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the (non-embroidery) stitch you need to know

Ladder Stitch


If you do much hand sewing, or even if you mainly sew on a sewing machine, you'll frequently need to sew up an opening. I used to do this with a whip stitch, or something close to that. But not too long ago I tried a ladder stitch and haven't gone back.

It's strong and you barely see the stitches. Plus, it's really easy to learn and do!

I'm working with pieces that are folded, because the folded edges are what you'll sew together. Think about the opening on a stuffed animal and how the the seam comes together. First you'll see them flat and up against each other, then you'll see the pieces held together. The stitch works both ways!

Ladder Stitch

Start with a knot in your thread bring it out from the wrong side of the fabric, through the fold.

Ladder Stitch

On the opposite side, directly across from where your thread came out, take a stitch that goes in and back out again. I usually take stitches that are about 1/8th", although it can vary for different purposes.

Ladder Stitch

Take a stitch directly across from where the needle came out on the opposite side.

Ladder Stitch

Keep taking these stitches, forming what looks like a ladder.

Ladder Stitch

When you pull them tight, they close up the opening and you hardly see them. Typically you'd only want to take a few stitches, then pull it tight, rather than stitching a long way. Just be sure that you don't pull it too tight, or you'll cause too much stress on the thread.

Ladder Stitch
Ladder Stitch

Now, instead of working with the sides flat while you're working, you can also hold the sides together like this. You'll still take the stitches across from each other, working along the folded edges.

This is even how I've been joining hexagons with lately too!

Ladder Stitch

Here's what I'd like to point out: I stitched this in pearl cotton. Don't do that! Regular thread is what you what. I used pearl cotton so it shows up well in the photos...and to show off that even with this thick thread, the stitches are still hidden! To me, it's just an impressive stitch.

Ladder Stitch

But here's the best part. The simplicity is what really makes this amazing to me. Because what do we have? A running stitch! Sometimes the basics are exactly what you need.

19 comments:

  1. just last night I started sewing hexies this way and I too am hooked! so neat and tidy... great tutorial, thanks

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  2. Wow, thanks so much! That is just great!

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  3. Thanks for the great tutorial. :)

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  4. We call this in Portugal an "invisible stitch", but what is interesting is that I had never seen it on the other side and realise it was a running stitch! :) always learning!! :))

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  5. I'm using ladder stitch on EVERYTHING right now, so I'm definitely feeling the love!

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  6. Thanks for the tutorial on this! I wish I had used it to do the quilt binding on my Summer Stitching Club project! Oh well, now I know! :)

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  7. This is fantastic! I've fixed up stuffed animals before that broke a seam or got a hole, and I could never figure out how to make it so the stitches didn't show. This is perfect timing too since one of my animals needs more stuffing added to him.

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  8. Great tutorial. Thanks! Do you think that stitch will hold up in hexagons made into a twin size quilt that will be well loved(used)?

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    1. Linda, I've never made a large quilt from hexagons, so I can't say for sure. One class I took said to use tiny whip stitches for an heirloom quality quilt, but I've also read that many people do use ladder stitch. I think more important would be the quality of your thread

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    2. Hi Mollie,

      Thanks for answering my question. I've always heard to use tiny whip stitches and good quality fabrics and thread. I really want to make a twin size or lap quilt so maybe I'll stick with the tiny whip stitch.

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  9. Great tutorial! I discovered ladder stitch a while ago and am very surprised that it isn't more common. I've been using it on cross-stitch finishes, the Aida blocks make measuring the stitches really easy :)

    And I've been seeing so many hexagons lately that I've been thinking about trying a few - but I've never liked whipstitch (it always turns out wonky for me) so I'm really excited that this is an alternative!

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  10. I would love to try this but how do you finish it off without being seen?

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  11. I usually tie a knot very close to the fabric, then pop it through to the back.

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  12. Ahhh - thank you. I have been sewing for 40+ years and forgot about this stitch!

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  13. thank you for this Kathy

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  14. Ahha, I was wondering how my mother was doing this and so far, I was not able to find a tutorial for it as I did not know its name. So, thank you. You saved my future messy pillows :)

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  15. This is SOOO helpful, thank you!!! Will definitely be using this new technique:)

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  16. Anonymous12:11 PM

    This is perfect!!! Can you make more tutorials on more decorative stitches? LOVE your work!! :)

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