What is the difference between backstitch and stem stitch?

Two different names for a method of stitching that at first glance seems to do the same job. So what is the difference?

On backstitch more thread ends up hidden on the back of the work than on the front. Stem stitch is the opposite, more thread is visible on the front of the work than on the back. I often wonder why the opposite to backstitch was not called front stitch.

When making prick ‘n stitch cards both backstitch and stem stitch have their place. The backstitch is good for outlining very fine detail or going round sharp corners. Stem stitch is good for creating bolder outlines and going around smooth curves.

The following diagrams show the way each stitching method works.

Backstitch works in the following way:

This is backstitch.

Out at 2 in at 1
Out at 3 in at 2
Out at 4 in at 3


 Stem stitch works like this:

This is stem stitch.

Out at 1 in at 3
Out at 2 in at 4
Out at 3 in at 5

The illustrations are from the Stitching Cards web site and are used with kind permission.

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