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Closing up a Seam with Hand Stitching: Pro Secrets

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The majority of projects you encounter require at least a bit of hand stitching. Often, it’s the final seam closure after turning a project right side out. The goal is to make your hand stitching as invisible as possible. Although it’s tempting to rush through this last bit of stitching, the Pro Secret is to take a little extra time to create a clean finish. The most common (and quick) hand stitching choice is usually the Whip Stitch, but it doesn’t yield the best look. We recommend the Ladder or Slip Stitch.

The Whip Stitch is a fast and secure stitch that wraps around the two folded edges of your opening, cinching them closed. It’s certainly an option for some situations, but it’s not the best choice when your seam shows on the exterior of the project because it always ends up looking like you’ve closed up a wound. The stitches are visible and there is a slight pucker along the length of the closure.

Instead, try a Slip or Ladder Stitch to create an invisible seam between two folded edges, or a folded edge and a flat edge. You can use a slip stitch for bindings, to close a lining, for the final stitches on a stuffed pillow, or to apply appliqué invisibly.

The smoother and tighter your stitches and the better the match of your thread to your fabric, the more invisible the stitches will appear.

  1. Collect your tools. In addition to a needle and matching thread, we recommend a needle threader (we love this lighted one by Dritz®). If you’re closing up a longer seam, you might also want to consider using a thimble.

  2. Iron the folds flat.
  3. Slip your threaded needle inside the fold to hide its knot.
  4. Bring the needle out through the folded edge.
  5. Push the needle into the opposite fold directly across from the fold where it came out.
  6. Slide along this opposite fold about ⅛" - ¼", then push the needle out again.

  7. Bring the needle straight up from where it came out and insert into the opposite fold.
  8. Continue this back-and-forth-and-slide pattern until you reach the end of your opening.
  9. As shown in the drawing below, as you cross from folded edge to folded edge, you are creating the look of the "ladder" that gives the stitch its name.

The pillows we used for these technique examples are made from our popular Relaxing Neck Pillow pattern. You can find the full instructions here.


Comments (16)

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

My grandmother showed me how to do this stitch a long time ago when I was a young girl.  I haven’t sewn in a long time and forgot how.  It has now all come back to me.  Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

Yay -- it always helps to get a little refresher!

Sewquilted said:
Sewquilted's picture

i have been doing this stitch for 50 years.  My mother taught it to me when I began sewing.  I love doing my quilt bindings this way.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@sewquilted - thank you for adding your comment... you're the real pro!!

KR said:
KR's picture

Just wanted to let you know that I LOVE this pillow pattern!  It's quick and easy...I use the "closing seam" method that you use during *tv time*, so I feel like I'm doing something *productive* during that time.

I made one of these pillows for a friend who just had brain surgery.  He loves it!  It keeps his neck comfortable, and keeps the pressure off where his sutures are on the back of his head.  The one I made for myself is WONDERFUL on a car trip to support my neck.  I made one for each of my sister-in-laws and they use theirs also!

Thank you for a comfortable and useful pillow pattern!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@KR - Thanks so much for letting us know about your "pillow love." That is indeed one of our most popular projects ever... there are a lot of happy necks out there.

bjmp71 said:
bjmp71's picture

This is a much better stitch and one that I will love to use from now on.  I've gotten fairly good at being able to hide my whipstitch but this will hide the thread much better.  Thanks!!!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@bjmp71-thanks! I think you'll really enjoy using this project. 

Beth T. said:
Beth T.'s picture

This is so helpful.  I always regret how my whipstitching looks, but have never been able to figure out a better alternative.  Thanks for giving me one!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Beth - you are so welcome. Sometimes it's the easiest things that make a huge difference. 

lorrna said:
lorrna's picture

love this, you got me at rushing through the last bit of stiching cuz thats me.  will use your wonderful technique from now on.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@lorrna - Thanks! So happy to hear you found it helpful... yep, slow and steady wins the race 

KayZee said:
KayZee's picture

Thanks for the clearly written and illustrated tutorial of this technique. It really does give a much cleaner finish than a whip stitch.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@KayZee - Thank you! It's our favorite for closing a seam... and more!