Monday, June 23, 2014

Hand applique using blanket stitch

Some of you probably know this already. The very first hand stitch I learned when I was seven years old was the blanket stitch. I wasn't a quick learner back then but somehow I managed to sew blanket stitches on a dog applique. It's no surprise that this is one of my favourite hand stitch.

Some people call the blanket stitch by another name. I think that's confusing so for simplicity, this stitch is always blanket stitch to me.

You can use the hand blanket stitch on turned applique as well as raw edge applique. It works really well on felt, fleece and fused fabric.

The hand blanket stitch is very easy to make.
 Notice that the "bite" taken by the needle goes outwards from the applique to the raw edge. The working thread should be behind the needle.

To get the stitch to look right, just tug the working thread upwards and the stitch will form nicely.

You repeat the "bite" over and over again.

How long your stitches are (the bite) and how wide the spacing between the "bites" is a matter of preference. I like them big-assed large. You might like them dainty. What kind of thread can you use? Embroidery floss or perle cotton are the common choices. I use sashiko thread. They aren't easily available though. Plus it's really thick and tangles easily. You need to use the appropriate needles as well. Embroidery needles are the best choices for embroidery floss and perle cotton. I use sashiko needle for sashiko thread.

If you're familiar with blanket stitch, you're probably familiar with stitches coming loose like below.
You didn't do anything wrong. It's the nature of the stitch. The blanket stitch was created to reinforce the edging of a piece of material or sew two pieces of materials together. When we use the stitch on applique, there isn't enough thickness (from the applique) for the stitch to grip onto. That's why the stitches slip off. This usually happens around tight corners, outside corners and points. On straight lines and gentle curves, there's usually no problem.

The solution to keeping your stitches from slipping off? Use a locking stitch.

Outside corners & locking stitch
 To handle outside corners, just ensure your needle exits exactly at the corner point.

To do a locking stitch, enter the needle close to where the working thread came from. This stitch locks the stitch and you'll never have to worry about slipping stitches.

p.s. please ignore my yellow looking fingernails. in case you're concerned, my nails look an unhealthy pale but they aren't yellow at all. it's probably the lighting. (swear)

 To continue, sneak the needle back inside the blanket stitch. (like pretend there's no locking stitch)

Now you can carry on like normal.
Inside point
 For the inside point of the heart, you want to do 3 stitches all originating from the same point.

For sharp points like a leaf or pointy part of a heart
 Exit the needle exactly on the sharpest part of the point. Use a locking stitch for security.

 Carry on.

To get a seamless look when you end...
 Enter needle under first stitch made without needle piecing anything.

Enter needle through applique. Knot off below.

Now you can't see where you started/ended.

To avoid stitches slipping off here are the things you can do:
- keep stitches closer together around tight corners
- use a locking stitch esp for outside corners

Sometimes I don't want to do a locking stitch especially when I have many tight corners. For outside corners, I only need to do one locking stitch so that's okay but imagine if I have many small circles or little tight curves. Here's what I do sometimes...

I use another stitch called the Tailor's buttonhole stitch. If you google you'll probably find different ways of doing a buttonhole stitch and different names as well and maybe some debate about it. I don't care about all that. For simplicity, I'm going to refer to this stitch as the Tailor's buttonhole stitch.

Here's how you make a Tailor's buttonhole stitch.
 You insert the needle from the edge of the applique inwards.

 Pull the needle and thread through until you get a small loop. Insert needle through loop from BEHIND.

 This part is a little tricky. You need to pull the thread upwards and not to the side.

 Carry on.

p.s. I used a timer to take this shot and I really wanted to show my finger tugging the thread upwards and not to the side.

The Tailor's buttonhole stitch is slightly more secure than a blanket stitch. Just slightly. I find that for tight corners, switching to this stitch allows me to skip a locking stitch. However, for outside corners, I still need a locking stitch unless you make the stitches very, very close together in which case no locking stitches are needed.

Btw, the Tailor's buttonhole stitch was designed to reinforce the raw edges of a button hole and the stitches are sewn very close together.

If you're wondering why don't I use the Tailor's buttonhole stitch in place of the blanket stitch, it's because the blanket stitch looks better!

I hope this post is useful to those of you who have never tried blanket stitch by hand.

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Ms Nora said...

It's useful for even people who have sewn the blanket stitch before! I never knew about the locking stitch and how to end so perfectly :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips, Jane, Shu Ning and I have been sewing this stitch differently. Now I know my way is the blanket stitch whereas hers is the tailor buttonhole

Chau Lee

Christel said...

Thanks for the tutorial! Learnt something new: locking stitch. :)

Projects By Jane said...

Chau Lee,

I'm curious to know why shuning uses the tailor buttonhole - more secure? It's fun to know why people gravitate towards certain stitches. For me, it's because it's the first stitch I learned.

Linda said...

Oh, you have really given me some good advice here. I had no idea about the locking stitch and have avoided the blanket stitch because of the problem of slipping stitches!
Now I know how to solve that. Thank you!

Marcie's Quilting Therapy said...

GREAT tutorial Jane - thanks for all the photos and descriptions. I've marked it in my bookmarks for the next time I do some hand stitching! Thanks again!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. Easy to follow. Realise I confused the two stitches too. Finishing off tips great.

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