Stitched by Hand
often write about my love of handstitching, from using it to
professionally finish a hem to adding decorative embroidery as a design
element. I love stitching by hand because it's relaxing, portable, and
it's so easy to do! If you have only used handstitching for finishing,
you should definitely try it for decorative effects. It's a fun way to
customize simple items, and there are so many creative ways to use it.
And, the best part of all is that handstitching takes minimal tools and
supplies, and you can learn the techniques in no time. You can find tons
of great books filled with motifs for embroidery and cross-stitch that
can be added to clothing, home décor, and gift items, or you can design
your own motifs. I have a whole library of embroidery books that I
constantly reference for inspiration and to add new stitches to my
Korean-Inspired Thimbles from Hip to Stitch.
Dog and Cat Cushions from Stitchy Kitty Fuzzy Puppy.
Mom cross-stitch design from Stitch Graffiti.
of the key tips for keeping your embroidery stitches looking good on
both the front and the back is knowing how to hide knots and thread
tails. Melinda Barta, author of Hip to Stitch, offers some great tips for managing thread tails to keep your stitches neat and secure.
Hiding Knots and Thread Tails
tails that are accidentally pulled may distort a design and weaken the
stitches. Here are a few tips on how to manage thread tails:
With the waste-knot technique, it is almost impossible to find the
starting point of the thread, and the technique helps create smooth,
tidy, reversible stitches. Tie a knot in the end of the thread and
insert the needle into the right side of the fabric in the center of an
area or line that will later be covered with stitches, about ¼" (6 mm)
from the point where the first stitch will be taken. Take two to three
small backstitches at the base of the knot and begin stitching. Trim off
the knot and cover the backstitches as you complete the motif. You may
end your stitching with a small knot on the back of the fabric (as
directed below) or pull the thread through the back of previous stitches
before you trim the thread tail.
Similar to the waste-knot technique in that the starting tails of the
thread are concealed and help make your fabric reversible, this
technique is faster because the knot does not have to be trimmed off:
Bring the thread up in the center of the motif or line from the back and
stitch over the knot as you fill in the motif. When you're starting a
new thread or finishing a thread, hide tails and knots by inserting the
needle at an angle under the previous stitches; satin stitches are great
at concealing knots.
When you're starting stitching on the fabric's edge or hem, knot the
thread and take the first stitch about ¼" (6 mm) away from the starting
point of the motif; make small running stitches in the seam allowance
(or other concealed part of the fabric) until you reach the motif. You
may also hide the knot and thread tail by inserting the needle between
the layers of fabric of a hem; pull the thread taut with a quick yank to
pull the knot close to the outer layer of fabric.
Keep your knots small when you are finished stitching on the edge of an
item by taking a few running stitches on the back of the fabric to an
unexposed area. For a small yet strong knot, take a small stitch near
the point where the needle came out of the fabric and pull to create a
loop; insert the needle in the loop and pull taut. Repeat and trim the
Once you have built a foundation of stitches, you do not need to use a
knot when you start a new thread. Instead, start by weaving the needle
between previous stitches on the wrong side of the fabric, pull the
thread through so that there is only a 2" (5.1 cm) tail, and hold the
tail while you take the first couple of stitches.
you need more inspiration and great instruction, check out some of the
handstitching books featured in our Hurt Book and Overstock Sale
including Hip to Stitch (great for beginners), Stitchy Kitty, Fuzzy Puppy (perfect for pet lovers), and Stitch Graffiti (cross-stitch goes modern), plus so much more. Then get out some needle and thread and start stitching!