Fancy Stitches · Hems

What to do with fancy stitches?

Your machine has loads of them but all you use is straight stitch and occasional zig-zag… Sounds familiar? πŸ˜‰

Obviously, fancy stitches are there for fancy work. Or are they? What is the difference between utility stitches and decorative stitches? Well, utility stitches are there to help with boring work like sewing a blind hem, overcasting or making buttonholes; decorative stitches, however, are exclusively for fun like embroidery on baby clothes. Right? And once your babies – if any – have grown up, you have no further use for fancy stitches. 😦 Now, that’s no fun at all!


A hem is there to finish the edge of a garment and prevent it from fraying. You typically turn up the material once or twice and stitch it in place, either with a straight stitch or with a blind stitch. The straight stitch is visible on the “right” side, while the blind stitch isn’t. When turning over once, you overcast or overlock the raw edge to prevent fraying. It can also be done in one operation with a coverstitch machine so that you get two parallel straight stitch lines on the right side and an overcasting stitch on the wrong side.

Sure, this works. But so does this:

Hems on a jersey done with low density stitches on Memory Craft 6000

The hem on this jersey is turned over once and sewn with a scalloped stitch. The scallops also serve as an overcasting stitch for the raw edge – the top row in the photo shows the reverse. The folded edge looks scalloped along the fold – all by itself! πŸ™‚

The sleeve is finished with a loose cuff which is simply a band of material folded lengthwise. The decorative stitch along the seam hides the seam line, flattens it and overcasts the raw edges all in one operation.

When sewing jersey, choose low density stitches because too many needle holes close together will stretch out the fabric. Janome’s Memory Craft 6000 that I used here, is excellent for this – most of its stitches are low density or can be reduced in density, and the machine has a gentle feed suitable for delicate materials.

But you can also use something much simpler, like stitched zig-zag:

Hemming lining with stitched zig-zig

This is a simple light hem mostly suitable for lining. It is folded once only, yet it’s completely safe and secure – the material will not fray due to the density of stitches.

Stabilising seams

You iron a seam open and it flips right back shut. 😣 Some fabrics are stubborn, so to keep the seams open, you have to stabilise them. Of course, you can run a straight stitch along the seam… or you can use a decorative stitch instead (even baby ducks if you really want to).

Stabilising seams on a silk dupion coat

The example above shows some embroidery I did on a silk dupion coat in order to prevent the material from fraying into oblivion on the first wear.

Finishing necklines

Here too, you can just use straight stitch or zig-zag for jersey, or… yep, you got it – you can do embroidery.

Neckline finish on jersey tops

And you always have to use decorative stitches, right?

Neckline finish with a utility stitch (overcasting mock-overlock)

Don’t be silly – there are no rules! Use whatever stitch looks right! πŸ˜€

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee πŸ™‚

7 thoughts on “What to do with fancy stitches?

  1. Very nice post about “fancy work” (I feel like I’m in Victorian England talking about the fancy shmancy work!) The embroidery options are also good for decorative table things (like corners of napkins, tablecloths, etc.), personalizing things with initials, and for button bands. I love a little fancy on the button bands! I love your ideas for necklines. They’re really beautiful. I think you could do something cute on the corners of shirt collars, too, right? We all need to use those embroidery stitches available on our machines more often!


    1. That’s it – you got it! πŸ˜€ I think fancy stitches went out of fashion in 1980s-1990s, and everything had to be plain straight stitch. But they are back in!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. To my surprise, I found they often do better than just straight stitch. For example, most fancy stitches stretch with the jersey. πŸ™‚


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