Thursday, February 24, 2011

blanket stitch tutorial

i adore blanket stitch. it's simple with so much rustic charm. (and i just realized my muddled mommy brain has been inexplicably calling it "backstitch" for a few days - why, oh, why?)  it can be used to edge many types of projects, not just blankets, and also for decorative effect on flat items like applique, but that will be dealt with at another time. here's how to blanket stitch an edge, like on my 4sq baby blankets.

tie a knot in the end of your thread/floss. bring your needle up between the folds of the two fabric edges.  pull needle and thread all the way through. when you get the knot to the fabric, grasp the fabric close to where the knot is with one hand and gently but smartly tug the thread through where it is exiting the fabric. you will hear a satisfying "pop" when the knot goes through. this is called "burying the knot." be careful you don't tug too vigorously or you will pull it completely through the fabric and possibly make a hole.

on the front side that is facing you, insert the needle from front to back of the fabric about a 1/4" inch below the fabric's edge (or whatever depth of stitch length you desire). grasp the thread with your non-needle hand and pull the thread behind the needle in the direction your stitches will be moving in. here, i'm stitching right to left, but you can certainly stitch left to right if you want. whatever's more comfy for you.
i pinch the thread down along the seam and hold it there while i pull the needle and thread through. once you have the thread pinched down with the needle between the thread and the fabric, pull the needle and thread through to the backside until the stitch is tight and complete.

i let go of the thread with my pinching hand once i get close to finishing the stitch.

a this point, if you notice your thread is not inside the loop being created, stop and pull your needle through the loop or you will miss the stitch. this can happen when you don't keep the thread all to the side you are moving toward as you start your stitch.

pull until stitch is snug, but not too tight, pulling straight up and away from the seam.

if you somehow missed and didn't catch the stitch, you can loosen the botched stitch up a bit and run the needle under the stitch, making sure to catch it and correct the miss.

then start again by inserting the needle in the front of the fabric and repeating the same stitch again always making sure to keep the tail of the thread (end away from the needle) pulled to the side in the direction you are stitching. if you don't keep the thread to the side you are moving toward, you can miss the stitch and end up with a diagonal stitch instead. just correct as described above.

when you have a little more than one needle's length of thread left, tie off and bury your knot. this is not a time to be frugal with your thread. quite often i try to eek out a stitch or two more past where i know i should stop, and i always regret it. you need enough thread left to work with, especially to bury the knot. otherwise you will find yourself very frustrated and spending a lot of extra time repeatedly rethreading increasingly fraying thread and trying desperately to get it tied off. no fun. go ahead and "waste" that last few inches of thread.

my method of tying off is not the best, but i know of no other. please, anyone enlighten me who knows a better way. here's how i do it:

i loop around the final stitch, making sure to pull my needle through the loop to create a knot on the thread.

about a 1/4" away from the knot you just tied, wrap the thread around the end of the needle twice. pinch the thread where you just wrapped it and pull the needle through your fingers, keeping it pinched. this makes a knot.
then insert the needle in the seam under the last stitch.

push the needle between the two fabrics for an inch or two, making sure not to peek through either side of fabric until you are ready to exit. then pull needle and thread out of the fabric and tug until you hear the "pop" of the knot being buried. it's very important to make sure you get the knot buried. sometimes i have to use the needle to manipulate it into the seam if i just can't get it to pop.

when the knot is buried, trim off the thread, making sure not to cut into your fabric. tuck the little ends back in if you have to and smooth over the hole. i pull the thread out a little more than necessary, which makes the fabric pucker a bit, snip it, and then pull the fabric smooth and the tiny bit of end left sticking out will pull itself into hiding.

to start up the next length of thread, tie off the end with a knot like you did in the beginning and bury the knot as before, inserting the needle an inch or so back from the end of the last stitch.

OR insert your hand into the hole left open and place your needle in position from the inside.

now just pick up where you left off, stitching as before.

don't forget to hold down that thread along the seam in the direction you are moving and to keep all the thread to that side of the needle.

for how to turn a corner, go here

once you get the hang of blanket stitch, it moves along nicely, falling into a wonderful rhythm. i like to edge my 4sq blankets when i'm at my kids' after school activities, while talking to friends, and i've even started watching a movie or two with the kids when i need to get some stitching done. then again, it's a nice way to busy my hands while my mind roams free, contemplating life and the cosmos. simple but deep stuff!

please let me know if this tutorial made sense to you, how your blanket stitching adventures go, and ask any questions you might have. i'll sure try to answer them.

next up will be a full tutorial on the 4 sq blanket, as requested by shannon. i just got an invitation to a baby shower next week and will be making a new blanket for the occasion, so i'll photograph as i go and get the tutorial posted shortly there after.

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