Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tutorial: Choosing A Stitch For Hand Sewing

Now that I have two tutorials on hand sewing felt, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the benefits and disadvantages of both.  Each works well and brings a distinct look to your hand sewn item.  It's worth it to think about what sort of effect you are going for to help you choose the right stitch.

Whip Stitch        tutorial    project featured above

I like to use whip stitch to sew together felt stuffies when I want the stitching to melt into the stuffie.  Usually, I use thread that matches the felt when I use whip stitch.  Occasionally, I will use a contrasting thread color with whip stitch to get a more primitive, hand made vibe going.  In the case of my rose pincushion, I tried to create a woodcut feel with whip stitching.

Benefits : Whip stitch is great for sewing together stuffies when you want the seams to meet up flatly to create a shape.  This is especially good for round shapes, like heads or bodies.  Whip stitch is also pretty simple and forgiving of mistakes, especially when you use a matching thread color.

Drawbacks : Whip stitch doesn't always come out as straight or evenly spaced as you might hope because the thread goes diagonally through the felt on the inside bit of the stitch.  This can also cause your felt pieces to come out uneven near the end of your work, unless you are careful about "felt creep."

Blanket Stitch        tutorial    project featured above

I use blanket stitch when I want a decorative edging on my hand sewn item.  It's especially interesting when done in a contrasting thread color as an edging for a patch, like my travel stickers, or along the seams of a 2-D stuffie.  Blanket stitching is easy, once you get started, and I think it looks very professional and bold.

Benefits : When using blanket stitch to sew the seams of a stuffie, there won't be any "felt creep" because the needle goes straight through the felt from front to back.  Because blanket stitch creates a thread outline along the edges of your piece, it can mask uneven edges and wonky cutting.  Blanket stitch seems to be easier to use to create evenly spaced stitching than whip stitch.

Drawbacks : When using blanket stitch to sew together stuffies, it becomes a ridged seam that is equal to the depth of your stitch.  This creates ridges in 3-D stuffies that might look weird and distort the stuffie's shape.

If you have any thoughts, lessons-learned, or blog posts about hand sewing that you'd like to share, please leave a comment.  Lots of people come to my site after searching for "hand sewing" so people (including me!) really want to know your tips and tricks.
39 Comments (comments are disabled)

laurie said ...
Thank so much. I found this very informative -- seeing them side by side with both benefits and drawbacks is great! (Also, I did a post a couple of years ago about my husband's ( sewing technique.)
10/6/2007 9:17 AM

SisterDG said ...
Squirrels . . . so . . . CUTE . . . . Can't . . . handle . . . it!

My best advice for hand-sewing is to read everything you have posted on the subject. Your tutorials are excellent, and this comparison is super-helpful.
10/6/2007 10:34 AM

Goiuri said ...
Your work is really fantastic!!
10/8/2007 9:42 AM

Steffi said ...
Great work and wonderful blog!Fantastic!
10/8/2007 3:00 PM

What a sweet lil squirrel! I love him! Very good job on the tutorials.
10/9/2007 12:33 AM

Shannon said ...
I usually do my stuffies with the blanket stitch. I love the "thrown together at the last minute" feel it gives it. However, I like the smoothness of the whip stitch on your squirrel, so I think I'll give that a shot on my next few that I make. Thanks for the great post!
10/9/2007 8:55 AM

marcisenders said ...
I love my squirrel...thought I would just mention that again!
10/10/2007 6:11 PM

anna said ...
your blog is great, and these little guys are SO CUTE!!
10/11/2007 7:26 PM

le voila said ...
Ainsss...I love this squirrel
10/16/2007 5:36 AM

cata said ...
OH! i love your blog!!!
Everything is beautiful and cute.
This squirrel is adorable.
Regards from italy.
10/17/2007 8:27 AM

Sabine said ...
I love the felt anials sooo much... and thank you for the great tutorials.
10/21/2007 5:58 AM

Salihan said ...
Thank you so much for your post! I actually did an experiment using your article on stitches. I've handsewn two Ellie softies, one using blanket stitch and the other whip stitch. I love the whip stitch one better.

You can check out the results on my blog post on ( Hansewn Ellies.
2/23/2008 6:01 AM

Hi, thanks for the info! I was wondering how to do 3D stuff and now i know i can use whip stitch for it instead of the usual blanket stitch.
3/11/2008 9:38 PM

ohla ohla said ...
Your tutorial stitches are easy to follow. It helped me completed my first project - ipod cozy. That I posted on my blog. Thanks for your generous heart!
4/10/2008 10:22 AM

Mist said ...
I still have the squirrel you made me! It is hanging from my desk lamp. Lucy McWhitepaws (my kitty) has squirrel death on the brain whenever she sees it, but I am keeping it safe! X) - Mist(y)
1/9/2009 8:52 AM

Lisa said ...
Just wanted to say thank you so much for creating these tutorials, which have been extremely helpful in starting my first felt projects. I'm excited to follow whatever wonderful advice/projects you will post next... :)
4/6/2009 2:06 PM

Kimby said ...
Thanks for this! I'm just getting into felt sewing, and this post has been very helpful :)
8/16/2009 4:44 AM

meela said ...
I use blanket stitch on the inside of my felt pieces. Made a good seam, especially for the scale I was working at. Very small. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I used buttonhole stitch. Like blanket but with a twisted part across the top.
11/20/2009 5:50 PM

PJ said ...
Thank you so much for explaining these 2 stitches. I want to make a felt penny table runner and I could not figure out the stitch that was used. I stumbled onto your website and now my question has been answered! Your website is wonderful and now is bookmarked for future reference and weekly reading!
2/9/2010 4:33 PM

futuregirl replied ...
PJ ... Yay! I'd love to see a photo of your penny runner when you're done, if you want to send me one. Thanks for stopping by!
2/12/2010 12:55 AM

Liz said ...
Thanks for this. Do you use running stitch? That's another option. What thread do you use? Floss or embroidery? And what size needle do you use?

