Tag Archives: sewing

WIP Wednesday


I am taking the bull by the horns lately.

This week I finished the hair accessories that have been cluttering up my cutting table for the last month or so, whipstitched together the patchwork a-frame tent cover I’ve alluded to from my collection of antique table linens, and made myself a new seating pouf for the studio.

Today I’m wrestling with a former fitted sheet to attempt to make a sister to my favorite skirt.  So far, so good, but I haven’t gotten to the difficult part yet, which is to attach some kind of stretch knit (I’m thinking interlock?) waistband to this woven skirt.

Then I need to finish up a stack of petticoats, make myself some summer sandals, do some more mending (it’s always more mending), finish the faux Victorian baby gown I’ve been working on since January, and then I have a great idea for a new shirt that I’d like to try.

And in the meantime, there’s more knitting (it’s yarn sale season), some crochet (I have a peacock finger puppet in my Ravelry queue that’s been there since 2012), apothecary work (new mouthwash for me, experiments with duck fat vs. palm oil, and I’m out of laundry soap), gardening (carrots have to go in this week), bushcraft (I have to find a way to dry manroot pods and a way to make bamboo baskets), organizing (I’m in the middle of a bathroom storage overhaul), plus all of the normal stuff I do around the house like cleaning, baking, laundry, dishes, canning, homeschooling, etc.

Robert says that I treat homemaking as if it were several full-time jobs, and most of the time I think he’s wrong.  I feel like I spend most days catching just enough sleep, trying to remember to feed myself, and being angry about things I read on news blogs.

But sometimes, when I’m cleaning out the studio or looking back on all the things I’ve done recently (only a very small fraction of which ever make it onto the blog, which is strange to me), I catch a glimpse of all the work that goes into my life and it is stunning.

And frankly, it seems a bit unfair to expect me to file taxes and go to the DMV and return my mother’s e-mails and other adulting on top of everything else.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3604start date: today
completeness: 10%

Sheets.  It’s easy to take them for granted, and it’s difficult to find new ones you love.

So of course, while I was already having a rough patch in my life, all my sheets decided to quit.

First was the sheet that tore itself a new one– literally– as I sat down on the bed.

Then came the sheet that Robert couldn’t get comfortable underneath himself in the middle of the night, so he tried to smooth it out and ended up with the sheet significantly more out (and less smooth) than he was expecting.

Last was a sheet I was folding to put away when I noticed an inconspicuous bit of– something– that wouldn’t brush off and turned out to be a dime-sized hole.  With a neighboring smaller hole.

Which left us with– hang on, let me count– ONE sheet.


For the bed at least three people share every night.

Obviously that wouldn’t work.

And you can’t easily mend something that, once you look at it in the unflinching light of day, seems to be a whisper-thin suggestion of a textile grid arranged artistically around several tiny holes rather than the sturdy cotton fabric you would have sworn it to be.

So I started to think about new sheets.  Believe it or not, sheeting tends to be expensive, and being a more experienced, more confident seamstress now than I was the last time we needed new sheets, I *really* wanted to make our own.  After all, finding storebought sheets I like is a monumental and expensive undertaking in itself.

And, of course, being a bit of a fiber snob, I was desperately craving linen sheets.  To my minimalist mindset, buying new sheets every 6-7 years seemed ludicrous.

But then, luckily, I discovered a way to avoid buying any new sheets– or sheeting– for a few years more.


Because, as it turns out, the sheets that quit had been part of sheet sets, with matching flat sheets we hadn’t used in the years since we bought a duvet, and I had sensibly failed to discard the flat sheets.

So now I’m stripping the elastic out of the old fitted sheets, and taking a pattern from them to cut and sew the flat sheets into fitted sheets.


And the best part?

I’m pretty sure I can just use existing hems as a channel for my elastic.


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make a T-Shirt Quilt

I had a great idea last week.

