Stitched by Hand
I 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 repertoire.
Korean-Inspired Thimbles from Hip to Stitch.
Mom cross-stitch design from Stitch Graffiti.
One 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
Loose 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 thread tail.
– 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.
If 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), and Stitch Graffiti (cross-stitch goes modern), plus so much more. Then get out some needle and thread and start stitching!