Chicken Scratch Embroidery Stitch: A Beginner’s Guide

Embellish small projects like potholders with the chicken scratch embroidery stitch.
“Gorgeous Gingham Pot Holders” by Lisa Cox

I’ve always associated the expression “chicken scratch” with handwriting. Specifically, the spiky, sloppy, and near-impossible to read markings of kids still learning the craft of penmanship. With that as my sole reference to the phrase, I was astonished to learn chicken scratch is also the name of an embroidery stitch.

I first learned of this lacy variation of cross stitch while admiring the sweet and simple sewing projects featured in Lisa Cox’s book A Spoonful of Sugar. Lisa features this embroidery technique stitched on gingham fabric in a couple of her charming projects. I’m so enchanted by the effect the chicken scratch embroidery stitch gives these projects, I couldn’t help but share.

Here is a little bit of information about the stitch and a brief tutorial from Lisa so you can try this technique on your next embroidery project:

Chicken scratch embroidery (also known as Broderie Suisse, Australian Cross Stitch, and Depression Lace) is a variation of cross stitch that is traditionally stitched on gingham fabric using perle mercerized cotton thread or stranded embroidery thread. The gingham squares act as stitching guides and help to form a lacy pattern.


First, prepare the gingham by pressing some fusible interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric. Use an embroidery hoop to help maintain even tension as you stitch. Work the cross-stitch, then add the woven details to the embroidery.

These are the basic stitches used in chicken scratch embroidery:

Woven square variation of the chicken scratch embroidery stitch

Woven Square – Use the cross stitches to create the four corners of your woven square. Lisa uses this variation in her “Sweet Dreams Pillowcase” as shown in the image above.

Oval variation of the chicken scratch embroidery stitch

Woven Oval – By weaving thread diagonally through two cross stitches (as pictured above) you can create the oval variation of the chicken scratch stitch. Lisa uses a combination of the woven square and the woven oval in her “Gorgeous Gingham Potholders” as shown in the image above.

I can’t wait to break out some gingham fabric so I can take this embroidery stitch out for a spin! Even though this traditional print is the traditional fabric choice for chicken scratch, I’d love to try it on everything from solids to florals.

Discover expert instruction from Lisa along with 20 charming sewing projects, most of which you can make in an afternoon when you order your copy of A Spoonful of Sugar. Or get started right way and you skip the shipping when you download the eBook.

Happy stitching!

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P.S. Have you ever used the chicken scratch embroidery stitch? Share your experiences and tips by leaving a comment below.

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