I have this lovely, flat-topped steamer trunk that I inherited from my grandparents.  I’ve been using it to store my fabric upcycling, next to the regular upcycling in the sunroom.  My idea ran like this:

We could really use a small table or chest in the library.  Like maybe another steamer trunk.  

OMG I love steamer trunks!  Let’s see if there’s a good one on Craigslist…hmm…not really.  

Damn.  I really want a flat-topped steamer trunk.  

Like the one I have in the sunroom.  The one I have in the sunroom doing basically nothing, full of stuff that should be sorted, condensed, processed, and after all that would probably fit in the cedar chest in the studio anyway.  

I could empty it out, put the fabric upcycling I want to keep into the cedar chest, scrap the unusable crap, and spend a couple of days making jersey yarn.  Then I could put the chest under the window in the library and use it as a worktable for my computer during the day, and it could store baby toys and a throw…

And that’s how my studio came to look like something off of “Hoarders”.  Piles of fabric, old clothes, t-shirts, stacked up in the middle of the room making it difficult if not impossible to access and use the space.  Bits of lace, trim, zippers, upholstery foam, etc. spilling out into the hallway.


So first I pulled out all the synthetic knits good for nothing more than making jersey yarn.  And I spent a few days using a seam ripper and an assortment of scissors to strip off the useful stuff (buttons, lace trim, elastic) and cut the remainder into strips.  I rolled the strips up, and stuck them in with my yarn stash.  Someday they’ll make awesome storage containers, like this one I made last fall to hold dishwashing tools:


Then I went through what remained, and sorted out all of the woolens (sweaters, vests, etc.) and packed them up in old rice bags with cedar blocks.  Someday they will be made into diaper covers like this one, modeled by an impossibly tiny baby Ithilien:


Or longies, like these, modeled the same day by an impossibly chubby baby Númenor:

Yes, these two pictures were taken on the SAME DAY– Númenor was almost 1 year old, Ithilien was just over 2 months old– in retrospect it’s no wonder we never had time to cook in those days.

The notions and embellishments I put away in the correct places.  Zippers waiting for the next time I have to make a new hoodie for the smalls, lace to be re-used on hems or as insertions, elastic ready to be stuffed into casings, buttons making a satisfying “plink” sound as I add them to the button jar.

I found several flat bed sheets left over from before my family discovered the Wonders of the Duvet, which is lucky because the fitted sheets for my bed have all decided to quit in the last six weeks and we need more.  I found some flannel receiving blankets from Númenor’s NICU days that will see the light again as baby wipes or a lovey.  I found some church linens my mother gave me when her church couldn’t use them anymore and easily assigned them– a toddler’s poncho, handkerchiefs for me, more linen baby shirts.  Some antique cocktail napkins and a tablecloth with one of my ancestor’s cutwork and embroidery skills demonstrated tolerably well on them I set aside to make a play tent this summer.

Then there were the oddments– a ripped and stained leather motorcycle jacket Robert wore when we were dating that will be cut up to make soft shoes for babies learning to walk, bits of upholstery foam for which I have no particular plan but that stuff is way too expensive to throw away, socks and gloves and mittens to be made into doll clothes and soft toys or unraveled for yarn, a few synthetic knit pieces that weren’t suitable for anything but ripping up for stuffing, and the interesting pieces of boning, interfacing, facings, and other elements I’ve cannibalized from various storebought goods.

All that effort sorting and assigning and putting away, and the studio floor is still positively awash, partially because we have about 30 (THIRTY?!?!?!!!) t-shirts waiting for the muse.  T-shirts that have too much sentimental value to make into yarn.  T-shirts in colors, designs, or themes I’m not interested in seeing my children wear.  T-shirts that vastly outnumber my lifetime’s conceivable use of rags and bags.

T-shirts, in short, just begging to become one of those ghastly t-shirt quilts.

So fine.

I surrender.

I’ll make one.

And I’ll probably even like it.

But I’ll do it because I want to, not because the internet tells me to.


