Embroidery Edge Stitches to Embellish Your Garments

colorful embroidered blanket stitch edge on blue old mexico dress

Embroidering the edges of your garment is a great way to to add a simple embellishment as well as a great way to get started with embroidery.  Edge stitches can be very simple and go very quickly.  And at the same time, they add something special to your garment that makes it personalized and unique.  Use a contrasting thread to make the stitching stand out or complimentary thread to blend colors.  Use edge embroidery on neck lines, cuffs, hem edges, pocket edges, or along the front of a jacket or open shirt.


Lots of Folkwear patterns are perfect for adding edge stitching to (and are even traditional to the pattern).  142 Old Mexico Dress often has stitching along the neckline and sleeve and hem edges.  You can see an example in the photos above of a white 142 Old Mexico Blouse with a complimentary light peach thread used to do a blanket stitch on the neckline, sleeve hems, and yoke edge; and our blue sample with colorful crewel embroidery along the neck edge.  109 Little Folks has a Mexican Blouse as well as Turkish Shirt that both look very cute with embroidered edges.  The 157 Moroccan Djellaba is another great pattern for adding this type of embroidery to the edges.  You can also use these stiches on ready-made garments that you want to add a little color or interest to.

There are several stitches used to embroider edges, and I will cover two common ones here:  blanket stitch (also called buttonhole stitch because when done very close together, it can finish a handmade buttonhole) and herringbone stitch (or cross-stitch).  These stitches can be purely decorative, or they can actually finish the edge of the fabric.  When stitched close together, these stitches can finish hems, depending on the fabric and finishing techniques and vision (and how it will be handled - hand-finished edges may not stand up to heavy duty washing machines, etc.).  

Materials needed

You will need an embroidery needle or crewel needle - one with an eye big enough for the thread you will use. 

For thread, use Perle cotton, crewel yarn (used in blue sample above), or embroidery thread/floss (used in white sample).  You will need to decide if you want a more delicate stitch or if you want it to stand out and even add some texture to the garment.  For a more delicate stitch, use 3 strands of embroidery thread or #8 (or #12) Perle cotton.  For a heavier look, use all 6 strands of embroidery floss or #5 perle cotton or crewel yarn.  

You may want to use an embroidery hoop, but for edge stitching, I usually do not.

Starting and stopping

To begin, I often tie a knot at the end of my thread and just begin.  But, experienced embroiderers take a few tiny criss-crossing stitches in the back of the fabric to secure the thread.  If you are going to machine stitch over the ends of the edges (i.e. enclose them in a seam), you don't need to secure those edges.  

To end, I usually tie off my thread with a knot in the back of the fabric.  Again, you can take a few tiny criss-cross stitches to secure instead.  I usually hide my thread tail inside the fabric hem as well, cutting it after I've run it to the inside of the hem a few inches.

Blanket stitch  

This is probably the most common edge stitching and there are several variations.  

To make this stitch, come up from the back of the fabric, bring the needle up and through the loop made by the thread before it is pulled tight.  Then, pull thread tight enough to lay flat against the fabric.

blanket stitch, first stitch, red thread on white cotton

blanket stitch, step 2, red thread on white fabric

Then, repeat this the entire length of the edge.  

blanket stitch for embroidering edge of fabrics - red on white fabric.

There are several variations of this stitch that add a little more decoration. You can do a pattern of long and short stitches, for example, long, short long (see illustration below).  Add in a double space between the sets of stitches.  Or double up two blanket stitches for a bit more texture and boldness.  

blanket stitch illustration with pattern of long short long

Cross stitch, or Herringbone stitch

This is not true cross stitch and stitching aficionados might look askance at calling it Herringbone stitch also (since it's not quite perfect).  But, it is close enough.  This is another simple stitch that adds a bit of interest to edges.  This one is also great to use along seams as well.  It's perfect along the yoke/dress seam of the 142 Old Mexico Dress.  

To make this stitch, stich from the lower left of the stitch to the upper right, then bring the needle up just below the upper part of the stitch to make another diagonal stitching line.  Continue the diagonal stitches across the area where you want the cross stitching.  Then, cross the stitches with a lower right-to-upper left stitch.  You can make the stitches wide or more diagonal, cross the tops and bottoms of the Xs (this is what herringbone stitch is like), or keep the stitches (Xs) very separate from each other.  

 Cross stitch, first stich in blue across white fabric

These two stitches are combined below in one of our 142 Old Mexico Dress samples using crewel yarn for a colorful and fun look.  These stiches were taken right along the edge of the bottom of the yoke of the dress.  You can see the small stitches at the end/beginning of the cross stitch where they anchored the thread.  The yarn for blanket stitching here was variegated and changes colors in different areas of the garment.  

Hints:  if you have trouble with keeping any of these stitches even, you can use tiger tape that you can peel off your fabric after stitching.  Or mark your fabric with water soluble marker at intervals that you want to stitch.

Whatever embroidery stitches you choose, use your creativity with color, texture, and style to make something unique to you and, most importantly, have fun with it!

Did you learn anything?  Do you have questions?  Do you have some tips to add?  Leave a comment! And happy stitching!