Needlepoint balloon stitch: how to do it and the best uses for it.

The needlepoint Balloon Stitch is perfect for uniform areas, square, rectangular, oval, just about any shape.  It can be stitched horizontally, vertically, or in both directions in a satin floral pattern. 

And, you can embellish it, or keep it simple. 

Basic Balloon Stitch

The basic balloon stitch is done in long horizontal or vertical rows. It consists of straight stitches over one, three and five stitches in a deliberate pattern.
horizontal balloon stitch in needlepoint needlepoint stitched horizontal balloon stitch
The Balloon stitch can be done in a single row, or groups of 2 or more. Your stitched canvas is the limit on how many rows you can run.

rows of horizontal balloon stitch in needlepoint

In "Waiting for Dinner" by Scottish artist Vicky Mount the balloon stitch could be used in several places.

Waiting for Dinner from UniqueNZ Designs
Waiting for Dinner by Vicky Mount


In this design, the table is the perfect area for the horizontal balloon stitch. Or, read ahead and use the Floral Pattern, a close cousin, and the table becomes a pretty cloth.  You can also use the floral pattern on the background and create wallpaper.

Flip the horizontal balloon stitch and do it vertically.

vertical  balloon stitch in needlepoint

You can make good use of the vertical balloon stitch when needlepointing Cat In/Out by Pippin Studios.

Cat In/Out by Pippin studios

Stitch the door in a vertical balloon stitch.  Start at the outer edge, running the stitches from the bottom of the window frame to the bottom of the door and continue toward the center of the canvas.  When you run into the cat just shorten the stitch where needed.  Don't forget to stitch the top part of the door to the right of the window.

Now that you've learned the basic balloon stitch you can start embellishing it.  We love the embellished Balloon (or Satin Pattern) because it has many possibilities. It's like your basic black dress.  The simple dress is beautiful, but you can add scarves, jewelry, belts .. .. you get the idea.

First, the plain Satin pattern.

needlepoint balloon stitch- satin pattern

The Satin Pattern Balloon stitch is essentially rows of horizontal balloon stitches mixed with rows of vertical balloon stitches with 2 differences.  Start by running the horizontal.  You will not be stitching the three baby stitches over 1 thread.  You will be skipping 2 threads and starting the pattern over -- 3 - 5 - 5 - 5 - 3, skip 2 threads, 3 - 5 - 5 -5 - 3 skip 2 threads.  Make sure you've stitched the entire horizontal row before starting the next row.  Then come back and fill in the vertical row.  Here's the second change, the vertical rows don't run down vertically, you stitch one pattern of 3 - 5 - 5 - 5 -3 and then move over horizontally and stitch the same pattern again.  You will note the stitches share holes .  The third row should be horizontal again.  The stitches should run directly underneath  those in the first row.  You should only do this pattern if you have enough space for 3 rows or more.

In running the stitches in two directions you create “holes” between the horizontal and vertical stitches.  These holes provide the room to "accessorize" our basic black dress (or embellishment in needlepoint lingo).

Satin Pattern balloon stitch in needlepoint

The holes found in the needlepoint stitch pattern running vertically are perfect for a Smyrna cross or a simple Upright cross.

smyrna cross in needlepoint -----and---- upright cross in needlepoint

In the holes found in the needlepoint stitch pattern running horizontally you can place a large X stitch (from corner to corner), or embellish it with a French knot or a bead.

needlepoint satin balloon stitches

Now remember, I used blue so that you could see the image better – you can, and often should, use the same color in your embellished areas. 

Terrible Idea by UniqueNZ Designs

Just see the possibilities in Terrible Idea by Unique NZ Designs.  Wouldn’t the lady’s scarf be great with the Embellished Satin Pattern. Use a bead in the holes running horizontally, or stitch all of the holes in Kreinik of the same color, to add a little bling.  Or, if doing the table cloth in "Waiting for Dinner" -- way at the top of this article -- add a different color, or scatter several colors to make the cloth more interesting.

The Floral Satin Stitch - a distant cousin

flower stitch in needlepoint

Closely related to the Balloon stitch is the Floral Satin stitch. This stitch is perfect if you’re doing a background, or a floral field. Click here to read our detailed instructions on the Needlepoint Flower pattern.