P.S.– The chest works beautifully in that spot in the library, just like I thought it would.


MT: When a button pulls through

This is an installment in a series on mending techniques.  For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.

I have a six-year-old who LOVES to wear button-down shirts, but isn’t always careful when taking them off.  Sometimes he seems to think buttons are snaps, and if he just pulls hard enough…well, you see what I mean.

Most of the time the threads tacking the button down are the first to break, and this is a relatively easy mending job.  But sometimes, especially on older garments or fragile fabrics, the fabric that the button is tacked to will tear through, leaving a small, usually round, hole through one or more layers of the button placket.

Here’s what I do to mend a button that’s pulled through the placket.

You will need: needle, thread, scissors, tweezers, the button in question (or a replacement if the original has been lost), and twill tape that is at least 1/2″ wide.

  1. Cut a small piece of twill tape, roughly 1″ longer than the hole to be mended.  I usually use a piece that’s barely 1.5″ long, but it depends on how fragile the fabric is and how much the tear has spread.
  2. Use the tweezers to push and pull the twill tape through the hole, into the placket itself.  It should be lying flat, sandwiched between the layers of the placket, almost like interfacing.
  3. Slide the twill tape around in the placket with your fingers until the hole is nicely centered on it.
  4. Thread the needle with doubled thread but DO NOT knot the ends.
  5. Use one arm of the tweezers to tuck the fabric around the hole under itself until all fraying is obscured.  A circular motion usually works best.  If the button tore the inside placket fabric, repeat this step on that side of the hole before proceeding.
  6. Bring the needle down through the right side of the fabric just at the edge of the tear, stitching through all layers of the placket and the twill tape itself.  Be careful to leave a thread tail of at least 2″.
  7. Needle up on the diametrically opposite edge of the hole.
  8. Take a stitch across the exposed face of the twill tape, catching the edge of the tear as you needle down.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 around the tear in a star or asterisk shape until the edge of the tear is well-secured.  On larger holes or more delicate fabrics you may want to continue until threads nearly cover the twill tape.
  10. Needle up through the center of the twill tape.
  11. String and tack the button to the twill tape as usual.
  12. Wrap the working thread 3-5 times around the core of tacking threads between the button and the twill tape.
  13. Tie the working thread and the thread tail from step 6 together with your choice of joining knot (the tailor’s knot is a good choice here, but the square knot will suffice).
  14. Trim and bury thread ends within the placket.

A very similar twill tape patching method can be used to repair other structural fabric tears, such as when the edge of a patch pocket pulls through or the mitered corner seam on a fitted sheet begins to fray.  In these repairs, instead of trying to slip the twill tape between existing fabric layers, I simply apply it to the wrong side of the mending.


It’s not my strong suit, especially when it comes to expectations for myself and my creative works.

I like to aim high and be profoundly disappointed in myself when I am, inevitably, not capable of being some unholy amalgam of Ma Ingalls, Maria Montessori, and the Yarn Harlot.

I’ve been watching the weeks tick by with shocking speed and looking at the dwindling but still ambitious nesting list and getting more and more frustrated with myself for not inventing a Time Turner and spending all my doubled days knitting and sewing and deep-cleaning the house.

And that is CRAZY.

So, in the interests of realism, here’s the list of things from the nesting list that I would most like to finish in the remaining time before the baby comes.  I’ve allotted myself one project per week until Christmas, because I know that there will be other things (like gift making for the extended family and baking bread and playing with my children) that will crop up as I try to go about my business.

