Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Shoelace" Stitch - mini handsewing tutorial

I decided I could do a better job explaining the handsewing technique that I was trying to tell you about in my last post so here is a little mini-tutorial in case you would like to try it. In my example above I have used a contrasting 6 stranded embroidery thread just so everything shows up nicely. You would want to use a closely matching, strong sewing thread in your real work.

As you can see above, the needle is inserted into the felt from the inside of the seam into one side and then from the inside of the seam to the other side, each time moving forwards a few millimeters and alternating directions. When you pull the thread tight the stitches bite into the felt and become almost invisible. I tend to sew about a half of an inch or so and then pull the thread tight, then sew another half inch, tightening my stitches as I go. Below you can see the untightened stitches on the left, and on the right are stitches which have been pulled tight.
Gently pulling the stitches will result in leaves that look slightly notched. Pull the thread tighter, and you get distinctly notched leaves that curve outwards. Pull very tight, more on one side of a leaf than the other, and you get leaves that twist and bend (pull the thread too tight, and it will snap and you will have to stomp your feet and start over). It is a great way to add simple three dimensional shape to a plant. Also, the thread seems to disappear into the felt, but without crushing the outer shape the way that blanket or overcast stitches seem to do when they are pulled tightly. To help shape the leaf the way you want, sometimes you can take the leaf and tug on the shape slightly to redistribute the gathers you have made.
 Above are three leaves that I have stitched using this technique. Each leaf started exactly the same shape and size. By tightening and gathering the stitches you are able to make progressively more curved leaves. If you find that you aren't able to tighten the stitches easily and want a more curved leaf, you might have to try spacing your stitches out a little more.

You could use leaves like this to build your own succulent felt plant, or you could pair a leaf with a felt flower to make a pretty pin or clip. If anybody knows the real name for this stitch I would love to find out. 


  1. Hi Gabrielle, I'm Adline from Malaysia. I came across your blog on Craft Magazine :) I just adore your felt succulents and all your other crafts. I see you've just started blogging, I hope you'll keep on going, because I love your work! :)

  2. Awesome tutorial!
    I made some of your tape measure stuffies- a bunny and a kitten! You can see pictures of them on my blog!