I am asking because I run a Sewing Club with 6 to 8 year old students. They love using felt. We have been using blanket stitch, running stitch and whip stitch (which I have been calling slip stitch, woops). We started by using embroidery thread, just 2 or 3 strands but that is a little tricky to use with children. Dividing the strands got a bit messy. So we have moved onto embroidery floss which is easier but at times rather chunky. I am trying out mercerised crochet cotton too which is a bit finer than floss and much cheaper as it comes in large skeins. I have trouble finding the right needles to use for floss and felt. We have been using candlewicking needles size 18 (they come in those round craft needle packs). Some tapestry and embroidery needles work too but it is hard to find needles with a large eye AND a sharp point.

And do you have any advice on cutting felt? Large shapes are fine but smaller shapes can be tricky. Do you use patterns or do you cut free hand? Do you mark your felt?

I would be grateful for any suggestions. Hope you do not mind all the questions.

4/26/2010 12:48 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Liz ... I love questions! Here we go: I use DMC embroidery floss, most often split into 3 strand lengths. I don't know what size needle I use. I do not use the running stitch since it has gaps and I'm usually outlining things.

I use manicure scissors to cut small shapes out of felt. I like to use a purple disappearing fabric marker to outline large shapes. Small shapes can be taped to the felt and cut through the paper and the felt.
7/15/2010 11:37 PM

Carrie said ...
Hi there - I have never worked with hand-sewing felt before and your site is VERY helpful! I would like to make some small felt stuffed heart ornaments for Valentines Day - would you suggest the blanket or the whip stitch to go around the edges? Thanks so much!
1/20/2011 6:38 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Carrie ... Thank you for the sweet comment! It depends on the look you're going for. If you use the blanket stitch in a contrasting color, it will could be cute and home-made looking. If you use the whip stitch in a color that blends in, it could look more stylish and store-bought. Of course, it all depends on your skillz. Hearts are small. Why not do one in each stitch and pick your fave? :)
1/20/2011 6:37 PM

Ratana said ...
excuse me, FutureGirl! I want to make one but i don't know what type of fabric you used. What kind of that fabic? Its name? Thanks.
1/26/2011 9:33 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Ratana ... The animals are made from felt. I use acrylic craft felt. Some people use wool felt.
1/26/2011 10:56 AM

Toni said ...
Your work is so awesome!! I live in Japan and I have been spending way too much money on used Japanese craft/sewing books. I have many of the felt books and wanted to try my hand at it. Seeing your work has inspired me to get busy. What is the thickness of the felt you use? I went to one of my favorite craft stores tonight and the 2mm felt in a roll was 800 yen. The felt at our 100 yen store is acrylic, but seems flimsy. Just curious of what you like to work with better. Do you know of a good place that I could order online? Thank you!!
7/5/2011 8:22 AM

futuregirl replied ...
Toni ... Hi! I use thin acrylic felt. It's inexpensive. Similar to what I see at Daiso (do you have them there, too?). It is pretty flimsy, but felt is strong. Some people prefer the thicker wool felt, but I'm allergic to wool, so I can't use it.
7/22/2011 2:22 PM

Toni said ...
We live in Fussa, Tokyo prefecture. We do have Daiso EVERYWHERE!! I love that place. I did buy the felt there and also some from our base Arts/Craft center and Daiso felt is much better quality. I'm going to be sad to leave here.
7/22/2011 3:47 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Toni ... In San Francisco (and the surrounding area) we have a handful of Daiso stores. I love them!
7/22/2011 4:26 PM

chrystal said ...
I love the squirrel & acorn. :D
8/9/2011 5:32 PM

Tamara said ...
heyy just started sewing by hand and this was soo good im only 14 so i found the instructions really good squirrall was amazing
9/4/2011 6:56 PM

Cindy Friend said ...
I have just started my felt toy making adventure, and found these tutorials so helpful! Thank you!
10/11/2011 9:15 PM

Bea said ...
This is an excellent site. the projects are so cute. I am making accessories for my granddaughter's dollhouse. I need hard copies of these stitches. Where would the references be?Thanks for a great site.
1/27/2012 3:26 PM

futuregirl replied ...
Bea ... Thanks! You could print my online tutorials if you need them away from the computer. You could also buy a book or get one from the library with stitch instructions.
1/27/2012 3:41 PM

Joanna said ...
Your work is gorgeous. I found your explaination to be clear, concise and thoughtful. I am predominately a crocheter but have regained interest in felt applique over the past year and a half. Your work definitely inspires me to do more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and images of your lovely items.
8/11/2012 8:09 AM

Theresa Warren said ...
Thanks so much!! Ii am a big fan of this blog and you are a wonderful craftsperson!! I am going to make some felt dolls and I think after reading this I am best off using the whip stitch...(:
1/22/2013 1:46 AM

Michele said ...
I am going to attempt to make a little robot Stuffie I saw on line. Basically it is made from a bunch if felt cubes. I want to hand sew am wondering what stitch would yield the best cube shape. Suggestions?
2/2/2013 5:46 PM
futuregirl replied ...
Michele ... Whip stitch. No contest. :)
2/3/2013 11:45 PM