Top-Priority Nesting List for the Next Six Weeks

  • nursing pillow cover— I have a new, experimental nursing pillow.  I designed it myself after years of struggling with commercially-available options that were either awkward to use, impossible to fit around a pregnant belly, or simply not tall enough for me.  But it needs a water-resistant cover because babies are leaky and it is filled with buckwheat hulls.
  • winter boots for Númenor and Ithilien— For years, we were devotees of Stonz booties, but my children have now outgrown their XL size, and I wasn’t very impressed with the redesigned versions anyway.  So this winter, they need new boots for snow and slush purposes.
  • winter bear bunting– This is one of the things that I added to the nesting list in a panic about having a newborn in the depths of winter and not being able to simply withdraw from the outside world like I did when Ithilien was born.  Babies need warmth!
  • dyeing for my petticoats and the faux Victorian gown– Simply put, dyework is NOT something I’m going to be able to do with a newborn in tow.  Whether I actually get these projects sewn up and finished is another issue, but the dyeing at least needs to be done before the baby comes.
  • Balmoral bootikins– I’m not sure what size these will turn out to be, so it’s important to finish them before the baby outgrows newborn-size things.
  • crib– This is truly the centerpiece of the baby’s space.  Baby clothes will be stored in baskets underneath it, the mobile may need to be re-positioned over it, wall décor will need to move around to accommodate it, and I haven’t quite figured out how or whether I’ll be able to put a dust ruffle on it.  So much depends on having it finished that it’s really not optional.

I may not be posting much as I try to get these things finished, since some of them are sure to take more than a week and I might be interrupted at any moment.

But I’m out there, somewhere, wishing I knew the charms and incantations necessary to be in two places at once.

WIP Wednesday

natural linen baby tunics piled up waiting for elasticstart date: 20 September 2015
time elapsed: 3 days
completeness: 98%

Among knitters, there’s a term for starting one project immediately after the end of the last one.  It’s called “binding off to cast on”.  That’s what my life has been like for the past several weeks as I look at the calendar and the nesting list and start to feel a little wave of panic rising in my chest.

I finished Númenor’s coat late one night, and cut out pieces of these shirts the next day.  I finished the last shirt this afternoon, and cut pieces for Númenor’s hoodie before dinner.  Back to back to back to back.

natural linen baby tunic in progress with sewing tools

In the pro column, I sure am productive these days!  In the con column, I’m feeling the strain.  And somehow every Wednesday seems to find me actively binding off to cast on, and therefore not really having a WIP to post about.  (Un)luckily, I have also outstripped my own ability to stock supplies, so I get to share these sweet little tunics while I wait for the elastic I need to finish them off.

Having had a springtime homecoming with Númenor (he was born in the winter but, as a preemie, didn’t leave the NICU until spring), most of our basics are for warmer-weather babies, and these will bridge the gap by providing an insulating underlayer for t-shirts and vests and sundresses and pinafores.

I’ve really enjoyed feeling the crisp linen in my hands as I worked.  There’s something about that fiber, especially in this undyed, unbleached state, that is ponderous with tradition, that hearkens back to earlier times and simpler needs and brings the primacy of preparing for a new baby into sharp relief.

sewing tools in the windowsill at sunset

I could have just three months left now before the baby comes.  And there are still a lot of things that must be done, which is a strange phenomenon when little babies (especially those with older siblings) have such basic needs.

Maybe it’s the basic-ness of the needs that I find so worrying: what if the baby isn’t warm enough, clean enough, dry enough, safe enough, snuggled enough, welcomed enough?

Maybe that’s why my head is so full of bees trying to ensure that everything is ready: while the baby’s needs are simple and few, they are critical.

pieces of new DIY hoodie piled up and ready for assembling/sewing to start

I’m trying to remember that just because it’s critical that the baby is warm doesn’t mean that it’s critical that I finish any particular blanket or piece of clothing.  We have plenty of warmth here already in hugs, and blankets, and a busy kitchen.  We have plenty of cleanliness, too, and, perhaps more importantly, not too much, either.  We have ways to get dry, even if I never re-hem that new hooded towel.  We are safe.  We can snuggle.

And I don’t think I’ve ever truly doubted that we would welcome this new life among us.


