I more or less taught myself to blanket stitch by looking and doing. It was after I had been using the blanket stitch for a while, that I went in search of “how to”. Yes, I know, a bit backward! Although my stitches looked the same, I did start and stop differently than the other methods I found, and along the way I had come up with a few tricks that worked for me. I am going to teach you my way of blanket stitching. If it doesn’t work for you, there are other tutorials out there, even quite a few on Youtube.com that might feel more “right”. Crafting is all about experimentation and finding techniques that work for you. So, if you find something you are more comfortable with, feelings won’t be hurt ;)
Because blanket stitching is so important to appliqueing and work with felt, I felt it warrants close examination. Here's what we will be learning:
Today we are going to practice stitching on the edge using the following techniques:
Cut a strip of good quality, light colored wool felt about 8” x 1 ½”. You can practice on both long edges.
Tip: If you don't already own a toothed tracing wheel and tracing paper, go out immediately and buy them. Seriously... if you are in your jammies, throw on an overcoat and find a late night craft and/or sewing shop, and buy them... NOW! Fortunately, they are not expensive, and they are beyond useful when learning various applique, embroidery and quilting stitches. This technique gave me the "feel" of stitch size and placement when learning the blanket stitch, and helped me to achieve "perfectish" stitches fast!
Start by placing a dark piece of tracing paper, waxy side down, near the top edge of the felt. Pushing hard, run the tracing wheel along a straight edge about 1/4" from the edge to mark your felt. Note: be careful. You can actually leave dents on the surface below the felt, so don't work on your good dining room table! Also, marking your fabric with tracing paper is used for practice only. The marks are meant to come out in the wash, and unless you have washable felt, the marks could remain permanent on a finished project. After practicing for a while, spacing will feel second nature and you won't need the practice dots any more.
If you don't have a tracing wheel and tracing paper, then draw a line 1/4" from the edge. This will help you make your vertical stitches the same height.
TIP: When working on a real project, you can usually use one of the disappearing markers on your felt, but I have found the marks won't fading away on their own, and I've always needed to remove the marks by GENTLY dabbing with a damp cloth. ALWAYS try this on a scrap piece of felt before marking and dabbing a project. Some felt will not hold up to dabbing, and the area will felt, ruining a project.
Note: We will be working from left to right, so your first stitch should be placed at the left end of the top edge.
Using 3 strands of embroidery floss 18" - 24" long, knot the end. On the backside of your felt, insert your needle in the felt about 1/4" from the top edge where you want your first stitch to be. Slide the needle between the felt fibers, coming through the top edge of the felt. If you are in the center of the felt, you should not be able to see your needle through the front or back.
Pull the thread through so the knot is against the felt in the back. Turn the felt over. You will now be working from the front of the felt. (In a later lesson, we will learn how to hide your knot so the back is as neat as the front.) The thread is now attached to the felt through the top edge.
Place your needle through the felt in the second hole. (Make sure when you push your needle through the felt that you go through the felt directly and not on an angle. If you go on an angle the stitches in the back will be shorter. More about this later.) When your needle goes through the fabric, the thread attached to the felt should be to the left of the needle, and the thread attached to the needle should be to the right of the needle. This creates a big loop. (The top part of the loop is cut off in this photo.)
When pulling the needle through the felt, pull it towards yourself, which would be inside the big loop you made. The loop will be behind the thread that is attached to the felt.
Gently pull the thread straight up. The tension should be tight enough to close the loop but not so tight that it dents the edge. The edge should remain straight.
For the second stitch, skip one of the dots and go into the next dot.
Repeat like the first stitch going between the threads, with the attached thread in front of the loop.
If your spacing is correct, you should create a 3 sided box. (Although I usually make my boxes square, they can be rectangular. The most important thing is to keep them uniform.) Use your index and middle finger on your left hand to hold the thread and control the tension gently pulling up after each stitch.
Continue stitching until you come near the edge. Check your stitches as you go along to make sure they are parallel to one another and at right angles to the edge and stitching line. If they do not line up, you are probably not pulling your thread straight up after each stitch, and your stitches are drifting. Note: don't be afraid to take out a stitch or two that you're not happy with. Although there is a charm to uneven stitches (which we will talk about later), in this exercise we are trying to perfect stitch size and tension.
When you get to the end, use your index and middle fingers on your left hand to maintain tension, and with your right hand, slide the needle from the back to the front, between the top edge of the felt and the horizontal thread on your last stitch.
Pull the thread through, maintaining the tension with your left hand until the knot is against the felt edge.
From the back side, slide your needle in between the felt fibers from near the top edge, and coming out at the hole for your last stitch.
Tie off the thread and cut the thread. Later, I will show you how to hide the knot so the back of your work is nice and neat :)
By using the dots, your stitches should be fairly uniform. Keep practicing on straight edges until you get the hang of the placement and tension.
When you are feeling comfortable, practice with a straight line without the dots. And, of course, when you are ready, try blanket stitching along a straight edge without a line. Check your work often, and if you don't like a stitch, take it out!
Next time we will learn how to sew two pieces of felt together, and how to turn corners and points.
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