How to Sew Chicken Scratch Patterns

Chicken-scratch embroidery decorates evenly woven gingham checks.
Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Chicken-scratch embroidery is also known as snowflake embroidery, lace stitch, gingham tracks and gingham lace. It's usually worked from a charted pattern combining three basic stitches — double cross, running stitch and woven circle. Practice all three stitches in a simple nine-square motif to border a garment or a pillow or to stand alone to decorate a bookmark or jar top.

Fasten the fabric into the embroidery hoop and pull it taut and smooth. Separate three strands from a length of floss and thread the needle. Work with just one end of the floss.

Work a double cross stitch over one of the darkest squares of the gingham. Bring the needle up from the back at one of the corners and hold a couple of inches of thread behind the work to catch in your stitches. Insert the needle at the corner diagonally across that square and bring it back out at one of the other corners. Insert the needle at the remaining corner to complete the first, standard cross stitch. Bring the needle out again halfway across one of the sides of the square. Draw the thread straight across the middle of the square, inserting it at the middle of the parallel side and bringing it up halfway along a perpendicular side. Insert the needle halfway along the fourth side to complete an upright cross on top of the diagonal one. The finished stitch looks like an asterisk.

Bring the needle up halfway across the top edge of the medium-colored square next to the double cross stitch. Insert it straight across that square, at the opposite edge, and up again at the other side of the white square in the middle of the nine checks. Go down at the far side of that medium square and up at the middle of the far edge of the square under the double cross. Run a stitch across that square and the fourth medium square, perpendicular to the stitches you made across the other two medium squares. Each medium square should have a stitch running straight across its middle, side to side and top to bottom of the square of nine checks.

Work more double cross stitches on the other three dark squares. Work the components in the same order you did on the first square, so that the final components all lie parallel to each other.

Use the running stitches to work the woven circle. Bring your needle up through one of the holes at the edge of the central white square. Without puncturing the fabric, run your needle under the other three running stitches and draw the thread through but not taut. Run the needle under the stitch where you started and again under the other three. Send the needle to the back through the same hole where it came up. Run the thread through the backs of other stitches to secure it.


You can also connect sections of a pattern with simple crosses (either just the diagonals or just the horizontal and vertical) or half-crosses (just one diagonal).

About the Author

Barbara Kellam-Scott has written since 1981 for print publications including "MassBay Antiques" and the award-winning corporate science magazine "Bellcore EXCHANGE." She writes as an advocate and lay Bible scholar in the Presbyterian Church. Kellam-Scott holds a Bachelor of Arts in intercultural studies from Ramapo College of New Jersey and conducted graduate work in sociology, theology and Biblical Hebrew.