Learning how to sew is a long and enjoyable road of new discoveries that can last a lifetime. There are 101 ways to achieve the same effect and very few of them are wrong. For students learning to sew professionally this can sometimes be a frustrating thing, as they prefer a straight answer to the question “How do I do this?” For home sewers there can be an additional hurdle of learning from instructions but not from a person. You often learn all the right skills, but you are not necessarily sure why and when you need to apply them.
So today we give you a step-by-step for a slip stitch, one of the most common hand sewing techniques. Enjoy!
Slip stitching is a very common hand sewing finish on visible areas of a garment: sewing down the remainder of your bias binding, doing a hem by hand, securing the last bit of a dress facing to the top of the zip. It’s also great for items where a seam has come undone and left a small hole, like a stuffed toy, a cushion, a heat pad, etc. A slip stitch is also referred to as a ladder stitch or an invisible stitch (although I’m sure some people have slightly different techniques to differentiate: that’s the beauty of sewing – there’s always something more to learn!). A slip stitch is meant to be invisible when it’s finished so we will take it step by step, so you can really perfect your slip stitch. All you need is a handsewing needle, matching thread and a small piece of fabric to practise on.
Let’s show you on a sample hem. You can do a single thread if you are hemming something delicate, or a double hem for areas that need a stronger stitch.
A tip for double thread: fold your thread in half and put the two ends through the eye of the needle. Now you have a loop at the end of the thread instead of a knot, which is much stronger: a knot is always a weak point as it can pull through the fabric. Make a small stitch, then put the needle through the loop. You’re ready to sew!
- Start the stitch on the inside of the hem. Use the tip above for a double thread or knot the end of a single thread. Come out with the needle exactly on the folded edge of the hem, ready to start your slip stitch.
- Pick up the smallest amount of fabric from the garment, directly opposite the start of the stitch. This part of the stitch is the part that is visible on the outside, so make it as small as possible. Don’t worry, even the tiniest amount will be strong enough!
- Go straight back down to the hem, and bury the needle underneath the fold, like a tunnel. Then come up again about 0.25 cm along. That’s your first stitch, and it should be invisible. The key is to pull the stitches taut without pulling them tighter than necessary: if you pull the thread too tightly the stitch will become more visible as it slightly draws up the fabric in between stitches.
- Then repeat the stitch until you have come to the end of your hem. Finish the stitch on the folded hem by knotting off, burying the thread within the hem like a tunnel, come up with the needle and snip your thread. If the stitch is done in a matching thread, you will only see tiny dots on the outside, invisible unless you look up close.