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Slipstitches and Fell Stitches | Video

Learn two invisible, but essential, hand stitches.

Video: Jeff Roos, Cari Delahanty. Tech Editor: Carol Fresia

Couture expert Claire B. Shaeffer explains the many uses of two key hand stitches: the slipstitch and the fell stitch. Both these stitches are practically invisible on a finished garment, and they are useful for basting and permanently sewing seams. In many cases, they are used in couture garments to replace seams that, in home sewing, would be stitched by machine with right sides together. The benefit of these stitches is that they give you more control as you shape fabric, and they make it easier to match patterns such as stripes and plaids.

Although the stitches look alike from the garment’s right side, they do not resemble each other on the wrong side, and they perform slightly different functions.


Prepare to slipstitch a seam by thread-tracing the seamlines and marking notches on both sides of the seam. Fold under one seam allowance and lay it atop the opposite side, matching any notches, and aligning the traced seamlines. Pin in place perpendicular to the seamline. Although you can slipstitch at this point, Claire suggests top-basting the edges together with an even basting stitches, so you can take the pins out.

Fold the work so the bulk of the fabric is away from your body, not on your lap, and the seam is in front of you, with the overlapping fold side closer to you. Stitch into the overlapping layer’s fold, and slide the needle through the fold. Then stitch into the underlapping layer. The stitches will not show along the seamline when finished. Press the finished seam over the basting, then remove basting thread, and remove the thread tracing from the inside. On the wrong side, the slipstitches look like running stitches on each side of the seam.

You can use slipstitching to baste for matching stripes;…


About This Video Series

This video series features three hours of insider tips and secrets for creating high-end couture garments and home accessories. See an expert at work as Claire Shaeffer illustrates the basic techniques that take sewing to the next level -- from hand sewing and machine stitching to marking methods, pressing, and hemming.

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