Chicken Scratch Embroidery – What is it and how to do it

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Chicken Scratch Heart Apron
Welcome to this Friday’s VTNS (Vintage Textile and Needlework Sellers) Fan Freebie!

Incredibly messy handwriting.  What does that have to do with needlework?  Just kidding.  Chicken Scratch is a type of cross stitch embroidery done on gingham check fabric.

It has many different names.  One is Depression Lace.  During the Great Depression when women wanted to add lace embellishment to their clothing they used this stitch as an alternative to real lace.


I couldn’t come up with any vintage pattern books that I could share here so I’ve linked to a couple sites about it on the internet. They will explain how to get started and give you some ideas what it can be used for.

Some of the items you’ll need, besides the checkered fabric, is an embroidery hoop, tapestry or crewel needle and floss. Three simple stitches are used in chicken scratch embroidery – the double cross stitch, the straight running stitch, and the woven circle stitch.

It’s very quick to learn and I’ve found a couple sites that show you how to make these stitches. The Nordic Needle has a very good explanation of what chicken scratch is and how to do it with photographs.

eHow — How to Embroider Chicken Scratch

Craftsy Blog — Deciphering the Chicken Scratch: The Story Behind Amish Embroidery

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials — Chicken Scratch Lesson I

Since Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, it’s great that one of the most often used motifs for this type of embroidery is a heart.  The Pegasus Originals website even has a heart pattern they’ve shared in this post General Directions for Chicken Scratch.

Chicken Scratch Hearts

Depending on the size of the check in your gingham fabric and the color thread, you can come up with some very pretty designs.  I hope you give Chicken Scratch embroidery a try and if you do make something please share it on our Facebook page.


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