The fabric in the shirts is an unbleached handkerchief-weight linen I was given as a gift; if you’re looking for something similar, try this.  The pattern is a long-sleeved, tunic-length adaptation of Abby’s infant peasant dress, which I highly recommend, although I can’t speak to the construction tutorial because I’ve used my own techniques.  I have attached the sleeves to the bodice with a French seam and the sides are Elizabethan seams, for maximum durability.  The gray fabric in the pile at Ithilien’s feet is a seconds-quality cut of a long-discontinued organic sweatshirt knit from Organic Cotton Plus.  If you’re looking for something similar, try this.

Feathering that Nest

Happy news has its own special way of completely demolishing a person’s life.

Celebratory things– like getting married, moving in together, having a new baby, starting a new job– they take just as much energy, attention, and time as their tragic counterparts do.  But there’s an added sting: people expect you to be happy.  You should be happy.  If you’re anything like me, you ARE happy, somewhere deep inside, in all that mess of humanity and emotion.

But all you can see on a day-to-day level is how much work it is to be pregnant and trying to raise your older children at the same time.  You feel that anxious pressure over money, time, preparation, and you are seized with that “how am I going to make this WORK?” panic in the middle of your sleepless nights.

diaper caddy

People have all kinds of ways of dealing with this madness.  I have a friend who started posting weekly pictures of her belly on Facebook when she was 8 weeks pregnant.  People who are on bedrest often make countdown calendars marking each day until their due date or safe date as a tiny victory.  Couples, especially first-time parents, sign up for birth and parenting and breastfeeding classes, even though it’s an open secret that this is a laughable prospect.


All these activities have two goals: first, to keep the mind of the expectant person so full that they can’t spare the time to freak out, but second, to make openings for people in their social networks and general vicinity to offer them help and reassurance.


A weekly belly pic means a regular reminder of your pregnancy in everyone’s feed.  A countdown calendar gives you an opportunity to remind all your housemates of your incremental but inevitable journey.  Classes are an explicit way to seek new connections and new sources of support based on your status as expectant parents.


Personally, I knit.  I sew.  And I felt and fold and sculpt and bead and work-work-work as much as I can.  That keeps me distracted from the fact that I have made the incredibly foolish decision to let the children in my family outnumber the adults (oh help!), and, if I work on baby things, it provides a neat justification for talking about the baby, even with strangers.


Plus, you know, cuteness.  Thriftiness.  Et cetera.  Not all crafting is about insecurity and escapism.  Or, rather, my crafting isn’t entirely about insecurity and escapism.  Not entirely.



So, to the lady who saw me knitting baby pants in the car outside the burrito place and asked what I was making and complimented my skills, even though it was just stockinette and seed stitch, thank you.  To the friend who doesn’t watch Bob’s Burgers but told me my “Louise” baby bonnet was adorable, thank you.  To the elderly relative who doesn’t quite understand what a sleep sack is or how cloth diapering works but is interested in having me explain it, thank you.  To the understanding partner who listened patiently to a cumulative total of three hours of freaking out about the exact configuration of compartments in the diapering caddy, thank you.

Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone as I feather this nest.


MT: Tips for Structural Seams

This is an installment in a series on mending techniques.  For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.

Tutorials for stitches and knots and other techniques not illustrated below can be found here.

My apologies for the DRAMATIC lighting in this pics– I can only work on this particular project at night after my children are asleep because it’s supposed to be a surprise.

Sometimes the seam that needs fixing is a weight-bearing seam that is crucial to the function of an object, like the seam attaching the upper of a shoe to the sole or the seam holding a Waldorf-style doll’s head into the body.

For these repairs, it is ESSENTIAL to use doubled thread.  You will also want a strong thread that doesn’t stretch much, such as the upholstery thread I’m using here.

Start by finding the broken thread ends, then tie your new thread ends to them and start sewing.  Here I’m using a ladder stitch, because I want the seam to be invisible when I’m finished.

ladder stitch

I am enclosing the thread ends from my knot into the seam itself.  That saves me a step later and is very secure.


