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How to do a Pickstitch

Threads magazine - 135 – Feb./Mar. 2008

Hand stitches are crucial in good finishing; when sewn properly, they are as strong as machinesewn stitches, and you can do them almost as quickly. But many people avoid them and try to always use machines.

A few words on thread before I begin: Any thread longer than the distance from your hand to your elbow will tangle when you work and slow you down. I’ve actually clocked this; it’s faster to re-thread than to fight a long length of thread.

Before they sew, some sewers wax their thread to strengthen it and make it easier to work with. I don’t, but I do iron it to take out any extra twists. When you’re buying thread, beware of bargains. those spools you get ten for a dollar aren’t for fine sewing. Good-quality thread allows you to work faster, and it’s more durable.

You should also always keep a good supply of sharp, high-quality needles. Preferences in lengths and diameters vary; my favorite is a no. 10 milliner’s needle because it’s slightly longer than a regular hand-sewing needle; it feels better in my hand (probably because I’m used to long beading needles). Experiment and find the needle that suits you best. With good thread and your favorite needle, you’re ready to master the pickstitch.


In sewing circles, the proper name for this stitch has been hotly contested, but I prefer “pickstitch” to “prickstitch.”

The pickstitch is a strong, decorative stitch used for topstitching and installing zippers in difficult fabrics such as velvet. It is also a good way to understitch seam allowances on facings when machine stitching isn’t possible.

When I sew pickstitches as a decorative detail, I use buttonhole twist in a single or double strand, depending on how visible…

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  1. User avater
    Mike32 | | #1

    Thanks for the clear instructions, close up on how to achieve this professional detail. However, to qualify that the stitches go from right to left--that is if you are a right handed sewer. We lefties will go from left to right!

    Alma Lou

  2. User avater
    LinenKids | | #2

    Thanks, it was useful!

  3. louann2 | | #3

    As another lefty, I am glad to see mike32 's post! Really like the precision of the article, and have used this site often while constructing my daughter's wedding dress.

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