Hello there cosbunnies! I’m sorry I’ve left you for so long, but life crept up on me and held me captive in a cave for some time. But now I’m free and ready to continue with a run down of some of the stitches that will be useful for the sewing of costumes. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
First, though, since this post will be about hand stitching, I’m going to explain how to thread a hand needle. For help on choosing the right needle for your project, here’s the supply post which contains all the information on hand needles. For help with the thread, here’s a handy link about that too!
Got your needle and thread? Great! Let’s get started:
- Cut a length of thread for you to sew with. I would suggest not making it too long or else it will get tangles as you sew, but too short and you’ll run out before you’re done. It’s okay if that happens though, you can just keep going with another thread!
- Hold the needle by the bottom, leaving the “eye”, or the part with the hole, exposed so you can get the thread through it. It might help to have a light source behind the needle so you can see what you’re doing more easily.
- Poke one end of your thread through the eye of the needle. If the thread splits, you may need to either wet it with your tongue to keep it together or just cut off the end and try again.
- Pull about 3/4 of the thread through the eye. If you’re doubling up your thread, only pull half through so each tail is the same length.
- Tie a knot at the end of your thread! I do this by wrapping the end around my finger and rolling the loop so that the tail gets wrapped into the loop I’ve made around my finger. If you’re doubling your thread, the idea is the same, just do it with both ends at once.
And now that your thread is on your needle, we can start talking about what you can do with it!
- Running stitch - This is the most basic of the basic stitches. To make a running stitch, secure the thread to the wrong side of your fabric (that is, the side you don’t want showing when your project is done) and simply poke the needle up through the fabric, then back down a little further on. Repeat until the end of your seam. (A seam is the word for the area where two or more pieces of fabric are sewn together, by the way) When you get to the end, you’ll need to secure your thread with a…
- Double stitch - Basically all a double stitch is, is a running stitch done over itself again to secure the thread to the fabric.
- Back stitch - If you don’t happen to have a sewing machine, this is going to be the stitch you use to sew your costume together as it’s stronger than a running stitch, but you can also use it decoratively if you choose. A back stitch is similar to a running stitch save for instead of only moving the needle further on as sewing, you actually go backwards at some points. After completing one stitch (down through the top, then up through the bottom further on), bring the needle back down through the top at the end of the last visible stitch, creating a contiguous line. When you bring the needle back up again, have it come up further on again, leaving enough room to again bring the needle down at the end of the stitch you just made. Continue to the end. (The picture will probably help more than my description, lol) A very small backstitch is called a prick stitch and leaves very little thread visible on the fashion side of the fabric, making the prick stitch excellent for hand sewing zippers.
- Blanket or buttonhole stitch - This stitch is really useful. If you’re making a blanket, it’s a nice way to finish the edges, but in cosplay you’d be using it for buttonholes if you don’t have a sewing machine. To do a blanket stitch, secure your thread and bring the needle through the edge of the fabric. Once it’s through, bring it through again from the same side you did before but further on. As the needle comes out the edge, have it come out through the loop you created with your previous stitch. Pull it taught, but not too tight or your fabric will pucker, and repeat at even intervals. For blankets these stitches should be a decent length apart but for buttonholes they should be right up close and friendly with each other.
- Hemming - While visible stitching is okay if you want the contrast, hemming a garment properly will keep any of your finishing stitches from being visible. This is great for the bottom of pant legs, skirts, and sleeves where you don’t necessarily want the thread to show. Fold the edge of the fabric over twice so the raw edge is encased inside the fold. Using a small, slanted stitch, pick up only a few threads from the fabric weave to slide your needle through from the front and then slide the needle through the fold, securing the two together. Repeat along the fold, never running the needle through too much of the fashion side of the fabric so that the thread isn’t visible on the outside.
- Slip stitch - This is what I usually use for hemming, since the end result leave the thread hardly visible to either side. Fold the fabric for your hem like you would a hemming stitch, but instead of slanted stitches, slide the needle through only two or three threads on either side, between the folded edge and the fashion fabric (see image).
- Ladder stitch - This is really only a repair stitch (or for sewing up plushies) but it’s a very important one. From the front side of the fabric take very small stitches back and forth across the opening, weaving the two edges together and leaving the thread invisible.
- Overcasting - If your fabric is prone to fraying (that is, unraveling when cut) then overcasting is your best buddy. This is basically what overlock machines are for, but you can do it by hand too! All you need to do is slide the needle around the edge of the fabric, all entering in the same direction as it continues down the edge. The worse the fabric frays, the closer together your stitches need to be.
- Gathering and easing - This is really just a fancy way of using a running stitch to control the fullness of your fabric. Pull on the loose end of the thread (not too hard! Don’t break it!) after putting in some long running stitches to gather the fabric to the desired length. This is how you create ruffles! Using two or more lines of stitches for gathering is called gauging and it’s normally used for attaching sleeves to armholes, cuffs, or waistbands. This can also be used for smocking (gathering fabric so it can stretch) but unless you’re doing couture or period sewing, elastic is much easier.
- Herringbone stitch - If you find yourself having to hand sew stretch fabric layers together, this is the stitch for you! It’s used for this purpose because the stitches can stretch along with he fabric. I’m going to let the image tell you how to do this one, though, since it’s quite difficult to explain in simple text.
- Basting - If you’re working with wide-weave fabric or just can’t find any pins, basting is a temporary, very long running stitch used to hold pieces of fabric together until they can be sewn more permanently, then the basting thread is removed. If you’re working with a patterned fabric that needs to match, using slip basting (basically a long slip stitch) to keep the pattern matched and in place while you sew, is incredibly useful. Diagonal basting is used when you need to sew layers of fabric together and can’t have them move while you do it. It’s especially useful for non-fusible interfacing (something I’ll explain later) and is removed after the garment is sewn.
- Pad stitching - Though it looks like diagonal basting, pad stitching is a tailoring stitch used to attach interfacing to collars and lapels. Unlike diagonal basting, this is a permanent stitch and is never seen from the visible side of the garment. Unless you’re getting into advanced tailoring, though, you shouldn’t end up using this.
- French tack - This is a thread bar that loosely joins two pieces of fabric. It’s usually used to hold lining and coat or skirt fabric together at the hem without restricting it’s movement. Sew two or three long bits of thread from the edge of one hem to the other, and then wind a buttonhole stitch around them until the whole bar is covered.
- Bar tack - A bar tack is a decorative reinforcement you use when a part of the garment will be under stress, like the edges of buttonholes, zippers, and pockets. It is sewn similar to a French tack, only on the surface of the fabric and then covered by a row of small, close together stitches instead of a buttonhole stitch.
There are many more decorative stitches as well, but these are the construction ones that are good to know. Next time I’ll cover what your machine can do! Keep sewing, cosbunnies!