Once I have the seam tightened to my satisfaction– I ladder stitched all the way around the doll’s neck twice in this case– it’s time to start knotting off the thread.  This is a knot I use whenever I need a particularly clean and secure finish on a doubled thread.

Insert your needle very near the last exit point of your working thread.



Pull the working thread through PART of the way, leaving a loop as shown below.



Now snip ONLY ONE of the two thread loops at the top.  The other loop will remain intact for now.


Now pull the needle until all the slack is taken out of the stitch.


You should be left with one short thread from the loop you snipped in the previous step, and a doubled thread in your needle with one end cut and one still attached to the seam.  In the picture below, I’m holding the working thread.


Go ahead now and trim the other thread to roughly match the length of the snipped loop.  You will have two fairly even thread ends that straddle a tiny stitch in the work.


Tie the threads together in the manner of your choosing.  I used a square knot here because the upholstery thread is pretty slippery, but a tailor’s knot would work just as well.  Don’t pull too tight, because it will compress and distort the tiny stitch your knot will straddle, but do make it secure.

To finish, bury your thread ends within the piece or inside the seam.



MT: Needle and Thread Repairs

This is an installment in a series on mending techniques.  For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.

Tutorials for stitches and knots and other techniques not illustrated below can be found here.

Unless otherwise noted, these repairs are best suited to a doubled thread and a sharp sewing needle.


A broken seam when you have access to the seam side of the object is possibly the easiest mending task.  Find the broken ends of the threads on both sides of the gap– note that if the original threads were doubled, you are looking for TWO ends on each side of the gap– join your doubled thread ends with the broken end(s) and replicate the original seam across the gap until you reach the broken end(s) on the other side, then join the thread again.  Trim thread ends.

If the seam is broken and you cannot access the seam side of the piece, the best choice is usually ladder stitch.  Find the broken ends of the threads on both sides of the gap, and pick out the seam until the broken ends fall on the wrong side of the seam before joining your thread ends with them.  Work a ladder stitch across the gap until you reach the broken ends on the other side, and join the thread again, making sure this knot will also fall on the wrong side of the seam.  Now bury the ends inside the piece.

A gaped seam is an easy fix, but is often evidence of a more serious problem somewhere along the length of the thread.  Often, if you carefully check the whole seam, you will find a break in the thread further along.

Sometimes, however, a seam will gape without the thread being compromised.  This most often happens in seams along firmly-stuffed sections of soft toys– the problem is that the original stitching was too loose or became too loose when the object was stuffed or washed.  The best approach is to leave the gaping seam in place and simply add a new, tighter seam just to the outside of it, enclosing the too-loose original stitches into the seam allowance.  It is extremely important to ensure that the knot you use to start your repair is hidden– you might be tempted to use a quilter’s knot, but in my experience they are not secure enough for this task.  Instead, I recommend placing a tailor’s knot on what will become the new seam allowance.  When you have finished working your new seam, bury your thread ends inside it.  For most instances of a gaped seam, ladder stitch is the best choice, but sometimes a whipstitch or other decorative stitch may be used instead.


Often a thread in a hem will snap because the original hem stitching was not elastic enough (knit garments are especially prone to this), in which case the best approach is to unpick the whole hem and redo it with a more elastic stitch.  In order of decreasing elasticity, the options for hems are: raw edge, serger or overlock, “stretch” stitch (an option on many newer sewing machines), zig-zag, whipstitch (press the hem as usual, and use a whipstitch to attach the fold to the garment), blanket stitch, running stitch, and finally backstitch.  If you can’t choose a more elastic stitch, decrease the tension or use a more elastic thread.

In other cases, the hem has deteriorated as the seam allowance or the pressed edge slowly frays, which requires the addition of trim or a guard, and is no longer a needle and thread repair.  This will be covered in amendments and additions.

