A versatile and easy to work stitch, backstitch is ideal for following both smooth and complicated outlines and as a foundation row for more complex embroidery stitches such as herringbone ladder filling stitch. Although superficially similar to Holbein stitch, commonly used in blackwork embroidery, backstitch differs in the way it is worked, requiring a single journey only to complete a line of stitching.
Stem stitch is an ancient technique; surviving mantles embroidered with stem stitch by the Paracas people of Peru are dated to the first century BCE. Stem stitch is used in the Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered cloth probably dating to the later 1070s, for lettering and to outline areas filled with couching or laid-work.
Backstitch is most easily worked on an even-weave fabric, where the threads can be counted to ensure regularity, and is generally executed from right to left. The stitches are worked in a 'two steps forward, one step back' fashion, along the line to be filled, as shown in the diagram.