickly learn chicken scratch embroidery, which is also known as Depression embroidery or Depression lace, even if you have never stitched before. The embroidery style relies on three common stitches: the running stitch, the double-cross stitch and the woven circle. These stitches are often the ones a beginner learns first. Once you get the hang of chicken scratch, you can begin to shape your stitches into recognizable patterns.

Take the embroidery hoop apart. Drape the gingham fabric over the inner circle of the hoop. Push the outer circle over it, pulling the fabric taut. Tighten the screw at the top of the hoop so that the fabric stays in place.

Cut an 18-inch length of embroidery floss. Separate the floss into six separate strands by gently pulling one strand away at a time.

Group two or three strands of thread together. Set the remaining strands aside. Tie the strands together with a knot at one end. Lick the other end of the strands and grip with your thumb and forefinger. Push the thread through the eye of a needle.

Push your needle up through the back of the fabric in the upper corner of one of the white gingham squares. Bring the needle and thread down to the opposite bottom corner of the square, making a diagonal line. Bring the needle back up through the fabric in the opposite upper corner of the square. Push the needle down through the opposite bottom corner. You should have just stitched an X.

Push the needle through the fabric halfway between the upper corners. Bring it down through the fabric halfway between the bottom corners. Push it back up through the fabric midway between one top and one bottom corner and then bring it back down between the opposite corners. You should have stitched a plus sign over top of the X.

Repeat, making double crosses in three more white squares. You want the crosses to form a square.

Bring your needle up through the fabric on the edge of a square between two vertically positioned white squares. Bring the needle down through the fabric on the other edge of the square, forming a horizontal line. Repeat in the square between the other two vertically positioned white squares.

Push the needle through the fabric on the top edge of a square between two horizontally positioned white squares. Bring the needle down through the bottom edge of the square, making a vertical line. Repeat in the square between the other horizontally positioned white squares.

Bring the needle out by the top right edge of the bottom vertical line. Push the needle and thread under the vertical line stitch. Go in a clockwise direction. Push the needle and thread underneath the next horizontal line stitch, then under the top vertical stitch and finally under the other horizontal stitch. You should have just formed a circle between the four running stitches. Push the needle back into the fabric, in the same hole from which you came up.

Repeat the pattern on the rest of the gingham fabric.

About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.