Sometimes, especially in children’s clothing, the original hem is still in fine condition, but nonetheless must be replaced to let the garment out or take it in.  If you are replacing a hem to let out a garment, unpick the original hem and apply a new one at the required length.  If you are taking in a garment, leave the original hem intact and simply hem again to achieve the required length.  This way, if you need to let out the hem again to restore the item to its original length, all you must do is unpick the new stitches.

Linings and Appliqués

This kind of repair is more about artistry than technique.  The key is to take small stitches and be clever about hiding them.  I use a single thread for these repairs.

Start by anchoring your thread with a quilter’s knot or tailor’s knot.  Which one you use is a matter of personal preference and also the specific task at hand– quilter’s knots are a great way to start repairing a lacy appliqué on a formal gown, whereas I tend to use a tailor’s knot tucked into the interface between outer and lining to anchor my thread when I am touching up a lining.

To repair a topstitched lining or appliqué, use a running stitch or backstitch.  Most other repairs in this category, such as a loose lining on a jacket, will be best suited to a ladder stitch.

To finish, knot and bury your thread end.

MT: Sewing Basics for Mending

This is an installment in a series on mending techniques.  For a full index of posts in this series, please click here.

Seams and Stitches for Hand Repairs

Running stitch— This is the simplest stitch, the one most people learn as children with lacing cards.

Back-tacked running stitch– Work a basic running stitch, but sew a single stitch backwards every few inches.  This helps to keep the tension smooth across a long seam and will also function to slow down the progress of broken seams.

Backstitch— This is a firm, strong stitch.  It’s great for topstitching, applying trim, or edging an appliqué.

Whipstitch— This is traditionally used to assemble felt toys and for embroidered edgings, but it’s also a great choice for hand-seaming on knit garments because it is strong and slightly elastic.

Ladder stitch— This is usually the best choice for fixing a seam when you no longer have access to the wrong side of the garment, because it’s totally invisible on the right side.

Elizabethan seam— This is a time-consuming technique combining two running stitch seams and a whip stitch seam, but it creates comfortable, strong, flat seams.  I like to use it for highly-stressed seams (like in the crotch of pants or the shoulder seams of a heavy coat).

Blanket stitch— This is mainly a decorative choice, but it also helps to stabilize the edges of fabrics that would otherwise tend to distort (wool felt, knits) and can be used to join two pieces of firm, non-fraying material while keeping the seam totally flat.

Specialty Knots

I most often sew with square knots (with and without bights) because they are strong and simple and get the job done, but sometimes you will need something more specialized.

Tailor’s knot— This can also be worked flat, against the surface you’re sewing from, instead of at the end of your thread, and is therefore a great choice for when you need the knot to be snug against the work, like joining old and new thread ends (like this).

Quilter’s knot— This is a good choice for making an unobtrusive knot that can easily be tugged to the inside of the piece, which is a useful technique when there is no wrong side (like, unsurprisingly, on a quilt).

Burying Thread Ends

This technique works best with fairly long thread ends and a long, sharp, large-eyed needle such as a dollmaking needle.

  1. Insert the tip of the (empty) needle into the seam, as near to the knotted-off thread ends as possible without catching them.
  2. Wet or wax the thread ends and thread them through the eye of the needle.  Depending on how long your thread ends are, you may have to put more of the needle’s shaft into the work before the ends can reach the eye.
  3. Push the tip of the needle back out through the surface of the piece several centimeters away from the seam, and pull the stitch through.  Trim flush any thread ends that protrude from this spot.

The thread ends are now buried: they are enclosed between the fabric surfaces.

Once more, in pictures:

Pulling the thread ends through to the inside of the piece, with the needle entering as close to the knot as possible.
Trimming the thread ends flush where they protrude. I like to stretch or wiggle the fabric a bit after this step, especially if I’m using a thread color that contrasts with the surface color (like here), just to guarantee that it doesn’t show.
Done! Totally invisible knots and secure and hidden thread ends.